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Louis can feel the sun beating against his closed eyes, and along his apparent bare skin, and it feels so very nice as he lies in his own heat in bed. He feels comfortable; almost untouchable, invincible, like he’s not there completely; half awake and half asleep.

As scary as it can be sometimes, it’s a lovely state to be in despite it, and it’s more effective, he knows, in the mornings, where everything feels very soft and dreamlike, with the sun just rising and all.

He pulls the covers up to cover more of his chest, turning on his side only to feel something pressing up against his front. It’s a warm, bare chest just about touching his, and he opens his eyes, confused. He blinks a few times, his vision slightly blurred, and he’s met with some guy’s pecs. He looks up, blinking once more as he notices he’s lying further down on the bed than the person sleeping beside him.

Louis looks up towards their face, and the person’s pink lips are parted slightly, their eyes shut softly, and they look very innocent, very peaceful, but he doesn’t quite remember bringing them home last night. He’d say he probably had too much to drink last night, but there’s no headache; no horrible grogginess and no ache in his eyes, so it couldn’t possibly be.

He pulls away from them, slowly, as to not wake them, sitting up in the process. He looks down towards their lower halves and they were just sleeping so close to each other, which, of course, Louis doesn’t mind; he enjoys cuddling, finds comfort in skin to skin contact, but this person—this man is a stranger he doesn’t really know what he’d done with last night, so naturally he’s weary.

Louis tears his eyes away from the pale blue duvet covering them and gazes around the room, and he doesn’t recognise it at all. The wallpaper matches the duvet, but it has purposefully worn realistic-looking sunflowers painted on it, and this is definitely not his flat.

There’s a darkwood dresser in the left-hand corner of the small room with multiple drawers with a reasonably size telly on it, and he even spots two big black suitcases lying next to the dresser and he thinks maybe it’s this bloke’s place, but he doubts it more than not.

Dazed and quite confused, he moves as slow as possible to the right to get out of bed, but no matter how careful he is, the bed squeaks loudly and he nearly stops breathing when the bloke beside him begins to stir in his sleep and Louis looks over just in time to see his eyes flutter open lazily.

He will admit his eyes are a very pretty green, how shiny and bright and glossy they look. He blinks a few times before sitting up languidly, giving Louis this soft look before leaning in and capturing his lips in a gentle, chaste, closed-mouth kiss and Louis’s taken aback by it because usually the morning after having a one night stand doesn’t go this way; there’s no morning kisses.

But then again, nothing about this morning so far has been the usual one night stand.

Before he can react to the kiss, the pretty-eyed stranger pulls back, giving Louis a lazy grin and tucks some of Louis’s short, strayed hair behind his hair. “What are you doing up so early, love?” he asks, and his morning voice is so deep and raspy, and his speech is very languid and rough, and Louis didn’t know what he was expecting, but he wasn’t expecting that.

“Are you usually this affectionate when you first wake up?” Louis asks in lieu, and Pretty Eyes just huffs out a laugh, laughs like this is a normal conversation they have every morning, and in the midst of it he discovers that Pretty Eyes has dimples, too. He looks further up, and he doesn’t understand why he hadn’t noticed before, but he has very curly hair, too, and they’re quite long—a little longer than shoulder-length, but it fits him anyhow.

“I’m only this affectionate when it comes to you, darling,” he responds with, his smile growing and dimples deepening as he reaches up to caress Louis’s cheek with his index finger.

Louis inhales sharply, moving his head just enough to remove the stranger’s warm finger from his face, and he notices the stranger’s eyebrows knit together like he’s either concerned or confused. So far this bloke seems very lovely and quite affectionate, but that still doesn’t dim Louis’s confusion and how he ended up here and why he can’t remember last night.

“Did we shag last night?” Louis asks, glancing around the room before letting his eyes fall back to his face.

Pretty Eyes’ eyebrows knit even further together, and now it’s definitely concern written all over his face as he sits up completely instead of his elbow having to support him.

“No,” he answers very carefully and slowly, and that—wasn’t the answer Louis wanted. If they didn’t shag, then—what? If they didn’t shag, then why is he here? Did Louis really get that drunk to a point where he picked up some random bloke on the street to cuddle with? Granted, it’s actually happened once or twice in the past, but that was with people he knew—I.E. Zayn and Niall.

It hits Louis all of a sudden—Zayn. Yes, of course, Zayn had called him up last night crying about Perrie and about them having problems and they went out to the local to drink it out and chat about it, but that’s all he remembers. How could he just abandon Zayn, what the fuck is wrong with him?

Louis turns his head to glance at the nightstand beside the bed, and he almost sighs in relief when he sees his phone lying there. He grabs it, turning it on to check on any missed calls or texts from him.

“Louis, are you okay?” he hears the curly-haired bloke ask, and Louis freezes momentarily, for a split second, at him saying his name, but he sighs when he tells himself he’s overreacting because of course he would’ve told him name sometime last night.

Louis swallows, nodding as his eyes stay locked on his phone. “Yeah, fine, I just—need to call my mate real quick, okay?” he says before hopping out bed and dialing Zayn’s number, putting his phone to his ear as it starts ringing.

There’s no bathroom in this bedroom, so he opens the door to their bedroom despite only being in his boxers and closes the door behind him as he steps out, and—this is an actual house he’s in. Like, someone’s actual home, and he swears he’s never been in this home before. There’s paintings on the walls and the colouring of the walls are similar to a mint green that actually gives off a cozy-feeling and blends in well with the dark cherrywood of the staircase a few feet from him.

This place looks like it’s been here a while, like it’s in that stage where it’s not brand new, but it’s also not old-old. It’s very home-y this place.

“Louis, hey,” Louis hears Zayn greet cheerfully when it finally stops ringing.

“Zayn,” he sighs in relief. He opens his mouth to speak again, but he’s cut off.

“Have you packed already? Didn’t expect you to call me until this afternoon, quite frankly,” he hears Zayn chuckle.

Louis pauses, briefly. Why would Zayn ask him that? He’s supposed to be using that smoldering voice he does whenever Louis does something idiotic, or whenever he gets lost and abandons Zayn by accident, or—something!

“Packed?” he asks, confused. “What are you talking about? I’m not—I don’t—”

“Louis, are you okay?”

“No,” he admits, placing a hand on the side of his head, digging his fingers into his bedhead, “I’ve just been so . . . Listen, where are you?”

This time Zayn sounds confused. “At home with Pez.”

“So you guys worked it out?” Louis asks hopefully.

“Worked what out, Lou? We haven’t had issues.”

Louis’s heart drops to his stomach, and suddenly he feels like he’s in some alternate universe. He swears last night they had been having issues, and now . . . they’re not. Surely 20 is too young to already receive Alzheimer's.

“Can I call you later?” But before Zayn can respond, Louis ends the call and takes a moment to himself. He runs both hands through his messy hair, breathing in and out deeply to brace himself. He isn’t going to freak out, he isn’t. He’ll be just fine once that random bloke he had slept with—quite literally—tells him everything and he’ll know right away.

He opens the door to the room to find Curls still in the same place he had left him; he looks up from his hands when he hears Louis walk in and his doe eyes are nearly piercing. Then Louis notices the tattoos on his chest; they’re birds, and they look very pretty, he admits, painted right under his collarbones. He notices small other ones littered about his shoulders and he can see multiple others trailing down his left arm, but he can barely make out what they are.

Neither say anything, and Louis’s still stood with his back to the closed door, not moving any closer, and he was actually hoping Curls would say something first, but—

“I don’t mean to be rude,” Louis starts, “but do you happen to know where we are?”

Pretty Eyes shuts his eyes briefly, a confused smile making its way onto his face before he shakes his head once. “Uh—we’re at a B&B.”

Louis’s eyebrows shoot up in surprise. “A—bed and breakfast?” he scoffs incredulously. “What are we doing at a bed and breakfast?”

Something in the bloke’s face falls, his eyebrows knitting together once again in concern as he slowly makes his way out of the bed and—he’s really tall. Maybe Louis’s exaggerating just a little, but he’s still inches taller than Louis and he’s quite broad, too—very muscular. And he’s only got boxers on, as well, just like Louis himself, and he’s got little love handles accompanied by butterfly and laurel tattoos. He wonders how many this bloke has in total.

There’s about half a foot of space between them, and they’re so close Louis can feel the warmth of his body radiate onto his and he’s going to say something, but he’s cut off before he can even begin.

“This isn’t a prank, is it?” he asks, and his eyes are searching Louis’s face for something he doesn’t know the answer to.

Louis shakes his head as he starts to feel frustrated, and he furrows his brows at him. “No, why the bloody hell would I prank you?  What reason would there be?”

He keeps staring at Louis until something sinks in, and Louis watches as something close to dread washes over his features and glossy eyes; dread and fear.

“Do you know your last name?” he asks instantly.

“Tomlinson,” Louis answers without hesitation. He still doesn’t understand what this has to do with anything.

“Where do you live?”

He’s not sure if he should be telling a mere stranger where he lives, but it seems vital, so.

“Manchester.”

Louis can feel something tug at his heart when the person before him closes his eyes with a pained expression.

He opens his eyes. “How old are you?”

“20,” Louis answers carefully, quietly, and the worry creases in the bloke’s forehead only increases, and Louis has a sneaking suspicion that he’s answered it wrong if the increasingly fear in Curly’s eyes is any indication.

“And what’s your career?”

“I don’t have one yet,” Louis replies hesitantly. “I’m just about to graduate university.”

Pretty Eyes buries his face in his hands, rubbing at his face as if he’s in severe distress and suffering from a headache and Louis wishes he could understand what’s happening and why this stranger seems to be so concerned about him when they don’t even know each other.

He lifts his head from his hands, releasing a shaky sigh from between his lips. His eyes look sad. “Louis, who did you just call?”

“My mate, Zayn. Why? Do you know him?”

He nods. “Of course I know him,” he responds softly. Louis feels a bit better now knowing they have a mutual mate, so technically he’s not a complete stranger anymore. “What’s the last thing you remember?”

“Last night. Zayn called to me crying about Perrie and stuff and we went down to the local to have drinks and—” Louis cuts himself off when he notices Curly’s expression, and a surge of panic begins to blossom in his chest as he utters the next words softly. “That’s not what happened. Is it?”

Curly shakes his head, his eyes downcast, before taking a step back and turning so his broad back is facing Louis. Louis watches as he retrieves his own phone from the cherrywood dresser and messes with it and he’s never felt so confused before.

Something’s clearly not right; everything feels out of place, and Louis feels out of place in this body. He sighs, frustrated, and glances down at his nearly naked form, and he catches sight of tattoos he doesn’t recall ever getting. There’s a lot more on his body than there was last night, and truthfully this is starting to scare him.

Looking up, he catches Curly staring at him, gazing at him in a way that he’s not sure he understands.

“Are you gonna tell me what your name is, or do I have to call Zayn again?” Louis asks in hopes of prompting an answer from him, and—maybe it was the wrong thing to say, because something in his expression changes; there’s no worry creases in his forehead anymore, but his eyes hold a lot in them and Louis almost can’t look him in the eye, almost has to avert his gaze somewhere else.

“Harry,” he responds a long moment later, his voice quiet and eyes glossier than earlier, but for a different reason.

Louis sighs, walking over to the bed to sit on the edge before he asks, “And do you care to explain why I’m here at a B&B with you, Harry?”

“Because we’re together.” Louis freezes momentarily, looking at Harry again. That explains why he was so affectionate earlier and calling him different pet names. “We wanted to stay here for a weekend,” Harry continues, “you know, get away from our busy lives just to spend time with each other and only each other.”

Louis doesn’t know what to say, nor does he know how to feel; he has a boyfriend. Or—he looks down at his ring finger, and relief floods through him when he doesn’t spot any ring; they’re not engaged, nor married. He actually counts it as a win because if they happened to be either he’d feel about a thousand times worse.

What kind of person would he be if he didn’t remember the person he married or was engaged to? It’s bad enough he can’t even remember having a fucking boyfriend.

“I don’t remember having a boyfriend,” he tells Harry slowly, and Louis doesn’t really wanna know because he fears Harry’s answer, but he doesn’t genuinely have a choice in the end. “So . . .”

“You’re not 20,” Harry begins like he knew exactly what Louis wanted to ask, and he places his phone back on the dresser before grabbing a suitcase beside it to place it on the bed, unzipping it. “You are 24, and you don’t live in Manchester anymore.”

Louis shakes his head, standing up as he waves a hand around in confusion. “Wait, what do you mean I’m 24? And why aren’t I living in Manchester? Where did I go?”

Harry doesn’t pause his movements in transferring clothes in the dresser drawers to the suitcase, and he doesn’t look at Louis. “You live in Brighton now.” He pauses mid-fold of a yellow t-shirt, keeping his eyes locked on the clothing article. “With me,” he adds quietly.

Louis’s eyebrows shoot up in surprise, taken aback. “Wait, I live with you? For how long?”

It seems as though with every question and word that comes out of his mouth, Harry’s face just grows more and more grim, frown deepening. “For about two years,” he answers.

Louis hesitates, folding his fingers against his palm carefully. “How long have we been . . . ?”

“Over three years,” Harry replies, voice void of anything.

Louis inhales sharply, blowing out a wow in lack of anything to respond with. It’s silent between them now, and Louis’s not sure what to do; he just feels a little overwhelmed by this entire morning.

“Do you know where my clothes are?” he asks a few minutes later, and Harry glances at him, nodding before opening the drawer underneath the one he was busy emptying before digging a few things out and handing it to him.

He looks down at the pile in his hands, and it’s—different. But then again, everything is different, so why he’s surprised at the change of style he isn’t sure.

“The bathroom is right down the hall to your left,” Harry informs him, “you know, if you wanna use it to change in.”

Louis nods his thanks before walking to the door, but he hesitates for a second before remembering his phone and backtracking to take it with him before officially exiting the room and making his way to the bathroom. The floorboard has quiet squeaks in it, and it’s quiet upstairs; maybe there’s people who are still mostly sleeping, or maybe they’re outside in the garden somewhere enjoying the morning sun.

Louis knocks on the door anyway, cautious in case somebody might be in there. But when nothing happens, he tries the handle and it’s unlocked so he enters it and locks it behind him.

It’s small in here, but still big enough where it’s efficient. There’s a lime green fluffy rug in front of the his and her sinks, and he appreciates how colourful and bright this place is; how the rug matches the shade of blue of the towel hanging to his far left beside the shower on the wall, and the cotton candy pink of the soap dispenser.

Louis sets his belongings on the counter before taking out his phone. The only thing he’s been thankful for so far is never changing his passcode; it’s been the same always. And it’s a relief, really, that finally something other than Zayn is familiar to him and he can recognise it.

He was a bit distracted earlier so he never really did notice the background on his phone, but it’s him and—Harry. It makes sense, of course, since they’re together, apparently, but it looks recent and . . . Louis definitely looks older in it. They’re in a garden somewhere lounging on a hammock, and Louis notices Harry’s arms wrapped around his waist as he smiles happily up at the camera, eyes the brightest he’s ever seen, and a very striking green probably due to the sun shining down on them.

Louis’s own smile mirrors Harry’s, and for what feels like the twentieth time this morning, he’s taken aback by it. They just look so . . . happy, and he almost wants to frown because he can’t remember any of it.

He goes to his iMessage and there’s not many new texts from people waiting for him to respond, and he recognises Zayn’s name first, of course, but under Zayn is someone named liam with a shit and peach emoji. He scoffs softly to himself, because he doesn’t have any recollection of knowing someone named Liam, but he opens the message anyway.

so kind of u to care!!!! it reads, followed by multiple kissing emojis. have fun! It was sent Friday at 3:04 p.m.

Confused, he reads the message he had sent the same day.

I’m going away on a weekend trip w harry so dont fucking text or call me unless ur in a ditch somewhere xoxoxoxoxo

He snorts, loud. He understands now why Liam’s response sounded a bit on the sarcastic side. He sighs, exiting the conversation. So far Harry hasn’t lied to him about anything, and why would he anyway? Why would he lie about any of it when there would be nothing for him to gain in the end?

He checks the day, and it’s Sunday, so that means they would be scheduled to leave today which would explain why Harry had been packing, but it’s still a bit early to leave, in his opinion. And he kind of wants to stay long enough for him to look around, but that’s such a high improbability, he knows.

His eyes catch the camera roll, distracting him from shutting off his phone to put on clothes, but it’s just too tempting, how it stares back, daring him.

He opens it, and—he hadn’t been expecting the nearly two thousand pictures it says he has altogether. He knew he liked taking pictures, but . . .

There’s a few different folders, but his attention is more focused on the most recent ones, so he opens them and begins scrolling through and mainly it’s just him and Harry. Again. Quite a few of them look like they were taken the same as the one he had set as his phone background; them in a garden somewhere, and some are just the two pulling funny faces, and one has Harry placing a gentle-looking kiss to Louis’s cheek as Louis makes a faux-surprise expression, like he’s been scandalised.

In every picture, they just look so indescribably happy, and Louis’s . . . he just sighs, simultaneously placing his phone screen-side down. He dresses, and he’s been avoiding looking in the mirror for the sake of his sanity, but he finally peeks and it’s . . . his messy, floppy fringe is far different from the quiff he had in university. He’s aged; it’s a subtle aging, how his cheekbones are more prominent, and his tiny little tummy is gone, but it’s still something, something that allows his belief in Harry’s words to strengthen.

He could probably stare at his reflection all day, let his mind ponder, linger on every change from head to toe, from cell to cell in his blood, but he can’t spend his time doing that, unfortunately.

Picking up his things, he heads back to their room, and on the way he can hear a quiet commotion going on downstairs and distantly in his mind knows that breakfast must be going on. When he opens the door and steps in, he notices two things at once: the two packed and zipped suitcases lying on the bed and Harry leaning back against one of them with his phone to his ear, talking softly to someone on the other end with his head turned and eyes gazing out the small window he must’ve opened.

It gives Louis a moment to himself, to take him in. He’s not had that chance, really, where he can actually look at Harry and take all of him in, but his eyes do linger on the shirt he’s got on. A flamingo shirt. Louis doesn’t think he’s ever seen such a thing before, but . . . it doesn’t look bad on him, he supposes. Looks kind of nice; goes with his tight, white jeans he’s got on, his curls sitting nicely and very soft on his shoulders.

Harry turns his head in Louis’s direction as if he can feel his gaze, eyebrows knitted together like the person he’s talking to is spilling some heavy burden onto his shoulders, and Louis just nods his greeting, but before he has a chance to ask him anything, Harry’s pushing himself off the suitcase and walking over to him, using his free hand to gather Louis’s dirty clothes, and—he knew Harry’s hands were big, but . . .

“Yeah,” Harry finally speaks, nodding his head at the person on the other line, “yeah, thank you. Okay. Bye.” He lets out a soft sigh as he takes the phone from his ear, cocking his head slightly.

“I don’t mean to pry, but . . . ,” Louis trails off, gesturing towards the phone. He did, after all, wake up with a complete stranger whom he knows nothing of, but seems to know everything about him.

Harry gives him a crooked grin, face softening. “No,” he dismisses, waving a hand, “it’s okay, I don’t mind. Um—I just called our doctor, to—set an appointment. They said the earliest would be this afternoon, so we better get going if we want to make it. It’s a long drive home.”

Louis only nods once before helping Harry by carrying the toiletries. They don’t say much to each other when they part from inside and leave, and it’s even a quiet ride. Louis looks out the window for most of the time, and the few times he glances to Harry, he just keeps staring ahead of the road, eyebrows furrowed like he’s thinking hard about something.

Louis would ask, or say something, but he has this gut feeling that no matter what he says, it won’t be enough.

 

 

ii.

 

 

“You know,” Harry says as they sit side by side in the waiting room outside the doctors, and Louis glances up from the magazine he’s reading, “if the you with memories knew about what happened, he would be pissed about all of this.” He scoffs with a smile on his face, but there’s this sad, reminiscent gleam in his eyes.

Louis stares at him until Harry finally turns his head to meet his gaze. He doesn’t really know how to respond so he simply nods. “How much longer?”

Harry shrugs a shoulder as he glances at the big clock hanging on the wall. “Not much longer, I hope.”

It isn’t until a few minutes later when someone says loudly, “Mr. Tomlinson?” and both his and Harry’s heads snap up and spot a person with a clipboard in their hands standing near the reception desk, and Louis looks to Harry who’s already looking back, and suddenly he’s afraid.

He was fearful earlier, of course, but it was mild and it didn’t really just sink in until this moment, and he swallows before standing up, Harry following from behind.

They’re taken to a room, and the lady with the clipboard asks a few questions of which Harry answers before she leaves them alone, awaiting for some doctor named Mr. Grey to join them.

He gazes around, taking in the small room of the clinic, and truthfully he doesn’t remember the last time he’s been to any doctor. Surely the last time was maybe . . . eighteen when he had gotten strep throat and had to get checked out and receive a prescription for medicine.

He can hear noises behind the closed wooden door to their room; people talking, in the distance maybe a toddler in the beginning stage of throwing a tantrum, and other things like the shuffling paper or soft footfalls. It’s just too silent in this room with Harry, and whenever he glances over, his eyebrows are once again knitted together like he’s thinking hard on something, worrying, and Louis doesn’t like it—he doesn’t like it because he never likes anybody worrying about anything and would rather see anything but that frown.

But he knows better, of course. Louis could maybe sympathise, he supposes, because if the person he were with had some serious head trauma going on he’d be fretting quite terribly as well.

There's a knock on the door capturing both of their attentions before it opens and a tall man with short dark hair appears, presumably Mr. Grey.

They get through introductions and Doctor Grey asking what seems to be the matter and Harry goes straight into detail, reciting almost everything that’s happened since he had sensed things were off, and Doctor Grey stares intently at him, nodding along at certain parts with an attentive look on his face, taking in everything Harry’s saying, and once he’s done, Doctor Grey draws in a breath.

“Okay,” he begins before taking a brief pause. “And, in your opinion, what are your thoughts on what it could be? Do you have any specific guesses? Have you encountered a similar thing with another person before in the past?”

Louis looks to his right at Harry, and he notices the hesitation in his eyes, in the corners of his lips.

“I’ve been to medical school,” Harry starts in a quieter voice, and Louis’s eyebrows shoot up at the surprising information, “and—I’m not gonna lie, I’m . . . about 90% sure it’s one thing.”

Doctor Grey cocks his head in interest. “And what is that?”

“Amnesia, probably,” Harry says, and he’s still avoiding looking at Louis, “I mean, all the signs are right there. Like I explained, he was fine last night, knew who I was and everything, but then this morning—he thought he was twenty and still in university and he has no recollection of us at all. As far as I can tell, he doesn’t recall the past four years of his life, and it’s . . .”

Harry stops, and the room fills with silence before Doctor Grey begins nodding again, and he looks very serious, which, in Louis’s opinion, is never a good sign for a doctor and he looks down at his fingers, picking at them as an excuse to distract himself.

Amnesia. He wants to find that preposterous, absurd, ludicrous, even, but he can’t bring himself to because of all the fucking evidence in his phone he had seen earlier. He can’t deny any of it—especially the way he looks in the fucking mirror—how different his features are, how the aging in them is evidence just by itself.

It’s scary, is what it is, and it’s hard to accept that he’s lost four years of his life, the only trace of it in his phone and the words that come from Harry’s mouth.

“Amnesia isn’t always necessarily a bad thing,” Doctor Grey says suddenly, and Louis nearly relaxes at his words. “Not every case of it is permanent. In fact, a majority of it, I would say, is usually of temporary amnesia. It just depends, mostly. Do you know any family members that have had past neurological diseases of any kind, or current?”

“No,” Louis answers this time, “at least none that my mum have told me about.”

Harry shakes his head. “No,” he confirms, as well.

“Drug and/or alcohol use?”

“I mean,” Louis starts, “I did drink a bit in university, but I wasn’t an alcoholic, you know? It was like the normal standard for college party kids, I guess you’d say. It wasn’t an everyday thing.”

Doctor Grey nods. “So did you drink specifically on weekends, or . . . ?”

Louis shakes his head, a small, private grin forming on his face. “No, mainly on weekends because my mate and I would attend some parties, but nothing out of control I can assure you.”

Doctor Grey looks to Harry, and Harry just shakes his head with pursed lips. “No,” Harry assures him, “he’s never done drugs that I’ve seen or anything of the sorts.”

Mr. Grey nods, seemingly accepting the news. “Okay. There are triggering factors, though, that may have caused your amnesia to occur, such as a past head injury, a stroke or seizure, and even surgery. Have you had a history of headaches, depression, cancer, seizures, etcetera?”

Louis shakes his head immediately. “No, none of that.” He looks to Harry, but again, there’s that hesitance there in his facial features, a hesitance that clearly expresses that Louis’s answer isn’t entirely reliable, and this dread fills his chest.

“He’s had headaches,” Harry begins, “but I didn’t think anything of it, you know? Because headaches are a normal occurrence for everybody, but at first they were just every now and then, and they were mild, so we’re both just gonna pass it off as stress or not having enough to eat or lack of sleep because he had a busy schedule, but then . . . the months went on, and he still had them, but they weren’t mild anymore, they had progressed and still we both didn’t think anything of it and he just took, like, some pills for them.”

Harry looks so guilty, like he’s inwardly placing the blame on himself. Doctor Grey nods again, taking in the information, and it continues like that, him asking question and he and Harry answering them, but then he suggests an MRI scan, and a CT one, to check for any sort of damage to the brain or other parts, and, of course, they have no choice but to agree.

He’s never been to an MRI room; he’s always seen it on the telly, but never in real life, and it’s a bit . . . unnerving, he has to admit. They prepare him, and he’s instructed to lie on the bed as Harry waits patiently on the other side of the huge window that separates him from Doctor Grey and Harry.

It’s weird being confined into this little tube thing. It makes him feel small and warm and closed in.

It’s a while before both scans are completed, and when he’s released, he can see through the glass the moving lips of Doctor Grey and his index finger pointing to a computer screen in various directions, but then his eyes move to Harry’s contorted face, the worry creases in his forehead as he stares at whatever the doctor is directing his attention to, and Louis watches on for a few moments before he exits the room.

“What does that mean?” he hears Harry ask when he opens the door, his back to him. Doctor Grey’s eyes flick to Louis’s face for a moment as he makes his way over quietly before he begins to respond.

“It means that he’s lost access to certain memories that happened before the incident. He’s lost memories that are more recent and closer to the traumatic incident than his remote memories, long-term ones. There are two types of retrograde amnesia: pure retrograde and temporally graded, and in his case, he has the lesser one, the temporally graded one.

“The pure form of RA,” he continues, “would be that he’s lost all of his memories altogether, and with that pure form of RA, he would also experience anterograde, which means he would be unable to create new memories. Since he has temporally graded retrograde amnesia, his recovery is taking place as of right now; it happens more often than not with patients with similar situations.”

“Well, what can I do to help with the recovery?” Harry’s voice sounds so hopeful.

Doctor Grey shakes his head. “You can’t, unfortunately,” he says, and Louis watches the way Harry’s face falls noticeably. “It’s a common belief that retelling past events and information to a person suffering from a type of amnesia that it will make them remember, but it’s not true, I’m genuinely sorry to say. You can tell him all you want, but it won’t do any good.”

“How will I remember, then?” Louis speaks up, and Doctor Grey looks at him. “How long until I remember?”

“I can’t guarantee when you’ll remember,” he says. “Every case is special, and it always depends on the incident and the person itself. You could remember three months from now, maybe four. Possibly a year. Like I said, no two people are the same, and the only kind of recovery I can guarantee you’ll have is a spontaneous one. One day you’ll wake up, or maybe a certain hour in the day or night, and it’ll happen and you’ll have your memories back. All you can do is continue on with your life as best you can and wait for that to happen.”

“That’s all?” Harry asks, the bags under his eyes making him look tired and defeated. “We just . . . return to doing what we’ve done before?”

Doctor Grey nods, lacing his fingers together. “Exactly that. There’s truly nothing else you can do besides tell him what he’d been doing before the amnesia kicked in and just—continue with that. I’m sorry that there’s not more to say. But I will add that there might be behavioural changes, even changed habits, because of the memory loss.”

Harry just nods, pressing his lips together as he brings a hand to place behind the back of his neck, letting it settle there for a moment. “Okay.”

They say their thank yous and start to depart, but when they reach the hallway, Harry stops in his track, making Louis stop, too.

“Just wait out here, okay? I want to ask him one more thing before we leave. I’ll be quick,” he promises.

Harry leans in quickly, as if to kiss him on his head, and Louis freezes completely. But Harry catches himself before he can do anything, like he had forgotten for just a split second and is so used to giving him a peck on his face before they separate, and he gives Louis a jerk of the head that could barely pass as a nod before he disappears, and he’s left there by himself.

He’s not going to think about that. About any of that. He can’t, is the thing, because he’s so overwhelmed as it is with all that Doctor Grey had said, and he’s not sure what he’s to do about any of it. For a moment in the back of his mind, he’s glad Harry’s absent at the moment, that he’s able to just think for a few minutes by himself.

He takes out his phone, checking the time, and he can’t believe how late it is already. They had spent so much time here that it's nearing late afternoon, and he kind of just wants to crawl under some sheets to rest.

But those sheets he wants, he doesn’t know where they are, or what’s happened, because the last time he saw his bed was at his dorm in university and those don’t exist anymore. Instead, his sheets are at a home in Brighton—a home he doesn’t know anything about, or of. A home he doesn’t remember anything about, and—how is that even going to work?

He doesn’t even want to begin to think about how long the doctor said it could take to regain everything he’s lost.

Louis’s pacing back and forth in slow movements when Harry emerges again with a small grin on his face, and Louis almost sighs in relief because he’s tired of seeing white wall after white wall, of people in long, white coats, and just this place in general.

“Ready to go?” Louis asks, and Harry nods as they go to check out and leave.

There’s a silence that goes on between the two of them when they walk to the car and even on the drive to their home, and it gives Louis space to think, but, mentally, he feels a bit exhausted from the events of today, and he doesn’t want to think anymore, just wants to take a nap or summat and not deal with it for a few hours.

When Harry pulls in front of tall, creme-coloured building and cuts the engine off, the air between them somehow thickens, and he doesn’t know if he’s imagining it or not.

“There’s something I should tell you before we go in,” Harry says, breaking the silence. Louis looks over at him, but Harry’s still staring ahead.

“What is it?”

“We have a pet,” Harry responds, meeting his eyes, “and he’s a dog. He’s small, though, so don’t worry, and he doesn’t bite. He gets a bit too excited sometimes, but that’s about it.”

Louis nods. A dog. Something he genuinely didn’t expect, but he can deal with it nonetheless. “What’s his name?”

Harry’s grin is crooked. “Becks,” he answers, and the way his eyes shine make Louis feel like he’s missing out on some joke.

Louis raises his eyebrows. “And is there something funny about that I’m missing?”

Harry shakes his head, rubbing at one eye as his grin widens. “No, it’s just—um . . . The reason he’s named Becks is because you had lost a bet with Niall—you know who Niall is, right?” Louis nods slowly, and Harry looks a bit relieved but still amused. “Anyway, uh, you had lost a bet with Niall. You both got into an argument one day in our place about these hotdogs, and God knows I don’t know why, and Niall had bet that you couldn’t eat 15 hotdogs in under an hour, and naturally you took him up on it and the end resulted in you throwing up ten out of the fifteen.”

Louis sucks in a sharp breath, shaking his head, and Harry starts laughing. “I’m a tad impressed, though, I must say,” Louis says. “I’ve never been good at stomaching a lot of food. Did Niall name it or me?”

Harry shakes his head. “No, the deal was that if you couldn’t eat all of them, Niall could name the dog. And he named it Becks after the terribly embarrassing crush you had on David Beckham in Secondary.” Harry pauses to roll his eyes, and Louis almost groans at the mention of it. “He thought it was funny because it would serve as a reminder, because he knew how much you hated it and didn’t like to be reminded of those days.”

Louis scoffs. “How typically Niall,” he says in between awe and frustration, and Harry doesn’t say anything, just grins. “If he comes over sometime soon, remind me to beat him up or something.”

Harry chuckles, nodding, before stepping out of the car and Louis mimicking him.

It isn't a long walk at all, just up the street a little, and as Harry jingles the keys he can hear a faint pad of feet on the floor from inside.

“You never told me,” Louis begins to say as Harry starts to turn the keys, “what kind of breed Becks is.”

“He’s a Pembroke Welsh Corgi,” Harry answers as he begins to turn the knob of the door. “He’s actually very smart, and we’ve had him for about a year now. Once I open this door, he’s going to come running at us and practically cling to your legs, though, so don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

Louis chuckles. “Okay,” he says the same time Harry opens it, and when they step inside, he can hear a little squeaky noise before the hurried pitter patter of steps against the hardwood and it only takes a few seconds for Becks to come racing in with his surprisingly short legs and he’s smaller than Louis had imagined.

His ears are probably the cutest thing about him, how they stand and the unique shape of them, how soft and golden they look. Louis squats when his paws and face keep butting into ankle and he sticks a hand out to pet him, and he really seems to enjoy it, how he starts to curl around Louis even more.

“He’s a cuddler,” Harry says then, and Louis looks up to see Harry staring at them both from beside him. He nods before glancing back down at Becks who seems a bit restless still.

“Is he always like this?” Louis asks, glancing at Harry again who nods and lets out something between a huff and a chuckle.

“He can be, but he’s usually more restless whenever we’ve both gone for a bit and we’re not with him,” Harry explains. “Since we were at the B&B for the weekend, we had Liam drop by and feed him and stuff and make sure he’s all right, so he’s gonna be a bit wound up for a while.”

Louis’s movements in scratching the back of Becks head pauses at the mention of Liam, and he stands up, crossing his arms. “The last thing I wanna do is cause more trouble, but I . . . I don’t remember who Liam is.”

It’s a moment before Harry nods, before he acknowledges his words, and Louis knows he’s probably trying to hide it for the sake of him, but he notices in the way the space between his eyebrows creases the slightest that he’s not particularly fond of the information Louis just dropped on him.

But then his faces softens, and his eyes look almost sympathetic. “Hey,” he says in a quiet voice, “you’re not causing any trouble. Sure, not remembering things can be an inconvenience at times, but . . . none of it’s your fault. You know that, right?”

When Louis doesn’t say anything, he continues. “Liam’s one of our best friends.” He pauses, chuckling. “He’s actually the person who introduced us to each other, which ultimately led to . . . everything else, obviously.”

Louis nods before letting his head fall forward, looking down at Becks who’s still circling, trotting around them with eager ears and his tongue sticking out in happiness. He gives him a gentle smile.

“Would you like some tea?” Harry asks, and Louis looks up from Becks in time to see Harry start to walk off. “I could make you dinner, if you want. Or we can order take out. Whichever you want.”

Louis offers him a grin. “Tea’s fine,” he says, and Harry gives him a smile before turning his body around in full, walking off to wherever the kitchen may be with Becks following behind, and Louis stalls for a moment, glancing around before following as well.

Their place, it looks like a proper home. There’s curtains that are the colour of chocolate covering the two windows off in the corner, and there’s a comfortable-looking, creme-coloured settee sitting in the middle of the room with a telly hanging on the wall in front of it, with an accent table placed right beside it, and Louis notices the few framed photos sitting on it, but he doesn’t allow himself to look what they contain.

When he steps into the kitchen, he goes straight to the small island and sits down at the chair placed right in front of it, an empty chair to both his sides. Louis glances around, taking in the dark wood cabinets and the white granite that match.

“Are you not hungry?” Harry asks as he sets the kettle on the stove, leaning back against the counter beside it with crossed arms, and Louis shrugs. He hasn’t eaten all day, but neither has Harry. He’s just not have an appetite, he supposes.

“I’m fine,” Louis assures him, “I promise.” Harry nods, and there’s this brief pause between them as Louis lets his eyes wander again before letting out a small scoff. “You know, this place looks like a proper family home. All that’s missing right now is a seven year old whining and an older, brattier sibling complaining.” He lets out a laugh to let Harry know he’s teasing, and Harry laughs softly at his words.

“Yeah,” Harry agrees gently as he looks around, “suppose you’re right about that one.”

When it becomes quiet again, Louis clears his throat and adjusts his bum on the small chair. “So, tell me more about our supposedly best mate Liam. What’s he like?”

Harry grins, small and full of many thoughts. He pushes himself off the counter and pulls a stool up to the island across from Louis to sit. “Well,” he begins, “he’s . . . quite something. He’s a character, to say the least, but he’s very nice, and you two get along pretty well, and not to mention all the banter that goes on between you and him.”

Louis cocks his head. “Banter?”

Harry nods, biting his bottom lip to hold back a smile. “Yeah,” he says, nodding his head, “and, according to you that one time, it’s a thing you and him have.”

Louis nods slowly. Bantering; an apparent thing between him and Liam. Good to know, he guesses. “Does he have a . . . girlfriend, or—boyfriend, for all I know? Does he have a dog, too?”

He needs to know, feels kind of obligated to know since Liam is, after all, one of his best mates, and what kind of mate is he if he doesn’t know all of the basics?

Harry gives him a gentle, reassuring smile, as if he can read his thoughts. “He’s with a girl named Sophia,” Harry tells him, and Louis nods again. “They’ll be together for two years this August. And they have a dog, too, and her name is Loulou, but they’ve only had her for about five months.”

He opens his mouth, but promptly shuts it when the kettle starts going off and mutters a, “Good to know,” instead as Harry stands up to attend to it.

It’s only a few minutes later when Harry places both steaming cups on the island and slides one of them towards Louis, and it fits right into Louis’s palm almost perfectly, his eyes trained on it. “Did you—”

“Put two sugars and just a tad of milk?” Harry finishes with an almost shy smirk. “I did.”

Louis stares at him for a few seconds, feeling a gentle rippling of goosebumps on the back of his neck before he lets his eyes fall on his tea again. He won’t say it aloud, but he’s impressed.

Silently, he stands and begins to turn. “I’m gonna head to bed early, if—um . . . if that’s okay. It’s just been a long day.” He pauses, and Harry doesn’t say anything. “Thanks for the tea.”

“Do you need help finding things?” Harry asks before he can disappear completely out of sight.

Louis glances at him. “I’ll be fine,” he assures him before leaving completely down the hall.

Louis admits this place is bigger than he had expected, but not big enough where he gets lost, of course. As long as he uses his head, he can figure where everything is, which is how it only takes a few minutes to stumble upon a bedroom that must be his and Harry’s if the way it looks is anything to go by.

The king bed lying in the middle of the room pressed against the wall, silk, dark grey sheets covering it, and it’s become glaringly obvious every which way he looks it’s definitely their room; with the two different accent tables on each side of the bed, all the small framed photos hanging on the walls, and the mound of clothes in the dirty hamper by the dresser.

He doesn’t let himself wonder, doesn’t allow himself to linger as he gets what he needs, changes, and looks for the switch to turn off the light.

He checks his phone one last time before turning it off for good, and it’s only just past seven in the evening, but he couldn’t really care less even if he tried. He’s tired, and he wants to rest, and he’s aware he may wake up at three in the morning, but he’ll deal with it then.

He hesitates when Niall comes to mind, and he almost wants to text him, but how would that go? He may remember him, but he doesn’t know recent details—doesn’t recall the four years of Niall’s life.

How would he even begin to explain anything, anyway? He would need to tell him, first of all, but sending a text out of the blue saying hey mate ! over the weekend i woke up with amnesia and now i don’t know the last three years of my life including everything you’ve recently done but thats ok ! u can tell me over a bunch of pints!!!! wouldn't exactly be the right way to go about it maybe.

Louis nearly rolls his eyes at the thought, but then pauses. Considers.

Niall probably would be on board with that.

Concerned, of course, but still on board with the plan.

Before he actually ends up sending a similar message like that, he turns it off completely, and he lies down, pulling the covers up. It occurs to him that he should’ve asked Harry about sleeping arrangements, of how this whole thing should be played out. But Harry never asked, either, and he’ll just deal with it tomorrow morning because this bed is really comfy and he doesn’t feel like moving.

 

 

iii.

 

 

Louis stirs awake, and it only takes him a moment to gather the strength to let his eyes flutter open, and it’s all dark still; the room’s completely dark, and he can only make out some shapes, eyes not completely adjusted yet.

There’s no body next to him when his vision becomes clearer and he rolls onto his other side to be met with the numbers 3:04 a.m. on the clock on the accent table. He was right about the timing, at least.

He sits up slowly before watching his steps on his way to the bedroom door. He’s rubbing his one eye when he walks down the hall, but with his other eye he notices how the kitchen is the only place still lit in this place, and he’s quiet when he reaches it.

Harry’s sitting there, at the island, and he’s looking down at something in his hands with a full cup of tea beside his arm, no steam coming from it. It’s probably been there a while. He doesn’t seem to notice Louis yet, and Louis doesn’t say anything, just looks on quietly. He looks like he’s thinking about something, how intently he’s staring at the small thing in his hands he can’t quite make out, but Louis’s used to it, to that look already, because it’s the one facial expression he’s used most when in his presence in the less than 24 hours.

Louis takes a step forward, the wood floor creaking, and Harry’s head snaps up in surprise, and the first thing he sees are how red his eyes are, and he doesn’t know whether it’s because he’s tired or because he’s had a recent emotional moment.

He doesn’t want to know about either.

“Have you been to sleep yet?” Louis asks first, quietly.

Harry shakes his head, covering whatever is in his hand with his other palm. “No,” he replies, and his voice sounds rough. “I’m about to, though. Did I wake you?”

Louis shakes his head before taking a seat across from him, and it’s quiet for a few beats.

“Did you want some breakfast before I sleep?”

Louis shakes his head again, and he can’t help the small smile blossoming on his lips. “No, thank you,” he says, “I’m good. Just go rest.”

Harry looks at him for another moment before standing, the stool squeaking across the floor, and he disappears in a matter of seconds and Louis’s left alone again.

Louis taps his fingers against the granite for a few seconds before standing and taking the still full cuppa and emptying it, and Louis notices just how cold it is, like it’s been sitting a few hours, and he only wonders for a short moment why Harry never bothered with it before moving on to the living room.

He spots Becks sleeping in his cozy-looking doggy bed, curled up on himself, and he stares for a few seconds before looking down at himself.

He should probably dress. But Harry’s in their room, so he decides later. Right now, though, it’s too late for anybody to be awake, and Harry’s in the midst of falling asleep and Becks is warm and snug in his bed, and he remembers, briefly, that Harry had mentioned yesterday at the doctor’s that Louis is a teacher.

And—he just recently scored this job at some primary school, and he knows it has to do with art, so, to Louis, three a.m. is the perfect time to snoop around, to see what he can find.

He knows in uni he wanted to do something that included art, so being a possible art teacher wouldn’t exactly surprise him, but he’s curious; he wants to know as much about it, and what year in primary he teaches. They’re all small kids, of course, but still.

So he searches. And searches. And searches. But—there’s nothing. He can’t find anything, and after a while he gives up, settling onto the settee in the living room with a sigh. Maybe he’s one of those teachers that leaves everything in their office or something.

It probably doesn’t matter, anyway, he already suspects that he won’t be going back to work for a while due to this amnesia thing.

In truth, he wouldn’t have minded going, but . . . who knows how far into a term they are, or—what he’s teaching his students. God, he doesn’t know anything, doesn’t even know the school or the staff there and the more he allows himself to think about it the more it’s highly improbable he’s going back.

He hears movements, and then a small, soft pitter patter across the floor near him, and he looks to see Becks trotting over to him lazily, his eyes hooded from being woken up.

He reaches down to pet him gently when Becks reaches his bare feet. “Hey, pal,” he greets him softly, and Becks just looks up at him, letting out a yawn before curling himself around his feet.

He’s possibly one of the cutest and friendliest dogs he’s ever met, maybe.

There isn’t much to do, too early in the morning still, so he lies down, lifting a limp Becks from his feet to snuggle with as he turns on the telly to watch something.

Becks stays with him through the few hours, dozing in and out of sleep tucked against Louis’s chest, and it isn’t until around nine in the morning that he thinks of calling his mother. He makes his way to the bedroom with a sleeping Harry with Becks in tow and he opens the door very carefully, very quietly.

He reaches his phone and grabs it carefully as it lies next to Harry, and Louis glances over at him. He stands there a moment, looking at the innocence of which Harry portrays, how he radiates this serene softness in his sleep, lips parted ever so slightly and eyelashes fanning across his cheeks.

There’s a loose curl covering about half of one of his eyes, and Louis moves it out of the way gently as it won’t disturb his slumber before leaving the room.

His phone vibrates with a text once he settles on the sofa again, and he opens it, briefly seeing the liam with the two emojis. He reads the text, pausing briefly before reading it again and again.

Wanna come over to lunch today????

He chews on his bottom lip before letting the top of his phone lean against his chin, contemplating. Harry must’ve told him, or at least he has high hopes that he had. But there’s nothing that says so.

Right as Louis starts typing a response, he hears footsteps near him and he turns his head around to see Harry standing a few feet from him, rubbing sleepily at one eye before fixing his curls.

“You’re up,” Louis says instead of finishing his reply. Harry blinks his puffy eyes a few times before nodding. “Truthfully, I wasn’t expecting you for another couple hours.”

Harry makes his way over, sitting down beside him in his pajamas. “My sleep was disturbed a lot,” he mumbles, voice reminding him of yesterday morning.

“Sucks,” Louis responds in lack of anything to say, and he watches as Becks’ small body comes out of nowhere and hops onto Harry’s lap, small, soft paws pressed against his chest in support of trying to nuzzle his face against Harry’s.

It seems to wake Harry a little, pressing a kiss onto Becks’ head before giving him a small, endeared smile. Louis blinks, tearing his gaze from them.

“Um . . . so Liam invited me to lunch,” Louis announces as he moves his phone back and forth in the air. Harry glances at it, smile vanished from face as he glances to Louis next.

“You talked to him?”

He shakes his head. “No. He texted me.”

Silence follows for a few seconds.

“I told him,” Harry admits, “last night. I—called him and told him everything that had happened. And we talked. And, he suggested that maybe we should come over tomorrow, but I told him I didn’t know if you’d want to.”

“So he texted me to check,” Louis guesses, tilting his head.

Harry shrugs. “Guess so.” Pause. “Do you?”

He looks at him. “Do I what?”

“Wanna go. Obviously you don’t have to; it’s just an idea.”

Louis thinks for a moment, considering it. “I can’t hide from everyone,” he tells Harry, “just because I don’t remember. I mean—”

“I just don’t want everything to overwhelm you,” Harry interjects, and Louis can see the concern and worry settle into his features and eyes. “A lot happened yesterday, and I could tell things were bothering you. I don’t want you to feel . . . like, I don’t know. Like that again.”

Louis stays quiet. “I’ll be fine,” he says eventually, but Harry still doesn’t look convinced. “I just need to get, readjusted, I guess. Like Doctor Grey said, I need to continue with things like normal.”

Harry pauses for long a moment. “You’ll tell me if you start feel that way again, won’t you?”

Louis nods, pressing his lips together. “Of course,” he assures him gently.

It’s settled, then, in the way Harry’s silence follows his words and in the small nod he gives him. Once it nears noon and they hit the road, Harry tells him that Liam lives in the next town over, that it isn’t much of a drive.

He’s nervous, he realises when they begin to walk side by side together up the pavement to Liam’s door. He’s nervous because he doesn’t know what to expect, how to . . . act. Maybe he’s afraid that Liam’ll judge him, or summat. Harry told him on the way here that he had no need to fear, that Liam’s aware of everything and he knows.

But that only calmed his heart a bit, and there’s still other doubting thoughts flying through his mind and before he has time to back away from the door Harry had knocked on and tell him he’s changed his mind, the door swings open and Louis’s greeted with a friendly smile on who he presumes is Liam.

He hears barking in the far distance, and their brown eyes immediately flick to Louis’s face and Louis gives them a small smile.

“You made it,” he sings softly as he opens the door further as an invitation to step in, and Harry laughs.

“That we did,” he agrees before stepping in, turning his head back to give Louis and giving him a reassuring smile.

Liam closes the door once they make it in, and Louis sticks his hand out towards him. “I’m sure you already know this,” Louis teases lightly, “but I’m Louis.”

“Liam,” he answers, shaking his hand and flashing him a bright smile. “And Sophia’s in the kitchen right now.”

Harry gives Liam a proper hug before Liam guides them to the kitchen, and Louis glances around, taking note in how it kind of reminds him of his and Harry’s own place. Feels very home-y and welcoming.

The kitchen, however, is different than theirs; there’s an island, of course, but it’s the only similarity they share, how everything is set up differently, the colours also differ, how the cabinets are a sky blue and the granite a clear white. The stools are a bit more comfortable than theirs, he finds. He likes them.

“Do you lads want something to drink?” Liam asks as he opens up the refrigerator, and there’s a lot of different foods in there, Louis notices.

Harry looks to Louis, and Louis weakly shrugs one shoulder in response to Harry’s gaze.

“We’ll have tea,” Harry answers for the both of them, and Liam just simply nods before digging through a cabinet to retrieve a kettle.

It’s silent as Liam sits from across from them, and it’s quiet for a few moments afterwards. Like no one knows what to say, and Louis can’t exactly blame them, he can understand why, but he’s not going to let this entire lunch together with Liam go on in loud silence.

“So,” Louis begins, letting out a sigh as he trains his eyes on Liam, “tell me about yourself. Harry here didn’t exactly provide a lot of information.”

Liam chuckles at his teasing tone. “Well, I’m twenty-two, my favourite colour is yellow, I really enjoy rainy days—”

“Mate,” Harry cuts him off, looking like he’s holding back a smile, “this isn’t a dating show.”

Liam raises his eyebrows, pointing a finger at him. “Now, now. Don’t get jealous, Harry,” he says instead, and Louis hides his smile into the back of his hand as Harry rolls his eyes at him, and it comes out in a rather fond way than exasperated. Maybe Louis’s eyes are deceiving him, but he sees a small start of a flush on his cheeks.

“I’m not jealous, you tosser,” he replies moodily, and the kettle starts going off, but before Liam can take care of it, Harry opts for it instead.

“Anyway, before I was rudely interrupted,” Liam says loudly as Harry mutters a fuck off without taking his concentration off the tea. Louis decides right then that Liam’s definitely a keeper. Liam continues talking, taking to different topics, and Louis just listens when he later tells him how they met and a bit how their dynamic went and evolved through the few years.

“You owe me twenty pounds, by the way,” Liam states once he’s done rambling, lifting his cuppa to his lips.

Louis narrows his eyebrows. “For what?” he asks curiously at the same time Harry lets out an exasperated sigh.

“You lost a bet to me,” he explains.

Louis looks to Harry questioningly as Harry shakes his head disbelieving. “Don’t listen to him,” Harry says, “he’s lying.”

“I’m not lying—Harry, would I lie?” Liam asks as his face softens to an innocent look, and Harry gives him an incredulous stare.

“Yes,” he replies dryly, “you would.”

“Haz, c’mon.”

Harry shakes his head. “Let it go, Li. It was two months ago. Just because Louis doesn’t remember doesn’t mean I don’t, either.”

Liam shrugs, giving up too easily as he takes another sip of his drink. “Fine, but when he gets his memories back he won’t have an excuse then.”

Harry just snorts into his tea and Louis glances between the two confused. “Do I normally make bets with everybody?” he asks after a pause.

Liam’s eyes widen pointedly in answer, and Harry laughs. “Yeah. Too many. You’d probably wager with our dog, too, if he could understand what you were saying.”

Liam starts laughing into his cup, and Harry’s eyes shine with mirth and Louis considers his words for a moment, thinking. He shrugs. He wouldn’t exactly put it past himself.

Besides, he thinks. He can trust Harry’s word.

 

 

iv.

 

 

Louis’s staring at the screen of his phone a few days later in their kitchen, letting the tapping of his nails against the island fill the silence.

He should call his mum. He should. He’s been meaning to, but every time something stops him, his stomach churning with this sickness he can’t quite bear.

He doesn’t understand it. He could tell her anything before, wouldn’t even bat an eyelash before he’d call his mother and speak his mind to her. He heard nothing of fear, but now it invades his bones like an old friend, and it stays in him until he decides to do something else.

Maybe he’s fearful of the outcome. It’s ridiculous that his mind chooses now to become afraid of confrontations, but . . . He pauses, looking around the kitchen. He just needs a distraction, something to occupy a part of his mind as he speaks to her. He just needs something.

He pushes himself off the stool, digging through drawers before stumbling upon one filled with loose, blank sheets of paper and some pencils beside it. He places them in front of him when he returns to his spot and he starts looking through his contacts before pressing the call button.

“Hello?”

Louis feels a small spread across his face at hearing his mum’s soft voice. He feels like he hasn’t heard it in years.

“Hey, mum.”

She immediately perks up. “Louis! It feels like it’s been ages. How are you doing, darling? How’s Harry?”

Louis pauses, takes a deep breath before setting his phone down on the island, placing it on speaker phone so he can use his hands to steady the paper he’s using the pencil on.

“He’s fine, yeah, he’s out at the moment,” he replies. Pauses again to swallow. “But—uh . . . I called you for, kind of a reason, I guess.”

“What is it?” she asks. She sounds intrigued.

He stops tracing lines for a moment, looking up and out at the window above the faucet. Outside is unusually hazy for this season. “I went to the doctor’s the other day,” he begins, and trails off into a subtle way to explain everything.

He stays mostly with the basics, leaving minor details out and once he’s finished he doesn’t find to be as fearful as he had earlier. He almost wants to smack himself.

“I—I don’t know what to say,” she replies in a calm voice, and Louis huffs out a weak laugh.

“That was my reaction, too,” he sighs, eyes falling on the paper in front of him.

There’s a pause.

“How’re you handling it?” she asks.

He shrugs though he knows she can’t see him. “Okay, I guess? It’s—confusing, sometimes, because I don’t exactly know everything, but over the past few days I’ve been . . . trying to keep up with what’s going on here and in general.”

Another pause.

“What about Harry?”

“What about him?”

“I know you don’t remember, sweetie,” she starts softly, “but you were the biggest part of him, so I know this must be hard for him, too.”

Louis sighs. “Well, if it is, he’s certainly good at hiding it.”

She chuckles. “Have you two . . . talked about things?”

Louis furrows his brows, confused. “What things?”

“He hasn’t brought up your relationship?” she asks, almost hesitant. “At all?”

Louis shakes his head. “No,” he answers, “but it’s not like I’ve asked, either. He doesn’t want to overwhelm me about anything, so he really only tells me things if I ask or something like that. I don’t think he wants to talk about it, if I’m honest,” he adds quietly after a moment’s silence.

He doesn’t know where they stand, is the thing. It’s easier for him, he supposes, since he doesn’t remember anything, so it’s simple to treat Harry like he’s . . . a new acquaintance, rather than someone whom he once loved, because the cruel, honest truth is he doesn’t remember loving him at all.

The last time Harry tried being intimate and affectionate with him was Sunday morning with the soft, slow and chaste kiss he gave him before he had figured out something was wrong, and if Louis thinks about it for too long, he can almost feel the ghost of his lips hovering against his. He doesn’t know how to feel about that.

“He probably thinks you don’t want to delve into that yet,” she thinks aloud. Maybe. “He probably just wants to give you time. Doesn’t want to pressure you into thinking that you have to love him.”

Louis nods considerably. “Doesn’t matter, anyway,” he says after a moment. “I’ll remember soon enough. Then we’ll deal with it.”

“How long do you reckon?”

Louis scoffs incredulously. “Who knows? My guess is a few months, give or take. All the doctor said is I’ll have a spontaneous recovery, which is . . . not exactly what I wanted to hear. But it is what it is.”

“It is what it is,” she agrees, then in a lighter tone, “Although I’d rather it be a few months than a year.”

Louis laughs. “A year would be—not very good,” he says, smiling.

They don’t talk for long after that, hanging up soon after, and Louis feels the lightest he has in days. He always did feel better after talking with his mum.

But all he can think about as he stares at the paper full of lines on the bottom of it, could pass as grass if he smudged it a bit, is how Harry looked on Sunday morning, and the shape of his eyebrows and how they framed his face nicely, and his long curls.

And, of course, the two birds on his chest.

It was easier to know how to feel on that morning, he knows, to see how nice Harry looks and admire it a bit despite his confused and dazed state. But now he can’t think that way.

His head snaps up to the left at the sound of a door unlocking, and in the distance he sees Harry step through gripping a brown bag of groceries to his chest as Becks paws at his ankle trying to capture his attention.

It works, Harry immediately looking back to give him a soft smile, and Louis stares, pencil stilling in his hand, and when Harry looks up their eyes lock for a moment until Louis blinks and looks back down at his paper.

You were the biggest part of him, his mother’s voice repeats in his mind. He almost wants to snort.

Harry walks in wordlessly, but Louis can feel his eyes on him with every step, and even though he doesn’t know what he’s drawing, he still has to erase a couple times and start over because he can’t devote his full attention to it.

“I got more of the tea you like,” Harry speaks, breaking the silence. Louis finally looks up to see him open the fridge, putting the milk away. Two percent, he notices. The best kind.

“Thanks,” Louis finally says, and before he can think completely, his fingers are already drawing his phone closer to him, and Harry’s eyes track the movements. He holds it up, pursing his lips. “Mum called. Well—no, I called her.” Harry doesn’t reply, just looks at Louis with an unreadable expression as he stands by the fridge, still unloading the groceries. He should offer to help. But he doesn’t know where things go.

“I told her,” Louis continues, clearing his throat. “I know I should’ve told her sooner, but I was still trying to adjust. Still am, actually. So I put it off.”

Harry’s face is softer this time, nodding slowly, faintly, as he puts a box of microwavable rice in one of the cabinets. “It’s understandable,” he replies just as softly, patiently. Then, “What’d she say?”

Louis scoffs, but it’s quiet as he looks down at his tracings. “She didn’t know what to say—which, you know. I get. Neither had I.” He pauses, meeting Harry’s eyes. “She asked how you were doing.”

“I’ll have to call her later,” is all he responds with a moment later as he folds the bag up and placing it on the counter.

Louis chews on his bottom lip, debating with himself as Harry begins messing with the kettle on the burner.

“Are you and her close?”

Harry shrugs, sitting down on the stool right next to Louis, and he can feel their knees brush each other. “Yeah, I’d say we’re close. We talk to each other weekly, y’know, either she calls me or I call her,” he rambles.

Something warm spreads out in Louis’s fingers. “That’s nice,” he comments, before snorting. “She never did that with any of my past boyfriends. Didn’t like any of them.” He rolls his eyes at the memory. He can’t exactly write it off as his mum being protective, because truthfully a lot of them were not exactly . . . good, maybe. Had an odd aura to them, possibly. Whatever it was, he guesses he can understand her point of view, her feelings.

Harry’s laugh is quiet, and there’s something in his eyes he can’t detect. “Yeah, I know.”

Again, Louis rolls his eyes, but more at himself, impatient with himself. “Right, because you’ve already heard that story and all the others.”

Without missing a beat, Harry’s hand covers Louis’s, and Louis freezes at the contact, notices how it completely engulfs his, warm and soft and smooth. His gaze flickers up to meet Harry’s, and something about the way his are trained on him makes him painfully aware of every little thing.

“I didn’t mean it like that,” Harry says in a quiet voice. “I just meant that, the first time you told me that, you almost said it in those exact words, if not completely.”

He wants to make a joke, something about history repeating itself, but the words won’t leave when he does open his mouth, so he shuts it, lost for anything to say. They just stare at each other for a few seconds before Harry removes his hand from Louis’s, and it feels cold immediately; cold and a bit damp.

He almost takes it back just to feel the warmth again.

“Did your mum ever dislike any of your past partners?” Louis asks.

Harry bites his lower lip, thinking. “Honestly, I don’t know,” he replies, smiling. “I haven’t been in a lot, truth be told. Maybe, like, once or twice. Before you. She was cool with them, I guess, didn’t have a lot to say, I suppose. Although they never lasted long; three months at most.”

Louis tilts his head. “Why so short?”

Harry hesitates a bit, shrugging a shoulder. “I guess because I just . . . wasn’t as into them as time went on. My feelings faded, I guess you could say.”

“What about me?” Louis can’t help but ask.

Harry looks around, then. “Well, as you can see, we live together, so I guess that kind of answers your question,” he says with his dimples on display, grinning. Louis shakes his head, hiding his own grin. But then something occurs to him.

“Not even because of . . . ?” he trails off, waving his hand around his head, and Harry shakes his head, lips pursed.

“Not even because of that,” he promises before sliding off his stool backwards and onto his feet. Louis watches as he digs through the freezer and pulling out some microwave meals and flaunting them in the air wearing a hopeful face. “Dinner?”

Louis just nods.

 

 

v.

 

 

“Since when do you, of all people, clean?”

Louis rolls his eyes, knowing very well Zayn can’t see him. “Since when do you, of all people, care if I do or do not?” he retorts as he presses his phone between his shoulder and cheek, beginning to make the bed in the guest room.

“I understand if you don’t want to share a bed with me,” Harry says quietly out of nowhere, and Louis looks up from his plate to stare at him, eyebrows furrowed.

“Do you mean for . . . ?”

Harry nods, pressing his lips together softly. “You don’t know me, you need space, I get it. If that’s what you want.”

Louis stares for another quiet moment before asking, “How will it work, then? Is there a guest room, or . . . ?”

“There is,” he confirms, “but it’s up to you. I mean, I could take it, if you want, and you could have the main bedroom. Your choice, of course.” Louis doesn’t miss the way he doesn’t say our bedroom.

Louis shakes his head. “No, that’s fine. I’d prefer to have the guest room, actually.” He pauses. “Thank you,” he adds quietly, and Harry just nods before they fall back into a quiet dinner.

“I’m just sayin’, bro,” Zayn says defensively, and Louis almost can see the way he raises his hands up in surrender. “Before you didn’t give two flying fucks, and now suddenly you wanna keep things clean.”

Louis huffs out a laugh. “Yeah, I know, but . . . I don’t know, something about a dirty room makes me squeamish.” Louis shrugs as if he can be seen.

There’s a pause on the other line. “Do you think it could be the amnesia thing?” Zayn asks quietly.

Louis straightens his posture, taking the phone squeezed between his face and shoulder and switching it to his other ear. “What do you mean?”

“Well, I mean, you’d told me the doctor said there might be changes in your behaviour and habits, right? Like, I searched some stuff up afterwards and I read some things, and like—it’s not completely wrong. This amnesia thing might’ve turned you into a cleaning freak,” he laughs, and Louis snorts, rolling his eyes.

But he pauses, chewing on his bottom lip thoughtfully. “Maybe,” he allows eventually. “Maybe it has. But, like. I wouldn’t say it’s a bad thing, though, would you? Nothing wrong with wanting things to be kept clean, right?”

“Yeah, unless you’re Louis Tomlinson.”

“Yeah, well, watch out next time you visit, I might squirt a bottle of windex in your fucking face for that remark,” he threatens, but they both know it holds nothing, and Zayn just laughs.

There’s always a difficult corner whenever making beds, and this time the difficult corner to get to is the top right one and Louis nearly throws himself onto the bed to reach it, letting out a small, frustrated grunt.

“Please tell me you’re not wanking,” Zayn’s voice pleads.

Louis sighs as he finally gets the corner completely done, relief and victory flooding his veins. “I’m not wanking, you fucking wanker,” Louis tells him as he gets off the bed, straightening his shirt. “I was trying—almost unsuccessfully—to make this too big bed. Why is it so big, anyway? In fact, why does this flat even have a guest room? I thought guest rooms were reserved for actual houses.”

Zayn snorts. “The flat holds two bedrooms, but you decided to turn it into a guest room for whenever I or anybody else stayed over, that’s why, genius.”

Genius,” Louis mocks in a high pitched voice under his breath, but then he stops, realising something. “Also that happened one time, Z. I was fucking 18.” Zayn catches on right away, bursting out into loud laughter, and Louis can feel his cheeks reddening at the embarrassing memory. “It’s not funny! I was literally in the middle of very important Me Time and you wouldn’t stop fucking calling me so I had no choice.”

“I was only traumatised for an hour afterwards, anyway,” Zayn sighs, catching his breath.

Louis rolls his eyes, biting back a smile and refusing to laugh. “Whatever. Don't you have some essays to grade, anyway?”

“What are you trying to imply? That because I’m a teacher means I have nothing better to do than grade things?”

“Exactly that,” Louis responds with.

He can almost hear Zayn roll his eyes. “So what’s Harry up to?”

“You’ve only been on the phone with me for fifteen minutes and already you wanna talk about Harry. Should’ve known you’d like him more than me,” Louis sighs dramatically. “Is it the curls?”

Zayn chuckles. “Shut up.”

“He’s on the phone with his mum, I think,” Louis answers.

“So,” Zayn drawls, “does that mean it’s safe to assume that he’s already told her?”

Louis nods. “Yeah. She knows. Haven’t talked to her, though. Only said hi in passing.” He pauses, sighing. “Told my mum, though, about it.”

“When?” Zayn sounds genuinely concerned.

“Yesterday,” he scoffs, leaning back against the bed and hooking his hand in the crease of his elbow. “It went better than I’d expected, to be honest.”

“That’s good, I’m glad to hear, Lou.”

“Yeah, me, too.”

It falls quiet for a few moments, until Zayn says, “So you and Harry are sleeping in separate bedrooms now?”

“Well, I don’t exactly want to share a bed with a complete stranger no matter how nice and kind and sweet they are,” Louis explains, his tone expressing how obvious the reason should be.

“Nice, kind, and sweet, huh?” he says, his tone taking on a suggestive turn.

Louis starts shaking his head. “You know what I mean.”

“So you don’t think he’s a little bit pretty?” Zayn interrogates, and Louis wants to bury his face into the pillows he starts putting covers on.

Louis doesn’t say anything for a minute, concentrating on fixing the pillows. “Objectively,” he finally says, “he’s attractive.”

“I’m your best mate, Louis,” Zayn tells him, “if you’re attracted to him, it’s okay, you don’t have to lie. It’s not like I haven’t heard these kind of things before anyway.”

Louis draws in a breath, running a hand over his face. Right, because Zayn’s probably heard everything before all this had happened. “Okay, fine,” Louis caves, turning around to grab the other pillow that’s lying on the floor, “yes, he’s pre—”

He stops in his tracks, words trapped tightly in his throat as his eyes land on Harry leaning against the door frame, eyes locked on each other. He can feel his heartbeat in his ears, and Zayn’s voice asking him if he’s still there.

Louis clears his throat, breaking eye contact with Harry. “Uh—he’s pretty polite,” he finishes. “Gotta go.” He pulls the phone away from his ear without waiting for Zayn’s response, and the room’s silence feels very heavy. Louis’s pretty sure Harry had heard him, but how much he had is what he doesn’t know.

“Hi,” Harry greets finally, normally, as he pushes himself off of the door frame and walking towards him, taking the unfinished pillow in his hands. “Need some help?”

But Louis doesn’t get to answer as Harry helps anyway, finishing putting the pillowcase on as he looks up at Louis through his eyelashes.

“I’m good, thanks,” Louis manages only after he’s done. He feels very dumb right now.

“Dinner's almost ready,” Harry says, “in case you might want to know.”

Louis nods, running a hand through his fringe. They don’t say anything for a moment, and Harry just stares at him with this piercing gaze and truthfully it’s making him a little nervous.

“I’ll, um, see you in a few minutes, then?” he stammers, and Harry gives him a small smile before walking back out the door, closing it as he does so. Louis lets out a breath he hadn’t realised he’d been holding in and texts a simple he fuckin heard me thanks asshole to Zayn and he pretends to ignore the shameless winky face Zayn responds with.

 

 

vi.

 

 

Louis’s leaning back against the counter, and he can feel the warmth of his freshly brewed tea radiate onto the bare skin of his arm. But he doesn’t touch it, just leaves it there as he chews on the thumb nail of his other hand.

It’s been a month, but the past week he’s been trying to find the right to time to ask Harry. To get him alone and simply talk to him. Louis’s never had a problem before with others, but with Harry it’s different—and of course it’s different, it’s always going to be different because of their situation, and that he understands.

But he’s been so busy with work; Harry’s a pediatrician, it’s understandable that he’s so busy with work and all, but if he’s not and when he’s home, either Louis’s doing something else or he’s out with Liam getting to know him better or spending time with Zayn and it’s just.

But tonight, they’re both home together, and Harry’s sat in the living room watching television while Louis’s here in the dimly lit kitchen going over what he wants to say in his head to him.

He grips the hot tea cup with both hands, warming them to keep steady and to distract himself as he makes his way to in the other room. Harry promised him he’d tell him anything he desires to know any time he asked, any time he feels ready, and Louis’s ready now, he is. It’s been an entire month, he’s ready. He’s curious.

Harry just looks at him when he enters and sits on the lone white leather seat that resides right next to the settee that Harry’s sitting on, legs crossed. Similar to a yoga position.

He doesn’t say anything, just looks at Louis for another moment before averting his attention back to the telly and Louis remains silent as he grips the cup in his hands tighter, wanting as much warmth as possible whether it burns him and not as he tries to guess what it is he’s watching.

It looks a movie, possibly. It looks familiar to Louis, but he can’t place the name.

“It must be weird for you,” Louis says eventually. Harry doesn’t miss a beat, his eyes flicking to Louis’s face almost instantaneously at his words. “Having the person you’re with lose every single memory of you.”

Harry doesn’t say anything for a few seconds. He nods slowly as he mutes the television. “I guess you could say that, yeah,” he agrees quietly. “You spend over three years with somebody and one day you’re the only one left to remember it all. Literally.”

Louis’s grip loosens before it tightens again. “Did I ever treat you good?”

There’s a quirk to Harry’s lips, and something brightens his eyes, how they’re a lighter green. “You were, without question, the best person I’d ever been with. Ever known. You still are,” he adds softly, and something about his words makes Louis feel different, how suddenly the tea is too hot and his hands are warmer than he’d wanted them.

He feels guilty for the next question, because he already knows it. Knows it like the back of his hand. He knows the answer without needing to ask, but he does, anyhow. “Were you ever good to me?”

Harry’s grin widens, and he uncrosses his legs, putting his feet flat on the ground as he leans forward, closer to Louis. “Well, I never once forgot our anniversaries,” he admits as he cups his chin. There’s a teasing tone to his voice.

“Wait—anniversaries? As in more than one?” Louis asks, licking his lips confused. Harry nods. “How many did we have, exactly?”

Harry starts laughing, covering his mouth with his hand. He hasn’t heard that in a while, and it sounds nice, to Louis, as it echoes around the room and them.

You started it,” Harry explains in an accusatory tone, eyebrows raised pointedly. “We were friends for a bit at first, so we kind of celebrated that little thing monthly, but then once we were in a relationship, we didn’t exactly stop. We still celebrated when we first met, but also the anniversary of our relationship. But then . . . you started adding things, like our first kiss, and our first date—which, believe it or not, was at an aquarium. I know, crazy as it sounds! But you had told me that you didn’t want it to be fancy, or like . . . a normal date thing or whatever. So I took you to an aquarium. It was more fun than you think.”

Louis can’t help the smile blossoming on his face, and he bites back the laugh he’s holding in. An honest to God aquarium. It’s . . . a very Harry thing to do, he realises in that moment. He can definitely see that happening.

“You sure know how to keep your dates on the edge of their seat,” Louis says as he takes a sip of his now room temperature tea. Harry laughs again. “I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if Liam helped you on picking that one.”

Harry shrugs sheepishly. “He did suggest something to do with water, so . . . ,” he trails off.

Louis scoffs. “I knew it.”

Harry’s smile widens. “We also celebrated the first time we . . .” He pauses, looking down at his hands pointedly as he makes motions with his hands, and Louis gets it almost immediately.

“Oh my God, did we honestly?” Louis can’t even begin to imagine.

Harry leans back, dimples deepening. “We did. Honest.”

“We were that kind of couple. Weren’t we?”

Harry’s snort is loud and drawn out; the answer is in itself. “It’s an understatement,” Harry says, “just ask Zayn or Niall or Liam.”

Louis draws in a breath. “Duly noted,” he replies before taking another sip of his tea.

They fall into silence then, and nothing’s really said for a while, but the telly is still muted, never becomes unmuted. But there’s something tugging at Louis’s heart strings as he mulls over every word that’s been said; almost like a yearning.

“We sounded really great together,” he finally admits a while later.

Harry looks at him with an unreadable expression, but it lasts but a few seconds when it starts to soften. “Because we were,” is what he replies with, his voice as soft as the look he’s giving him. “We just. Worked, you know? We worked.”

Louis’s throat tightens. “I’m sorry,” he blurts before he can stop himself, and Harry’s face softens further, to impossible levels, and Louis almost has to look away because he can’t bear it.

“Why are you apologising?” Harry asks. He almost sounds like he’s in disbelief if Louis listens closely.

Louis sighs, shaking his head with pursed lips as he sets his tea down on one of the accent tables. “Because this is my fault. This is happening all because of me, and the worst part is I know this is hurting you and I’m sorry for that because I never wanted to hurt you in the first place.”

Harry shakes his head, leaning forward as he places a large, warm hand over Louis’s knee, and he can feel the warmth spread throughout his leg. “Stop,” Harry demands sternly, and his face is no longer soft but serious and firm-looking, gaze once again piercing. “Don’t apologise for anything. None of this is your fault, don’t you understand that? You never asked for this, I never asked for this. Sure, it hurts, but—I don’t blame you for any of this, and you shouldn’t blame yourself, either, Louis. These things just, happen. They happen, and it sucks, but it’s not forever.”

He doesn’t mean for it to come out as a whisper. “I wish I could remember.”

Harry simply nods, slow and once. “I know.”

Louis remains quiet then, and their eye contact doesn’t break for a long time, and Harry never removes his hand from his knee. It feels kind of nice, the touch, how warm it makes him.

He does get up, eventually, and takes his cold tea with him to the kitchen. But he doesn’t make it far when Harry’s voice stops him.

“I was gonna propose to you.”

The words sound so loud in the silence, and Louis turns around, but Harry’s not facing him, still looking ahead, and all Louis can see is the back of his head and part of his back.

“That morning,” he continues in a steady, calm voice, “that weekend was the the main reason we had went, why I had suggested it. But of course you never knew, just thought it was some trip to get away from everything, and I suppose it was, too, in a way. And that morning, the last day we’d be there, I was gonna do it. I had everything planned out, knew when and where and how. Just before we left, before we left that room, I was gonna do it right in there.”

Louis stands there, saying nothing. He wants to, but every time he opens his mouth, nothing comes out, so he’s just stood there fishmouthing. He wants to ask so is that what was in your hands a few weeks ago?

But he just stands there for a few more seconds, not making any sort of noise as he hopes Harry will turn around and just look at him, but he never does, and he takes that as a cue to leave.

He empties his cup once he’s in the kitchen, and all that’s going through his mind is proposal proposal proposal proposal. Harry was gonna propose to him the day he lost every single recollection of him, and that shouldn’t mean anything to him—it shouldn’t.

He shouldn’t feel shaky. He shouldn’t feel guilty. He shouldn’t feel responsibility for any of this. He shouldn't have even asked about any of this though he knew what he was getting himself into. But he did because he was ready and felt like he had the right to know.

It sounds almost tragic, the way this goes. For Harry. Planning to propose to the person you want to spend the rest of your life with and then finding out the same morning they’ve forgotten you. Sounds heartbreaking, actually. But it’s not Louis’s fault, and he keeps telling himself that; Harry keeps telling him that.

He walks to his room and closes the door behind him, leans against it in the process. He takes a deep breath, inwardly grateful for how he can breathe easier here, how there isn’t that resembles something he can’t remember.

He walks to his room and closes the door behind him, leans against it in the process. He takes a deep breath, inwardly grateful for how he can breathe easier here, how there isn’t anything that resembles something he can’t remember.

The best thing to do, he knows, is think different thoughts, distract himself. So he does; he goes to the closet and goes to change clothes, but as he’s shuffling through everything and comes to an end on the left side, he spots a box in the corner. A brown box, one that’s usually used during moving or when packing away sentimental things.

Louis doesn’t recognise the handwriting. It’s too neat to be his, and he doesn’t normally write in cursive. It’s got to be Harry’s, he decides. It’s got to be. He doesn’t know who else it’d be. Carefully, he leans down and unfolds it. There’s no label anywhere that Louis can see that tells what holds inside it, and he probably shouldn’t peek, but Louis’s never been one to follow rules of any kind.

Louis didn’t know what he was expecting, but he certainly didn’t expect such a big box to hold so little. He pulls it outwards, drags it across the wood flooring so it’s sat just outside the closet so he can go through it with ease. He kneels in front of it, and it’s mainly just filled with these—journals, or whatever. There’s a few letters scattered, folded in envelopes and there are some sticking out where they’re stuffed in the leather bound journals.

He wasn’t going to open any, of course, but there’s one that sticks out to him, how there’s words scratched into the old, worn journal. He picks it up with care, with gentleness in case it falls apart easily, and he looks at it for a few moments, reading over the words scribbled into one. There’s a few aimless stars on it, small, and there’s not many words, but the words one and only catch his eye.

There’s another, he notes; untape my mouth. He only sees it when he goes to open it; the words are small, but still big enough to notice, and they’re written right into the lower right corner of the journal where you lift it to open. He blinks at it once before inhaling a sharp breath and continuing.

There’s isn’t much to the first page, just a few words that aren’t anything special. It’s a possible ramble of a random thought, but the handwriting—it’s very similar to one he’s seen used by Harry. Too similar. He purses his lips and flips to the next page, and there’s more words than the last, but still nothing really worthy. And he keeps flipping page to page, notices how with every page there’s a few more words filling it than the last; like some kind of pattern.

He stops, abrupt, when he comes to one page. What caught his attention is the quote written at the top.

“I love you. I love the texture of your skin, the taste of your saliva, the softness of your ears, I love every inch and every part of your entire body, from your toes and the beautifully curved arches of your feet, to the exceptional shade and warmth of your dark hair. I need you in my life, I hope you need me, too.”

Underneath it is written from where it’d come from originally, and Louis has to count to ten until he reads further on. It’s an entry, he can tell that much from how everything is phrased.

The date reads third of june, ‘12.

But then, in the small, neat cursive handwriting,

there’s too many things I wish you knew of, like how every time I see you my chest fills with this warmth that I know means more than I pretend doesn’t; how every time you glance my way the hairs on the back of my neck stand so tall it feels almost electrifying.

I don’t know what it is about your laugh; maybe because it’s so bright and free-sounding that it makes me want to do things I wouldn’t normally agree to do. Maybe it’s not your laugh at all, but the sparkle in your eyes; they shine just as bright as the morning sun, almost matching your laugh.

My memory is very cruel to me on nights like these, because sometimes it likes to torment me with visions of you, of visions that are, I’m sure, imprinted onto the side of my brain like some tattoo. I know for a fact I’ll never be able to remove it. Not that I would want to.

Louis stops reading, doesn’t finish the rest of it. It’s long, but his throat is already feeling tight and this is probably what he gets for looking without permission, without remorse. Instead of closing it and packing it away like he should have the common sense to do, he reads over the date of which it was written again.

June 3rd. 2012.

He lowers the journal, going over in his mind how long Harry said they’d been together, the age of which they had met. He spends a good minute trying to figure it out, of the possible month and season.

It feels kind of like the breath is being knocked out of him gently when he realises it. By June they’d probably known each other for about six, seven months. Maybe five. He’s not entirely sure other than Harry’s words echoing around and around in his mind. They were friends for a while, Harry had mentioned that, but he had failed to mention how long.

But the first words written, there’s too many things I wish you knew of, clearly indicates that Louis had been oblivious to his feelings still, and Harry hadn’t told him yet, either.

Taking a deep breath, he closes the journal and wraps the string around it, placing it back in the box. The spot beside it is a polaroid picture. Louis pauses, staring down at it before picking it up and holding it closer to his face.

Harry’s in it, and his hair, Jesus, it’s so much shorter than it is now and Louis stares at him for a good minute, completely dumbfounded at how so much has changed in his appearance and yet so very little. Reluctantly, he admits he was very pretty then, too.

He’s wedged between two people—two different guys that look very familiar to him. He’s got a huge smile on his face, eyes shining so bright with happiness. He’s breathtaking, nearly. Louis blinks, shaking his head as he eyes the two familiar strangers, and the more he stares the more he’s pretty sure he knows who they are.

The one blond guy, his short hair is smoothed back a bit, and he’s wearing a heavy jacket. Louis thinks his name is Dougie. The other bloke, his hair is very dark and short—shorter than blondie’s. He’s also wearing a heavy jacket that matches blondie, and they’re both smiling in the picture.

Louis continues staring at it until he flips it over, looking for something. Then he sees it: october 17th, 2013. It was taken nearly four years ago.

He repeats the name Dougie in his mind a few times before he begins to recall the dark-haired person’s; Harry. His name is Harry, too, and—they’re well-known. Famous, he supposes. He knows they play music and the word fly is in their band name, but he’s never really listened to their music much.

But . . . judging by the look on Harry’s face, he very much does listen to their music, if the total ecstatic look on his face is anything to go by.

The corner of Louis’s lips quirk up, but he presses his lips together to suppress it as he places the photo back. His fingertips brush over one of the flat, white envelopes, and he stares at it for a few seconds before lifting it and giving it a closer look.

He doesn’t bother reading the address on it or any of it as he plucks it out and unfolding it. Instead of there being one single sheet of paper, there’s two, and Louis notices how, again, a lot was written.

Harry, it reads, and Louis recognises his own handwriting, knows this is a letter to Harry he had written possibly a few years ago; a letter he doesn’t have any recollection of.

It’s so cold in this flat. The heater’s broken—again. Unfortunately. It’ll be a few days before I can get it fixed.

I wish you were here. I know if you were, I could ring you up and you’d be over in less than half an hour, arms ready and waiting to wrap around me; you’d be so willing to replace my own heater, and I can’t help but laugh.

I know you haven’t been gone long, but Manchester doesn’t feel the same without you. The clouds feel darker, somehow; the skies are more gloomy, and the weather is strangely bitter. It’s like you’ve taken anything resembling warmth with you, and that isn’t fair, but I should’ve known because you yourself are warmth and what you bring you can also take back.

Sort of like an Indian giver, I suppose.

I know a month doesn’t sound like much, but four weeks does; two fortnights. And so far you’ve only been gone one, and Zayn’s tired of hearing me whine about it. I’m beginning to feel a bit pathetic about it all, but I’m just so used to you being here, being by my side, being one phone call away, and I’m not used to this.

I guess I just have to get used to it, distract myself, but it’s easier said than done, because I don't ever want to get used to you not being here; it doesn’t sound very appealing, in my opinion.

Louis very nearly crumples the letters in his hands when he forces himself to stop reading it. He can feel his heartbeat echo in his ears, can feel the blood rush to his neck and up to his cheeks as he folds it and puts it away in hurried movements, and within a few seconds he’s pulling the closet doors shut, an accidental bang echoing.

He rubs his face with both hands, feeling that same frustration and claustrophobic feeling he’d had in the kitchen. He breathes in. Out. In. Out.

There’s not a single area in this flat that’s not filled with some kind of memory, not a single room where there’s not something to remind him, and he—just—

It only takes him of five seconds to make up his mind, to try and calm himself down some before he exits the room quietly, but the exact second he looks up, closing the door behind him, is the second Harry starts walking by, and they both just kind of pause, catching each other’s attention.

They stare at each other for what feels a long time, but Louis knows better; he knows it’s only been a few seconds.

“Hi,” Harry breathes out gently, eyes gentler. Louis swallows.

“I think I want to move in with Zayn,” Louis says just as gentle. He meant to say hi back, but his brain isn’t quite cooperating with him, tricking his mouth into saying things he hadn’t meant to say first.

The silence is long and keeps stretching, and Harry’s expression doesn’t change, stays as soft and unreadable. His voice remains the same once he speaks up. “Have you phoned him about it?”

Louis shakes his head, slowly. “I was about to.”

Harry nods, and Louis notices the way his shoulders slump just a little, just enough to notice a change. Louis wonders, as he stares at his soft facial expression, if he had seen this coming.

“Just. Let me know, okay?” Harry says. “When you’ve discussed it.”

Louis nods, and watches him walk away and disappear into their—his bedroom.

 

 

vii.

 

 

Louis thought it’d be better if he left in the morning. But then he decided against it, that he was going to go tonight instead of waiting.

He packed some clothes, of course, unsure of how long he’d be staying with Zayn. He had called him a few minutes after he had blurted it to Harry.

“Hello,” Zayn’s voice drawls on the other line. Louis lets out a sigh.

“Hey.” He clears his throat. “Listen, I need to ask you a favour.”

“Sure,” comes Zayn’s reply easily; it’s almost comforting. “Anything, bro.”

Louis can feel his stomach begin to tie in knots, faintly; he feels nervous, and he doesn’t understand it. “Is it okay if I—um. Stay with you for a while?” When Zayn doesn’t reply, he adds, “I don’t know how long, it’s indefinite, but I just. Need some place else to stay. For now.”

Zayn’s silence drags on, and so do Louis’s nerves, until he speaks up, voice slow and cautious. “Did something happen that I should be concerned about?”

Louis shakes his head. “No, no, nothing happened. Well. Something did, obviously, but, like. It’s not what you think. I promise. Can we just—talk about it when I get there?’

“Yeah, ‘course, babes,” is all he replies with in a soft voice.

He hasn’t seen Harry since he had disappeared into his room where he had stayed. It’s been a while, and Louis doesn’t understand why he’s hesitating at the door, hand wrapped the knob. Maybe he’s hoping Harry will appear and say something to him, maybe he’s having second thoughts.

Maybe it’s both, but. He takes a deep breath, opening the door and taking a step out into the night air. It’s a tad chilly, and maybe he should’ve brought a jacket or something, but he already closed the door and it’s probably locked and he’d have to ring the doorbell or something and it’d probably be such a hassle.

It’s quiet at night, their neighbourhood is, he notices as he walks down the pavement and towards his car. It’s peaceful, and the smell airs just faint of salt, like the ocean, and it’d be make sense, of course, seeing as they live near the beach.

It feels really nice, refreshing, and he kind of prolongs opening the door to the backseat. Just as he’s about to get in and start the engine, he hears loud footsteps scuffing against the pavement.

His head jerks up, and he sees a figure—a tall figure—walking towards him, and he notices the long, curl strands and knows who it is right away. The closer he gets, the more he can make out of Harry, and unlike Louis, he was smart enough to wear a jacket.

Although he’s not sure it’s a jacket. It’s like some very, very thin, long sweater that’s made to wear around a house. It’s a light cream colour, too. It looks nice; appealing.

When Harry reaches him, he doesn’t say anything, just stands there, three feet separating them. He folds his arms against his chest, as if he’s still cold, and looks at him.

“I was hoping I would catch you,” he says, finally. Though his words are quiet, he still sounds loud in the dark silence. “Sorry I didn’t answer if you knocked on my door earlier. I fell asleep.” He looks sheepish saying the last part, and right, that doesn’t surprise Louis; he’s learned over the weeks that Harry can fall into a slumber just about anywhere he pleases if he stays still long enough.

Louis shrugs one shoulder, but it probably looks more like a jerk. “It’s okay.”

The silence that follows isn’t exactly awkward, but it’s not comfortable either; it’s just . . . silence. And distance. And staring.

“So, um,” Harry coughs into his fist, “you have my number if you need me, or something.” He looks almost awkward, like he’s not sure what to do. That makes two.

Louis nods before opening the door, but then he feels fingers wrapping his wrist, tugging him back, and he looks up in surprise because Harry’s—suddenly very close to him. And his piercing gaze is back once again.

Neither say anything for a few moments, gazing at each other in silence, until Harry removes his fingers gently from his wrist and cups Louis’s cheeks with both hands. They feel very warm against Louis’s chilled skin. “Come back when you can,” he whispers. “Okay?” He leans forward, and Louis can feel the soft skin of his lips press against his forehead.

He lingers, just for a second, before pulling back and caressing a thumb along his jaw before taking a step back all the while giving him a small, gentle smile.

Louis doesn’t move for a long time, not when Harry leaves and disappears into the building, and not even when he knows he should get going; knows Zayn is waiting for his arrival. He feels like he’s cemented to the ground, but he puts all his force into moving his legs and shutting the door as he climbs in the car and starts it.

When he does, finally, begin to turn onto the main street, he feels this weird ache in his chest—this weird, large ache that echoes around in him that makes him feel like he’s forgetting something so very important.

But he can’t remember what it is.

 

 

viii.

 

 

Staying at Zayn’s is different, but familiar in a way.

When he had been in uni, he and Zayn had met when they’d learned that they’d be sharing a dorm together. It wasn’t bad at first; Zayn kept to himself, and Louis did his own thing, and they’d greet each other when they went in and out of the room for things or to their classes. They’d tell make small talk here and then on day offs, but none of it felt awkward, or forced.

It was a good thing; it was easy, and it took a few months, and Louis’s not sure how it had happened without him noticing, but every time they were alone together, they’d up in each other’s presence, and eventually they’d hang out without even asking one another.

Louis would count it as one of the easiest things he’s ever dealt with, befriending Zayn. One of the easiest and non-complicated things thrown to him in life, if not the most.

It’s only been a week and a half, and it kind of feels like rooming with him again, except Perrie’s here. And their home feels a thousand times bigger than a dorm. Which is nice, because it means more space and privacy, but there’s just always something gnawing at him very faint, so small he could probably ignore it if he tried. And he does; he tries, but it’s still there, day in, day out, and he’s losing a bit of patience with it, if he’s being honest.

He couldn’t really sleep last night because of it; his eyelids feel so droopy and heavy as he stares at the mug of tea set before him at the kitchen table, and it’s only when Zayn walks in does it distract him just for a mere moment.

“Hey,” Zayn says, yawning around the word. His face is still puffy and a bit on the pale side, his hair clearly not combed and taken care of yet. “You’re up.”

Louis glances at the sliding glass door that leads to the balcony, eyes taking in how the sun’s bright, morning orange reflection projects onto the table and floor and even onto part of Louis’s thigh and feet. It’s still very much early, and Louis turns his eyes on Zayn again, cocking his head.

“If I remember correctly,” he begins, “you don’t wake up ‘til, like—noon or something. Why are you awake so early?”

Zayn raises a questioning eyebrow at him. “I could ask you the same.”

Louis purses his lips before sighing. “Couldn’t sleep,” he admits tiredly. He cups his tea and lifts to it his lips. It’s surprisingly still very much warm.

Zayn looks at him for a few seconds as he fills the kettle. “I can see that. You should take a nap or summat. Liam wants to have breakfast with us in a couple hours, and you should get some rest beforehand. Which is also why I’m awake at this ungodly hour,” he adds before Louis can ask again.

Louis just nods before disappearing into the living room and settling onto the sofa planted in the middle. It doesn’t take long for him to fall under, but even when he does, his slumber is still restless at times.

It feels like five minutes later when Zayn wakes him up, but when he looks at the clock, he frowns a bit, how it’s been three hours instead. Surprisingly, he feels wide awake with so very little sleep; maybe he’s past the point of being so tired that he’s actually a little delirious on sleep deprivation. Wouldn’t be the first time.

It’s a little cafè somewhere near London. It’s a bit of a drive, but he doesn’t mind it; he’s always liked long car rides. It’s bright out, warm enough to not need a sweater or jacket, but there’s still clouds in the sky, some that are darker than normal that threaten to storm. Liam’s already there, sitting outside by the windows of the cafè by himself.

“What a fuckin’ loser,” Louis mumbles as they walk towards him, biting down on his lower lip to hold back a smile. He hears Zayn snort and then feels him shove at his shoulder and Louis almost falls off the pavement and into the cherubs that line beside it. “Fuck off.” He shoves back, and Zayn just starts laughing into his hand.

Breakfast is good; breakfast is light and there’s banter and there’s laughter and—it’s exactly what Louis needed today. Exactly this. It was also nice going somewhere he doesn’t visit often; the change of scenery is different, but a good different.

It’s not really until they’re walking around in one of the clothing shops with Liam that it kind of dawns on Louis.

“Why didn’t Harry come?” he asks around a straw in his mouth as he lets his gaze flick between Zayn and Liam. He’s in front a rack of tight jeans that separate him and the two.

Liam’s eyes snap to Louis from the pair he was looking at in his hands, then he turns his head to look at Zayn who’s already staring back. The two exchange a look and Louis narrows his eyes at them in confusion.

“We didn’t invite him, that’s why,” Liam answers then, and Louis has this gut feeling that Liam’s not telling the whole of the truth.

He takes the straw of his drink away from his mouth. “Why?” he asks in a cautious drawl.

“Is it important to know why?” Zayn asks this time, his patient voice contradicting his words.

Louis pauses, considers. Then shrugs, dropping his eyes to the rack before him again. “Guess not,” he mouths around his dark blue straw again, sipping on his smoothie.

The matter doesn’t come up at all again for the rest of the day, not even for those few minutes when Harry phones Liam and Liam vanishes into another room to take the call, not even when afterwards, when Liam returned.

And Louis doesn’t ask; he didn’t though the words were ready to fall off his tongue the second he opened his mouth, though the odd ache in him was burning very quietly, tempting him to ask how Harry was doing.

They haven’t exactly talked since Louis left to live with Zayn. There was a text here and there for the first two days, Harry asking him if he had arrived safely and if he was doing fine, and Louis had responded to both, and that was about it.

There was that one day where Louis had woken up a bit too disoriented, not having slept well, and for a few moments when he had trudged into the living room he’d half-expected to see Harry sitting on the settee, but when he saw nothing, he blinked a few times and glanced around, his mind slowly registering everything.

It was a weird moment, that one, and he had stood there for a few seconds more before walking off to the kitchen to make some tea so he could wake up and have his senses completely back.

He’s busy in Sainsbury’s late one night, browsing the section full of pasta. There’s a lot more shapes and sizes of noodles than he anticipated, and truthfully he hasn’t gone to the market in a long time, so he hadn’t really given it much thought.

But Zayn told him earlier today that he’s not cooking dinner tomorrow and that it’s his turn, and so now Louis’s stuck in Sainsbury very late at night having a dilemma about which kind of pasta to use.

Spaghetti is simple, but very good; it’s always a favourite, and it’s something he can do without messing up portions or burning things. Albeit, he could very much burn the noodles if he doesn’t stir them every now or then or didn’t tend to them at all. Same with the meatballs. But he can cook, at least the simple stuff, like spaghetti and soup and muffins and pizza and all that kind of stuff. He just can’t make hard stuff like a creme brulee or whatever.

Baking and cooking isn’t something he’s been very much into, not something of interest, so his mum never really taught anything past the basic measurements and meals. He can almost hear her voice in his head: if you ever plan to live on your own and be independent, you need to know this kind of stuff, Louis.

He’s almost tempted to pull his phone out and call Zayn to ask which kind he’d like, but then there’s a voice that stops him.

“Louis?”

He hasn’t heard it in a long while, maybe two and a half weeks or more, not that he’s been counting or anything, but it hasn’t changed—and he hadn’t expected it to, but.

He’s nervous, and he doesn’t understand why because it’s just Harry, but his heart is galloping like some horse and it takes him a solid minute to turn his head and let Harry know he’s not ignoring him.

He looks—really comfortable, in his baggy, grey joggers and he’s wearing the same cream sweater he’d been wearing the last time he’d seen him with a soft grey t-shirt underneath it. His long curls are in a bun, but there’s a single strand loose and tucked behind his right ear.

“Hi,” Louis greets quietly, and he doesn’t even think twice about the box of noodles he grabs off the shelf in front of him.

“Hi.” He’s standing at the end of the aisle, like he’d just entered it, and Louis’s stood smack in the middle, so there’s plenty of space between them. Louis’s almost thankful for it.

“I, uh—” He clears his throat. “I wasn’t expecting to see you here.” Or anywhere for a long time, for the matter.

The corner of Harry’s lips tilt upwards in an attempt of a crooked, half smile. “Me neither,” he drawls. He takes a few steps forward before stopping again and clasping his hands together behind his back. There’s a basket hanging off his wrist, and Louis can see the milk and a few various vegetables and a small bag of crisps. “How’ve you been?”

Louis gulps. “Fine. You know. Zayn’s—kind of gave me no choice but to shop by myself.” He shrugs and crosses his arms like it’s no big deal, and Harry’s smile widens, the light reflecting in big, green doe eyes.

“I see.”

“How about you?”

Harry shrugs a shoulder, and the grin still doesn’t leave his face, like he’s actually delighted to see him. The thought almost makes him feel self-conscious. “I’m okay. Just doing the usual late night shopping.” He lifts his basket and wiggles it around to show it off, and Louis breaks out into a small grin, chuckling quietly.

They stand there in quiet, staring at each other. Louis’s not sure what to say next, if Harry’s going to say anymore, and the longer he looks at him the more heat he can feel travel through his upper body, his neck, straight to his cheeks, and he really hopes Harry can’t see any kind of pink colouring on his face though he highly doubts he can’t.

Louis starts backing away very slowly, lifting his arm and jabbing a thumb over his shoulder. “I should probably go, before Zayn starts worrying. I’ll see you around, yeah?”

He’s able to turn around before Harry can say anything, but he bites down on his bottom lip the second he hears Harry say softly behind him, “Night, Lou.”

It’s different than a goodbye; it borders between a see you around and ‘til next time.

It’s not until he’s sat in his car, in the nearly empty, dimly lit parking lot and staring through the windshield does something seep right into his bones.

He’s missed Harry terribly much.

 

 

ix.

 

 

“You never told me why you left.”

Louis plucks a sliced cucumber from the cutting board and takes a bite. It’s very cold; just the way he likes it. Warm cucumbers aren’t exactly satisfying as when they’re cold.

He shrugs. “Does it genuinely matter?”

Zayn stops cutting, placing the knife down on its side as he looks up at him. “Of course it matters, L. You just ring me up one night with barely masked shakiness in your voice and ask me if you can stay here for a while.” He pauses, raising his eyebrows incredulously. “Plus, you promised we’d talk about it, but we never did.”

Louis shrugs defensively. “Well, I’m not gonna discuss it while Liam’s here. It’s inappropriate conversation while eating.” He leans back and looks down the hall where he can Liam flushing the loo.

He leans forward to take another slice of cucumber, but Zayn stops him by wrapping his hand around his wrist. “He’s your best friend, too, Louis. I’m gonna tell him, anyway, whether we talk about it in front of him or not. Also stop stealing food or I’m not going to have enough to cook with.” He releases his grip on Louis’s wrist before pushing it back with force and Louis pouts.

“Rude,” he huffs, rubbing part of wrist. Liam chooses then to walk at the same time Zayn says,

“You’re not gonna get out of this.”

Liam’s eyebrows furrow, confused. “What’s Louis not going to get out of?”

“Nothing, Li,” Louis says quickly, not taking his eyes off of Zayn.

Zayn gives him an exasperated look that quickly, suddenly, turns into a smug look, and he turns his head to Liam. “Our long-time pal Louis here broke a promise he made me simply because he refuses to talk about anything.”

Louis scoffs the same time Liam takes a seat beside him. “What crawled up your fucking arse and died?”

“Probably whatever he’s cooking,” Liam mumbles beside him, and Louis chokes on nothing, a loud cackle falling from his mouth. He five highs Liam who has a proud smile on his face for his joke, and Zayn chooses to ignore them, resuming cutting into the cucumber.

“On a serious note,” Liam says, “what is it that Louis isn’t willing to discuss?”

“How much I like you.”

“Why he had decided to all of a sudden move in with me,” Zayn answers. “I wouldn’t normally question it, but I am because you seemed to be doing so good with living with Harry, and then—just, out of the blue you didn’t want to anymore.”

Liam gives Louis a curious look. “Yeah, Z has a point. What happened?”

Louis sighs, snatching another piece despite Zayn’s threats. If Louis is certain about anything, it’s that Zayn doesn’t let things go easily, and probably neither does Liam.

“All right, if I tell you, will you shut the fuck up?” Zayn nods, a grin forming on his face. Louis sighs again. “I’d found this box tucked away in the closet of the guest room I’d been staying in. And it had letters in it, and journals. And it didn’t look like anything, really. But me being me, I went through it anyway.”

Zayn and Liam both look at him expectantly.

“Well. What did they say?” Zayn asks when it’s silent for too long.

Louis runs a hand through his hair. “I don’t really remember,” he lies. “I mainly just read the letters—well, letter. Apparently it was one I had written to Harry a while back.” Louis drops his eyes to the counter, letting his nails tap against it nervously.

Liam’s voice is soft. “So, this letter . . .”

“The only time I remember you writing Harry letters was when he had to go away on a trip for a long time and there was no wifi.”

Louis snorts. “Yeah, that’s what I gathered from what I had said in it.” He pauses, taking a deep breath. “I also found an old journal of Harry's. Like from 2012. I mean, how crazy is that? Who even keeps almost half a decade old journal anyway?”

Louis lifts his gaze from the granite in time to see Zayn shake his head. “Wait, but I’m confused, Louis. What about all of this that impacted such decision to move out?”

Something in Louis snaps. “Everything, don’t you get that? Do you even know all the things he’d told me before I found all that shite? Do you know what he said to me? He was going to propose to me, Zayn. He was going to propose to me the same fucking day everything went to hell. And how would that not get to me? I mean, it was bad enough that I couldn’t remember someone so vital to me and feel guilty about it, but then he had to drop that bomb on me. I just—I don’t know. I just felt pressured and I know he didn’t mean any harm, but—God.”

And I can’t fucking get him out of my head, either, he wants to add.

He feels Liam place a hand on his shoulder gently, as if to reassure him and tell him that he’s here. Louis feels a headache coming on.

“Hey,” Zayn starts in a gentle voice, and it sounds so different from Louis’s loud outburst. “Shit, I’m sorry that happened, Lou.” He pauses, abrupt, and the look that flashes across his face is different, something Louis doesn’t understand. “Why did he tell you about the proposal?”

Louis shrugs his shoulders before glancing to Liam. “I don’t know, maybe because he thought I would want to know? Maybe if I hadn’t asked about our relationship none of this would’ve happened.”

Liam arches a bushy brow. “You asked him about the two of you?”

Louis hesitates for a mere second. “Well. I mean. I thought I was ready to know, you know? And I was. But . . . I don’t know.”

Neither Zayn nor Liam say anything for a while, and Louis wouldn’t mind it during any other time except he’d rather them say anything right about now so he doesn’t have the image of Harry he’d seen the other night whirling around in his mind.

“Are you sure this is about that?” Liam asks, and there’s something to his voice that Louis doesn’t like hearing.

“Of course I’m sure. What else would it be about?”

“I feel like you’re not telling us something,” Zayn says then, his elbows propped up on the counter as he leans forward, and Louis can already feel himself flushing.

“Like what?” he tries going for.

Zayn just shrugs, straightening his posture. “I don’t know,” he muses. “That’s kind of what I’m wondering.”

Louis just shakes his head, then rubs his index finger against his temple. “Can we just—talk about something else now? I’m getting a migraine.”

They drop the subject right then, and nobody brings it up for the rest of the night. But when Liam leaves and Louis and Zayn are stood at the door watching him leave, Zayn ducks his head towards Louis’s ears and whispers, “I think you need to talk to Harry.”

Louis rolls his eyes and closes the door before walking away. “And why is that?”

“Because it’s been a while,” replies Zayn simply, almost sweetly. He doesn’t like that.

Louis stops, turns around to face him before drawing in a breath. “No, it hasn’t,” he says. “I talked to him the other night.”

Zayn’s eyebrows shoot up in interest then, and he doesn’t even bother masking any of it. “And I’m just now hearing about this?”

“I ran into him at Sainsbury’s, okay? It was nothing. We just did the normal hi-how-are-you-doing-thing and then parted ways.” Louis shrugs, pursing his lips. “Simple as that.”

“Okay,” Zayn drawls before walking past Louis, and Louis absolutely loathes it when he does that.

 

 

x.

 

 

One of the most annoying things about Zayn is if he knows something matters, he’ll say or act a certain way to make it stick with you, especially if he knows you know it.

Louis blows out a sigh as he stares at the screen of his phone in the dark of his room. It’s just the contact information for Harry, but still just that makes his stomach do these nervous little flips that jump as high to his throat and every now and then get stuck.

He opens the messages and starts typing, but then he erases it all because none of it sounds good. His thumb hovers over the call button, and it hovers for a few seconds before he presses down on it and holds the phone to his ear.

It’s about two in the morning, so he doubts Harry will answer. Louis pauses, holds his breath. Would he even pick up? Probably not. What if he gets agitated at Louis for calling so late? Before it gets to the third ring, he hangs up and lets his head fall into hands. This is so fucking complicated he hates it.

In a small way, he feels like he’s in secondary again, where he’s nervous to call anyone that might mean something to him in a way bigger than he had expected. And he has to remind himself that this isn’t secondary; he’s an adult now, has an actual adult career, and also that he’s 24. He’s graduated university—though granted he doesn’t remember, but it still counts no matter.

He quite literally rolls out of bed and makes his way down the dark halls and stairs. He almost trips on the end because there’s one more step he hadn’t seen, and he pauses, listening for any movement upstairs. When he hears nothing, he considers himself safe. He doesn’t need Zayn catching him sneaking out.

He hesitates when going for his keys; it’s a fifteen minute drive, but he could also walk and give himself more time. But then, he thinks, the later it is, the more Harry probably won’t appreciate it so he takes the car.

He doesn’t get out right away when he pulls to the curb outside the building. He sits, hands wrapped tight around the wheel his knuckles appear white in the moonlight and the dim lighting the lamp streets have to offer. When thirteen minutes pass, he takes his hands off the wheel; he knows he has to get out, it’s already been long enough.

But he gives himself another minute to centre himself and organise his thoughts before he finally, finally, steps out. It’s gotten colder, the nights, and he still didn’t bring a jacket, but that’s okay; his nerves keep him warm enough as it is.

He’s slow to reach Harry’s door and knock on it, but before he can second-guess himself or think of it too much and place seeds of doubt in his mind, there’s locks being heard and the knob starts turning.

He can feel his heart beat rapidly against his chest, almost like it’s threatening to break out of his ribcage; sort of reminds him of a woodpecker. But then there’s Harry stood before him in tight pajama shorts and shirtless and his eyes and face look very puffy with sleep and this was a very bad idea.

Harry blinks a few times, slowly, like he’s trying to adjust to the light to see.

“Louis?” he croaks, then straightens his back a bit as if suddenly aware. His eyes are so glossy.

“That’s my name,” he jokes very weakly, grinning.

Harry blinks again. He looks so confused and disoriented, like a lost puppy. Why did he fucking wake him up? He shouldn’t have come. “I’m sorry,” Louis adds, sighing quietly. “It’s late, innit? I shouldn’t have bothered.” He shakes his head at himself, scoffing.

Harry steps forward, a crease of concern appearing between his eyebrows. “Wait, hey,” he says quietly, seriously. “What’s going on? What’s the matter?”

Louis swallows, and lets his eyes trail over his face. “I’m sorry,” he whispers again. “I just—I couldn’t sleep and I kept thinking about you.”

The tiny crease between Harry’s eyebrows fade. “You were thinking about me?”

Louis nods, once. He can’t take it back now. “Yeah,” he huffs out, and licks his bottom lip.

“Is that why you called me earlier?” Harry asks a moment later, eyes searching his face. Louis opens his mouth, but shuts it when he adds, “That’s what actually woke me up.”

Louis groans, dropping his head to his hands before removing them in frustration. “I’m sorry about that, too, I just—I don’t know what I’m doing, okay?”

Harry seems to take a pause before opening the door further and saying, “Do you wanna come inside?”

Louis shakes his head though his cold toes and fingertips would say otherwise. “No. Thank you.”

Harry runs a hand down the side of his face before part of his hair. He glances backwards before doing something with the locks and steps outside, closing the door behind him. Harry’s going to freeze his arse off if he doesn’t keep the door open ajar. And Louis tells him that.

Harry shakes his head, face unreadable. “I’ll be fine. But you clearly aren’t if you’re showing up at my door at near three in the morning in distress.” His eyes soften, and Louis knows that look; that look of concern and worry. It’s one he uses when he wants to help with whatever the problem is.

“I shouldn’t have come,” Louis repeats in a more firm voice, but the stillness of his feet tell the truth when his mouth doesn’t.

Harry crosses his arms, either annoyed with Louis or because he’s cold; maybe both. Louis wouldn’t blame him for being either. “Tell me what’s the matter first, before you leave,” Harry says calmly, softly, and Louis has to hold back a sigh.

“I keep thinking about you, that’s the problem,” Louis admits as he takes a step back, allowing space between them.

Harry cocks his head, confusion spilling all over his features. “What—?”

“You can’t fix the problem because the problem is you, Harry,” Louis continues. “I don’t know why I feel this way, I don’t know why I keep thinking about you what feels like every second of every day, but I do and it’s been bothering me for so long now. You’re just. You’ve gotten under my skin, and there’s just something about you that I can’t shake, like I’m incapable of feeling anything less. You mean something to me; I don’t know how deep it goes, the full length, but I know it’s a lot, and I miss you even though I’m not sure why.” Louis pauses, shrugging helplessly. “There’s just something about you. I can’t explain it any other way.”

Harry blinks rapidly a few times before letting his eyes wander Louis’s face with this disbelief etched on his features, like he can’t believe the words that were just spoken to him.

“Louis,” he starts cautiously, shaking his head, and his voice is thick with emotion as this pained expression appears on his face, “please tell me you’re not just saying these things.”

He wants to be mad that Harry would accuse him of such things, would accuse him of lying how he’s all he thought about for the past month he’s lived with Zayn, of almost the entire month they had lived together. He wants to be hurt that Harry would think he’s lying about this large ache that echoes in his bones like he’s missing something, of how his palms start sweating any time Harry glances his way, of how he’s conscious of every single fucking move when near him.

But he can’t. He can’t be mad nor hurt because he can understand where he’s coming from, why he would question it after everything.

He gets it.

Louis simply shakes his head. “If you’re going to believe anything, believe that I wouldn’t lie to you.”

Harry stares at him, eyes wide. He doesn’t say anything after that, and after standing in silence long enough, Louis starts backing away as subtly as possible.

“Goodnight, Harry,” he mumbles and turns around.

Then there’s Harry’s voice, solid and steady. “Stay with me.”

Louis pauses, looking back. “What?”

Harry looks so sure, so determined. “Just for tonight. It’s late. You shouldn’t be driving if you’re tired.”

Louis doesn’t know how to say no, thanks, or, maybe another time, so he nods instead and enters when Harry opens the door and steps aside for him. It’s warm inside, and it’s a relief to his body.

It looks exactly the same as when he had left, and it almost feels like he’s coming home from a long trip when he lets his gaze wander.

It just sort of happens when they both crawl into the same bed together. But Harry doesn’t object, and Louis doesn’t ask. He claims the left side of the bed, climbing in with Harry following behind, and they both settle in, facing each other.

It’s different, having somebody to sleep with beside you. But, in the back of Louis’s mind he knows, maybe it’s just different because it’s Harry.

Louis ducks his head to the bottom corner of the pillow, and he lets his eyes slide shut as he tries to even his breathing and calm all the nerves in his body that are alive and buzzing. He feels like his entire body is alert and awake because he can feel Harry’s eyes trained on him, but he pretends he doesn’t so he can rest peacefully.

He doesn’t know if it’s his imagination, or if his mind is playing tricks on him, and he’s too far off, near in sleep when he feels a very warm hand very gently and carefully slide under the hand Louis’s placed right beside his head. Maybe it’s the possible gentle strokes on the back of his hand that finally lulls him completely, or the way he can feel fingers lace through his, just the faintest of fingertips touching his.

But he doesn’t get a lot of time to process it before he’s fallen asleep.

 

 

xi.

 

 

There’s the smell of rain that hits Louis hard when he begins to stir in bed, can feel a cool draft flow through the room. But there’s also the smell of bacon, and he blinks his eyes open. The more of the duvet he shoves off himself, the more he’s exposed to the cold and he wants to tell the person off who turned off the heat.

He glares at the open window, then pauses once he’s standing in front of it. He had let it slip for just a moment that he’s in a bedroom he’d shared with Harry last night than at Zayn’s. He wants to slap himself for that. But then again it was a very long night and he’s always too disoriented in the mornings to think correctly.

He hesitates at the door, hand hovering near the handle. But he then hears some plates clinking together, like someone’s about to drop them, and he sighs.

He’s not really sure what to expect, what to say about last night. And he’s not sure what Harry’s unsaid thoughts are about, either, and with every step he feels himself getting more and more anxious.

He sees two plates lying side by side on the island, and they’re filled with bacon and eggs and tiny sausages. He lifts his gaze from them to spot Harry with his back turned to him at the sink cleaning one of the pots he’d used.

Louis doesn’t say anything right away, just careful to sit on one of the stools and not say a word. When Harry finally does turn around after dying a pan off, he starts, his arm jerking in surprise when he spots Louis.

“Hi,” he says, a little breathless. “You bloody scared me.”

Louis’s lips quirk up a small fraction. “Sorry.”

Harry nods, then steps forward to push one of the plates towards him. “I made you some food. In case you were hungry.”

“Thank you,” he mumbles, and watches out of the corner of his eye as Harry grabs his own and sits right next to him. Their knees are so close, just one movement and they could knock into each other. He almost has a hard time eating his food because of it.

They keep quiet for a bit, both focused on the food. But Louis barely eats anything, stomach full on thoughts and of last night’s events. He messes with some of the egg, making them more scrambled than they already are.

He hears Harry sigh loudly then, and averts his attention to him. “I lied. I didn’t make all this because of that. I just. I was hoping I could bribe you into talking about what happened.”

Louis should’ve seen this coming. “So you bribe people with food, then? Is that what you do, cook meals all homemade in your pajamas and hope for the best?” he tries teasing, to lessen the intensity of the air surrounding them.

It works; Harry chuckles. He turns his head to look at Louis. “I guess, yeah,” he admits sheepishly, a small grin on his face and eyes bright.

Louis can’t stop the smile that’s blossoming on his face. He shakes his head, clearing his throat. “Look, I’m sorry about last night. I was just . . . I don’t know, really. I just felt you needed to know. But maybe during the night was bad timing.”

Not only Harry’s face softens, but it feels as though his entire aura does; it shifts into this peaceful state.

“I get it. Okay?” he continues when Harry doesn’t say anything. “I. I understand if you rather not do anything about last night and continue like nothing happened. I understand if you’d rather not start over with me. I’ll just go back to Zayn’s if that’s what you want, and we’ll let things change on their own.”

Harry’s voice is very quiet when he speaks. “Now why would you think that I’d want that?”

Louis shrugs. “Maybe because you didn’t say anything last night? Or right now, for that matter.”

Harry smiles, but it’s small and sad. He lifts his arm up, reaching out towards Louis’s hair to gently, slowly smooth out some of his hair. “You don’t know it . . . Louis, you don’t even realise it, but I’d wait a lifetime for you,” he confesses in a tender voice, and Louis’s breath hitches when Harry meets his eyes, fingertips still tangled in Louis’s fringe. “You’ve done nothing to make me love you less, and there’s nothing in this world that could ever make me stop loving you. I’d do anything for you in a heartbeat, even if that means starting over.”

Louis stares at him, and lets Harry stroke his hair for a moment before his fingers caress downwards towards his cheekbones and stay there, his soft thumb ever so slightly moving back and forth.

“Is it okay if I move back in?” he blurts, and Harry’s eyes fall, meeting his. He’s still got that soft expression on his face.

Harry nods without missing a beat before cupping Louis’s jaw. “Of course you can. You’re always welcomed here no matter what.” He sounds so sincere and serious Louis almost can’t believe this. “You did buy this place, too, after all,” he adds with a smile, and Louis returns it.

Louis lets out a heavy breath, removing his jaw from Harry’s grip as he goes to get off his seat. “Okay—”

“Wait, before you go—”

Louis doesn’t get the chance to go far before Harry’s crowding into his space and before he has time to process anything, he feels lips pressing against his and hands coming up to cup both sides of his face.

Louis responds almost immediately and kisses back. It almost feels the same of what he last remembers of the time Harry’d kissed him that one morning, but something’s different this time; there’s something in the way he touches Louis, the way his kiss seems even softer than it’d been, and gentler. Almost as if he’s afraid that Louis’s made out of glass. It makes him nearly weak in the knees.

When they break apart, Louis feels almost breathless and his eyes flicker between Harry’s lips and eyes. But then meets his gaze completely when Harry whispers in a drawl, “You have no idea how long I’ve been waiting to do that. How much I’ve missed it.”

“Me, too,” Louis whispers back.

Harry leans in again to kiss him once more, but it’s shorter than the first and still just as gentle and he takes a step back when he pulls away, albeit reluctantly; like if he doesn’t, then he’ll just keep kissing him.

When Louis’s hand is wrapped around the door handle and pulling it open, his name is being called and he stops, turns around to see Harry standing a few feet away with his arms crossed.

Louis arches an eyebrow, biting his lip. “Yeah?”

“Missed you a lot,” Harry says, voice quiet, eyes serious.

Louis can feel his cheeks burning a bit. “I missed you, too,” he replies truthfully, sincerely, and as he shuts the door behind him, he thinks he catches Harry bite down on his lower lip to keep from smiling so hard and even the thought of that has Louis grinning.

 

 

xii.

 

 

three months later.

“Louis,” Harry sighs in frustration, “for the millionth time, just read the list.”

He shoves it almost in front of his face, and Louis takes it. “Ouch. Somebody’s grumpy today,” he mumbles as he reads over the grocery list and leans against the handles of the trolley. Okay, so it’s lettuce. He could’ve just said that.

Harry rolls his eyes. “I’m not grumpy, you just ask the same question too many times.”

Louis frowns. “Well, I didn’t make the list, so I can’t remember everything, you know.”

Harry turns his head, letting out a defeated sigh as his features soften. “I’m sorry, okay? I’m just. There’s a lot to do before mum comes over tomorrow for dinner, love.”

“You’re always trying to impress your mum, I still don’t understand it,” Louis muses, and Harry’s eyebrows furrow in confusion. “Your mum loves you and thinks the world of you already, you don’t need to impress her. You do it every time—last Christmas, remember? God, you were so stressed over how everything just had to be perfect. You almost dropped the ham on the floor.” Louis snorts, shakes his head as he grabs a bag of crisps and throwing it into the trolley.

Harry opens his mouth to say something, but then pauses, hand freezing on the bag of pretzels he’s holding. His eyes widen as he looks at Louis, and Louis really wishes he’d stop staring at him like he’d just spoken of something blasphemous.

“What did you just say?” Harry asks incredulously. He drops the bag of pretzels in the trolley without a look and walks over to stand next to Louis.

Louis raises his eyebrows at him. “What, are you deaf, Styles? I was just talking about that time you almost dropped that huge ham on the floor last Christmas.”

Harry shakes his head impatiently, blinking as he waves his hand around. “No, I heard you, Louis. But tell me what else that happened,” he demands.

Louis gives him a look, but cooperates, nonetheless. “I—Okay, I was busy helping you by trying to plate the yams—which, gross—and I was trying to show you something about it, but it tipped over too much and it fell out and hit your face.” The silence between them grows, grows until something dawns on Louis.

He remembers the Christmas from over a year ago. A year.

“I remember,” he whispers, heart beating faster and faster against his ribcage.

There’s hope and happiness messing up Harry’s features, and he dimples, nodding his head. “Tell me something from two years ago.”

Louis licks his lips, searching frantically in his mind for something. “Uh—okay, remember that party at Liam’s?” Harry nods. “And that one bloke that was a radio host tried hitting on you and I kind of, almost, sort of, gone a bit possessive?”

Harry starts laughing, eyes bright. “Yes. I remember that. ‘Fraid he’d steal me away from you and all.”

Louis shrugs. “He was good looking, okay? Couldn’t blame me,” he mumbles defensively, and Harry’s smile only widens in response.

He cocks his head. “Louis, he was nine years older than me. I don’t particularly go for older men. Or older anybody, for that matter, with such a huge age gap.”

“But I’m two years older than you,” he points out.

Harry cups his cheek, shuffling forward to crowd his space further. “Yes, you are, but it’s not much of a difference and besides,” he pauses, lowering voice, “you’re always going to be the only person my heart yearns for.”

Louis feels himself flush, cheeks and neck warm. “Grocery markets are not the place to get sappy on me, Styles,” he tries to play cool.

“They are when the love of my life has all his memories back,” Harry counters, smiling, and he pulls Louis into a kiss before he even has time to come back with a remark.

Harry’s a great kisser when he’s being soft, and gentle, and treats you with every ounce of delicacy and knows how to make you weak in the knees, but when it’s a kiss like this—a kiss that holds so much, tells so much just in the way he moves his mouth and borderline is passionate, it drives Louis a little mad, with how he’s ten times better.

He can feel the back of him press up against something soft, and he hears bags crunch from behind. He breaks away, very unwilling, and he sounds almost breathless when he talks. “Harry, now is not the time to dry hump me against bags of pretzels. We’re in public—in a market, mind you. Kids could see.”

Harry’s lips are a dark pink kind of colour, and his eyes are a little blown. Louis’s always felt a bit lucky in how he can effect him in that way. “We could try a more private aisle, then?”

Louis scoffs, smiling, before pushing him away and fixing his coat. “No.” He pauses, biting his lip. “Maybe in the car.” He hears Harry chuckle as he wipes at his lips. “Now what was it that we needed again?”

Harry rolls his eyes, but the smile on his face is etched on it seems. He yanks the list from his grip. “Just—let me take care of the grocery list, okay? While you push the trolley.”

“Fine,” Louis sighs, resigned.

He goes to move, but then Harry’s in front of him again, smile gone and turned serious but still hold of soft familiarity. “I’m beyond relieved that you’re back,” he says just above a whisper before running a thumb gently over his cheek, causing goosebumps to erupt on the back of his neck. “You have no idea how happy I am that you’re okay and know everything again.”

Louis nods and presses his lips together, holding the hand touching his face between his own. “Me, too.” he says, leans up to press his lips to Harry’s chastely, lingering for a few seconds.

Louis knows a saying, he remembers a saying. Home is where the heart is. A part of him deep down feels like he’d had it, then somehow misplaced his heart in this home, but then he found it again, as if saying when stumbling upon it, ah, there you are; let’s get you home.