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Louis remembers all too well—remembers every little detail of that night.

It had started out as a small party—just the five of them crammed inside Louis’ bedroom. It wasn’t even really a party; there was no music or drinks or anything like that (they weren’t into that kind of stuff anyway) and they’d mainly just gossiped like they were members of the opposite sex. They’d laughed a bit too loud, and Louis was sure that Zayn was going to have a heart attack from how hard he was laughing at one of Niall’s typical lame jokes. It’d been something along the lines of: “What do you call a mouse that walks on two legs?”

“I dunno, Niall.”

“Mickey Mouse. What do you call a duck that walks on two legs?”

“Donald Duck!” Zayn had said loudly, giving Niall a smug expression.

Every duck, ya idiot!” Niall retorted, snapping his fingers, and Zayn had burst into laughter loud enough to cause Louis to flinch and laugh at him. It was so lame but so Niall that they had all ended up laughing—whether it was the actual joke, or the way Zayn and Niall were both gasping for breath and red in the face, they couldn’t tell.

The main reason for the “party” was because it was Louis’ first house, his own home that he’d bought with his own money, and the lads were helping him get settled in. They’d eventually moved out from the bedroom and into the living room to watch a movie, but that had ended with a storm coming in and knocking out the electric. Liam had helped find some candles and a couple of old oil lamps that he’d given Louis for decorating purposes, and they lit them and put them around the living room. It only gave them a dim light, but it was enough for them to see each other, and that’s all that mattered.

“So, Harry,” Niall said casually, “when are you gonna move in with Lou?” He stretched out on the couch, his head cradled in Liam’s lap, and his legs thrown across Zayn’s. He gave Louis and Harry a grin, waiting for the answer to his question.

Harry shrugged, looking at Louis. “Depends on when he wants me to,” he said.

“Well?” Zayn asked, his eyes focused on Louis.

Louis had grinned, leaned in and kissed Harry, and said: “If it were really up to me, your stuff would already be settled in here.” They shared another kiss, and Niall groaned, covering his eyes with an arm slung across his face.

“You two, man,” he sighed, “have got to be the cutest couple I’ve ever seen in my life. Why do you do this to me?”

“Do what?” Harry asked, feigning innocence. He batted his eyelashes at the other three, earning grins from Liam and Zayn, and an eye roll from Niall.

“It’s scary how innocent you looked right there,” Liam said, eyes wide. He shook his head when Harry winked, and then he was tapping Niall on the shoulder, signaling for him to sit up a bit so he could maneuver them around to a more comfortable position.

They talked for a while after that, about nothing in particular really; Zayn talked about his girlfriend, some Chelsea girl, and Niall and Liam talked about their plans for engagement—which didn’t really make sense because they both knew they were going to be getting engaged, but Niall argued: “I don’t know when he’ll propose, so it’s all right.”

Midnight came around, and the storm still hadn’t died down. Niall was hyper as all get out, still bustling about while the others were all getting drowsy, and Zayn remembered that he had to go home to feed his dog at about that time. Liam, Harry and Zayn had all come with Niall (though Liam had driven them there, and Louis could only guess what sort of comical conversations went down during the drive) and Niall offered to drive them all home. Of course they’d agreed, but Louis was nervous—it was storming, hard, and he was worried about the roads.

“Guys, don’t you think the roads are gonna be slick?” he said, biting his lip when Harry got off the couch to get his shoes. “I mean, plus it’s late and you guys are probably tired—Stay here for the night, I don’t mind.”

“You think I’m a bad driver or something, Tomlinson?” Niall acted offended, placing a hand over his chest and giving Louis a mock-angry look. “I’ll have you know, I passed my driver’s test with flying colors.”

“It’s not that I think you’re a bad driver,” Louis said, and that was when Harry noticed just how nervous he was.

“Babe, calm down,” he said, hurrying over and kissing him on the cheek. He hugged him tightly. “We’ll be fine. Niall knows how to drive safe. Don’t worry so much, yeah?” He kissed Louis on the lips softly.

“Please, Harry,” Louis begged quietly, his eyes desperately pleading with Harry to stay. “I’m just—I don’t want you getting hurt.”

“I’ll drive careful, Lou,” Niall promised from in front of the front door. “No funny business, no trying to impress them. I’ll go the speed limit—I’ll go slower than the speed limit, if you want.” He offered Louis a reassuring look, but Louis still didn’t look convinced.

He followed them outside, and hunched his shoulders up when the wind caught his front door and swung it open, wrenching the door handle out of Liam’s hand. He fought to get it closed for a moment, requiring the help of the other lads, and Louis could literally feel the color drain from his face. He had a bad feeling about this, and he didn’t like it. He couldn’t ignore it.

It was raining hard enough that that was all they could hear, and it was thundering and lightning far too frequently for Louis’ liking. He gripped Harry’s hand tightly, drawing him to his chest. They were getting soaked, but he didn’t care.

“I love you, Harry,” he whispered into his ear. “Please don’t go.”

“Lou, you need to calm down, all right?” Harry said, his voice patient and gentle. “Just calm down. Niall said he’ll be careful, so he’ll be careful. I’ll be fine, okay? You worry too much.” He smiled at him and kissed him again.

Louis couldn’t help himself; he grabbed onto Harry’s face, pulling the younger boy’s lower lip into his mouth. He tried to kiss him passionately—at least as passionately as he could bring himself to be in front of the others. After a moment Harry pushed gently at his shoulders, breaking their kiss slowly. He offered Louis another smile, but Louis still refused; his brows were furrowed deeply, and he was worrying his lower lip even more now.

The rain hadn’t let up any, and they were positively soaked to the bone, and shivering.

“Lou, you gotta let me go,” Harry said with a chuckle. “We’ll both catch pneumonia.”

“Are you sure you won’t stay?” Louis asked.

“I gotta get home,” Harry said. “Gotta do the laundry. Busy day tomorrow, you know.”

“Are you sure you’ll be safe?” Louis was desperate. He just had a feeling.

“Louis, I’ll be fine.” Harry gave him a stern look, and hugged him one last time. It was tight, no space between them, and he kissed Louis’ neck. “I love you. I’ll call you as soon as we pull in the driveway, all right?” he promised.

Louis reluctantly nodded his head and let Harry slip out of his arms. He watched as Harry opened up the passenger side door, and he could hear Niall make some cheeky remark about how damn cute they were, and how he thought it was adorable that Louis was worried so much. All four of them waved to Louis, and Louis waved back, blowing a kiss at Harry, before Niall backed the car out of the driveway, and started driving down the road.

When another clap of thunder caused Louis to jump and the ground to shake beneath him, he raced back inside the house. He sat down on the couch, biting his lower lip so hard it bled, and fidgeted with his trousers. He glanced at the clock ticking on his wall—12:24—and knew that Harry’s house was about ten minutes, give or take a few, away.

He’ll get home safe, he repeated to himself over and over again. They’ll all get home safe. He’ll call, tell me I worry too much, and it’ll all be okay. It’ll all be okay.

But it wasn’t. Harry didn’t call. Louis thought that maybe Niall really was going slower than the speed limit, so he gave them until 1:00 to call.

And 1:00 rolled around, and still no call. By 1:10, Louis was desperate. He grabbed his own cellphone and dialed Harry’s number clumsily. He waited and waited and waited for Harry to pick up, but he didn’t. He got Harry’s voicemail instead.

“Hey, you’ve reached Harry. I’m probably busy right now, so leave a message and I’ll get back to you. Thanks.”

“Harry, please, give me a call when you get this,” Louis pleaded into the phone before he could stop himself. “I love you.”

At 1:30, Louis couldn’t take it. He pulled on his jacket and grabbed his car keys, running out into the still-pouring rain, and got in his car. He didn’t even bother with his seatbelt, and when he pulled out of the driveway fast enough that his car lost traction for a moment, he realized he was doing the exact opposite of what he’d told Harry. He was being reckless, but he didn’t care. He drove fast, searching the sides of the road desperately for Niall’s car, but he couldn’t find it anywhere. He drove past Harry’s house, and Niall’s car wasn’t there either. He stopped outside the house and knocked on the door, but no one answered.

As he drove back toward his own house, searching along the side of the road even more desperately, that was when he saw it: there was light shining up through the trees somewhere down the hill. With his heart thudding in his chest so hard it was painful, he stopped his car and got out, peering through the rain and over the edge of the hill.

He swore his heart stopped. There, at the bottom of the ravine where the Big Town Hill met another larger hill, was a car, twisted and mangled, lying on it’s top. He didn’t remember pulling out his phone, didn’t remembering phoning for an ambulance, didn’t remember sliding down on his bum to get to the car, but at some point he must have done all of those things because the next thing he knew, he was crouching down on all fours, peering inside the battered car at his four bloodied friends. He could hear sirens wailing in the distance and figured that if they came across a car with its blinkers on, the EMS would know where to stop.

“Harry? Harry, answer me!” He reached forward desperately, yelping when he scraped his arm along the jagged edges of the busted glass of Harry’s window. His door was caved in, and he was dangling from his seat—Louis was thankful that Harry at least had his seatbelt on—but the blood covering Harry’s face and his broken nose was too much.

“Lou? Is that you?” Liam’s strained voice came from the backseat. Louis looked in through the passenger back window and saw Zayn sprawled across the ceiling of the car, limp and practically a tangle of limbs, his head tossed at a sickening angle, and Louis knew.

Liam was better off, though. He was still strapped into his seatbelt, thank God, but one leg was trapped between Harry’s seat and the door, and the other was bent up toward his body, the bone sticking out of his kneecap. He was taking the pain like a champ, though; gritting his teeth and breathing deeply.

“Yeah, yeah, Li, it’s me,” Louis said. “What happened? Oh, God, Liam, what happened?”

“I don’t—It wasn’t Niall’s fault,” Liam said, and he groaned and grabbed his head. “Did you call the ambulance? I’m gonna bust a blood vessel if I hang here any longer.”

“Yeah, they’re on their way,” Louis said, but he didn’t really need to. The sirens were now blaring at the top of the hill, and he could hear people shouting down at them.

“Is anybody down there?”

“Yeah! Yeah, we’re down here!” Louis shouted up before turning his attention to Liam. “They’re coming, Li. You’ll be okay.”

“Leg hurts,” Liam groaned. “Both of them.” He blinked then. “Niall? Niall, baby, are you okay?”

Niall didn’t answer.

“Lou, what’s he look like?” Liam pleaded. “Oh my God, Lou, tell me what he looks like.”

Louis looked over at him and, even though Niall’s face was already bruising and his face was covered in blood, he was breathing. Louis could hear his gurgling breath, knew that his nose must have been filled with blood, and he was unconscious.

“He’s breathing,” he said, and Liam sighed, but he was already crying.

After that it was a blur of the paramedics working hard to get the doors of the car pried open, and they had some difficulty getting Liam out due to one of his legs being trapped. Luckily he passed out from the pain the first time they’d tried to move him, so he didn’t feel too much. Louis refused to leave, promising he’d stay off to the side and out of their way, and he was allowed.

First it was Liam out, taken up on a stretcher by the two surprisingly strong men who’d drove the ambulance, and once that one was gone, another seemed to show up right in its place. Niall was next to go, and though he wasn’t as good as Liam, they were certain that he’d at least make it to the hospital—“It looks like some head trauma. We don’t know how serious yet, but he should make it.”

Then it was Zayn. Louis didn’t even need to be told; he knew. Zayn was limp as a ragdoll, and the awful way his head flopped over when the paramedics accidentally jostled his body just showed Louis that he was dead.

Zayn was taken up with a white blanket draped over him.

Harry was last, and Louis doesn’t remember seeing the paramedics get him on a stretcher. He just remembers seeing Harry limp and lifeless, but still breathing. And he thinks that hurt worse than if Harry had died on impact because that meant he was either feeling pain, had felt pain, or would feel pain when he woke up—if he woke up—and Louis didn’t want that.

Harry didn’t make it to the hospital. He actually didn’t even make it into the ambulance. Louis didn’t know until he’d tried to climb into the back with him, and one of the men on the EMS team had put a hand on his chest and shook his head.

“What? No, I’m his boyfriend,” Louis said. “I—I have to go with him.”

“I’m sorry, sir,” the man said, and Louis understood then. He started screaming, trying to jump in the back and shake Harry until he woke up.

Louis blacked out.

When he woke up, he was in a hospital bed, an IV in one arm. He felt light headed and dizzy, but his first thoughts were of Harry and his friends. He quickly paged one of his nurses.

“Where’s Niall Horan being kept at?”

“I’m not sure,” the woman answered, raising an eyebrow and tilting her head. “I can go check for you if you’d like?”

“That’d be great, thanks,” Louis said. He tried to keep his breathing under control as he waited for her to return.

She was back within five minutes. “He’s in room 14, over in the ICU.”

“ICU,” Louis repeated quietly. “What about Liam Payne?”

“You weren’t involved in the accident last night, were you?” the nurse asked, sympathy obvious in her voice.

“I guess you could say that,” Louis said.

“He’s in room 29, also in the ICU.”

“They didn’t give them the same room?” Louis asked, his voice taking on a horrified tone.

“Niall has head trauma, and was in a more critical condition than Liam,” the nurse explained gently.

“Well, how are they now?”

“Niall’s still unconscious, from what I’ve heard, and both of Liam’s legs are broken, but he should be okay.”

“What about Niall? Will he be okay?”

“They don’t know yet. He had swelling in his brain, and he lost a lot of blood. Since he made it through the night, they’re expecting him to make at least some progress.”

“Can—Can I go see them?” Louis asked. He was already sitting up in his bed.

The nurse bit her lip. “I’m not sure if you’re ready to walk around yet—”

“I feel fine,” Louis assured her. “It was just the stress of last night. Please, I need to find out what happened. My boyfriend died in that crash. I need to—” He cut himself off; he could feel himself starting to panic, could feel his pupils dilate and his eyes brim with tears, and the nurse held up a hand to calm him down.

“All right, all right,” she said, voice soothing. “I’ll go get you a wheelchair. I’ll take you over.”

“Thank you so much.”

Louis wasn’t allowed to see Niall, but he could see Liam. If he thought it’d be easy to see him, he was dead wrong. Liam’s head was bandaged up, and both of his legs were in casts. Thankfully, the only machines he was hooked up to was a heart monitor, and he had an IV drip and something else.

“Um, could you leave us, please?” Louis asked the nurse, who nodded and shut the door behind her when she left.

They sat in silence for a moment. Neither knew what to say, or how to say it, and it was just too tense. Louis was sure that Liam didn’t know about Harry or Zayn yet, and he really wasn’t itching to be the one to tell him.

“They’ve got me on morphine,” Liam suddenly said. “Can you believe that? I’ll probably get addicted. That’ll be my luck.”

Louis smiled just a bit.

“You heard anything on Niall yet?” Liam asked uncertainly. “They won’t tell me. Is he—Is he dead, Lou?”

“No,” Louis said. “I was told that since he made it through the night, they’ve got a good feeling that he’ll make some sort of progress soon. He’s still unconscious, I guess, but—I don’t know. I wasn’t allowed to see him.”

“Oh.” Liam was quiet for a moment. “Well, well that’s good, right? I mean, that’s better than—you know.”

“Yeah.”

“Zayn?” Liam asked, and when Louis hesitated and bit his lip, he added: “Don’t lie to me. Don’t sugarcoat it. What happened to him?”

“I—I think he broke his neck,” Louis said. “He—God, Liam. His head flopped around like a damn ragdoll.”

Liam squeezed his eyes shut tight. “And Harry?” he finally asked after a long moment.

“Didn’t make it to the ambulance,” Louis managed to croak out. He felt the tears in his eyes already, just at the mention of Harry’s name. “I don’t—Could you tell me what happened, Li? Please? I need to know…”

“Yeah, yeah, okay.” Liam took a deep breath and just looked at Louis for a long time. “Niall was being careful, I swear to you. He knew how worried you were, and how you’d kill him if he was reckless. I swear, we weren’t even going 35, and we went even slower going around the turn. But there—Some guy was driving in our lane. I don’t know if he couldn’t see ‘cause of the rain or what, but—Niall swerved, to save us from a head-on collision, y’know, and we went over the edge, I guess. I don’t really remember. All I remember is him screaming at us to hold on, and then Zayn went flying forward as we went over, and we tipped on our side and started rolling, he went flopping around like a—like a doll. I blacked out, I think. Last thing I remember seeing was Niall—Fuck, Lou. Do you know what Niall did?”

Louis shook his head.

“As soon as he swerved, he lunged at Harry and took hold of him. He cradled him, Lou,” Liam said, and Louis could see the tear tracks on his cheeks. “I think—I’m not sure if he was saying this or if I was just hearing things—but I think he was yelling at Harry that it would be okay. You know, before we started rolling. I don’t think he let go of Harry, though. I think that’s why he got all busted up, was ‘cause he wasn’t looking out for himself as much.”

“Then how did Harry…?”

“I don’t know, Louis,” Liam said, shaking his head. “I just don’t know. But I assure you, Niall was careful. Niall didn’t mean for this to happen—none of us did.”

“I know,” Louis said, and this time he was reaching forward and taking Liam’s hand, offering comfort, when just last night it was Louis needing comfort from Harry. And when he realized this, it made him feel so much guilt and anger toward himself that he could have jumped off the roof the hospital if the nurse would take him there. He’d have to ask later… But for now, he was going to comfort Liam as best he could before he had to leave.

Liam cried, of course; cried for Zayn, cried for Harry, cried for Niall, cried for Louis, and cried for himself. He apologized over and over again—mostly to Zayn, sobbing: “I’m sorry, Zayn. I’m so, so sorry. I should have made you put your seatbelt on, I should have tried to hold you down, I should have—”

Eventually, Louis was forced to leave and Liam had to be sedated. As the nurse wheeled Louis past Niall’s room, he strained his neck trying to look in, and the nurse reluctantly wheeled him backwards so he could peer inside the doorway. Niall was still unconscious, but he wasn’t hooked up to a ventilator anymore, and his vitals were okay.

On the way back up to Louis’s floor, he asked, “What’s your name?”

“Deanne,” the nurse—Deanne—said.

“Thank you, Deanne,” Louis said, turning his head around and up to look at her.

“You’re welcome.”

“Can I ask you another favor?”

“Of course,” Deanne said. “It’ll have to be quick, though; I have other patients, and I’m pretty sure we spent too much time down there.” She gave him a grin. She had dimples, just like Harry.

“Would you take me to the roof?”

“What for?” Deanne immediately frowned.

“I just want to feel the cool air, is all,” Louis said. He knew before he got his answer, though.

“No, I don’t think I’m allowed to do that,” Deanne said, uncomfortable. “But, maybe here in a few days, when you’re feeling 100% better, you might be allowed to.”

“Hmm,” was all Louis said the rest of the way back to his room.

+

Of course Louis had been the one to go and have to identify the bodies. It broke Louis just to see Zayn, but when he got to Harry, it was so much worse. Zayn had looked awful; all cut in the face and bruised collarbone (which was apparently physical evidence that he had been alive when he was being tossed around in the vehicle). Both of his cheeks were literally broken, and he just didn’t look like Zayn at all.

Harry was even worse. His forehead had a wide gash in it, and he had a large gash on one side of his throat where his window had busted and the glass had sliced him open. His face was bruised and still swollen, which was also evidence that he had been alive (and Louis knew he had been).

Fortunately, that was all the heartbreak Louis felt. Niall made a slow recovery, eventually opening his eyes about a week after the accident. He didn’t really remember a whole lot—just remembered Louis being afraid of them wrecking, and then seeing the blinding headlights come out of nowhere. He vaguely remembered reaching out for Harry—“because I knew you needed him, Lou. I tried, I really tried”—and he remembered banging his head off the steering wheel and his window before it shattered. He said he remembered being elbow in the side of the temple by Zayn as he flailed around during the accident, which was apparently the blow that knocked him out. But he didn’t remember much else, and Louis’s kind of glad because then he’d surely be a wreck.

When the newspaper published an article about it that Sunday, Louis didn’t want to read it, but Niall had—self-loathing, he’d said. So one of his nurses had read it out loud to him, and Louis had held his hand the entire time.

The Wolverhampton Chronicle
On Monday, October 3, two young men lost their lives in a freak accident. It had been storming terribly that night, and four young men; nineteen-year-old Niall Horan, who had been driving the vehicle, and his passengers, nineteen-year-old Liam Payne, nineteen-year-old Zayn Malik, and eighteen-year-old Harry Styles; were involved in the horrific one-vehicle car accident on Big Town Hill. According to official reports, the rain had been too thick to see through, and an unknown individual had been driving in the wrong lane. Horan swerved to miss the vehicle, and went right over the side of Big Town Hill. His vehicle rolled “about 10 times,” as reported by Payne, who had reportedly managed to stay conscious for most of the crash and even said a few words to the paramedics who worked to free him from the mangled car, before coming to a stop upside down at the bottom of the ravine. Malik died on impact, police said, and Styles was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital. Horan was unconscious and suffered head trauma, while Payne suffered two broken legs and some bruised ribs. Police say their conditions are “alive and fairly well.” Another man, twenty-year-old Louis Tomlinson, was also on the scene of the accident. He is said to have called for the ambulance, and was at the bottom of the ravine trying to get Horan and Styles to respond when paramedics arrived. When Styles was loaded into the ambulance, Tomlinson reportedly began screaming and then fell unconscious himself. He was not involved in the accident, and is said to be friends of the victims.

Louis still feels guilty—still wishes he could trade places with Harry, because Harry was too good of a person for this. He deserved to live a full life, to be loved by someone who loved him back (and god, Louis still loves him), and to grow old and die in his seventies or his eighties, not when he was fucking eighteen-years-old and just starting to get somewhere in this world. It’s not fair, and Louis feels nothing but hatred toward the whole world for his heartache.

And Zayn, he didn’t deserve this either. None of them did, but Zayn just—he was going to be a father, they found out. That Chelsea girl he’d been dating was pregnant and had planned on telling Zayn a few weeks from then. She told Louis and Liam at Zayn’s funeral, tears in her eyes and hand cupped over her growing belly.

Louis didn’t want to attend Harry’s funeral—he didn’t want to have to accept the fact that Harry was gone forever, but he knew he had to. He knew he had to say the last words of the service because Harry loved Louis and Louis loved(loves) Harry and that’s just how things worked.

Liam and Niall had each said some words during the service. They hadn’t said a lot—Niall had got choked up before he could finish, and Liam had simply ended with, “I’m sorry, but I just can’t,” and walked away from the podium. When it was Louis’ turn, he wasn’t sure he could do it, but when Liam reached over and squeezed his hand, he forced himself to stand up and walk in front of the rather large gathering of people (Harry’s family had shown up, and he had apparently been close to all of them; uncles, aunts, grandparents, almost every cousin he knew about).

Louis cleared his throat. “As I’m sure you all know, I loved Harry,” he said, voice sounding croaky and strange. “I loved him and I still love him. He meant everything to me, and it’s still so hard to believe that he’s actually gone. I’d—I’d like to tell you all the story of us, if you don’t mind.”

When he met no objections, he continued: “I remember when I first met Harry. It had been a blistering hot day in August of 2005. I was thirteen, and Harry was eleven, and we had seen each other in the store. He’d been trying to pick between Spearmint or Wintergreen chewing gum, and he just turned to me and asked: ‘Which one do you think I should get?’

“I wasn’t very sociable at the time. I didn’t like very many people; you know, I was going through the cranky, early-teen stage. At first, I thought, ‘My god, what is this kid doing talking to me?’ But I answered him, trying to be polite, and I figured he’d leave me alone after that. Turns out, he went to my school and was a grade below me. He was a new kid, and as soon as he saw me in the hall, he beamed this huge smile at me and ran up to me and said hello. I was dumbstruck, didn’t know how to react, and every single day he would run up to me in the hall at the beginning of the day, during lunch, and at the end of the day until I finally asked him what he wanted. All he said was: ‘I want to be your friend.’

“So I let him be my friend. We were best friends, became best friends fairly quick, and I introduced him to Niall, Liam, and Zayn. He clicked with them so well, I couldn’t believe it. He had one of those smiles that, when you saw it, you had to smile too. He had the most adorable dimples I’ve ever seen in my life, and I couldn’t believe how much hair he had. And his eyes—God, his eyes. I loved his eyes. I loved all of him, actually.

“In October 2008, he confessed that he had a crush on me. I thought that was great, because I’d sort of been crushing on him since we became friends that day in the hallway. I didn’t really think we’d last very long—maybe just a few weeks and realize we were better at being best friends than being boyfriends. But that wasn’t the case. We were together for ten years. It didn’t take me ten years to fall in love with him, though. Just a few months of dating, and I knew; I knew I wanted to be with him for the rest of my life. I actually planned on proposing to him, but I didn’t know when and didn’t know how.”

Louis stopped to wipe at his face. His voice had gone hoarse and he had to keep stopping so he could clear his throat. “I loved him with every part of myself,” he said. “He was everything I’ve ever wanted. He was sweet, funny, adorable, kind, caring—he had these dimples that made me want to just pinch his cheeks all day long so he’d smile all the time and I could see them. He never said no to anybody; if they needed help, he helped them. He was selfless, and I admired him for that.

“I guess—I guess what I’m trying to say is that Harry Edward Styles still has my heart squeezed in his hand, and that’s where it’ll stay. I—We’ll all see him again someday, we’ll all see him and Zayn both, and when we do—Oh, it’ll be a wonderful day.” He wiped his eyes with a smile. “I can’t wait, you know? I mean, I don’t plan on—I promised Harry a few years ago that I’d live for him, so that’s what I’ll do. And it’s gonna hurt, and it’s gonna be a long lifetime without him, but I’m—I’m glad that I got to spend the last thirteen years with Harry such a major part of it.”

He turned to the open casket, walked over, and put a hand on Harry’s cheek. Nobody said anything when he bent down and pressed a light kiss to Harry’s cold, yet still soft lips. “I love you, Hazza,” he whispered.

None of them could stand to stay for the actual burial. It just hurt too damn much. Niall had said that since he’d stayed and watched Zayn lowered into the ground, he didn’t think he could take another burial, so he and Liam left quickly, tears in their eyes, and Louis didn’t blame them. He tried to stay—tried to stay, but it was just too much. He left with a kiss to the top of Harry’s casket, and then he also left, tears blurring his vision the entire way home.

That night, when he was curled up in his bed sobbing his eyes out, his face buried in Harry’s pillow (the one that Harry gave him, “so it’ll kinda be like I’m here with you, on nights that I can’t actually be here, yeah?”), he swore he could hear the front door open and someone come walking in. The noise was soft, though, sounding far away, and Louis was pretty certain he was just imagining things. (And even if he wasn’t just hearing things, whoever it was could take whatever they wanted—just not this pillow.)

“Louis, don’t cry.”

Louis practically screamed when he heard Harry’s voice call out to him from the doorway. He buried himself further into the bed, covering his ears and shaking his head, his eyes squeezed shut tightly. “No, no, no,” he whimpered to himself. “This isn’t real. You’re just going crazy. You’re just—”

“Lou, hey,” Harry said again, and Louis could feel a hand reach out to gently pat his shoulder, and when Louis finally raised his head, defeated and wanting to throw himself off a cliff, he nearly choked when he saw that Harry was actually standing there in front of him, a small but sad smile on his face.

“It’ll be okay,” Harry said. “I’m fine now. Nothing hurts anymore.”

“What?” Louis spluttered, not believing his eyes for a second. “But you’re—You’re dead. You can’t be here.”

“I’m here because you need me to be here,” Harry said, and his voice was soothing, still sounding angelic and beautiful. He wasn’t battered anymore; the gash on his forehead and neck were gone, and the color in his face was restored, and he looked alive. “You need to know that it’s okay, it’s going to be okay. You need to move on, all right? It’s what I want you to do, okay? Just move on, and here in a couple of decades we’ll see each other again. I’ll be the first one you see when you go.”

“Harry, I don’t—” Louis shook his head. “I’ve gotta be dreaming.”

“Maybe you are,” Harry said, “but just listen to me, Louis. Move on, live your life as much as you can, and let me go. I can’t keep coming back here all the time, but I can visit you whenever you need me to, okay? Just close your eyes and drift off to sleep, and when you need me most, I’ll be there.” He smiled down at the pillow Louis still clutched in his hand. “You still have my pillow.”

“Of course I do,” Louis said, eyes wide as he continued to stare up at Harry. “Can—Can I touch you? Like, am I able to touch you?”

“I touched you, didn’t I?” Harry reached a hand out, and Louis took it, his own trembling something awful as he grasped Harry’s hand tightly. He let out another sob then, flinging himself toward Harry, and Harry caught him in his arms, stroking the back of his head with one hand.

“Hey, calm down,” he cooed into Louis’ ear, “ssh. It’s okay. It’s okay. I’ll always be with you.”

“I don’t want to be without you,” Louis sobbed.

“You won’t be,” Harry assured him. “I’ll be with you for the rest of your days, okay? Always a part of you.”

“You’ll never leave me?” Louis wiped at his eyes furiously, but he still clung to Harry, not caring that he was getting tears all over Harry’s shirt.

“I’ll never leave you,” Harry promised. “Whenever you think of me, I’ll be there, in the corner or right beside you. I promise.”

“Harry, I don’t…” Louis looked up at him, and Harry looked down at him, and that’s how they were for the longest time until Louis suddenly began to feel tired. Harry noticed immediately and laid him down on his back on the bed, crawling beneath the covers with him and curling up around him. He pressed a soft kiss to Louis’ neck, and murmured in his ear: “Go to sleep now, love.”

Louis didn’t want to, but he fell asleep.

When he woke up the next morning, Harry was gone and Louis felt as though his heart had been ripped out of his chest. He remembered Harry’s promise—“I’ll never leave you”—and that was really what kept him going the next couple of years. He was never really ‘right’ again; he was a lot more clumsy now, and he didn’t joke around hardly at all anymore. He was practically an empty shell, boring and dull now, but Liam and Niall stuck with him until the end, smiles on their faces as they tried to help Louis make the most of his life without Harry. It was a long time, it felt like; but in reality it was just six more years and then Louis was taken as well. He’d tried to save a woman from being hit by a bus, and when he’d yanked on her arm to pull her back he’d slipped and fell right in front of it. It was messy, really, but it was quick for Louis.

Before everything went black for good, Louis looked over and saw Harry watching beside the woman he’d saved.

Harry kept his promise. He was the first one Louis saw when the light came back and he was free of pain and any stress. He had a smile on his face, and he twined his fingers with Louis’, and they walked off together, hand-in-hand, into the light above.