So, this is what it’s like to be the last man on earth.
Harry huffs out a dry laugh at the thought as he follows the bend in the road, gravel snapping like fire beneath the worn out tires of his car.
The midnight sky is the colour of the deep sea, but it doesn’t feel calming at all. The feeling is all cold-sweat and a heavy panic, like everything’s closing in around him. Inching closer and closer and closer, suffocating.
But it’s not, it’s not that. It can’t be that, because nothing’s closing in. Nothing at all.
It’s just him. Him and the long stretch of road ahead, the road and the streetlights that cast pale shadows across his windshield, pale shadows that brighten his shaking hands on the steering wheel and the stark emptiness of the backseat.
He may have had something to drink. He can’t remember.
He can’t even remember what he was doing this morning, to be honest. Can’t remember if he went out and pretended to socialize or if he just sat in the darkness of his flat as usual, thinking, drowning himself in his useless bloody nostalgia. He doesn’t even know where the hell he’s driving to, he’s just hoping that he ends up somewhere.
It’s a been a hard day to feel real.
Everything looks the way it does in dreams, clear but a bit blurry, like it could change into something else at any second. The car radio is on low volume, voices filling up the space like static or soft rain, and Harry catches fragments of the conversation as he drives.
He’s not really paying attention until, all of a sudden, he is.
“Well. I suppose that’s all, folks. It’s December fourth, two thousand and eighteen, and we’ve got about twelve days left until the end of the world.”
Frowning, he fiddles with the buttons until the voices grow louder.
“What in the bloody hell are you saying, Nick? Are you high?” A woman laughs over the speakers, her voice warm and hazy like the setting sun.
Harry stops at a red light.
He sits at the lonely intersection and he listens. The world seems to be asleep at this hour. No other car is in sight and suddenly, Harry’s starting to remember. With the end of the world sitting less than two weeks away, he remembers a pair of blue eyes.
Deep ocean eyes that grew shallow.
Loving blue eyes that grew cold, that grew tired.
The man on the radio laughs. “Oh, screw off, I’m serious! Apparently the world is going to end in, like, twelve days or something. Solar flare, they’re saying.”
“I don’t know—the scientists? The perverted little shits who research the end of the world for a living?”
The woman laughs. “Are you being for real right now or are you just screwing around? Be serious.”
“I’m being for real! It was on the news earlier and everything. I think they were trying to keep quiet about it before, didn’t want us breaking into shops and starting riots or what not.”
There’s a pause in the conversation and Harry doesn’t drive even when the lights switch from red to green, from stop to go. He just listens, he just turns off the engine and listens, because the world is ending in twelve days. In less than two weeks, the planet is going to be eaten up by the heat of the sun. The earth will fold in on itself and disappear, a bright speck of nothing against the dark sky of space, and it doesn’t matter that he was in a band once. He’s going to be dead.
Boom, boom, bang.
Zayn, Liam, and Niall—they’re all going to be dead.
Jesus, it’s been almost a year since Harry has seen any of them, and almost five years since he’s seen them all at once.
He scrubs a hand down his face, inhaling sharply.
When he starts listening again, the woman is asking him: “Any regrets? Anything you would’ve done differently?”
Suddenly, the words seem distorted and far away, like the letters are out of balance, colliding with each other on their way out of the speakers.
Harry turns off the radio and sinks back into his seat, sinks back into the silence of his car. His breathing is heavy and he can’t slow it down. Outside, the road is still empty, and so he presses his face against the cold glass of the frosted window and breathes in, trying to calm himself down. But the question is still there.
What does he regret? What would he have done differently?
He doesn’t even see the other car coming.
It just comes, and then the world is exploding in a rush of warm light, like lightning cracking across the night sky, white against black, white and black, the white and black overtone of his memories, the images blurring with the red of the warm light, the red of the blood. His blood. The sharp copper sits in his mouth as he shouts and his vision shifts and blurs and in the brightness, he sees those blue eyes again, he sees the ocean, he hears a voice telling him not to come back and he hears himself saying, fuck you, I don’t give a shit. I don’t care anymore. Fuck you. I won’t want to come back. He hears a door slamming, the same echo that ends up in every nightmare.
Metal against pavement. Flesh against bone. Lie after lie after lie.
Any regrets? Anything you would’ve done differently?
In the space between the light and the dark, Harry thinks he finds his answer.
“Harry.” Someone says, and Harry stirs at the sound, blinking his eyes open and flinching slightly against the dim light.
“Hi.” The person says again, softly, their words tired and warm.
Harry tries to say something back and ends up making a throaty sound instead, blinking some more, bringing everything into focus.
Liam, he realizes, is standing over him, face blurred up by the dim row of lights on the ceiling. Liam, who Harry hasn’t spoken to in nearly eight months now, is standing over him, looking tired and worn out and still like everything Harry remembers.
“Your hair grew.” Harry notes quietly, corner of his mouth lifting up.
“Harry.” Liam says, careful as he looks down at Harry. “You’ve been in an accident.”
“I—” Harry cuts himself off, because it’s then that he notices muted beeping in the background, the staccato heartbeat of machinery. He’s got patches on his arms wiring him up to a machine, and his skin is pale white. He can see the veins there, he realizes. Right there on his wrist.
There’s something so pathetically fragile about that.
He can’t even help but see himself the way he must look in Liam’s eyes, laid out pale and bruised on a hospital bed. Like a boy of skin and bones, maybe. Just a shadow of what he used to be. And god, he used to be so much. He used to be so good.
Harry stays quiet, his fingers brushing over his wrist as he looks around the room, Liam’s eyes heavy on the side of his face. The window on the wall beside his bed looks out onto the parking lot, and there are only a few cars scattered there, all of them blanketed in fresh snow.
The sky, though, is full of winter.
Snow falls down in quick, fat flurries are Harry just wants to reach out and touch them. He also notices the three green armchairs sitting in front of the window, all of them empty, and he tries not to think too hard about the people that he wishes were sitting there.
Blinking, he turns back to face Liam. “The world is ending, Li.”
Liam ignores that statement, but he’s looking at Harry like he’s not quite sure what to say. Finally, he sighs. “I got a call when it happened, you know. We all did. The other boys are downstairs getting some coffee right now, I reckon they’ll be up in a bit, but we were all so scared, Harry. You’ve been asleep for three days now, and the doctors weren’t sure—”
“The other boys?” Harry repeats numbly, trying to sit up in bed. He winces at the pain that flares down his spine, shuffling back until his head rests against the wall. He doesn’t think about the fact that he was dying. Instead, he looks back over at the window, feeling Liam’s eyes on him as he speaks. “They’re here, then? Is he—um, is he here?”
Liam stays quiet for a moment. “Um, no. He had something, I think—”
“—Don’t.” Harry says, and it comes off sharper than he intended. He turns back towards Liam, running a hand through his hair. “I mean, you don’t have to lie to me, alright? I get it. I understand.”
“Harry.” Liam says. His voice seems tired all of a sudden, and Harry doesn’t want to hear it. Not here, where he can’t get away from it, where it’s not spilling out from the other end of a phone line. Liam tilts his head to the side, looking sorry, and it’s the worst thing Harry’s seen in a while. “Harry. You left him, yeah? You do know that.”
“I know.” Harry nods, but he’s looking at the bruises on his hands. When Liam doesn’t say anything, Harry nods again. “I do, Liam. I know.”
“Okay.” Liam says. He moves Harry’s legs over gently, sitting down on the edge of the hospital bed. It’s quiet for a while, broken up by the faint beeping of machinery, and then Liam speaks again. “You four were the best mates that I could have ever asked for, you know, to have gone through all that with. I lived my dream thanks to you lads and I—I mean, sometimes I just wish that we could still be as close as we were.”
Harry stays quiet, watching Liam’s profile in the dimly lit hospital room. Once again, he doesn’t know what to say to that. He feels like he never knows what to say about anything. He knows it’s all his fault—the band breaking up, the mess that they’ve become, he knows it. But he doesn’t know how to put it into words or explain how sorry he is for all of it.
“The nurses,” Liam says suddenly, his voice low. Careful. “They said that you’d had your car parked in the middle of an intersection. That it was a green light and you’d just stopped there.” Liam breaks off on a slow exhale, turning to face Harry with furrowed brows. “Were you—Harry, is this what you wanted to happen?”
Harry blinks, not understanding. “What do you mean?”
“I’m asking if you wanted to die.” Liam says.
“Ah.” Harry laughs, but it’s short, humorous. He can’t believe that Liam’s even asking him this. “Is that what they’re saying, then? Styles tries to kill himself and fails? Come on, Li. You know me better than that.”
“I thought I did.” Liam sighs. “I really thought I did.”
The words hit Harry like a punch, pushing him into silence.
For the first time since waking up, he wonders what they’ve been saying about him in the news, and he wonders who believed it. Jesus. The end of the world can be coming up over the bloody horizon and people will still stop to watch him fall apart. Harry thinks he’s lived his life too long in the harsh light, he thinks that maybe his shadow is being stretched too long. Distorted. The truth of it is getting even harder to find.
Sixteen. The year his life began and ended. He wishes he could go back.
“Liam.” He says a few minutes later. “The world is ending.”
Liam smiles. “Seems like it happened ages ago, doesn’t it?”
Harry shrugs. “There’s going to be a solar flare.”
“Yeah.” Liam nods, his fingers resting over the naked skin of Harry’s ankle. “I saw it on the telly, that the world was ending.” Liam pauses, shaking his head with a small laugh. The dim light slanting in through the open window turns the dark brown of his eyes into honey. “It was right before I got the call about your accident. Strangest moment of my life, really.”
Liam is still smiling, but Harry sees through it. He sees the truth in the dark shadows beneath Liam’s eyes, sees it in the way that Liam’s fingers are tightened around Harry’s ankle like he’s afraid to let go. Harry’s hurt him – it’s so obvious that he could cry. But he doesn’t.
“I’m sorry.” He says instead, moving forward to rest his chin on Liam’s shoulder. “I’m so sorry, Li.”
“Me too.” Liam says, tilting his head until the side of it is resting against Harry’s forehead. “Nine days left. Can you believe it?”
Harry shakes his head, but he doesn’t say anything.
The silence sits between them and Harry’s thoughts go on spinning in his head like pandemonium. He doesn’t even know what to think, what to focus on. He’s twenty-four years old and it’s the oldest he’ll ever be. That doesn’t bother him as much as it should. He knows he’s luckier than most, knows that there will be children and mothers and lovely souls swallowed up by the sun, but the thing is—he’s wasted time.
More than anything, it’s the time he’s wasted that he regrets the most. It’s all the good things he didn’t do. Eight years ago, life was brilliant. He woke up every morning with the sun sitting inside of him. But that’s all changed now. Jesus. Him and his boy, they used to be so good.
When Harry finally speaks, his words fall into Liam’s ear like rain. “How is he?”
Liam’s surprised, brown eyes flickering downwards as he shifts on the hospital bed like he’s trying to move away from the question.
“Harry—” Liam starts.
“—I just want to know how he is, Liam. How he’s been.”
Liam seems to think about it for a moment before shrugging, looking back up to watch the world outside the window. Like this, the pale light washes in and makes the dark of his eyes look gold. “He’s good.” Liam answers finally. “I’d say he’s good.”
Harry nods, glad to hear that. “Have you spoken to him?”
“Yeah, I talked to him on the phone this morning actually.” Liam replies, and it’s then that he catches himself, sighing as he pinches the bridge of his nose. “Why are you doing this, Harry? It’s been two years.”
“I know,” Harry agrees, even though it’s been five. “I just—”
“But you don’t know, Harry. You have no clue.” Liam pushes himself off of the bed, walking over to stand in front of the window. Harry watches as his body becomes a dim silhouette against the muted brightness of the frosted glass, black against pale white and blue. “You didn’t see him after you left.” Liam says, watching the snow spin like static outside. “He was a mess, Harry. He was a mess, and he’s finally good again. Or at least he’s getting there. I just don’t want that to change.”
“As if I have the time to change anything.” Harry snaps, and the words come out sounding sharp around the edges. He’s annoyed, though. Even though he has no right to be. “I know I screwed up, Liam. Alright? I know that. I knew even when I was leaving that I was making a mistake, but I’m not the only one who messed up. He—Jesus, I just felt like he never cared about me—”
“Say that again, Harry, and I’ll kill you before the sun even comes close.” Liam’s voice is steady but there’s a weight behind it, heavy and burning. Harry watches as Liam sighs, shaking his head against the cold glass of the window. “Shit, Harry, you know he bloody loved you. We all knew it. From the moment it happened, we knew it. Everyone did. Everyone. Hasn’t that always been the problem?”
Liam says the words and then they’re out, sudden and all at once. They seem to shatter over the cold tile of the hospital room like shards of glass, the pieces of truth that they’ve been trying to step around since the beginning of all this.
Harry doesn’t even know what to say.
He’s just thinking that, clearly, Liam doesn’t get it.
Clearly, Liam doesn’t understand what it’s like to feel like the shame that somebody else keeps tucked beneath their tongue, mouth trapped shut even when it doesn’t have to be.
“You’re a bastard.” Harry says, but he doesn’t mean it.
Liam sighs lowly, still facing the window. “No, I’m not. And neither are you. I’m just—all I’m trying to say is that he loved you. He adored you. And I know he cared about you just as much as you did him—”
“Sure, when nobody else was around!” Harry shouts, startled by the harshness of his own voice. Anger swims in all the places where sadness used to be, bright red and electric, and Harry’s just—he can’t do this right now. He can’t fight with Liam when the world is ending. Swallowing, he rests his head back against the wall, staring at the nape of Liam’s neck. His voice is quiet as he says, “I just don’t think I can go without saying goodbye, Li.”
Liam turns back around, watchful. “I just—I want to ask you something.”
“Shoot,” Harry says.
“Are you still in love with him?”
“Am I what?” Harry stutters, completely caught off guard.
“It’s a simple question, Harry. Are you still in love with him?”
Harry feels like it’s a trick question, so he blinks, his fists clenching against the nervous feeling that’s swimming in his fingers. “What do you want me to say, Liam?”
Liam sighs, shaking his head. “There’s no right or wrong answer. I just want to know.”
“Alright,” Harry says slowly, and he doesn’t even think about it before saying, “then no, I’m not.”
“You’re not?” Liam repeats, his voice flat. “Really?”
“Yeah, really.” Harry says, and he feels like it should be the truth, but he’s not sure. In his mouth, it feels heavy on his tongue, like something weighing him down. He tries not to think too much about it, because it’s been five years, and also because the world is ending. He left, and now the world is ending. There’s no time for whatever he thinks he might be feeling. Liam’s still looking at him though, so Harry continues, trying a smile. “Liam, I’m serious. I’ll let you know if I change my mind, alright?”
Liam’s silent for a moment before he sighs loudly, and Harry wonders when he started doing that so much. But he says nothing as Liam wipes a hand over his face, turning towards Harry with a frown. “He’s not going to be happy to see you.”
Harry nods, but his stomach suddenly feels heavy. “That’s okay.”
Liam turns back to face the window, and a moment later, the door opens up and Niall and Zayn are walking into the room, both of them carrying two cups of coffee each. Harry’s breath almost hitches as he takes in the sight of two of his best mates, here with him for the first time in years, with a cup of coffee for him even though they weren’t even sure.
“Hello,” he grins, and his voice is slow.
“Good to see you, mate. I’m glad you’re okay.” Zayn says first, smiling over at the place where Harry is sitting on the hospital bed. “It’s been a while, hasn’t it?”
Harry nods, smiling even wider. “You’ve got gray hair and everything, you salt and pepper beauty.”
Zayn laughs loudly at that, tossing a crumpled napkin at Harry’s head. “Good one.”
Harry chuckles, ducking the napkin, and then he watches as Zayn walks over to Liam, handing him a cup. Liam takes it, smiling up at him in a way that’s all warmth. Harry almost wonders if he’s missed anything, but then Niall is sitting down on the edge of Harry’s hospital bed, pulling Harry’s eyes away from the two other boys.
“Look who’s finally decided to join us.” Niall grins, passing a cup of coffee to Harry. “Drink up, mate. You look awful.”
Harry rolls his eyes but he’s smiling as he takes the cup, bringing it up towards his face. The steam rises up, wet and humid, and he winces against the heat as he takes a sip, coffee bitter in his throat and burning on the way down. “How’d you make it?” He asks, swallowing.
Niall shrugs. “Two milks, no sugar. That’s how you drink it, right?”
“That’s exactly how I drink it,” Harry says, taking another sip. It’s almost surprising to him that Niall remembers the way he drinks his coffee, even though it shouldn’t be. It’s just. He has such good mates. “Thank you.”
“Least I could do for the bloody hospital patient.” Niall chuckles.
Harry laughs, and then it’s quiet after that.
It’s a weighted silence that fills the room up like water—not awkward, but heavy with questions that haven’t been asked. It’s so strange to think that Harry hasn’t seen these boys in so long—these boys that he once toured the world with, that he once loved and laughed and lived with. He wonders how he let it get to this point, and he wonders if there’s any hope for them. He hopes so.
“Well, lads.” Liam says suddenly, clapping as he turns away from the window. “I suppose we can’t very well let the world end without a five man reunion, can we?”
Niall raises his eyebrows. “A road trip to the end of the world? I’m in.”
Zayn leans back against the window, smiling. “Yeah, same here.”
Liam looks at Harry, and Harry just nods.
“Alright.” Liam says, final. “Let’s go, then.”
Since Harry’s were bloodied and torn up in the crash, Liam gives him a change of clean clothes—black jeans and a beige jumper, somehow warm and smelling of lavender. It feels like they’ve just been taken out of the dryer, and Harry knows that it’s such a small thing, but still.
It’s nice, you know? It feels good.
He strips out of his clothes in the hospital bathroom, wincing at the cool air that makes goose bumps rise on his skin, and he tries not to look at himself too much in the mirror. So far, he’s just caught glimpses—broken fragments of the person he’s become.
It’s a list he keeps track of. Not consciously, but it’s there.
Green eyes washed out by everything that they’ve seen. Pale skin, milky and translucent beneath every harsh light. He looks sick, honestly, he looks worn out and he’ll admit it.
Doesn’t really know what else there is to do but admit it.
“Jesus.” He breathes, catching sight of his bruises in the reflection.
They cover his body like constellations, like a blur of blue and purple smudged across his ribcage. A thumbprint from God. Harry’s never considered himself religious, really, but it’s bloody poetic, if you ask him—the thought that something so lovely could hurt him so bad.
He’s not sure if that makes him fucked up or easier to relate to.
Blinking, he turns away from his reflection, and he doesn’t look back at the mirror even as he dresses himself and takes a piss. He doesn’t look back even as he washes his hands and ducks his face into the sink full of freezing cold water, shocking his system. Waking himself up.
After that, he folds up his hospital gown and leaves it on some trolley outside a nurse’s office, and he’s not sure if anyone recognizes him as he makes his way out of the hospital, but he hopes that they don’t.
These days, Harry walks like he doesn’t want to be seen. Eyes down, hood up, hands in his pockets. He wears his regrets like a winter coat, all of the buttons done up tight.
And somehow, somehow—the bloody thing still lets the cold in.
They stop at a gas station in the middle of nowhere, more than two hours away from their destination, and the other boys go inside to buy travel food while Harry sits in the passenger seat of Liam’s car, his forehead pressed up against the frosted glass of the window.
He should call his mum, he decides.
Liam’s told her about the accident and he’s also told her that Harry is fine, but Harry should still call her. He’s her son, and there’s nine days left until the world ends. He knows he’s not going to make it to see her, especially considering that the last time they spoke—almost two months ago—she’d been talking about taking a trip to the Americas with Robin. I want to see the mountains, she’d said. I want to see the sea.
And Harry just needs to hear her voice, doesn’t he?
He wants to hear her—soft and lilting and warm, the way it was when he was a child with his small hand still wrapped around her finger, always running to keep up. Sighing, he reaches into his pocket and takes out his cellphone, pressing in her number and bringing it up to his ear.
She picks up on the second ring. “Hello?” Her voice is warm and familiar, blurred up by noise on the other end, a life that Harry isn’t really a part of anymore.
“Hey.” He breathes, shutting his eyes. “It’s me.”
“Harry?” Anne asks, her voice hitching. “Harry, baby, is that you?”
“Yeah. Yeah, hi mum.”
“Oh, Harry.” She says, and she sounds sad but he can feel her smiling, somehow. “I heard about your accident, love. I almost had a heart attack until the boys told me you were fine. They’ve shut down the airports, you know, I would’ve been there—”
“—God, you’re such a mum, you know that?” Harry laughs, his eyes shut as he pinches at the bridge of his nose. Still, he’s happy that she didn’t mention what she saw on the news, if she did see anything. “Don’t worry about me, alright? I’m fine.”
“Are you, Harry?” Anne asks softly. “Are you fine?”
“Yeah, what do you mean? Of course I’m fine.” Harry says, rubbing over his eyelids. He takes a slow breath, doesn’t really want to talk about himself right now. “You know the world is ending, mum.”
“Ah, so I’ve heard.” She hums, and Harry smiles at the familiarity of it all. He suddenly misses her so much, so much that he feels it in his toes. “I think I’ll go out to the ocean. I never did learn how to swim.”
Harry chuckles, mouth turning up. He imagines the sounds of the sea. “I wish I could be there.”
“So do I, love.” Anne sighs, and it’s quiet for a minute before she speaks again. “But I think you’ve got somewhere else to be, don’t you?”
Harry hears what she isn’t saying and he opens his eyes, forehead still resting against the cold passenger window. The sky is getting darker outside, fading from pale blue into a heavy gray, and he can see the other boys through the front window of the convenience store, waiting to pay at the front desk. His stomach is in knots.
“He hates me, mum.” Harry says, and the words seem too loud against the hushed atmosphere of the car. They echo outwards, somehow. They sit beside him and they seem true. His voice breaks. “I really think he hates me this time.”
“He could never hate you, Harry.” Anne says. “You know that.”
Harry shakes his head as if she can see him. “You never heard the things I said to him.”
“And I don’t want to. I don’t need to, either.” She replies. “Harry, I knew how much you loved him from the first time you said his name.”
Harry laughs, a wet sound that gets stuck in his throat. “Mum—”
“You came home and you told me about him and you were such a lovely boy, Harry. Sixteen years old and you had the biggest spirit I’d ever seen on anyone.” Anne pauses, hesitant. “You know, when your singing career took off, I was so proud of you. I still am. I just wish I could’ve protected you from it all—”
“I know, mum.” Harry says. “I know.”
“But he did try.” Anne replies. “To protect you, I mean. He tried so hard, and that couldn’t have been easy for him.”
Harry shuts his eyes again, trying to calm himself down. It’s no use, though. He feels like everything is shattering around him, just crumbling down. “God, I’ve screwed up.”
“You can fix it, Harry. Just let him know how you feel—”
“I can’t, mum. It’s too late. It can’t be about that.”
“Oh, but you don’t you get it, Harry? It has to be.” Anne responds, telephone static blurring up her words.
“You have to fix this, Harry, or else you’re going to die a sad little boy. That’s not what I want for you.”
“Yeah.” He agrees, doesn’t bother explaining that being twenty-four years old means he’s not a little boy anymore. Right now, all he wants is to be small again, to be new, to start over. He exhales sharply as the static grows louder. “Yeah, mum? Mum, you’re breaking up.”
“What?” The word is broken up by the distance.
“Static.” Harry says again, “I’m losing you.”
“Oh.” His mum speaks quickly, finally understanding. “Oh, okay, I love you. Um, I suppose if I don’t get a chance to speak to you before…well, just know that I love you, Harry. I love you so much. I couldn’t be more proud of you if I tried. I am so proud of you. You are the happiest moment of my life, you and Gem.”
“I love you too.” Harry says.
And then his mum begins to cry, heavy sobs that sound like crashing waves over the telephone line. It’s the sort of cry that only a mother can manage, the sort of cry that happens when they realize that part of their heart is walking around outside of them, on the other side of the world, too far for them to reach. He wishes she could reach him.
Harry’s breath rattles on a slow exhale. “I love you, mum. Tell everyone that I say goodbye—”
“God, I remember when you learned to walk.” Anne laughs around her tears, almost hysterical. The static grows louder. “You were so happy, you were always so happy. My little boy—”
“I know, mum. I know. Thank you for everything.”
Anne cries louder at that, and Harry feels it inside of him, digging deep. “Okay. Okay, Harry. I love you—”
And then her voice is cut off by the hollow beeping of the dial-tone, empty white static that fills the space, and Harry breathes out shakily, shoving his phone into his pocket as he leans back in the passenger seat. “Oh, god.” He breathes, scrubbing a hand down his face. “Oh, god.”
Harry tells himself not to cry, and five minutes later when the other boys leave the store and head back towards the car, he still hasn’t cried.
He closes his eyes and pretends to be asleep.
“How long until we’re there again?” Niall asks later on, his voice floating up like smoke from the backseat of the car. The sky is the pale pink colour of dusk as they drive, snowy pine trees bracketing the open road on either side of them, and Harry grins as Liam heaves an irritated sigh from the driver’s seat.
“Subtract five minutes from my last answer, Niall.” Liam answers.
Zayn smiles at that, and Niall rolls his eyes, tossing a piece of chocolate at the back of Liam’s head. “Bloody smart-ass, you are. Pipe down.”
Liam laughs, and then it’s a moment later when the car becomes quieter again, hushed. Time seems to stretch on slowly, seconds bleeding into minutes and then stopping, just for a little while, before beginning again.
Harry isn’t sure if he ever wants to get there, to wherever they’re going. He’s not sure where that is yet and he’s not sure if he ever wants to know. It’s strange, making the choice to face his past—it almost feels like he’s heading for the sun straight on, like he’s screaming come on and burn me, I deserve it.
And he does deserve it, whatever might happen.
Harry’s breath is white in the air and all the windows are frosted except for the windshield, which looks out onto a road that seems to end at the horizon line, all tall snowy trees that canopy above their heads, casting shadows across their faces. Zayn and Niall are bundled up beneath a quilted blanket in the backseat, lit up by the weak sunlight slanting in through the windows. It strikes the dust in the air, setting it on fire.
“Liam, would you turn the radio on, please?” Zayn asks a while later.
Liam does, and Harry can’t quite believe that Zayn just said please. He doesn’t comment, though, resting the side of his head against the passenger window instead, eyes shut tight as he listens.
A familiar voice is speaking on the radio, and Harry realizes that it’s the same bloke from the night of the crash, Nick. He’s as loud and cheerful as ever, like the news he broke hadn’t distracted Harry so badly that he got hit by a car. He knows it isn’t the guy’s fault, he really does, but it still makes him feel a bit removed, a bit disconnected.
“Alright, we’ve got a Katie on line two.” Nick is saying, his voice spilling out into the car.
“Hello, darling? You there?”
“Yeah, I’m here.” A voice responds, nervous and feminine.
“Great, great. This is Nick from GRIM Radio, I’m hoping you were hoping to reach me. What’s your question, darling?”
“Hi, yeah. I was—I mean, I don’t have cable or anything, so I was just wondering what’s going to be happening nine days from now? I keep missing the details.”
Nick laughs, condescending. “Well, the world is going to end, sweetie.”
“Oh, yeah, of course, but I mean. Like, how is it going to happen? You said something about a solar flare?”
“Yep, that’s what they’re saying, Kitty. Solar flares happen all the time, really, but this one—this one is going to be massive.” Nick laughs, like it’s a subject matter that’s somehow amusing, and Harry finds him quite annoying. “No getting out of it, I don’t think. Sorry, doll.”
“Oh, yeah, okay. Thanks.” Katie says slowly.
“Great, great. Well, would you like us to play a song for you, darling? Any special requests for the end of the world?”
“Um,” Katie starts. “Um, sure. Could you maybe play a song by the band One Direction?”
The atmosphere in the car shifts, becoming heavier, and Nick laughs loudly over the radio like he can’t even begin to believe what she just said. “One Direction? Like, do you mean that boy-band from a few years back? Haven’t gotten a request for them in a long while.”
“Twat.” Niall mutters from the backseat.
“Yeah,” Katie says, sounding defensive. Harry grins at the conviction in her voice. “Any song by them is fine, I like them all.”
“Hmm, alright.” Nick agrees, humming. “Wait, didn’t the curly one just try to kill himself the other day? It’s always something new with that one, I’m telling you. You reckon he was turned down by another one of his lady friends? Probably couldn’t handle it.” Nick trails off laughing, and suddenly the atmosphere in the car explodes and Liam is turning the radio off, saying, “we don’t have listen to him,” just as Zayn mumbles, “he’s a bloody wanker, Harry, don’t pay attention to it.”
“It’s alright,” Harry says, honestly. “I’m used to it.”
But he still feels numb—from the cold or something else, he’s not sure.
He doesn’t understand how the world could be so wrong about him and yet he can’t even let himself complain, can he? This was what he wanted after all, the bright lights and the music and the packed concert venues. He wanted to be a singer, an icon. Someone to look up to. He wanted all that and he ended up with nothing.
He wasn’t ready for the fame. He knows that now, and he also knows that he’s not the type of person that could ever be ready for it, knows that he’s not the type of person that could ever learn to deal with the eyes of strangers burning sharp words onto the back of his skull. It’s like one morning he woke up and he wasn’t Harry Styles anymore—he was the Harry Styles, the one in the boy-band, the one with the tattoos, the one with the women and the insatiable sex drive.
It’s the strangest thing, too, because he used to feel like he was so bloody obvious about it. Like he was walking around with hearts in his eyes and love in his voice, and that it was just radiating out, everywhere, and yes, of course, there were some fans that caught on. That was the dangerous part, but it’s not like Harry ever confirmed anything, so he’d rather have them think what they thought than believe what the papers wrote and said and reported.
Liam squeezes Harry’s knee, and blinking, Harry glances over towards Liam, who watches the road as he speaks. “We know it’s not true, you know.”
“I know,” Harry agrees, because he does.
The world becomes silent and they continue to drive.
The sky is darker when the trees begin to thin out, the outside world passing by in a blur of sky and frosted pine needles. Niall and Zayn have both fallen asleep in the backseat, and Harry cups his hands in front of his mouth, breathing warmth. Liam’s heater is definitely busted.
“Where is it we’re going, by the way?” Harry asks, looking around. The place doesn’t seem familiar yet, but it sort of does at the same time. It’s all clips of passing trees and convenience stores, and Harry feels a sense of nostalgia that he can’t even place.
“To his house.” Liam says, keeping his eyes on the road.
Harry quirks an eyebrow. “Yeah? And where’s that?”
Liam’s quiet for a moment, and Harry watches as he takes a hand off the wheel and runs it over his face. “Uh,” He says, gesturing absently with the same hand. “Leeds, I suppose?”
“Leeds,” Harry repeats, and he feels it like a punch. Holy shit.
“Yeah.” Liam nods. He glances over at Harry, frowning before looking back at the road. “I’m sorry, I know I should’ve told you—”
“No,” Harry shakes his head, feeling dizzy. “No, it’s fine. Uh. Since when did he—is that where we are right now? I didn’t see a sign.”
Liam shakes his head, shadows playing over his face as he turns down a bend in the road. “Uh, no. We’re about twenty minutes outside of it, I think?”
Harry nods, but he feels like he’s about to throw up.
Rolling down the window, he leans outside and closes his eyes against the cold winter air that floods into the car, a small tremor racking through his body. His stomach is fuzzy with sickness so he breathes in the frozen air, drinking it up, trying to calm himself down.
Leeds. He lives in Leeds now.
He lives in Leeds now, and Harry didn’t know.
Jesus. It feels like just yesterday that they went there together, to the festival—he remembers the bright lights and the hazy feeling of summer in the air, the music so loud that he could feel it in his bones. And he remembers the tent, and their closeness, the way he could feel his heart beating in his throat as he moved closer and closer and closer, hands tangling in hair, flushed chests pressed together, open-mouthed kisses tucked away in the darkness.
It’s been almost seven years since then. The world is ending, and they will never have summer again. Oh, god.
Harry tries to steady his breathing but he can’t, he just can’t, so he keeps his head outside of the window instead, curly hair blowing wild around his face. The air is loud in his ears and he tries to fall back into the sound of it, tries to think about anything other than what he’s been thinking about, but it’s useless.
“You haven’t told him that I’m coming?” He shouts over the noise.
“Not yet,” Liam yells back. “You think I should?”
Harry doesn’t answer that, he just opens his eyes and breathes in.
The last time they spoke, it was two years ago when Harry was drunk and angry and he had a phone. He doesn’t remember what he said exactly, but he remembers the shouting, the loudness, the words being shot like bullets across the line, digging deep.
The last time they saw each other up close, though—that was five years ago, the day that they announced the splitting of the band.
Harry tries not to think too much about that day. It was a mess of cameras and stilted conversation, everything was scripted and pre-recorded. The fans went crazy, and Harry felt so guilty, but he felt like he was making the right choice. Looking back, though, he thinks maybe he didn’t make the right choice at all.
“Alright, lads. This is it.” Liam says when the sky is dark blue, pulling up to the side of an unfamiliar road. The hum of the engine cuts off as he pulls the keys out of the ignition and shoves them back into his pocket, breath leaving his mouth in little white puffs as he rubs his hands together to keep warm. Looking over at Harry, he raises an eyebrow. “How are we feeling?”
“Like the world could end right now and I’d be fine,” Harry replies, ignoring the knot of nerves that tangle up in his stomach every time he opens his mouth. He looks out his passenger window, over at the large Tudor house that sits across the slush-covered road in the distance. It’s at the end of a long driveway, surrounded by nothing but snowy trees, and ivy leaves snake up the sides and around the windows, still green in the middle of winter. There’s a red mailbox, too. It’s a lovely house. Harry exhales, shaking his head slowly. “I can’t do this, Li. I can’t—”
“We’re not turning back now if that’s what you’re trying to say.” Liam replies.
“You want us to go first, Harry?” Zayn asks.
“It might be better that way,” Niall adds, head resting against Zayn’s shoulder. “We could test the waters for you, let you know how things are.”
“No.” Harry shakes his head, because that idea sounds just as bad as anything else. “No, just give me a second.”
It’s twelve minutes later when he finally gets out of the car, booted feet crunching over snow as he makes his way up the drive, slowly. Tall pine trees bracket him in on either side and he keeps walking, just forces himself to keep walking as Liam’s car grows smaller in the distance.
He’s never been to Louis’ house, and he doesn’t realize how far back it’s set in the woods until he’s trying to reach it, the driveway seeming to go on forever. It’s pitch black outside tonight, the full moon casting just enough light for him to see, and when Harry reaches the bottom porch step, he stops, thinking that he could still turn back now.
He’s thinking about it, but then a light inside the house flickers on and Harry freezes in place as the screen door swings open, the bottom of it scraping over the snowy porch. Warm orange light washes outside, and then Harry’s watching as someone steps out of the house.
The person’s face is blurred by the night but Harry still sees him clearly, somehow—the blue of his eyes seem to shine like searchlights, cutting through the snow and the cold. Harry can’t even believe it. His heart’s stuck is throat and he think he might fall over because he knows that body anywhere, he knows the soft outline of it like he knows his own name.
“Liam?” The person asks, a smile in his voice as he walks out a bit further, shoulder resting against the open door. “Li, is that you, mate? I thought I saw your car drive up—”
Harry takes another step towards the house, pulled by something that he can’t even control, and the light from inside slips over his face, lighting him up, bringing him into focus. The smile is gone from Louis’ face so fast that Harry thinks it might not have ever been there at all.
Louis is staring at him, and Harry can’t move. He feels like a bloody idiot now, showing up at Louis’ house when the world is ending in nine days, but what else could he do?
“Harry,” Louis says finally, and the word is flat, strange.
Harry can’t even speak. Louis’ just said his name for the first time in two years, and that does something to him, it really does.
He watches Louis with his heart stuck in his throat and Louis looks just like he remembers but also different—older, maybe. He’s wearing sleep clothes, a long sleeve black t-shirt and jogging pants, and the shadows playing across him and make the edges of his face seem softer.
“Alright, I think I’m going to shut the door now.” Louis says.
Harry stumbles forward, suddenly defensive. “No, just wait—”
Louis does, and Harry can see him clearly now beneath the light, cheeks flushed pink from the cold. Beside the door, there’s a patio set hidden beneath the snow, and Harry has a so much to say but for some reason he can’t bring himself to speak the words out loud.
Not now, when the moment feels so sharp, so fragile.
“The world is ending, Louis.” He says instead.
Louis doesn’t answer at first. He just crosses his arms over his chest and leans further back against the open door with a sigh. “Yeah. Nine days now, is it?”
“Yeah.” Harry replies, scuffing the tip of his boot in the frozen slush. The world is quiet for a moment, snow falling down like ashes from the ink blue sky above, and Harry thinks he should say something, anything, about how bloody sorry he is. The moment feels tense, stilted, but he pushes through. “Louis—”
“Ay, Tommo!” Someone says, scattering the conversation, and Harry turns to see Niall making his way up the drive, hands shoved deep into the pockets of his parka. “Long time no see, mate. How’ve you been?”
And Harry doesn’t miss the way that Louis suddenly lights up, pink mouth lifting into the kind of smile that used to be all for Harry. And fuck, that hurts, doesn’t it? “Shut it, Niall. I saw you just the other day.”
No, Harry doesn’t miss it. He sees it and a strange feeling spreads through him as he remembers what that woman on the radio had asked on the night of the crash, right before he lost control.
Any regrets? Anything you would’ve done differently?
“The lads are back in the car. They’ll be up soon.” Niall is saying when Harry starts listening again.
“The lads?” Louis repeats, rising on his tip-toes to look into the distance. Harry follows his gaze, turning to notice that Liam’s car is still visible through gaps in the snowy trees. There’s the distant sound of a car door opening and slamming shut, and then the faint noise of conversation as Louis says, “You’re all here, then?”
“Yeah, mate.” Niall walks up the porch steps, snow crunching beneath his boots, and he claps Louis on the shoulder once he gets there. “End of the world reunion and all that. It was Harry’s idea, apparently.”
Harry shakes his head, wishing that Niall would just shut up. “It wasn’t—”
“You can come inside,” Louis says suddenly, his smile faltering. He’s looking at Niall, not even glancing at Harry. “It’s quite bloody cold out here, isn’t it?”
“Freezing,” Niall agrees, grinning even though his teeth are chattering.
Harry watches as Louis steps away from the door and turns back inside, Niall following after him. And then there’s a small stretch of space where Harry is out in front of the steps alone—Zayn and Liam still looking like dark specks against the muted whiteness of the trees in the distance—and he just wants lay down in the snow and sleep until the sun swallows him whole.
He wasn’t sure what to expect from Louis, but he hadn’t been expecting this—the almost-polite tiredness, like Louis’ sort of fed up but doesn’t want to bother with it, because Harry’s not worth it, or because Harry’s not worth anything. Especially not now, when the world is ending. Maybe for Louis, Harry was a mistake made when he was too young to know better. That’s the thought that hurts more than anything.
And Harry doesn’t even know where his thoughts are at, really.
They’re just swimming around in his head, dark seeking dark, light getting lost, and he tries not to think too much about the way Louis looks now and what that does to him. And okay, yes, he’s probably being unfair, sulking outside in the cold like Louis’ the one who did this to them, but he just keeps remembering how they used to be—so close that Harry could tell him anything, so close that they could’ve been the same person. But five years is a long time, isn’t it?
Life keeps moving, that’s what Harry realizes now.
It just keeps moving. Like a storm, it didn’t stop when he wanted it to, but it’s stopping now, when he so badly needs the rain.
Harry huffs out a laugh, scrubbing a hand down his face. “Jesus.”
“Are you coming inside?” Liam asks suddenly, snow crunching beneath his boots as he walks up to the porch. Zayn is standing by his side and both of their faces are flushed beneath the light slanting out from inside, snowflakes dusted across their eyelashes like dust.
“Yeah.” Harry says after a moment. “Yeah, I am.”
And so he does.
The house is warm.
That’s the first thing Harry notices when he steps inside, slipping out of his boots at the doormat and looking around the circular foyer at the walls panelled half-way with dark wood and the rest with a stretch of flat stone. It seems fitting, too, that the one warm place in the middle of winter is Louis’ home, with its high ceilings of glass and wooden beams, with its softly lit chandelier casting pale shadows across the dark wood of the walls.
There’s a staircase leading upstairs and two doorways—one leading into a kitchen and the other leading into a room that has the lights turned off, all of the details unclear.
“Louis, I’m telling ya, mate—” Niall starts with a smile, shrugging out of his parka and hooking it over the coat stand beside the door. “This place is a bloody ski resort.”
Louis rolls his eyes, but Harry can tell that he’s pleased. “You say that like you’ve never seen it.”
And it isn’t until Harry notices the way that Liam and Zayn have both taken off their jackets, tossing them messily over the coat rack with their scarves and mitts, that he realizes he’s the only one of them who actually hasn’t seen the place before.
Harry keeps his jacket on, hands shoved deep into the pockets.
“I suppose you lot might be a bit hungry by now, yeah?” Louis asks, looking around at the group, his blue eyes landing on Harry’s, just for a moment, before looking away again. “Um. I could order in?”
“I personally think that’d be great.” Liam answers, still managing to sound unsure as he checks around the room for confirmation, thick eyebrows raised.
Zayn grins, and then he nods towards Louis. “Yeah, mate. Thanks.”
“You can count me in.” Niall says, voice strained as he steps out of his boots. “Oh, and can we have some hot cocoa, too? I’ll make it.”
Louis smiles, running a hand through is hair. “Sure, Niall. The television’s just in the next room, so if you lads want to wait in there while I ring up the place—”
Harry clears his throat, cutting Louis off and blinking against the feeling of everything moving in around him. He’s panicking and he’s not sure why, but his jacket suddenly feels tight and he just needs to get away from this, just for tonight. “I’m actually feeling quite—ill,” he says, looking at Louis. “So if I could just—I’d like to lay down, if that’s okay?”
He feels sort of out of place asking to lay down in a home that doesn’t belong to him, a place he isn’t even sure that he’s welcome, but he feels even more out of place standing in a foyer with the one person that he used to know as well as his own voice, the one person that he doesn’t know like that anymore.
Louis is quiet, watching Harry with eyes as blue and empty as stained glass, and Harry can’t understand what Louis’ trying to tell him. He might have understood once, but that time is gone now and so the silence just sits between them, filling the empty space.
And then Louis sighs—he just sighs, but Harry feels it in his gut.
“Yeah. Yeah, of course. Why wouldn’t it be okay?” Louis says easily, gesturing towards the wooden staircase behind him. His voice sounds distant, faraway. “There’s an empty room at the end of the hall so you can rest in there. Blankets are in the closet if you need them.”
“Thanks.” Harry says, doesn’t know what else he can say.
“You sure you don’t want something to eat, mate?” Zayn asks slowly, watching him with a question in his eye—a question nothing like the one he just asked.
Harry shakes his head, not making eye contact. “’M not very hungry, to be honest. I’ll see you in the morning.”
Zayn nods, and Harry moves past him and Liam and Niall, making his way towards the steps that lead upstairs. He passes Louis, who says nothing, who just steps aside stiffly and lets him pass—and he realizes again that the world is ending in nine days, and he realizes again that he’s made a huge mistake.
Upstairs, the room is dark and moonlight slants in through the open blinds that cover the window, washing the room in a pale silver light.
Harry is too worn down to pay attention to anything other than stripping out of his jacket and climbing into the empty bed, closing his eyes against the sound of his own breathing and the snowstorm moving like static outside. He’s not in love, he thinks. He can’t be. He was being honest when he said that to Liam, it’s just—seeing Louis has fucked that all up, hasn’t it? Just seeing him, that’s all it took. Just remembering.
And Harry remembers everything.
He remembers the love and the warmth that Louis used to have for him, all for him. His mum and Liam were right. Even when Harry was sixteen years old with legs too big for his body, Louis loved him, he absolutely loved him, pressing kisses along the insides of his thighs like he was the most beautiful thing in the world.
“What are you doing?” Harry had laughed one night, years ago, spread out on a hotel bed with Louis kissing up his chest, small kisses that felt much bigger. They were on tour and he’d had his fingers tangled in up Louis’ hair, just resting there. “That tickles, Lou.”
Louis had laughed at that, his breath falling warm onto Harry’s belly. Harry loved to make him laugh. It always felt good, considering it was always going the other way around.
“Shut up.” Louis said, kissing over Harry’s hipbone. There was a bruise there the next day. “I’m trying to be romantic down here.”
Harry shifts, pushing the memory away as he presses his face down into the pillow, arms wrapped tightly around the back of it like he can’t live without it. He tells himself not to cry, and he doesn’t.
He dreams of blue eyes and a sun that sets everything on fire.
When Harry wakes up, he’s lost.
It’s just for a moment, but the moment is still there.
He’s confused, really, thinking that maybe he’s still asleep, that maybe he’s still sixteen—but then the room swims into focus, pale morning light slanting in through the window and striking at the dust in the air, and he remembers where he is.
He also remembers that the world is ending, that everything is going to be gone soon, and that it’s been years since he’s had a good year.
Rubbing at his eyes, Harry keeps his gaze on the white stucco of the ceiling, watching the watery lines of light that stretch across it. Noise floats up from somewhere downstairs, but Harry stays still, trying to remember the point of all this.
The room looks different in the morning. Warmer, somehow.
The walls are panelled in wood and there’s a window opposite the bed, curtains opened up wide to let the light in. Outside, the world is white with snow. There are frosted pine trees and in the distance, Harry can make out the hints of a pond, pale blue and frozen over from the cold.
Sitting up slowly, he lets the sheets fall away from his chest as he scrubs a hand down his face, yawning.
“Morning.” Someone says, and Harry turns to see Zayn standing in the doorway, arms crossed as he rests against the frame. His hair is tousled with sleep and he watches Harry, grinning. “You look terrible, mate.”
Harry laughs, a one-syllable sound. “Thanks.”
Zayn is quiet for a moment, smile fading. “Did you sleep alright, then?”
“Like a baby.” Harry replies sleepily, kicking off his sheets and moving to sit on the edge of the bed, feeling cold in only his boxers.
Zayn nods, but doesn’t say anything.
He just stands across from Harry in the doorway, and his eyes have a question in them. It burns there, too dim for Harry to read it. It doesn’t feel strange or anything, the silence, it’s just—well, Harry can tell that Zayn wants to say something. He’s just not sure if he wants to hear it.
“You came up early last night.” Zayn says finally, and it’s not really a question, except that it is.
Harry smiles. “I’m okay, Zayn.”
Zayn makes a face at that, licking his lips like he can’t quite word what he wants to say. He’s dressed in all black, the bottom of his sweat pants bunched into his socks, and he looks cozy. “No, you’re not. And I mean with Louis.”
Harry pretends to think about it for a second, but he doesn’t think about it at all. “Why wouldn’t I be okay with Louis?”
There’s a noise downstairs, the clashing of plates and silverware, and Zayn watches Harry for a second before stepping into the room and shutting the door behind him. His voice is slow like honey when he speaks. It’s careful. “We only have eight days left, you know.”
Harry nods. “I’ve heard, yeah.”
“Yeah.” Zayn repeats, and then: “Listen, mate. I know I don’t really ever, like, give advice to you and stuff, so I’m not expecting you to listen or anything, but—”
“—Zayn.” Harry cuts him off, running a hand through his hair. “Please.”
“Alright.” Zayn sighs slowly, hands raising in defense. “But you should think about it. And I mean really think about it.”
“I don’t think I should, actually.” Harry responds with a small laugh, standing up and picking his duffle bag off of the floor. He tosses it onto the unmade bed with a thud, zipping it open with his back to Zayn. “I think that’s a terrible idea.”
Zayn is quiet as Harry rummages through his stuff, grabbing a white long sleeve shirt and pulling it over his head before hopping into a pair of gray long-johns. He’ll shower later, he thinks, sitting back on the edge of the bed. Zayn still hasn’t said anything.
“The lads are up, then?” Harry asks.
“They’re downstairs making breakfast. Niall’s still sleeping, though.” Zayn says as he walks towards the bed slowly. Harry thinks he looks like someone approaching a wide eyed deer.
The light coming in through the window brightens the one side of Zayn’s face, and Harry notices for the first time how much Zayn has grown. Grown up, grown sad, and maybe a little distant, Zayn has changed. But he’s still around, he’s still trying, and that’s more than Harry’s been able to give to anyone.
“I’m sorry.” Harry breathes out suddenly, just as Zayn sits down beside him on the bed. The mattress groans, dipping gently beneath his weight.
“And why are you sorry?” Zayn asks, wrapping an arm around Harry’s shoulders.
The feeling is warm and familiar, bringing Harry back to a day that feels like it was lifetimes ago—the day that they were kicked off of the X-Factor, eyes bright with sadness as they stood beneath the burning weight of the cameras. Harry remembers trying not to cry.
There were cameras watching and people were everywhere.
Hasn’t that always been the problem?
“Because I did this.” Harry says finally, his voice thick with feeling. The words seem to slip between them like water, flooding the empty space. When Zayn doesn’t speak, Harry rubs at his eyes. “I mean, look at us, Zayn. Just look. We used to be best mates, the five of us, and now—Jesus, I don’t even know what we are now.”
“We’re best mates.” Zayn says. “It’s that simple.”
Harry shakes his head at that, smiling but not happy about anything. “No, it’s not. You know it’s not.”
“Why can’t it be?” Zayn asks, almost upset as he brings his legs up onto the bed. He sits cross-legged, dark eyes heavy on the side of Harry’s face. “Look, mate. All I know is that the world is ending—”
“—Yeah, you’ve told me.” Harry mumbles, watching his own feet. The pale gray of them stand out against the deeper gray of the carpet.
Light against dark. Light swallowed up. Harry wonders what that means.
“No, just listen.” Zayn groans, scrubbing a hand over his face. “Just—all I know is that the world is ending. And the five of us haven’t been in the same place for how many years, but now the world is ending and we’re here. Together.”
Harry’s not understanding. “What does that mean?”
“It means that we’re best mates.” Zayn answers.
And then Harry does understand, because it really is that simple.
Zayn doesn’t explain it, he doesn’t write it down in pen—it’s just his words, his reasoning, and Harry finds something comforting about that, so he takes the words out of the air and tucks them into his pocket, safe.
“Thanks.” He says, glancing over at Zayn.
Zayn chuckles, and the lines of his body are blurred out by the morning light that trickles in through the window, soft and slow.
His eyes look like liquid gold.
“Come ‘ere.” Zayn says, and then he pulls Harry in towards him, his soft mouth brushing over Harry’s temple. The words are muffled, but Harry hears them. “You’ve got to stop blaming yourself, alright?”
The words are quiet, but they ring out, loud as hell in his ears.
Harry nods, his throat feeling thick again. “I’ll try.”
“Good.” Zayn says, “good.” He kisses Harry’s temple again, small and chaste, and then he stands up and moves towards the door, opening it up again before turning to look at Harry. “Come on, mate. You hungry?”
The kitchen is empty.
It’s the first thing Harry notices when he follows Zayn inside, their socked feet padding over the dark wood of the floorboards, and he tries not to think too much about it, but the kitchen is empty.
Even so, he stays by the doorway as Zayn walks further in, the frame of his body lit up by the pale sunlight that washes in through the sliding door. The glass is frosted, but Harry can still make out a snow-covered balcony, the whiteness of the backyard, and a sky like milk—a sky that’s pale, that pours itself over everything.
The kitchen, on the other hand, is all warm colors.
The walls are tiled in a flat mosaic of stones and there’s a glass bowl of lemons and limes sitting on the island in the center of the room, a splash of color against the nothingness of it all.
It doesn’t seem like the kind of kitchen that Louis would own. Back when they shared a flat, Louis forced Harry to paint an entire wall red. It’s a sad sort of thought, but Harry thinks it. And he thinks about the nights that they spent pressed together against that wall—he thinks about those nights until he makes himself stop.
In Louis’ kitchen, there are wooden beams on the ceiling. Five lights hang from them, and they’re all turned off. Harry thinks about that, about the unintentional irony of everything.
“It’s kind of bullshit, isn’t it?” He asks after a moment, moving further into the kitchen. “That the world is ending.”
Zayn shrugs, laughing a little bit. “Yeah, I suppose it is.” He says, making his way around the kitchen island to the counter on the far side of the room. Opening up a cupboard, he reaches in to grab a mug, glancing over his shoulder at Harry. “Coffee?”
“Tea, thanks.” Harry says.
Zayn rummages around to fill the kettle, and Harry walks slowly towards the sliding door, he keeps walking until his forehead is pressed up against the cold stretch of the glass, breath painting white patterns on every exhale.
He wipes the frost away, and he still has to squint against the sun even though the light is weak and pale, watered down by winter.
Strange how something so far away can still reach you, still burn you.
Watching it for a moment, the dim sphere of it, Harry thinks again that it’s all bullshit. His hands raise up to touch the glass, and the sun just seems so small from where he is, but it’s there. That’s it. Right there.
The end of the world.
It’s right there, and he can’t do anything about it.
So, yeah, like he said before—it’s bullshit.
Sighing, his eyes begin to wander around the frozen backyard. There’s a patio set sitting on the balcony, hidden beneath a layer of snow, and below the balcony, there’s a yard that stretches out into a forest, tall pine trees covered in frost.
A movement catches Harry’s eye—sudden, coming up out of nowhere—and his breath stutters as he notices two figures below, circling each other in the snow, their heads bent back with laughter that Harry can’t hear.
Liam is dressed in white, almost blending in with winter as he moves.
But Louis—Louis’ jacket is a bright red and Harry can’t look away.
Not because of the red, but because of the Louis. He’s a flame against the bleak dust of snow, spinning wildly and looking like a bird on fire, like a destination. That’s it, Harry thinks. Right there. The end of the world.
And there’s nothing that he can do.
“Damn it.” He breathes, cold fingers curling up against the glass.
He’s here, and Louis’ there. Is that what this is? Is that how this works?
Harry keeps watching, he just watches for a moment—and then the moment snaps in half, it just breaks completely, because Louis isn’t spinning anymore—he’s looking straight up at the place where Harry is standing behind the glass door, blue eyes blurred out by the distance.
Harry freezes in place, but his heart goes on stuttering.
Can Louis see him? Can Louis see past all the frost?
Breathing slow, Harry lets one of his hands fall away from the glass, and then it’s almost like he’s waving, but not quite, and Louis’ still looking, his head tilted upwards, red jacket shining like a beacon.
Any regrets? Anything that you would’ve done differently?
“Damn it.” Harry says again, because he misses him.
He’s suddenly so aware of the distance between them, and it’s hard, it’s hard because the world is ending and because it already has—it ended five years ago and every day since, again and again and again.
Harry has become the master of repetition.
Louis stares for just a moment longer and then he turns away, still bright against the muted stretch of snow.
Liam is making a snow angel and Harry watches as Louis lays down beside him, his head turned so that he’s looking at the side of Liam’s face.
“Drink up, mate.” Zayn says, suddenly standing beside Harry.
He passes him a steaming cup of tea and Harry takes it, glancing over and noticing the way that Zayn’s dark eyes have settled on the two people in the distance, on the figures making shapes in the snow.
They’re both quiet for a while, watching, and Harry catches the sound of a shower running upstairs.
“I like him.” Zayn says casually, breaking up the silence.
Harry frowns, taking a small sip of his tea and cringing slightly at the sweet taste. “Who?”
Zayn rolls his eyes. “Liam, you twat.”
Harry laughs. “I like him too.”
For a moment, it almost seems like Zayn is about to say something else, but then he sighs, the sound muffled around the lip of his mug. “I need a shower. See you in a bit.”
“See you.” Harry smiles, watching as Zayn walks back out of the kitchen, footsteps echoing as he makes his way upstairs.
Harry is still for a second, and then he turns back towards the glass door, stomach dropping when he takes in the empty backyard. It’s just a stretch of trees and snow, a pale sun shining like a reminder.
Harry sighs, his forehead falling down against the cold glass with a thud, fingers grasping at the place where Louis used to be.
“Eight days left on the clock, Bill. How is the world reacting?”
The woman on the television screen is pretty for her age and completely done up, neon pink mouth stretching into a smile. It’s tight, faked.
She has blue on her eyelids and as the camera zooms in, Harry notices the lipstick smudge on her teeth, bright against the whiteness of them. He imagines the way her hands might have shook as she did her face up earlier, getting ready to casually speak about the end of the world.
Harry wonders who she is, if she loves anybody.
The image cuts to that of an older man, thin with a full head of white hair. “Well, Sharon.” Bill laughs after a moment, finger resting over his ear-piece. “I think it’s safe to say that the world is absolutely panicking. Crime rates have soared since the flare was announced, and there have been an increase in random suicides.”
“Jesus.” Niall groans from beside Harry, his elbow resting on the arm of the sofa. “This is bloody depressing.”
“I agree.” Liam says, his voice floating up from the other side of the room. He’s sitting on the larger couch beside Louis, pale face lit up by the light of the television.
Zayn sits on the floor in front of them, head resting against Liam’s knee.
“Is that so?” Sharon asks Bill on screen, pretending to be shocked.
“Sure is, Sharon. Thousands of families across the globe have been occupied building underground shelters that they hope will help them withstand the heat. We’ll be speaking with one of these families after the break.” Bill says, and then the show cuts away into a commercial.
“Not watching that.” Niall snorts, pointing the remote at the television and pressing the off button. The screen flickers off, plunging the room into a pale sort of dimness.
Afternoon sunlight slants in through the curtains, igniting dust.
“I never understood those kind of people.” Zayn speaks into the silence, head tilted upwards so that he’s sort of looking at Liam, but not really. “Like, people who build shelters and all that. When the end comes, just let it come, you know?”
“I dunno.” Liam says. “I think it’s good to have hope.”
“Yeah, but not when it’s useless.” Niall says, shifting to put his feet up on the sofa. “Don’t think anyone’s coming out of this one alive, mate.”
“So you’d build a shelter?” Zayn asks Liam, his eyebrows furrowed.
Liam shrugs. “I don’t see why not. Only if you lads came with me, though. No point in surviving alone.”
“Aw. How nice, Li.” Louis smiles, profile edged in silver light.
Louis’ been pretty quiet all afternoon.
Harry watches the side of his face for a moment, green eyes trailing downwards to the bow of Louis’ lips, to the small bulb of his Adam’s apple, up and down, up and down, and then away again.
“We’d end up dying of starvation.” Niall argues.
“Radiation, too.” Zayn adds. “We’d grow extra legs and stuff, I heard that can happen.”
Liam tries to look affronted, but it’s almost a smile. “It’s not a nuclear bombing, Zayn. There’s no radiation.”
“Yeah, because you’ve survived so many solar flares in your life.” Zayn scoffs. Liam rolls his eyes and then it’s quiet for a moment until Zayn lifts his head up off of Liam’s knee and glances towards Harry, eyebrows raised in question. “What about you, mate? Underground shelter or solar flare?”
Harry’s all too aware of the boy’s eyes on him—of Louis’ eyes on him, light blue but still so heavy, somehow—and so he tries to think about the question for a second, because he wants to try to give an honest answer.
Eight days from now, the sun is going to swallow them whole.
A small speck of light growing into something bigger, something deadly. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. None of them will ever be here again.
“Um.” Harry says finally, making sure not to look at anyone in particular. “I think I’m going to go with hope? Hope is good.”
Zayn groans, shaking his head. “You too? I swear to god.”
Harry smiles, shrugging a bit, but he can still feel the weight of eyes on him, growing heavier, burning hot against his skin.
Louis’ eyes—he knows them like he used to know himself.
But, still. Even though he’s prepared, his breath still hitches when he meets Louis’ gaze from across the room, sees the pale shadows move across the soft lines of the his face.
He looks like winter, all pale blue and white, and Harry misses him.
Harry misses him so much that it hurts.
Louis looks away first, his eyes flickering to Liam’s face instead. Harry keeps on watching him, remembering the last time that they spoke on the phone, when Harry was so drunk that he was seeing stars.
You were a piece of shit, Louis. But you were my piece of shit.
Harry had said the words over the telephone line, tried for an apology, but his chance shattered the moment he let the words leave his mouth.
He hadn’t said it because he meant it, that Louis was a piece of shit, but because the truth—the I love you, I’m sorry, come back, please, I love you—all of those words had felt like losing at the time, and he was too angry and bitter for that.
Louis had stayed quiet, letting the silence stretch between them.
Harry. He breathed finally, and Harry’s eyes had shut tight against the sound of Louis’ voice breaking. It was like a wave, almost.
Soft, crashing over a shore. You could drown in that voice.
You’re drunk, Louis continued. And you’re an asshole for calling me. And I’m an idiot for picking up the phone. I’m an idiot for even remembering your number in the first place. Louis broke off on a sigh, and Harry could imagine him rubbing at his eyes, feeling tired, worn out. Hang up the phone, Harry, okay? Just go to bed. And don’t call me again.
Harry remembers shaking his head, almost laughing. Screw you, Louis.
Yeah, okay. Goodnight, Harry. And then he hung up.
And that was it. For two years, that was it.
And now Harry’s here in Louis’ home, the world is ending in eight days, and he doesn’t know where to start. If he’s honest with himself, he knows that Louis doesn’t love him anymore. Deep down, he knows it.
But it’s okay. It’s more than fair, really. Harry just needs to make things right. He needs to make it better somehow, at least a little bit better.
“Harry? You alright, bud?” Niall asks quietly, shattering Harry’s thoughts.
The other three boys are in the middle of a conversation and the telly’s back on now, playing re-runs of some old cartoon that Harry can’t remember the name of.
Harry nods. “Yeah, sorry. I’m just thinking.”
“Well, don’t.” Niall says, whispering the words across the sofa. Harry can feel his smile, even though he’s not looking over to see it. “I can hear your bloody thoughts from here.”
The rest of the day seems to slip past them quickly.
The sky has darkened from a pale white into a deep blue, snow looking like a stretch of nothing outside. It’s half past midnight when they decide to call it a day, all of them heading upstairs to their own rooms.
Zayn and Liam head up first, and Niall is already asleep on the sofa, so they leave him because he’s the type of person that would appreciate that.
Harry follows Louis upstairs, watching the way that his legs move beneath the thin gray cotton of his sweatpants, socked feet making small sounds over the wooden steps of the stairs.
There were nights like these before, back when they were younger and when they were good—nights when they would be heading upstairs to the same room, grinning as they snuck away from everything else and into each other. Spilling secrets into each other’s mouths like it was the only place where they could be kept safe.
It’s strange to think that, now, Louis is so close. Right there, and yet he’s still so far away. And it’s strange to think how something so far away can still reach you, still burn you.
Once they reach the landing, Louis turns back towards Harry.
He doesn’t say anything. They just look at each other for a moment and the moment stretches on, blue eyes locked on green, green eyes looking back. Louis, like this, is what Harry isn’t used to.
He seems indifferent, he seems worlds away from what he used to be.
Harry stands frozen on the top step of the stairs, watching Louis as he stands outside his bedroom door, leaning back against it with his arms crossed.
No one speaks, and it almost feels like Louis is giving him a chance to say something, anything, but then the moment is over and Louis is sighing, the sound of it breaking up the silence like a gunshot or something worse.
“Goodnight, Harry.” He says.
Harry nods, doesn’t know what else he can do.
Louis sort of smiles, an upturn of the mouth with no warmth behind it, and then he’s turning back and pushing open his door. In the gap, Harry catches small pieces of a huge window and a bed, the colors washed out by the moon.
He needs to say something, anything. He needs to try. Just as Louis steps inside his bedroom, Harry opens his mouth, closes it, and then opens it again.
Louis is the sound stuck in his throat.
“I know—I get that you’re not too happy to see me, Louis, but I’m happy to see you.” Harry starts, and the words leave his mouth slowly. They seem to cast shadows on the wall. “And I’m sorry that it took the world ending for me to be here.”
Louis doesn’t turn around. He doesn’t speak, either.
He just stands there for a moment before walking into his room and shutting the door behind him, leaving Harry alone on the top step with his words and fucking useless love for Louis.
It takes about ten minutes for Harry to move again.
Making his way to the opposite end of the hall, Harry catches the faint murmur of conversation that slips out from beneath the door of the room that Zayn and Liam are sharing. He hears laughter, the muffled sound of somebody falling off the bed, and he wonders about that.
Still, he doesn’t stop until he reaches the last room in the hallway and steps inside, door falling shut behind him with a small thud.
There’s nothing but silence and the whole room swims in pale shadows as Harry steps out his clothes, leaving only his boxers on before crawling onto the bed. He stays above the sheets, watching the way that the moonlight washes in through the window and leaves bright lines across his bare thighs, and over the jut of his ankle.
On his hip, there’s a bruise from the accident.
Pale purple spreading into black. Just like the sun, it’s a reminder that the world is ending, a reminder that he’s lost control.
Resting back against the pillow, Harry shuts his eyes, breathing slow.
He falls asleep looking for the words in Louis’ silence.
Harry dreams of a car moving fast.
It’s like he’s outside of himself, watching as he drives down a dark road at full speed, dangerous and electric, always moving and moving and moving. He can’t stop because the sun is behind him. Even though it’s night time, the sun is behind him, and even though he can’t see it, he knows it’s there. Does that make sense?
His car is red, and memories float out of the blackness like smoke.
They’re just fleeting, really, small disturbances in the air, but in the dream they wash over his windshield and then they’re all he can see and hear and think. Everything becomes white noise.
In the mist of it, there’s his face looking back at him, changing so fast it’s like pictures being layered. It’s like still images of himself that stretch out through his life and then past it—grainy footage of him as a little boy, green eyes bigger than the moon as his mum kissed him and told him that he was made of sunlight. Him at twelve years old, sitting at school beneath the big oak tree during lunch break and crying his eyes out after being picked last in gym. That day, he thought his life had ended. There’s him at sixteen, too, starry-eyed and falling in love for the very first time, the feeling coming so fast and so sudden that he felt dizzy with it.
In the dream, Louis’ name sits on his tongue, and Harry keeps driving.
The memories keep coming, flooding in and getting lost in the dark. He dreams of the car crash, of metal screeching against pavement; he dreams of the love that him and Louis shared and he remembers the way that he destroyed it, harsh words spilling out of his mouth before he could stop them, leaving bruises on the milk of Louis’ skin.
But past that, past that—Harry dreams of light.
Not like sunlight, harsh and burning, but light itself—just the idea of it, the simple meaning of it. He dreams of himself as an old man, living in a cottage tucked deep in the English countryside, a place surrounded in flowers even though it’s the middle of winter. This is what his death would look like. If it hadn’t been chosen by the sun, this is what his death would look like. In his dreams, Louis is there, and he’s still the most beautiful thing in the world, his face wrinkled with the years gone by. Moonlight washes in and makes him look blue, naked and blue, makes him look silver as he sleeps.
The images move like static and then all of his memories are floating back into the dark again, then it’s just him and his red car and a black road that stretches on forever, the stark whiteness of his headlights washing over the pine trees, bringing out the green in them.
Harry dreams of a car slowing down.
Louis’ name sits on the tip of his tongue and Harry stops driving.
The next evening, Harry watches as Louis fades into the trees up ahead, the bright red of his jacket swallowed up by the white static of the winter.
He’s like a fox in the snow, and Harry follows after him.
It’s nearing dusk now. They’re heading towards the pond to skate and the white sky is melting into a deep blue above, yellow sun dipping low beneath a thick line of pine trees in the distance.
The light is watery, spreading out like a sigh over the horizon.
Harry walks with Niall in silence, keeping his hands shoved deep in his pockets, tall body hunched against the cold. They’ve both got a pair of ice-skates thrown over their shoulders, and Harry listens as their boots crunch over the snow.
There are seven days left until the end of the world.
“Do you think something’s going on with them?” Niall says suddenly.
Harry glances over at him with a frown, watching the side of Niall’s face as they walk. His breath looks like white smoke, candlelight hair shining bright even in the dimness. “With who?” Harry asks.
“Zayn and Liam.” Niall sighs, rolling his eyes like it should be obvious.
Harry thinks about it for a moment as they near the trees. He thinks about yesterday, when Zayn had watched Liam from behind the glass and said I like him. He didn’t get it then, but now he does.
“I think something’s been going on with them for a while.” He says.
Niall hums thoughtfully, stepping over a snow-covered log as they move into the woods. Harry shivers as the air cools, daylight weakening where the tree branches cast shadows.
When Niall doesn’t say anything, Harry smiles, nudging him gently with his shoulder. “Just spit it out, Niall. I know you’re thinking something.”
Niall glances over at him, pursing his lips before sighing, looking away. “It’s just—god, I don’t know. Do you feel like this is the right time for that? The end of the world?”
Harry doesn’t answer. He just thinks about it.
When the trees begin to spread out and he catches sight of Louis in the distance, a bright speck of color against the muted whites of the frozen lake, Harry thinks he knows his answer.
Shrugging, he looks back at Niall. “I think it sort of has to be.”
“Oh, and the crowd goes wild!” Niall shouts with a laugh.
He smacks the end of a frosted branch against the ice, skating in circles around the pond, his pale face dusted pink from the cold. They’ve been playing for the last half hour, and Harry can’t feel his legs.
“Good one, mate.” He grins, wiping snow away from his eyelashes.
“Thanks, Styles.” Niall says, winking as he skates over to where Louis is standing on the other side of the pond, a boot laid out on either side of him as a sort of make-shift goalie’s net. He’s bundled up in a scarf and beanie, his red jacket looking like a small sun.
Harry tries not to look for too long or pay too much attention, but it’s quite hard because Louis is right there and Harry’s still not used to it—it’s hard because Louis is right there, where he hasn’t been for so long.
Both of them seem bright against the blue of the evening sky.
Harry watches as Louis laughs, picking up the stone that Niall managed to get past him. “Here, you little shit.” He says, passing it over to Niall. “When did you even learn to play hockey?”
Niall shrugs. “You’re looking at a natural, man.”
Louis rolls his eyes but he’s smiling, cupping his gloved hands around his mouth and breathing out warmth.
“Ah, whatever.” Niall grins. He glances towards the trees, and Harry follows his gaze. Through the gaps, the lights turned on in Louis’ house are shining like little stars. “I think I’m gonna head back.” Niall says, bringing Harry’s attention back to the pond. “Feel like my toes are about to fall off. You boys coming?”
“No, I think I’ll stay here.” Harry says, skating out into the middle of the pond. “You two go ahead, I’ll be there in a bit.” Without waiting for an answer, he lays himself down onto the ice, cringing slightly against the wet coldness that seeps past the fabric of his jeans.
“Alright, mate. See you.” Niall says.
And then Harry’s listening to the sound of booted feet crunching over snow, the noise echoing like static. Niall and Louis fade off into the trees, and even when the world becomes hushed around him, Harry keeps his eyes on the sky.
It’s a blue so dark that it’s almost black—it’s almost endless, stretching on and on and on. It’s empty of stars, though, which makes Harry think about the end of the world. Do the stars know what’s coming?
No. Probably not. The stars don’t have a clue.
In the silence, Harry watches his breath. It leaves his mouth and rises up like smoke, white against the blue sky, frozen with winter.
He can’t feel his bloody body because it’s freezing and he’s cold, but he can’t even bring himself to move, either—it’s like gravity is keeping stuck in this place, in this moment, right here, but he can almost feel time pushing him forward still—it’s like the moon, full and white above him, is a ticking clock, dipping lower and lower, getting ready for a new day.
But see, Harry doesn’t want a new day. Not yet, not when it means that they’re closer to running out of them.
Harry shuts his eyes, huffing out a small laugh. He can’t even help it.
“What are you doing?”
Harry’s eye fly open at the sound of the voice, and he has to blink a few times to bring everything into focus because it’s Louis standing over him. It’s Louis, right there, the details of his face ignited by the moon.
Light against dark. Light coming forward. Harry wonders what that means.
It’s a moment before he can answer.
“Thinking.” He says finally.
Louis doesn’t speak, but the blue of his eyes looks like the ocean as he stands above Harry, the sky seeming black behind him—a stark contrast to the white paleness of his face, to the red of his jacket.
It’s like there’s a searchlight on somewhere, trained directly on Louis.
Harry swallows thickly. He can’t feel his mouth. “I thought you left.”
“Nah.” Louis sighs, glancing away to look at the place where the house must be visible in the distance. When he looks back down, Harry is struck by the closeness of it all. “Didn’t make it past the trees, actually.”
Nodding, Harry stays quiet, not sure how to take that.
Louis licks his lips, thoughtful, the blue of his eyes settled over the green of Harry’s. And then he’s lowering himself onto the ground, shuffling around a bit until he’s laid out beside Harry on the ice. Their arms brush, and it’s all orange haze.
“Listen, I’m really—” Louis starts after a moment, his voice shattering the silence. “Last night. I’m sorry about that.”
“You don’t have to apologize, Louis.”
“I know I don’t.” He agrees. “I just feel like I should.”
Harry doesn’t know what to say to that, so he says nothing. It’s like he had all this shit planned, all these words that he wanted to say, and now that the moment’s here he doesn’t know what to do with it.
Swallowing, Harry turns over so that he’s lying on his side, eyes resting on the soft slope of Louis’ nose. Louis’ staring at the sky but Harry’s staring at his face, at his pale cheeks tinged pink by the cold.
He seems like a dream, all smoke and mirrors, and Harry just wants to reach out and touch him.
He wants to lick the warmth back into the blueness of his mouth, make his whole body shiver with a different kind of feeling, and he wants to leave his love wherever it can fit. Under Louis’ tongue, over the slope of Louis’ spine, in the space between his legs.
Harry wants to do this, he does, but he can’t.
After a while, Louis says, “It’s been five years.”
It’s all that he says, and even though Harry expected it, he still has the urge to just pull Louis over until he’s underneath Harry’s body and somehow, somehow, he can make Louis love him again.
Instead, he exhales slow, letting the words sink deep. “I know.”
Louis glances over Harry then, his cheek pressed against the frozen ice of the pond. His eyelashes are dusted in snow, and the blue of his eyes looks cerulean in the dimness. “You really fucked me up.”
“I know.” Harry says again, his voice thick. “I’m sorry.”
“I know you are.” Louis admits. “But that doesn’t change anything.”
“It doesn’t have to.” Harry says, his eyes searching Louis’, for something, anything. He’s not even sure.
“Nothing has to change, Louis. I just don’t want you to be angry with me when the world ends.”
Louis laughs at that, his blue eyes shining like glass as he looks back up at the sky. “Oh, of course not. Not at the end of the world. But any other time is fine, I suppose?”
Harry hesitates, frowning as he watches the side of Louis’ face. “You know that’s not what I meant.”
After a moment, Louis sighs, looking back at Harry. “Why are you here?”
“I wanted to see you.” Harry says.
“But why did you want to see me?”
“Because the world is ending, Louis.” Harry replies, watching as the snow falls down from the dark sky above, painting everything in white. “I wanted to see you because I don’t have a choice.”
Louis just stares. “You always have a choice.”
“Not when it comes to this. I don’t think I’ve ever had a choice when it comes to this.” Harry says, because it’s the truth and it always has been. He speaks quietly, handing over his words like an offering, like a part of himself. “I’ve really missed you, Louis.”
Louis’ eyes widen slightly at that, and Harry can feel him moving away before he actually does it—before he’s actually pushing himself off of the ground and standing up, his right cheek burning red with cold.
“Fuck.” Louis exhales, kicking at the ice with his boot.
“Louis.” Harry says, sitting up to watch Louis’ back as he walks in circles around the frozen pond, gloved hands cradling his face. “Lou, stop.”
Louis does stop, and he turns to face Harry, his face blank.
He has a body framed in moonlight.
“You’re such an asshole for coming here.” Louis says, and Harry feels the words like a fist. It punches the words out of him, but he stays quiet, he lets Louis finish. “You broke my fucking heart, you know that? The moment I saw you—the second you walked into that bloody bathroom, I knew it was going to happen. I knew it, Harry, and I still let you in.”
Harry’s frozen in place, cold ice leaking into his jeans. “I’m so sorry, Lou.”
“Yeah, I know.” Louis says, almost laughing as he turns his back to Harry again, the redness of his jacket standing out against the sky. After a moment of silence, he starts speaking again. “I thought I was still angry. When you showed up at my door two days ago, that’s when I realized that I wasn’t.”
Hesitant, Harry asks: “What do you mean?”
“I’m not angry, Harry.” Louis says. “I’m happy to see you.”
“I don’t understand.” Harry says, because he doesn’t.
Louis sighs loudly, scrubbing a hand down his face as he turns back to face Harry. “I’m happy to see you, Harry. I just don’t know what to do with that.”
“Harry, you left.” Louis says, and his words are sharp. They slice through the snowfall, through the thick layer of cold. “Shit, Harry, you just left me. It was that easy for you, and I was so bloody stupid waiting every day for you to come back. For you to call me.”
Harry’s mind is swimming, he can’t even think. “It wasn’t easy for me.”
“Yeah, maybe not.” Louis laughs, his voice breaking around emotion. He wipes snow away from his eyes, and Harry’s suddenly aware that this is the longest conversation they’ve had in five years. “But you still did it, and now the world is ending. A week from now, we won’t even be here.”
Harry feels the thickness growing in his throat, and he blinks back tears, breathing in sharply through his nose. “Louis—”
Louis shakes his head, cutting him off. “You were the love of my life.”
“And you’re still the love of mine.” Harry says, letting the ice numb his fingers as he pushes himself to stand up. He’s surprised at how easily the words come out, how true they are. He’s standing a few feet away from Louis, so he closes the distance until they’re standing face to face. “I know it’s not fair, Louis, but you are the love of my bloody life, and I’m so sorry for what I’ve done to you.”
Louis doesn’t answer that. He just watches Harry for a moment, and his eyelashes are dusted in snow. White against blue. He’s the exact shade of winter. “I want us to be friends.”
“Friends.” Harry repeats, and the word feels strange in his mouth. Still, he can’t believe he’s even getting that much. “I’d like that.”
“So would I.” Louis agrees.
Harry doesn’t speak after that. He just keeps his eyes on Louis’ face, looking at the way that the moon lights him up, and at the way that he glows against the dark backdrop of the sky.
“You’ve grown up.” Louis says.
Harry laughs wetly, but he keeps his eyes on Louis. “So have you.”
“Yeah.” Louis agrees, looking down at himself with a small smile. His mouth is blue. “I suppose I have, haven’t I?”
Harry nods, and then there’s a small pause in time before he’s moving in closer, frozen arms opening up like an invitation. He can’t even feel himself and Louis’ just looking at his hands, but then Louis is moving into them, his own arms wrapping around Harry’s waist.
And it’s—it’s the closest they’ve gotten in five years, and Harry’s starting to feel the warmth in his body again so he breathes in deeply, he lowers his head down onto Louis’ shoulder.
This is it, he thinks—
This is him and Louis, Harry and Louis, and the sun may be hiding on the other side of the planet but he’s still holding the end of the world in his hands. Somehow, somehow, he can feel every place where they’re touching. At the knees and at the hearts, the warmth buzzes through his body like electrocution.
Moving back so that he’s looking at Louis’ face again, Harry blinks snow out of his eyes. Louis smiles softly and sighs, glancing over to where his house stands in the distance, broken up by the trees.
“We should head back.” He says.
Harry nods, letting his hands fall back to his sides.
They’re silent as they make their way back across the frozen pond, snow crunching beneath their booted feet, but it’s a hushed sort of silence, the kind of silence that speaks.
When they get back to the house, they take off their boots and jackets and find that the other three boys are asleep in the living room, limbs spread out over each other’s on the same couch. The television is off but flames flicker in the fireplace, casting shadows.
“Should we leave them?” Louis whispers, glancing over at Harry as they watch from the doorway. The small smile on his face is enough to make Harry start grinning as well, for no real reason at all, just because.
Harry just nods, smiling as he watches Louis.
“What?” Louis asks, grinning, his hand coming up to his face like there’s something wrong with him.
“Nothing.” Harry laughs quietly, shaking his head as he looks back towards the three boys in the living room. Liam’s tucked up under Zayn’s arm and Niall’s head is resting on Liam’s lap. “They look so peaceful, Lou.”
Harry says. “Let’s just leave them.”
“Yeah.” Louis agrees. “Yeah, okay.”
The next morning, Harry rises with the sun.
It’s a moment before he pushes back the sheets and steps out of bed, the cool carpet a shock against his bare feet. Making his way over to the bedroom window, Harry shivers against the cold air slipping in through the cracks. Like braille on his skin, goose bumps rise.
Harry watches the sun and time stretches on.
Half-asleep, it’s all that he can bring himself to do.
His eyes are stuck on the small sphere of light in the distance, and he imagines that it’s being held up by an invisible string, suspended there against that pale white curtain of sky.
He imagines climbing up there on a ladder with a jar of hope and a pair of scissors, and he imagines cutting the string, letting the sun fall back into the darkness, letting the world keep going on like it has been.
But no, Harry thinks. That can’t happen. That won’t happen.
Six days from now, that same sun will swallow him whole.
"So, we’re throwing a party at the end of the world.” Niall repeats. Pale afternoon sunlight washes him in gold, the blond of his hair looking like a struck match as they make their way across the slush-covered pavement of the Wal-Mart parking lot. “Lads, I have got to say, that is bloody shameless.”
Louis laughs at that, and his breath comes out white. “Better than sitting around and crying about it, if you ask me.”
“Good thing I didn’t.” Niall grins.
Harry smiles, squinting against the light of the weakening sun. Like a fire in the middle of the sky, it burns.
Up in the distance, Liam and Zayn are already walking into the store, and the sliding glass door shuts behind them—makes them look like a single person, their bodies blurring into each other, becoming one.
Harry wonders about that, if it means anything.
Hands in his pockets, he walks across the empty lot with Niall and Louis, and the snow crunching beneath their booted feet sounds like fire. They reach the first set of door and Harry steps in last, following after the two other boys.
The air is warm inside, and there’s a bench and a hallway leading to the bathrooms, but Harry keeps going until they’re moving past the second set of doors, the low ceiling opening up into a stretch of beams and fluorescent lighting.
The lights flicker above them, tinting their skin off-white.
“Holy shit, this place is deserted.” Louis says as they walk inside, his eyes travelling around the store. The place is empty, and the numbers near the cash registers glow. “Is anybody still working?”
“Doesn’t look like it.” Niall answers. “I wouldn’t be working either.”
Harry follows his gaze, noticing that he’s right.
The entire store is empty of people and half-empty of anything else, aisles stretching out across the white linoleum floors, cans and cereal boxes scattered across the tile. Clothes are gone from the racks, and Harry realizes that people have been here, looking for ways to survive.
He almost thinks it’s strange, this need people have to survive.
Especially at a time like this, when searching for survival seems useless, when in six days, the sun is going to reach out and turn them into dust.
He almost thinks it’s strange, but then—
But then he remembers that he’s walking through an empty Wal-Mart with the same boys that he hasn’t been with in years, all together like this, and he supposes that maybe he’s doing the exact same thing.
“Looks like it’s not just you.” Louis says as they walk past an almost empty section of women’s clothes, glancing towards Harry with a smile.
“What?” Harry asks, caught off guard by the warmth of Louis.
Louis laughs, looking away. “You know. Going with hope and all that.”
“Oh, yeah.” Harry grins, understanding. “Yeah, I guess not.”
Niall glances between them, saying nothing, but Harry can still feel the question there. It seems hot, burning, and he’s glad that it doesn’t get spoken. It’s strange, but he feels like it’s delicate, like his words could shatter what he’s finally got back.
Harry’s thoughts are shattered when Liam and Zayn come into view, Zayn strolling a grocery cart full of soda and potato chip bags, paper plates, paper cups, and plastic forks.
“We’ve got some stuff for the party.” Liam says when he sees them.
“I think that they can see that, Li.” Zayn smirks, flicking Liam’s temple, the sound of it muffled against the fabric of Liam’s hat.
Liam’s face goes a bit pink, and he laughs. “Shut up.”
Louis grins. “You two are so cute.”
He means it as a joke but it rings true, and Harry doesn’t understand how he couldn’t see it before—the love between them, between Liam and Zayn. Because now, as they all walk beneath the dim fluorescent lighting of the store, their love seems bright, it seems so fucking obvious.
And Harry knows it’s childish and it’s stupid, but he’s jealous.
He is. He’s jealous of what they have and he’s jealous of the fact that they haven’t screwed it up yet, like he has.
But he can’t really be jealous, not really, because he’s here with all of them, these boys that he loves more than anything else in the world, and it’s more than he ever thought it could be.
Harry slows down a bit, staying a little bit behind the rest of the boys as they walk through the store, filling up the grocery cart with things for their party at the end of the world.
“Confetti and streamers.” Niall says, grabbing them off the rack and tossing them into the cart as they the party supply section. “We gotta spice the place up.”
Louis laughs, and it’s a sound that echoes. “Good thinking, lad.”
Once the cart is filled completely and they’ve filled two more, they stop at the toy section, and Liam looks over at all of them with a question in his eyes. He says: “We are going to pay for this, right?”
Harry grins. “Are you suggesting that we rob the store, Li?”
Louis smiles at that, but Liam frowns. “No. I’m not, it’s just—well, you do realize that there are no cashiers here.”
“We could leave the money on the counter?” Zayn suggests, eyes on the side of Liam’s face. “And all of us could chip in a little bit?”
“Forget that.” Louis says. “Just—consider it an End of the World Sale.”
“Yeah, with one hundred percent off everything.” Niall chuckles, leaning back against a shelf of packaged toys.
“But that would be stealing.” Liam sighs. “I don’t want to steal.”
“Well sometimes we have to do things that we don’t want to do, Liam.” Louis replies, but it’s a joke, and the words are softened around his smile. “Alright, I have an idea,” he says.
And then Harry’s watching as he disappears down the next aisle, overhead lights flickering and colouring him in yellow.
He’s back a few moments later with a basket of full of Nerf guns, five of them, all neon yellow and blue.
“Welcome to the ultimate game of Hide and Seek, lads. Take your pick. Things are about to get hideous.”
“I find it ridiculous that you’re twenty-six years old.” Liam says, shaking his head. He almost looks embarrassed as he picks up one of the guns, turning it around in his hands. “You really think this is necessary?”
“I think it is.” Niall says, picking up a gun for himself.
“And I don’t want to pay for things that are free.” Zayn adds, grabbing a gun from the basket. He checks it out for a moment before turning to Liam, shrugging. “Sorry, mate.”
“I’m sure you are.” Liam replies, but his words are warm.
Harry’s last to grab a gun, and the look that Louis gives him when he does isn’t quite a smile, but it’s watchful, it’s heavy, and for some reason that’s enough to make the blood rise to Harry’s cheeks.
“Listen up, lads.” Louis says, his eyes moving away from Harry. “This is how the game is going to work.”
“Harry, stay down, you little fuck.” Zayn whispers, tugging on the sleeve of Harry’s jacket and pulling him down onto the tiled floor. Harry almost laughs, but Zayn’s rolling his eyes. “You are well stupid, mate. Did you even listen to the rules?”
“Nope.” Harry smiles, sitting back against the shelf of canned soups.
“Figured.” Zayn says, mouth tilting up from where he sits across from Harry, leaning his dark head of hair back against the opposite shelf.
The aisle stretches out on either side of them like a sheet of ice, white tiles gleaming beneath the dim lighting, and Harry keeps his voice low, listening for any sounds that warn of the other boys.
“I think we should move.” Harry whispers. “I didn’t see anyone.”
Zayn narrows his eyes, glancing over to the end of the aisle. Past it, there are bins of pillows and five-dollar books, but there’s nobody else in sight. Still, Zayn looks back at Harry, skeptical. “You’re sure?”
“Yeah.” Harry nods.
Zayn seems to think about it for a second, and then he’s slowly pushing himself into a standing position, Nerf gun held out in front of him like a genuine weapon. Harry stands up and follows him, both of them moving slowly towards the end of the aisle and then out of it.
Glancing around, Harry sees that the place is still empty.
“See, no one.” He grins, lowering his gun.
“Hello, laddies!” Someone shouts suddenly, and then Harry’s watching as Niall and Liam appear from behind a wall of greeting cards, laughing as they run towards Harry and Zayn. “Fancy running into you here!”
Their guns are raised, aimed, ready to fire.
“Damn it, Styles!” Zayn shouts, almost laughing, and then they’re both running again, splitting up into different aisles. Harry’s back in the soup section again, laughing wildly as his booted feet move over the tile.
He doesn’t stop until he’s reached the clothes section.
Once he’s there, he slows his pace, crouching down behind a half-empty rack of dress shirts. He’s careful not to make any noise as he sits down on the hard gray carpet of the floor, leaning back until his head is resting against a table of folded khaki pants.
From here, if he raises his head, Harry can see the sliding glass doors that lead outside. Sunlight floods through them, washing over the floors near the entrance, and Harry wishes it would just go away.
The sun, not the sunlight. The sunlight can stay.
“I won’t shoot if you won’t.” Someone says, startling Harry, and he turns towards the sound with wide eyes.
Louis is standing there, Nerf gun aimed at Harry’s forehead.
His skin looks like milk, his eyes like stained glass.
“Jesus, Lou. You scared me.” He exhales after a moment, but there’s no real weight behind it. The words soften the second they leave his mouth.
Louis grins, lowering the gun. “You leave yourself so unguarded.”
Harry doesn’t answer that, he just watches as Louis sits down beside him in the cramped space. Their arms brush together, and the feeling is all warm. Harry turns, watching the side of Louis’ face in the washed out light. This close, he notices the paleness of Louis’ neck and the way that it seems to stand out against the sheep-skin of his jacket.
Unguarded, Louis said.
“I’m not sure that’s true.” Harry answers finally, his voice low.
Louis glances over at him, and they’re suddenly face to face—green eyes locked on blue, blue eyes looking back. It’s tense, suddenly, like the racks are closing in on either side of them. The air is heavy, suffocating, and maybe it’s just Harry that feels it, but he can, and it’s there.
The love. Bright and obvious, Harry feels it.
“Louis,” he starts, but then the nearby sounds of footsteps are shattering the silence, footsteps followed by the muffled noise of conversation.
“Where are they?” Someone says, and it’s Niall’s voice.
“Dunno,” Zayn answers. “Have you checked over there?”
“Bloody hell.” Louis whispers, moment shattered as he looks away, rising to look over the top of the table. “It’s all three of them.”
Harry stays on the ground, just watching Louis watch the world.
Of course, they’re found eventually. It was only a matter of time.
Liam loses the game, but the boys all end up chipping in.
Just to be fair, Zayn explains.
Harry sees right through that.
The drive home is quiet, peaceful.
Frost blurs the cold glass of the passenger window, but Harry keeps his eyes on the world outside of it, keeps his eyes on the swollen light of the sun. The trees are broken up by the speed, blurring into ghosts.
And even though he’s not looking, he can feel Louis’ warmth spreading across the distance between them, and he finds himself glancing over every once and while, making sure he’s not imagining it.
Sometimes Louis feels his gaze and he looks over, and they stare at each other for a moment before Louis smiles, just a little, before looking away again.
“Do you think it’s going to hurt?” Niall asks after a while of silence.
Liam frowns. “Do we think what will hurt?”
“The solar flare.” Niall says, and the sunlight slanting in through the window washes over him, lighting him up. It makes the blue of his eyes look gray. “Do you think we’ll be able to feel it?”
Things are quiet for a moment, and then the moment stretches on.
Gravel snaps beneath the tires as they drive down the slush-covered road, the silence settling between them like ashes, and Harry wonders about the answer. Will they feel it? He’s not sure.
He hasn’t really thought about that aspect of the end at all—the actual ending, the actual moment when the sun will bend down to the earth and drown it in light, in warmth and heat, putting them to sleep.
“No.” Louis says finally, scattering Harry’s thoughts, and his smile is tight as he turns down a bend in the road. He doesn’t look away from the dashboard, and Harry watches as his eyes grow deep beneath the light of the dying sun. “I honestly don’t think we’ll feel a thing.”
“Yeah, I reckon you’re right.” Niall says. “It’ll be fast, right? Instant.”
“We won’t even know it’s happening.” Louis agrees, and Harry catches the way that his fingers tighten over the wheel, knuckles turning white.
He’s lying, Harry notices. He’s lying through his teeth.
Of course he is, he’s Louis. He’s always been like this.
Not wanting any of them to feel sad, to feel afraid. He’s not pretending to be okay for the fear of not looking okay, he’s pretending to be okay because he wants them to be. And it’s like, in that moment, Harry is so overwhelmed with love for the boy he can’t even take it.
Sometimes he forgets that Louis is the oldest, but it’s times like this when he remembers. It’s like when they were eliminated off of X-Factor all those years ago, and Louis hadn’t cried until later when Harry couldn’t seem to make himself stop, and Harry couldn’t comfort Louis like he wanted to because of the cameras, burning heavy on their backs.
And it’s not like that anymore, but it is.
Harry wants to reach out and take Louis’ hand in his own, but he knows he can’t. Still, on his lap, his fingers shake—they sing a song, that rat-tat-tattling of desire.
Sighing, Harry turns back towards the window, and he watches as Niall’s words seem to paint themselves in the frost: Do you think we’ll be able to feel it?
It’s a question that’s been answered, but it’s still a question that follows him home.
The sky darkens from pale blue into black, and Harry wants to sleep, but he doesn’t. He wants to sleep, but he can’t, because moonlight is washing in through the bedroom window and making shapes on the ceiling, and he can’t stop watching them, can’t stop thinking that they seem bright blue.
Shifting in bed, Harry sighs.
Maybe what he needs is some fresh air.
Some time to think, or to wander, or to breathe. He should go outside, see if the cold air can help put him to sleep.
“Okay,” he says to himself, and his voice seems loud against the silence of the room. Kicking his way out of the sheets, Harry steps out of bed and winces at the cold shock of the wood against his bare feet.
Stumbling around in the dark, he manages to pull on a pair of jogging pants over his boxers and find a pair of knitted socks, the air cool on his back as he pulls a jumper on over his white t-shirt.
He’s quite as he moves down the stairs.
The entire house swims in shadows and everything is muted out, all blue and white, echoes of any real colours. At the front door, Harry shrugs into his jacket and steps into his boots before quietly making his way to the kitchen. Once he’s in the kitchen, he makes his way to the door, sliding open the glass and stepping outside.
The air is cold, but nice, like pool water at the end of the summer.
Shutting the door behind him, Harry walks out to the edge of the balcony, boots crunching over the snow and ice. Breathing in, Harry leans against the rail, letting the cold seep into his jacket sleeves.
The sky is a well of ink, spilling out over everything.
Once again, it is completely empty of stars, but in the distance Harry can see the frozen pond and the pine trees, so he keeps his eyes on that, and in the quiet, time stretches on.
He feels Louis before he sees him.
Glancing back, he sees that Louis’s standing beside the snow-covered patio set, his hair tousled with sleep, bundled up in his gloves and his red jacket. His presence makes Harry feel more awake somehow, so Harry smiles, sleepy. “Hey.”
“Hello.” Louis grins, walking up to stand beside Harry. He leans down and rests his arms over the frosted rail of the balcony, but he keeps his eyes on Harry, heavy and blue. “Couldn’t sleep?”
“Couldn’t sleep.” Harry agrees.
Louis watches him, frowning. “Did you have a bad dream?”
“No.” Harry says, trying not to think too hard about the times back when Louis would help him with his bad dreams. The times when Louis would climb into his bed and kiss them away. “No, I don’t know. You ever have those nights when your thoughts are just too much?”
Louis nods, but he says nothing, and then Harry’s watching as he looks away, blue eyes settling on the distant moon.
Harry’s half-asleep and wide awake and the same time, energy and tiredness buzzing through him like lightning, and he can’t even stop himself from just watching.
Watching Louis and the bend of his back, the small slope of everything that he is. In the dimness, the red of his jacket shines bright, and there’s that searchlight again, making him glow.
It lights him up, and Harry’s so in love with him that it hurts.
“Have you been seeing anyone?” He asks, out of nowhere.
He doesn’t know why he says it, he really doesn’t, there’s just something about the half-asleep state of the world that pulls it from his mouth.
Louis turns towards him, eyes wide. “What?”
“I’m asking if you’ve seen anyone else.” Harry says.
Louis just stares at him for a moment, and Harry can see that he’s bloody so out of line here. He can feel it in his gut like something twisting, digging deeper—he is the one who left after all. But now he’s here, Louis’ here, the world is ending, and Harry just has to know.
Louis shakes his head, disbelieving. “It’s been five years, Harry—”
“I know.” Harry agrees, because believe him, he does. “Please.”
Louis keeps staring, and for a moment Harry’s afraid that he’s lost him, but then Louis shakes his head, huffing out a breath that paints the air white. When he speaks, his words are slow. “Two years ago.” He starts, looking at his hands. “The night you called me.”
Louis trails off, but it’s enough for Harry to realize where this is going. The pieces shift and lock together, and there it is, an answer, a punch to the gut.
“You were with him.” He says, feeling dizzy.
“Yeah,” Louis nods. “Yeah, Harry, I was.”
“What.” Harry starts, breathing slow. “Um. What was his name?”
Louis stares at him. “Why are you doing this, Harry? I told you that I want us to be mates, and you’re just ruining that.”
“I just need to know, Louis. Please.”
Louis sighs, and Harry watches as his breath turns white in the air. It looks like smoke, like ashes, bright against the ink blue sky. Harry thinks of the phrase dust to dust, and it’s ridiculous how much he wants to cry.
“His name was Aiden.” Louis says, looking down at his hands.
“Aiden.” Harry repeats after a moment, and the vowels taste like copper in his mouth. He tastes blood. “He sounds nice.”
“He was.” Louis agrees. “He was really nice.”
Harry can’t even speak, he just keeps imagining some faceless boy in all the places that he should have been. In Louis’ bed, in Louis’ heart. He was such an idiot for leaving.
“Then you called.” Louis continues, his eyebrows furrowing like he’s remembering the night. “You called and I heard your voice for the first time in three years, and I just—I couldn’t do it anymore, you know? I told him to leave.”
Harry shakes his head, because that’s not what he wanted.
He didn’t want to be the reason for Louis’ sadness even when he wasn’t around. “I don’t want to hear that—”
“You were such a bloody asshole, Harry, you know that? You were a fucking prick to me, but all I could think about was how much I missed you.” Louis exhales sharply, scrubbing a hand down his face. “Back when we were in the band, you know, with the press and all that—I know what they said. I know what people thought, but you? You were so stupid to ever doubt that I loved you.”
“I know.” Harry says, because he does. He really does.
“I don’t even get it.” Louis sighs, looking up to watch him again. “To this day, I still don’t understand it. Like, what did you think, Harry? That a few days with her would be enough to make me straight? To forget about you?”
Laid out like that, Harry sees Louis’ hurt, he sees what he’s done. He sees it, and all of a sudden he wants to apologize, because Louis doesn’t owe him an explanation. Louis doesn’t owe him this. “Fuck, Lou.” Harry says, his hands shaking at his sides. “I’m so sorry.”
“But why did you do it?” Louis asks, and his voice is growing sharper now. It’s growing louder. “You knew I didn’t have a choice, Harry. What, did you think it was fun for me? That I enjoyed it?”
“No, Lou, come on. I didn’t think that. I know it was hard on you—”
“And yet you still left!” Louis shouts as he turns to face Harry, breathing heavily. “It wasn’t my choice and you still fucking left! And every time the press or the papers or the fans would come closer to figuring out how much of a fucking liar I was, you would be so bloody happy about it!”
Louis breaks off, and Harry just stares, lost.
“I wasn’t happy about it.” He says after a moment. “That—what you saw, that wasn’t happiness, Louis, that was relief.”
“Right.” Louis sighs, shaking his head.
“No, I’m serious.” Harry says, desperate. “If it was them that figured it out, what was going on between us, then it wasn’t our fault. It wasn’t your fault. I was stupid, Louis, and I loved you first. I just wanted them all to know that.”
Louis stares at him and Harry wants to know what he’s thinking.
“I lied earlier,” Louis begins, his breath rattling on an exhale. “When you first showed up at my door, when I first saw you—I really wanted to just punch your bloody teeth in.”
Harry nods, moving in closer. “So why didn’t you, Lou? I want you to.”
“Because,” Louis starts, shaking his head like he can’t believe himself. “Because, Harry, I felt happy to see you. I wanted to punch your teeth in but at the same time, I was so fucking happy to see you. And when I remembered how your body looked the day before you left, I sort of thought to myself, no, I couldn’t hurt that. I couldn’t hurt him.”
The moment Louis says them, Harry wants to take the words and shove them right back into his mouth, because there’s no bloody way in hell that Louis understands what he’s doing right now, what kind of thoughts he’s making Harry think. He’s just standing there, watching Harry with eyes that say nothing.
Looking at Louis, Harry lets the tide of emotion pull him in.
“Punch me.” He says, coming face to face with Louis. His voice breaks when he speaks, ice shattering. “Just fucking hit me, Louis. I deserve it.”
“Stop.” Louis says, shaking his head. “Harry, stop.”
Harry pushes him, a collision of hands against chest. “Punch me, Louis! Fuck, just punch me! Come on!”
“Harry, fuck off!” Louis shouts, pushing him back, and Harry stumbles but he stays upright. “I don’t want to hurt you!”
Harry moves in again, hostile, laughing like he doesn’t give a damn. “Oh, fuck that, Louis! You didn’t seem to give a bloody shit about hurting me when you were out fucking Aiden what’s-his-face!”
The words fly out of his mouth before he can stop them.
They stand between them in the moonlight and they don’t seem true.
The moment is frozen, stilted, completely frosted-over, and Louis is just staring at him, blue eyes wide like he can’t believe what Harry just said.
Harry—well, Harry can’t believe it either. He doesn’t have time to think about it, though, because Louis is punching him.
Louis is punching him, and for the first time since they met, Louis’ hands are on Harry and it doesn’t feel good. At the same time, though, it does, because Harry deserves it. It’s a wildfire of fist smacking bone, a sound that echoes, and Harry hits the snow-covered balcony with a thud.
Stars spin across Harry’s vision, pain flaring up inside him like a sun, and he blinks it away, trying to sit back up. But then Louis’ there, wrestling him down onto the ground, the ice feeling like cold metal against the small of his back. He fights against Louis and Louis fights back, their winter jackets muffling the sounds, making it awkward.
And then finally, Louis straddles Harry’s thighs, pinning him down.
“You were the one who left.” He says, breathing heavily. “Not me.”
Harry stills, suddenly caught off guard by the closeness of it all. Louis is right there, right above him, his pale face standing out against the pitch black sky, and his eyes look so deep like this. They look so blue.
Behind him, the moon washes the world in silver.
“I know.” Harry admits, a slow exhale of breath. “God, Louis. I know.”
Louis doesn’t speak for a moment, just watching Harry, and then his gloved hands are coming up to rest on Harry’s neck, a chokehold with no force behind it. “You’ve,” Louis starts, eyebrows furrowing as he watches his hands on Harry’s neck. “I think you may have ruined me for anyone else.”
Harry lets his eyes fall shut, and he shakes his head. “You know that’s not what I wanted,” he says, and it’s true, but it’s not.
He can’t even think straight, can’t even form words that don’t sound something like Louis’ name. Behind his closed eyelids, the darkness swims, and there it is again, the bright blue. Harry swallows, opening his eyes again. Louis comes into focus, the lines of his face softened by the moonlight, and Harry can’t even stop what comes out of his mouth.
“I just love you so much, Louis.” He says, “And I didn’t mean what I said. I didn’t mean it at all, and you deserve a lot more than I can give you.”
“Harry—” Louis starts, fingers brushing over Harry’s throat.
“I love you.” Harry says again, because it feels right. It feels warm, like something glowing a lot brighter than the sun. “Fuck, Louis, I keep trying to stop it but I just end up back here. Every time, I end up right here.”
Louis thinks about that, his thumbs trailing over Harry’s jaw. “If the world wasn’t ending,” he says, looking straight at Harry. “If the world wasn’t ending, would you still be here?”
Harry is quiet for a second before answering. “Yeah.” He says, “I really think I would be. Maybe not now, I mean, but eventually. I don’t think I could have ever gone on forever without you.”
Louis nods, thoughtful, and then: “They said it was a suicide attempt.”
Hesitant, Harry looks at him. “Do you believe that?”
“I don’t want to,” Louis answers, his hands moving around to the back of Harry’s neck. Lightly, he tugs at Harry’s hair, and then everything’s coming back up, all of these things that Harry’s been fighting to forget.
The desire, the want, the love so bright that it’s blinding.
Swallowing thickly, Harry watches as Louis moves in closer, his words falling into Harry’s open mouth. “I really don’t want to believe that.”
Harry’s dazed, blissed out. He doesn’t know how he got here. “I was thinking about you.”
“When the car hit.” He explains. “I was thinking about you.”
Louis stares at him, watchful. “You were thinking about me?”
Harry nods, shivering against the cold that sinks in through his jeans. “The woman on the radio, she asked me—I mean I was stopped at a red light and she asked the listeners if we had regrets, and I realized that I did.”
He breaks off, swallowing, and Louis says nothing.
Louis just looks at him at him for a moment, and then suddenly his gloved thumbs are brushing over Harry’s chapped mouth—suddenly he’s spreading warmth there, returning colour.
“Louis.” Harry breathes, his whole body going still.
“Fuck.” Louis says, eyes on Harry’s mouth. “I can’t do this.”
Harry’s frozen, because he doesn’t know what that means. “Lou—”
But then he cuts himself off as Louis leans in, resting his forehead down against Harry’s. He speaks, and the words muffle themselves against Harry’s cheek. “I can’t do this,” he repeats, voice breaking like a wave. “Shit, Curly, I can’t just be friends with you.”
Harry can’t believe the words he’s hearing, doesn’t know if it’s a trick or what, but he’s so in love with Louis that it aches. Like a bruise or a burn, the love is there, and it’s bigger than it ever was.
“I love you.” He says, tilting his head up into Louis’ touch. His words are blurred around the edges when he speaks. “Louis, I love you.”
Beneath the silver light of the moon, the black of Louis’ pupils are blown out, surrounded by a circle of blue. Harry opens his mouth a bit wider, he lets Louis’ gloved thumb slip inside, blinking slow.
Louis swallows and backs away, still sitting over Harry’s legs, and he keeps his thumb right where it is. “You’ve got blood on your mouth,” he says.
Harry swallows, doesn’t know what else to do. “Yeah.”
And then he’s moving in closer again, closer and closer until his bottom lip is brushing against Harry’s top lip, striking matches in the middle of winter. Harry feels like a boy again, he feels like a bloody child, because everything about this is so familiar yet so new, and he can’t take it.
“Louis.” He breathes, his whole body slack with feeling.
“You really fucked me up.” Louis says for the second time, and the words wash over Harry’s mouth like rain. So he swallows them, he drinks them up, because he knows they’re true, and because he’s sorry.
“I’m sorry.” Harry whispers, his mouth so close to Louis’ that he can’t even think straight. The cold wood of the balcony digs into his back but all he can feel is Louis sitting over him, Louis’ thumb in his mouth.
“I know.” Louis says, and then he’s taking his thumb out of Harry’s mouth and putting his lips there instead, lips moving in a way that makes Harry see stars. Louis put the blood there and now he’s cleaning it up, and that, Harry thinks—that’s got to mean something.
“Lou,” Harry groans suddenly, mouth opening up.
Louis’ hands are rough on either side of Harry’s face and Harry lets his eyes fall shut as he kisses back, open-mouthed and hungry, his whole body buzzing with love and desire.
Louis’ kisses slow, like he’s trying to remember, and Harry’s starting to feel the warmth in his toes again.
He’s shaking, from the cold or something else, he’s not sure.
“Tell me you won’t leave.” Louis says, breaking away.
Harry opens his eyes, swallowing dizzily when he notices the swollen pinkness of Louis’ mouth. Louis’ just looking at him, waiting, and Harry doesn’t understand.
“The world is ending,” he says.
Louis kisses him again, sudden and searching, but then he pulls back, his blue eyes flickering over the green of Harry’s. “Tell me you wouldn’t leave if you had the chance.”
Harry watches Louis for a moment, trying to understand.
And then, all of a sudden, he understands. This has been just has hard on Louis as it has on him—maybe even more so, because Louis didn’t do the leaving. Louis was left. Louis was left alone by the one person he probably thought he could trust with his life.
It’s a realization that makes Harry feel like shit.
He exhales, pushing Louis over onto his back and laying between his legs, cold hands cradling the sides of Louis’ face. “You’ve missed me, haven’t you?” He says, thumbs brushing the space beside Louis’ ears.
Louis huffs out a laugh, and his breath is all white. Staring up at Harry, his eyelashes are dusted in snow. “You’re a prick, you know that?”
“I wouldn’t leave.” Harry says suddenly, moving in to press a small kiss to Louis’ cheek, to Louis’ nose and to the slope of his jaw. It’s unbelievable, what this does to him. How much this matters. “I wouldn’t leave you,” he says against Louis’ top lip. “I’d die if I did.”
“You’d die anyways.” Louis grins. “The solar flare, remember.”
Harry smiles, shaking his head as he kisses Louis again, their mouths pressed together as the winter air moves around them, cold and glacial. It starts out slow, careful, but when Louis brings his hands up to tangle in Harry’s hair and pulls lightly, Harry’s mouth opens up around a loud moan, pleasure racking through him like a wave.
Louis laughs at that, licking wetly across Harry’s bottom lip. “You like that, don’t you?”
Harry nods, unable to form words, and he kisses Louis again—roughly this time, breathing in through his nose like it’s the only way he knows how. His whole body is on fire and he can’t believe he went so long without this, really, he doesn’t understand how he ever went to sleep without kissing Louis’ mouth first.
Suddenly, he’s being pushed over onto his back and Louis’ laid out between his legs again, kissing deep into his mouth like he’s trying to light fires. Harry’s overwhelmed by their closeness, by all the places where Louis is touching him. With their chests pressed together, Harry can feel Louis’ warmth even through the thickness of their jackets.
Like drowning, he thinks. This is like drowning.
The sun can’t touch them here.
“I’ll be right back,” Louis says, moving out into the hallway.
Harry nods, but all he’s really thinking is that Louis’ voice sounds like honey, and he wants to pour it in a cup and drink it up. It’s pathetic, what Louis does to him. He makes his body feel electric.
Harry sighs, restless, sitting on the foot of Louis’ bed.
He’s not entirely sure how he got here. It’s like one minute he was kissing Louis and then all of a sudden he wasn’t, light shifting to dark, light swallowed up. Harry doesn’t like it.
Half-asleep but still wide awake, he waits for Louis to come back.
Already stripped down to a pair of white underwear and a knitted pair of socks, he lets the warmth comes back to his toes, a feeling that’s all pins and needles. Like stepping on glass, but less avoidable.
Louis’ bedroom is a web of shadow and moonlight.
It’s partly lost in darkness and Harry can’t make anything out, not really. One wall is almost all window, facing out towards front lawn and the driveway, and outside, the world looks silvery and frosted. A purple sky and pine trees made up of ice and snow.
In the day time, it’s probably brighter.
He imagines sitting in the center of the sun.
Louis’ back a moment later, his footsteps whispering across the carpeted floor. When he comes to stand in front of Harry, the moonlight hits him and turns him silver, and Harry sees that he’s carrying a metal basin full of ice water and mint leaves. He raises an eyebrow, and Louis just smiles. “It’ll help with the bruising.”
“I see.” Harry says, a small grin growing on his face despite himself.
He watches as Louis wrings out a small wash cloth and then kneels down to settle on the floor, shuffling in between Harry’s legs.
“I love it when you hurt me and then make me all better.” Harry says.
Louis grins, shaking his head like he’s embarrassed. “Shut up.”
Moonlight brightens the line of his face and Harry thinks it might be magic, the way he glows like that. In all the years he’s been out looking, he could never find somebody who does it in the same way.
“Close your eyes,” Louis says, so close to Harry that it’s startling.
Harry listens, shivering as he feels the first press of soaking wet cloth against his eyelids, and then over his mouth, his cheekbones. It smells like mint and driftwood, reminding Harry of the sea.
“Lou,” he mumbles, “I’m not hurt all over.”
“I know,” Louis admits, his voice soft. Harry can tell that he’s smiling. “I just think it’s quite funny watching you shake like that.”
“You’re a bastard.” Harry laughs, but he keeps his eyes closed. Drops of water run down his chest, cold and wet, and he breathes out shakily, mouth opening as Louis wipes the cold cloth over his throat. “I’m getting excited over here,” he says, his voice low.
He means it as a joke but it rings true, and Louis’ movements still almost immediately. Harry opens his eyes and Louis’ staring right at him, blue gaze flickering from his mouth and then up to his eyes.
Louis places the cloth back into the basin, licking his lips.
They watch each other and it feels like the whole world is frozen in place, right here and now, and it feels like time has actually stopped, like they’ve finally won this war they’ve got going with the sun.
Half of Louis’ face is edged in moonlight, and Harry feels loved. Breathing slowly, his eyes almost shut as Louis’ hands tangle in his hair, because it’s like he’s got electricity in his fingertips, red-hot and burning.
Harry swallows, suddenly hot in all the places where he just felt cold.
Louis leans in and then suddenly they’re kissing again, mouths pressed together like a secret in the dimly lit bedroom. Kissing Louis is a lot like breathing, something Harry knew how to do before he actually did it, but even so—his heart’s beating so fast he can feel it in his throat.
Louis breaks away from him then, and Harry’s watches as he pulls his jumper off over his head, pale stretch of stomach looking like a sliver of moonlight. In the dimness, Louis’ blue eyes are hooded.
“God, Lou.” He says, and his voice is cotton, it’s absolutely wrecked.
Louis stares back at him, lips kissed red. “Lay down.”
His voice is soft and lovely and Harry just nods, shuffling back on the bed until he’s laid out over the thin cotton sheets. He kicks off his socks but leaves his underwear on, watching Louis as Louis watches him. He’s looking at Harry like Harry’s something worth looking at, like he’s something special, and Harry’s whole body feels warm with the realization that maybe Louis still loves him like he used to.
The air around them shifts, becoming heavier.
Smiling sleepily, Harry licks over his lips as Louis crawls onto the bed, making his way up towards Harry. He’s wearing nothing but a pair of thin black boxers, and Harry can’t even do anything than just lay there. Louis stops between Harry’s legs and leans down, kissing slowly over his chest and then moving down to his stomach, the soft fringe of his bangs brushing across Harry’s belly, stirring butterflies.
Harry’s body burns with it, heat pooling down in his groin.
Oh, he thinks, smiling stupidly. The lust of recognition.
Louis goes lower, kissing over the soft trail of hair leading down into Harry’s boxers, and it tickles so much that Harry giggles, he fucking giggles like a little girl, his hands moving from his sides to run through Louis’ hair.
“You’re a creep,” he says, mouth stretching out in a sheepish grin.
Louis laughs, the sound muffled against Harry’s belly, and Harry’s suddenly struck by the intimacy of it all. He’s struck by the closeness, by the light of the silver moon. It’s strange, how easy this is, being here like this after years of being apart. It’s like he exists only in the places where Louis is touching him. Exhaling shakily, Harry’s stomach flutters as Louis kisses up his chest, over his collarbones and his throat. He’s going slow, handing kisses out like apologies that Harry doesn't deserve.
Spurred on by emotion, Harry pulls Louis up gently by his hair and kisses him again, roughly this time, his mouth bruising with the force of it.
The shadows shift around them, moonlight falling in squares over the bed, over their half-naked bodies, and Harry is so in love that it hurts. He was so stupid to ever think that he could get over this.
“Lay back,” Louis whispers, his words blurred against Harry’s mouth.
Harry leans back against the pillows again, breath hitching as Louis’ fingers wrap around the waistband of his underwear, pulling them down over his thighs. Harry lifts his bum off the mattress, letting Louis get them all the way off, and then suddenly he’s more naked than he’s been in a long time. In more ways than one, he’s laid bare.
His cock lies hard against the long valley of his stomach and Louis’ thumb brushes over his hipbone, resting on the bruise there.
“I should’ve came,” he says, eyebrows furrowing in thought. His voice seems broken, and Harry doesn’t like that at all. “I should’ve been there, Haz. I’m so sorry.”
Harry shakes his head, smiling. “No, I’m glad you weren’t. I was a mess.”
Louis stares at him, and ends up laughing. “You’re still a mess.”
“Yeah, but I’m a hot one, though.” Harry teases.
“That you are, Curly.” Louis grins, moving away and standing at the foot of the bed again. Harry’s heart quickens as he watches Louis strip out of his boxers, standing naked in a silvery square of moonlight.
He’s like milk and honey, and Harry can’t even stop his eyes from drifting down to the hard line of Louis’ dick.
“Jesus,” he breathes, the word punched out of him. “You’re perfect. I mean, you’ve always been wonderful, but like—”
“Shut up, oh my god.” Louis smiles, almost embarrassed as he moves back onto the bed. The mattress dips slightly beneath his weight and he kneels between Harry’s open legs, kissing along the insides of them, and then over Harry’s belly and cock.
“Fuck,” Harry moans, his whole body jolting up with the feeling.
Louis pushes him back down, smiling. “Stay still, you pervy little freak.”
Harry laughs, breathless, and he can’t even think. All he can feel is Louis’ warm mouth against his skin and the arousal spiking up inside of him—it flows through his body like a flood, curling his toes and making his breath come out in short little bursts.
It should be embarrassing, but it isn’t.
“Roll over,” Louis says, coming up to kiss Harry on the mouth before moving him so that he’s on his knees and elbows, hands crossed over the sheets like he’s praying for something. And then Louis’ right behind him, kissing over his back and down the soft slope of his spine, and Harry wonders if he can feel him shaking.
“Do you—” Louis starts, the words a puff of hot air against Harry’s ear. “Do you need anything?”
Yeah,” Harry nods, dizzy with arousal. “Yeah, it’s been a while.”
Louis is quiet for a moment, but he doesn’t end up saying anything at all.
Harry wonders what that means.
The bed dips as Louis gets off it and then there’s the soft sounds of his footsteps across the carpet; there’s the muffled sound of him shuffling around in drawers. And then he’s back behind Harry, a feeling that’s all warm heat and bare skin. Harry tenses, shutting his eyes at the cold wetness that spreads between his cheeks, followed by the slow touch of Louis’ fingers inside, and it’s fucking strange after such a long time, but he doesn’t complain.
He just keeps his body still until the slight pain fades out into something else, something nicer that makes his body flush and his knees shake like they’re about to give out beneath him.
“Fuck,” he moans, pushing back into Louis’ hand.
Louis laughs, fond. “You’re ready, then?”
Harry nods, but he can’t even bring himself to smile because everything feels so good and his body’s not working right, it’s just wired to react at every brush against his skin. Louis is fucking electric, and Harry’s cock is hard against his stomach even as he kneels on all fours.
“Oh my god—oh, fuck,” Harry pants loudly, tensing up as Louis pushes in, filling him up. He’s missed this so much. There’s nothing like it, the feeling of Louis alive and throbbing inside the shell of his own body.
“I’d threaten to cover your mouth,” Louis says, his voice strained as he starts to move, “but I know for a fact that you’re into that.”
Harry does laugh at that, but it turns into another moan as Louis pushes in deeper, almost brushing up against that spot inside him.
He goes slow at first but then he speeds up as Harry begins to relax, a quick thrust of hips that becomes a blur of white heat and stars, stars spinning behind Harry’s closed eyes like dust, like snow, like the snow outside, pale and silvery and frosted.
His body moves like it’s made up of desire.
The room shifts and blurs around him, air heavy and intoxicating, and Harry tilts his head back so that he’s kissing Louis again. It’s messy but it’s so fucking good and he groans out loud as he feels Louis’ hand come around to wrap around his cock, just barely brushing it, but it feels—
It feels—unbelievable, really, and he’s not even sure how he went so long without it, without Louis, without his boy behind him and inside him and everywhere else, taking up space, making everything worth doing, worth living, worth looking at.
“Shit,” Louis groans, warm breath falling onto Harry’s back.
Harry nods, completely breathless at the slow prickling sensation that moves through him and makes gaps in his vision, in his memory.
All he remembers is the slow curve of Louis’ name.
“Fuck, I’m close,” Louis breathes, and then he’s turning Harry over to lay on his back, feet hooked over the bend of Louis’ shoulder. At this angle, Harry can see the arousal swimming through Louis’ eyes and so he keeps his gaze on that. Likes knowing that he’s the reason behind it.
Louis stares at him as he speeds up, pale squares of moonlight washing over some parts of his body. It’s like a display, bringing attention to his shoulders and his belly, the sharp curve of his collarbones. His cock.
“Touch yourself.” Louis says, and his voice is all worn-out.
Harry does as he’s told, smiling up at Louis as he strokes himself, dick hard and leaking against his stomach. “I like it when you boss me around, you know that?”
Louis laughs, his blue eyes flickering down to the place where he’s moving in and out of Harry, quick thrusts that send both of them panting. “Yeah, and I like it when you let me.”
That’s the end of them speaking for a while.
Harry moans as Louis speeds up even more, hitting that spot inside of him that makes the world spin and whirl. And it’s like the walls of the bedroom fall away as Louis comes, his body jolting in a way that he can’t even stop. Harry follows soon after, groaning loud, and it’s just him and Louis and the night time sky, pale purple above their heads.
Pale and silvery and frosted, the sun is nowhere in sight.
“Jesus,” Harry breathes, sounding like he’s about to cry or laugh as Louis leans down and kisses him again, licking deep into his mouth like he’s searching for something. Harry kisses back slowly, hoping that Louis finds it.
The room comes back eventually, all of the walls falling back into place, all of the shadows going back to where they belong. Once again, the room is a blur of moonlight and frost.
“You are too bloody much, Curly.” Louis says, smiling against Harry’s mouth. Both of them are messy with sweat and come but Harry doesn’t think that matters, not really, because Louis is kissing him.
Louis is kissing him and it’s better than he ever thought it could be.
And later on, after they finally clean up, when they’re wrapped up in each other like they’ve always been, Harry passes his words across the sea of cotton sheets, hoping that they form themselves into a something like a question.
“Why Leeds?” He says, his voice smudged with sleep.
Louis is quiet for a moment, long enough that Harry almost thinks he’s fallen asleep. But then he speaks, and his breath warm against Harry’s cheek. “Dunno,” he breathes, “I suppose I felt like it was the only place where I could find you.”
And Harry’s about to say something to that, because it makes him feel warm and light and hazy, but he’s already gone—he’s already falling back into the heady remoteness of sleep, sinking down into a place where he dreams of blue eyes and a world where the sun never rises.
Louis’ side of the bed is empty.
This is the first thing that Harry notices when he wakes up naked in the middle of the sun, white cotton sheets draped over his legs like an afterthought. His bum is sore. Squinting against the light, he rubs sleep from his eyes and lets the room come into focus in degrees.
Now that it’s daytime, the place is a lot easier to make out.
The walls are warm and panelled in wood, and the carpets are dark gray. Harry notices a fire-place that he didn’t notice last night, right across the bed beside a door that’s shut. He assumes it leads into a bathroom or a closet or whatever, because the door on the other wall is half open and it leads out into the hallway. When Harry looks through it, he can see the top of the staircase and a slice of the foyer chandelier, all lit up with candles that glow.
Voices, laughter, and the clinking of silverware float up from the kitchen downstairs, but it all sounds distant and faraway, like it has to travel for miles before reaching him. Harry likes that.
Once he gets out of bed, it’s like clockwork, and he ends up at the window again.
The glass is frosted and cold but he presses his forehead against it anyways, shivering at the draft that makes goose bumps rise on his skin. Jesus. It’s bloody freezing, but outside, the world seems soft. It’s all white and gold, lit up by the winter sun.
Harry blinks as he notices that down on the front lawn, Louis is sitting on the hood of his car, wearing nothing but sweat-pants and a long sleeved shirt. The car is blanketed in snow and Louis must be fucking freezing, especially his ass, and Harry almost laughs to himself, because, yeah— he thinks he knows how he could warm Louis up.
He’s about to crack open the window, but that’s when Louis throws the first stone.
Aimed at the sun, it flies up and arches into the sky, a gray speck of nothing against the white milk of the world. It falls down, spinning, landing somewhere further down on the drive, and Harry’s not quite sure what this means or if it means anything at all.
He keeps his eye on Louis, wishing that he would turn around and look up at the window—wishing that he could see the details of his face.
But Louis keeps throwing stones and Harry wonders why.
There are five days left until the end of the world and Louis is throwing stones at the sun. The sun that, in less than a week, is going to consume the entire planet. The sun that is going to swallow them whole. Harry’s been trying not to think about it too much, but when he looks at it like that, he thinks that what Louis’ doing must mean something. It must mean love. It must comfort. It could mean fear, if you look close enough. Harry doesn’t want to look that close.
Sighing, he moves away from the window, and his bare feet whisper over the carpet as he makes his way out of Louis’ bedroom and down the hall, quiet enough that the boys downstairs won’t hear him. He reaches the guest bathroom and steps inside, locking the door behind him.
When Harry showers, he keeps the lights off, and the room is all steam.
The water pounds down on his back, hot needles drumming over his skull, the nape of his neck, and he sinks into the warmth. But morning sunlight trickles in through the square window, lighting up the dark, and Harry realizes that this is something that he can’t get away from.
He really doesn’t want to think that Louis could be terrified.
He doesn’t want to think it, because the thought of it would make him so sad that he could barely stand it. Louis, the careless. Louis, the brave. Breaking down. It’s so fucked up. He just seems so much bigger than the sun.
Harry exhales slow, his forehead resting against the cold shower tiles.
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. We all fall down.
He’s only wearing his boxers and a long sleeve t-shirt when he walks into the kitchen, dark hair still wet from a shower. Zayn’s sitting at the kitchen table with Niall, and Liam’s shuffling around in the fridge, pulling out eggs and milk and setting them down on the counter with a small thud.
“Louis’ not in yet, then?” Harry asks, frowning.
“Nah, he’s still out.” Zayn replies before looking up at Harry, his eyes widening as he takes in the sight.
“Bloody hell,” he says, his mouth stretching up into a slow grin. “You two really did shag last night, didn’t you?”
“We did not.” Harry lies, trying not to smile as he shakes his head and sits down in the seat across from Zayn. He crosses his arms over the glass of the kitchen table, shifting a bit to get comfortable. Zayn keeps looking at him, mouth tilted up like he finds the whole thing so amusing. Harry frowns. “We didn’t shag.”
Niall laughs. “Tommo’s a much better liar than you are, mate. We couldn’t get a thing out of him.” His words are muffled around a spoonful of oatmeal. “Besides,” he adds, still chewing. “You can’t waddle into the kitchen like that and then try to pass it off like you weren’t properly shagged last night.”
Harry laughs suddenly, loud and obnoxious, and he covers his mouth with his hands. His eyes are wide. “Oh my god.”
“Aye, shut up,” Niall says, grinning. “I’ve said worse.”
“The strange thing is that you actually have.” Liam grins, setting an empty bowl down onto the granite countertop before looking over at Harry. “You want anything to eat, mate?”
“No, thanks.” Harry says. “Not very hungry.”
Zayn laughs around the top of his cup, taking a slow sip of his orange juice. “Still full from everything you got a taste of last night, eh, Styles?”
Harry shakes his head, but can’t even help the grin that plays across his face as he looks down at the table. “Now, that’s just rude.”
Niall laughs, giving Zayn a thumbs up before looking over at Harry again, his eyebrows raised. “So you two are back together then?” He starts, and when Harry says nothing, he rolls his eyes dramatically. “Are you boys dating or what?”
“Dating?” Harry repeats, his hands back on the table now.
“Yeah, you know.” Niall continues. “Shagging on the regular.”
“I don’t know.” Harry admits, ignoring the last part of Niall’s comment, and he frowns as he realizes that it’s true. He really doesn’t know. “We haven’t talked about it.”
Niall shrugs, taking another bite of oatmeal.
He doesn’t say another word.
The next evening, the television casts pale shadows across the dimness of the living room, lighting up the place where Niall and Harry are sitting on the sofa across from it.
Louis and Zayn are slumped over on the other couch, and Harry sort of wishes that Louis would come over at sit by him, but it’s true, what he said earlier—he’s not actually sure what they are now, whether they’re together or not. He’s not even sure if it’s something that Louis’ been thinking about. Does he care about that sort of thing? Should it even matter, when the end of the world is sitting five days away, just waiting for them to come up over the horizon?
No, Harry thinks. Probably not.
He shifts on the sofa, glancing over to where Louis is sitting on the other couch, both eyes locked on the television screen. The blue of them looks silver beneath the pale light, and Harry wants to kiss him again.
“Alright, who wants some?” Liam asks, shattering the silence as he walks out of the kitchen and into the living room. Warm orange light frames his body in gold as he looks them over, waiting for an answer.
“Depends on what you’re offering, mate.” Louis teases.
Harry grins at the joke, but he doesn’t miss the way that Zayn kicks Louis in the leg with a frown, like he’s offended on Liam’s behalf.
“Alright,” Liam repeats, smiling. “Who would like some hot chocolate?”
“I’d bloody love some. Good call,” Niall says, stretching his legs out over the couch so that his socked feet are resting on Harry’s lap, heavy. “Extra marshmallows too, please.”
Harry sighs, but he lets Niall keep his feet there, looking up at Liam with a smile instead. “Same here, thanks.”
“I think that’s a yes for everyone then, Li.” Louis adds, his voice spilling out like honey as he smiles, and god, Harry really, really wants to kiss him on the mouth. “You’re a doll.”
Liam shakes his head, grinning as he turns back towards the kitchen. “Alright, four hot chocolates coming up.”
“I should go help him,” Zayn says once Liam’s gone, moving off of the sofa and walking towards the door of the living room, his body lit up by the orange light washing in.
“Yeah, I’m sure he’ll love that.” Niall says, smiling.
Zayn stops, turning back to look at Niall with a careful stare. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
Niall makes a face, looking over at Harry like Harry’s supposed to help him out, but Harry just grins and shakes his head. Niall’s such a bloody idiot sometimes.
“Nothing,” Niall says, clearly thinking hard about it. “I just—Liam can’t very well bring five mugs of hot chocolate back in here himself, can he?”
Harry laughs loudly at that, hand flying up to cover his mouth.
Niall ends up laughing too, shaking his head, and Zayn looks absolutely offended. His eyes are narrowed, voice hushed like he’s afraid Liam will walk back in at any moment. “Just keep it quiet, yeah?”
“Keep what quiet?” Louis asks, but he’s amused.
Zayn sighs, but he doesn’t answer the question. He just stands there.
“Oh, come on, mate. Really?” Niall groans, his eyes wide with disbelief. “You’re not going to tell Liam? Even now?”
Zayn scrubs a hand over his face, looking tired. “He knows, Niall.”
“You’ve told him?”
“I’ve made it obvious, yeah.” Zayn answers.
“You’ve made it obvious,” Niall repeats, laughing like it’s the stupidest thing he’s ever heard. Harry’s quite surprised, to be honest, considering Niall was the one thinking that the end of the world was the wrong time. “Mate, we’re talking about Liam here. That lad doesn’t know anything unless you’ve written it down on paper and fed it to him.”
Harry laughs, punching Niall’s foot on his lap. “Shut up.”
“It’s true, though.”
“You should listen to Harry, Niall. Just shut up.” Zayn says, and then he turns around and disappears into the kitchen without a another word.
Louis laughs, shaking his head as he turns his gaze back towards the television again. “I think you’ve upset him, Nialler.”
“I hope I did.” Niall replies, completely serious.
They don’t talk for a while after that. Harry just listens to the static of the television, not really paying attention to whatever is on screen, and he tries his best not to look at Louis too much.
But it’s hard not to, especially now when all he can think about is the way he felt beneath Louis last night—how midnight had felt frosted and blue as they fell back together onto the balcony, heat spreading through their jackets as they fought, fists melting away into kisses. He remembers the way that Louis’ face had looked so bright against the pitch blackness of the sky as he loomed over Harry, blue eyes so deep that they could’ve been the ocean. He remembers the way that Louis had looked at him and said, shit, Curly, I can’t just be friends with you.
And Harry can’t even take it, all of the love he has for Louis.
“Mate,” Niall whispers suddenly, pulling Harry from his thoughts. Harry blinks, trying to make him out in the dimness. Niall is looking at him, smiling like they’re sharing some sort of inside joke. It’s all white teeth. “You’re doing it again,” he says.
“What?” Harry whispers back.
Niall laughs quietly, but he doesn’t say anything else. He just shakes his head and smiles as he turns back towards the television, the light from the screen edging his face in silver.
Harry frowns, looking away, and then his breath is hitching as he meets Louis’ stare from across the room. Blue eyes watchful, Louis looks at Harry with his mouth quirked up just a little, enough for Harry to see the beginnings of a smile there.
Harry makes a face, trying to act normal, but his stomach is in his bloody throat, heart fluttering like a moth’s wing in his chest. He’s never gotten used to it, being the focus of Louis’ attention.
He doesn’t think he ever will.
Louis’ smile grows a bit wider, pale light washing over the one side of his face as he looks at Harry, and Harry grins back slowly, shaking his head like he finds Louis ridiculous.
Louis’ smile fades away, but his eyes are warm as he nods towards the empty space next to him on the sofa. Come here, he mouths.
Harry blinks, quirking an eyebrow.
Louis grins at that, blue eyes crinkling, but then he pats the empty space next to him and Harry finally gets it. He grins wide, feeling giddy as he moves out from beneath Niall’s legs and feels his way over towards the opposite couch, Louis’ eyes heavy on his face the entire time.
“Oh, thanks, mate.” Niall huffs, teasing. “I feel so loved.”
Harry grins at that, moving to stand in the space between Louis’ legs, his bare feet bracketed in by Louis’ socked ones. He looks down at Louis, blinking slowly. “Hi.”
Louis just stares at him for a moment, and then he’s hooking his thumbs in the belt loops of Harry’s jeans, pulling him closer. “Hi yourself, Curly,” he replies, rucking up Harry’s shirt and brushing his thumbs over the skin there, right above the waistband.
It’s so sudden that it makes Harry gasp, mouth falling open.
“I’m not even going to look,” Niall says, his voice floating over from the other side of the room. “That’s how much I don’t want to know.”
“Sorry, Niall.” Louis grins, but he keeps his eyes on Harry, the soft lines of his face lit up beneath the light of the television, electric blue. Harry thinks he’s absolutely beautiful. “Couldn’t help myself.”
“Still don’t want to know.” Niall says.
Harry laughs at that, and then he’s moving to sit down next to Louis on the sofa, their arms brushing together in the cramped space, couch cushion dipping low beneath his weight.
It feels like fire, being this close. It feels like starlight exploding.
Louis pulls him in closer, and Harry exhales slowly as Louis scratches gently over his skull, small little motions that make Harry feel sleepy but wide awake all at once, energy buzzing through his veins like smoke.
“Don’t do that,” Harry murmurs, leaning into the touch despite himself. It feels so good. “I’ll get excited.”
Louis chuckles quietly, turning his head so that he’s pressing a small kiss to Harry’s temple. “Really?”
“Yeah,” Harry nods, swallowing.
“You’re so bloody easy to rile up,” Louis grins, his words muffled as he speaks into Harry’s hair. “You want me to touch you?”
“What?” Harry asks, his eyes widening. “Like, right now?”
Louis laughs softly, nodding against Harry’s temple. His voice is just a faint murmur, but it sends heat pooling down in Harry’s crotch. “Yeah,” he says, “I want to kiss you.”
Harry turns at that, and then suddenly he’s face to face with Louis in the dimness, just inches of space between their noses, Louis looking down at him while Harry looks up. His whole body is slack with feeling, and he can’t stop his stare from flickering between Louis’ eyes and Louis’ mouth.
“Yeah,” Harry breathes, nodding.
Louis leans forward then, his lips barely brushing the corner of Harry’s mouth—
“Alright, the hot chocolates are ready,” Liam announces, walking back into the room with Zayn and shattering the moment. Harry blinks, frowning as Louis pulls away and smiles up at Liam like he wasn’t just whispering absolutely filthy things in Harry’s ear.
“Thanks, Li.” Louis grins, taking the mug as Liam passes it to him.
“Thanks,” Harry mumbles, taking his cup and bringing it up to his mouth. He’s fucking pissed off at Louis for turning him on like that, for making his jeans feel too tight and the air feel too thick, but all of the harshness melts out of him the moment that he tastes the hot chocolate. It’s foamy and rich, and has those big marshmallows that Harry loves. He groans as it runs down his throat, burning. “God, Liam. That’s good.”
“You’re welcome,” Liam smiles warmly just as Zayn mutters, “Take it to the bedroom, yeah?”
Harry’s mouth quirks up around the lip of his mug. “Shu-up.”
The boys laugh at that, and then a moment later they’re back to talking and chatting as the static spins like a snowstorm on the television screen. Harry can still feel the impression of Louis’ stare on his face, though—it burns, steady and watchful in the dark—so he looks over, his breath almost hitching as he notices that Louis’ looking at his mouth.
He licks his lips, and he doesn’t even realize what he’s doing until Louis’ eyes are widening, flickering up to land on Harry’s.
Louis tilts his head to the side and it’s like he’s trying to say, what are you doing?
Harry just grins at that, shaking his head as he turns back towards the television. The rest of the evening passes by like a dream, and Harry tries to reach out and grasp it, to slow it down, but it trickles through his fingers like sand. Still, he’s happier than he’s been in a long time.
Outside, the blizzard whirls on, cold and white against the night sky.
Inside, though, Harry’s body is all orange heat, and Louis’ still looking at his mouth.
Later on that night, when the house becomes a blur of silence and sleep and moonlight, Harry keeps his sweater on as Louis moves inside of him, around him, all over, forever. Their breath comes out in pants, just small sounds that blur together in the dark, becoming one—and those words echo in Harry’s ears like thunder.
Like thunder, or something softer, something full of love.
Inside him, around him, all over, forever. Forever, forever, forever.
In the early morning, the sky is all gray fog.
Squinting against the weak sunlight, Harry looks out onto the frozen sea as the tide pulls in and out, cold mist spraying over the rocks and making him shiver. The air is heavy with a rain that hasn’t come yet and a flock of seagulls are circling around in the sky, so far away that all Harry can make out is the blurred shape of them, but he’s happy to be here regardless. He really is.
This morning, he’d woken up to Niall whispering come on, mate, we’re going to the beach in his ear, and the sky was still dark at the time but Harry woke up anyways, blinking as he went downstairs and noticed that the boys had already packed up the back of Louis’ truck with surfboards and wetsuits, and that they were all standing there, ready to head out.
“Why didn’t you wake me up?” Harry asked, staring wide-eyed at Louis, who just laughed, blue eyes crinkling.
“Don’t give me that face, Curly, you know how grumpy you are when you don’t get enough sleep. I didn’t want to be on the receiving end of that.”
And, okay, alright. He didn’t think Louis would remember.
Grinning at the thought, Harry shoves his hands into his pockets.
He watches the seagulls for a moment before the sound of laughter pulls his gaze over his shoulder, to where the boys are all standing in their wetsuits a small distance away, off the sand and on the road instead. Their bodies are blurred out by distance but Harry can make out Louis’ shape from here—he’s the only one who’s not in a wetsuit, sitting in the back of his truck wearing sweatpants and a knitted jumper beneath the rest of his layers. Harry’s chest swells a little at the sight of him and he wishes that the sun weren’t shining now, even if it is watery and pale.
He doesn’t want the sun touching Louis—not now, not ever.
Fuck the sun if it gets to be so lucky.
Squinting against the brightness, Harry starts to make his way back to the them, his booted feet crunching over snow and sand as he walks. Seems like he’s always doing that.
As he gets closer, the boys seem to become themselves again, clear and close up. Louis’ looking at him from where he sits in the passenger seat, legs hanging out the side of the door. His gaze is steady, watchful, and Harry swallows as he nears them, heat spreading through his body the way it always does when he’s around Louis.
“The water is bloody freezing,” he says once he reaches the truck, surprised when his voice comes out steady.
He crosses his arms over his chest, keeping warm. “I can’t even feel my toes now.”
Zayn purses his lips, looking past Harry and letting his narrowed gaze settle on the ocean instead. “Yeah, it looks quite cold,” he agrees, almost frowning.
“Fuck it, man, I’m still swimming.” Niall says, and then he’s racing off towards the water with a surfboard at his side, sand and snow flying up behind him like dust. Harry laughs loud, turning to watch as Niall wades out into the ocean, jumping up and down as the icy waves crash around him. “Come on, you lazy bastards!” He shouts.
Liam and Zayn glance at each other, both of them shrugging before they sigh and start making their way towards the shore. Liam turns back a moment later, though, his eyebrows raised.
“You boys aren’t coming, then?”
Harry’s eyes cut back to Louis, but Louis’ just watching him, lips quirked up like he finds something amusing. Harry blinks, not knowing what to say—he’s already in his wetsuit and it might look strange if he decides not to go—but then he remembers that the world is ending, and Louis’ right there, so he says, “No, mate, don’t think I’m feeling up for it.”
He’s speaking to Liam, but his eyes are still on Louis.
Liam’s quiet for a moment before clapping his hands. “Right, well, you two have fun.” There’s a smile in his voice, but then he’s gone, and it’s just Harry and Louis and the distant sound of crashing waves.
It’s fucking freezing, snow falling down in little flurries and making Harry’s bones shake, so Harry just stands there for a moment, watching Louis as Louis watches him.
Tilting his head to the side, Louis grins. “Not feeling up for it, are you?”
Harry shakes his head, smiling back. “No,” he says, walking across the slush-covered pavement to stand between Louis’ legs. “Never felt this bad in my whole life, I don’t think.”
Louis stares at him for a moment, and then he licks his lips and smiles like he can’t even help himself. Harry glows at that, his whole heart swelling up at the fact that he’s made Louis smile, and then his mouth is falling open as Louis reaches out and curls his fingers around Harry’s hips, pulling him closer.
“You’re strange,” Louis says, blue eyes flickering over Harry’s face.
“Don’t believe you,” Harry grins.
“I’m serious, babe, someone made you all wrong.”
Harry laughs at that, shaking his head before looking back at Louis. He shrugs, hands resting on Louis’ thighs.
“Give me proof, then.”
“Yeah, proof. Tell me what’s wrong with me.”
“Alright,” Louis sighs, “Let me have a look at you, then.”
Harry rolls his eyes, but it’s hard to keep a straight face with Louis looking him over like that. Standing up, Louis moves closer, squinting against the sunlight to look at Harry’s face, and Harry’s mouth twitches around a smile. He shivers as Louis’ gloved hands slide up over his neck, thumbs settling at the space beside his ears.
“Oh, it’s your nose,” Louis says finally, his expression torn between a smile and a scowl.
“What? What about my nose?” Harry asks, grinning fully again.
Louis shrugs, pretending to think about it. “It’s too…slopey.”
“Too slopey?” Harry laughs, “What does that even mean?”
"Oh, and your hair." Louis says, one of his hands sliding up a bit—moving from Harry's neck and into the curls there, pulling gently. Harry's grin widens even more as Louis says, "It's too long."
"I can cut my hair, though." Harry replies, wrinkling his nose. The sound of crashing waves floats up from the distance along with the smell of sea salt and driftwood. "That's not good enough."
"I'm not done, you bastard." Louis says, moving his hands down onto Harry’s hips, resting over the spandex of the wetsuit. Harry goes still, his breath lost at the feel of Louis’ hands on his body, setting fire in the middle of winter. “You’re not ticklish.” Louis says after a moment, his thumb rubbing small circles over the jut of Harry’s hipbone. “Major points deducted there, babe."
Exhaling too quickly, it's suddenly way, way too obvious that Harry’s been holding his breath. His skin flushes a little, but he lets out a laugh anyways, hoping that Louis doesn't notice. It would definitely go to his head. “Suppose I am a bit messed up, then.”
“I suppose you are,” Louis agrees, but the words are gentle.
Harry stays quiet, and Louis just blinks up at him, soft and slow like the way he sometimes blinks when he's waking up—only it’s better now, much better, because he’s already awake.
“You’re cold,” Louis frowns.
Harry grins, his eyes crinkling. “Warm me up then.”
Louis laughs at that, and the sound echoes outwards, blurring in with the sound of crashing waves and cawing seagulls. Then he’s moving backwards into the car and pulling Harry in with him, both of them shuffling around in the cramped space. Louis moves over to sit in the passenger’s seat while Harry shuts the car door and gets comfortable on the driver’s side, resting his head back against the frosted glass of the window so that he can watch Louis.
Pale sunlight floods in through the frosted windshield and it edges one side of Louis’ face in gold. It’s still cold in here, their breath coming out white, but Harry likes the closeness of it—he likes the way that the air seems to be holding its breath, waiting.
After a moment, Louis nods towards Harry’s wetsuit. “Turn around, yeah? I’ll unzip you.”
Harry nods, shuffling around so that he’s sitting with his back to Louis instead. Through the fogged glass of the window, he can make out the blurry shapes of the other boys racing along the shore, dark specks against the pale white-blue of the frozen sea.
And then Louis’ hands are brushing against the nape of his neck, tugging gently on the zipper there, pulling it down. Harry shivers as Louis’ fingers trail down his spine, spreading out to push the wetsuit off his shoulders.
“Are my hands cold?” Louis asks, and his voice is so low in Harry’s ear that it reminds him of an ocean wave rising over him, pulling him down.
“No,” he answers, closing his eyes. “Feels good.”
Louis’ quiet for a moment before leaning in and pressing his mouth to the nape of Harry’s neck—not kissing him, just sort of keeping it there, like he’s trying to lose himself in it. A sound gets stuck at the back of Harry’s throat as he lets his head fall back to rest on the top of Louis’, the cold melting away into something better. Louis moves his hands down the front of Harry’s wetsuit so that they’re settled over his belly, and they stay like that for a while—Louis’ mouth on Harry’s neck, all heat in the middle of the winter, surrounded by nothing but fogged glass and the muted sound of waves crashing over rocks.
The boys are still at the ocean when the morning sky becomes deep and dark with evening, stretching out for ages above them. There’s the faint orange glow of a setting on the horizon, and Harry wishes that it would just fuck off. He doesn’t need a reminder.
Burrowing deeper into the blankets, he lets his feet brush up against Zayn’s, who’s sitting across from him in the darkness with a cigarette resting between his teeth, eyes shut. His face glows orange.
Harry exhales slowly, looking up at the sky. The sun is almost gone now, but it’s still there, just enough to put Harry on edge. It’s strange. Before all of this, the sun was like air—always there but never thought about. But now, well, now it’s like a phantom echo, always there even when it isn’t. Always at the back of Harry’s head.
Kind of like Louis, really.
And to be honest, Harry’s not sure which of the two will kill him first.
“This is quite nice, actually.” Liam says after a while of silence, his voice blurring in with the distant crashing of waves. They’re all laid out in the open back of Louis’ truck, bundled up in blankets and listening to the sounds that the sea makes at night, and Liam’s sitting with his head against Zayn’s shoulder. “It’s peaceful, isn’t it?”
Zayn murmurs in agreement and Niall goes, “It is, man,” and Harry just turns his head to watch the side of Louis’ face in the dimness.
It’s tinted orange by the setting sun, hair pushed back beneath a beanie, and Harry thinks again that Louis’ the most beautiful thing in the world. Almost like he felt Harry’s stare, Louis glances over at him and then their faces are only inches apart, tips of their noses almost touching. Harry’s breath hitches a bit, the way it always does when he looks at Louis, and he feels warmth settling inside of him like dust.
Louis blinks and then his fingers are suddenly on Harry’s arm beneath the blanket they’re sharing, tracing tiny shapes there. Letters.
Two lines. A line connecting them. H.
One line. Out of it, three more are born. E.
One line. A forked road. Y.
Harry swallows, his voice small and quiet when he speaks. “Hi.”
It’s quiet enough that only Louis can hear him, quiet enough that it belongs to only them. Louis’ eyes flash with a smile but he doesn’t answer. And he doesn’t move his hand either. Harry’s burning up, can barely breathe, and he almost laughs at himself because this is so ridiculous. He’s a grown man who still loves like a boy.
Louis swallows and then he’s inching closer, turning so that the side of his body is pressed up against the cold metal floor of the truck as he faces Harry. Harry turns too, his knees brushing up against Louis’, and that’s love, Harry thinks. When two people fit together like that.
Louis’ gaze his steady and warm, the edges of his face shaded in orange and gray as he leans in even closer, his forehead resting against Harry’s.
With Louis this close to him, Harry’s head fogs with desire.
He’s never been able to figure out how that works—how one person can be so important to him, so necessary, so much like breathing that it’s a joke to think that he could ever stop wanting them, loving them, needing them.
Louis blinks, his hand falling down lower beneath the blankets until he’s brushing over the jut of Harry’s hipbone, and then beneath his sweater, thumbing small circles over the skin of Harry’s lower belly. Swallowing thickly, he watches Louis, eyes almost falling shut as Louis begins to speak through his skin.
Two roads and a bridge. H.
A mountain. A.
Half circles and little lines, somehow fitting together. RR.
A broken crucifixion. Y.
Harry makes a pained sound, barely managing to stop himself from kissing Louis. He knows if he does he won’t be able to stop, and he can’t really do that here now, not with Zayn and Niall and Liam nearby. They’re barely even here—just drifting between dreaming and awake—but still.
Moving his hand beneath the blankets, Harry grips Louis’ hip and presses down hard with his fingers. He doesn’t need traced letters for this. They both know what it means.
I want you.
Louis makes a little noise, quiet enough only Harry can hear it, and then his hand is slipping down beneath the waistband of Harry’s sweatpants, fingers brushing along the insides of Harry’s thigh. And bloody hell, Harry’s whole head is swimming, it’s just drifting away. There are no thoughts there, there’s nothing, just static and the sound of Louis’ name.
Louis laughs quietly, bringing his other hand up and placing it on the back of Harry’s neck. He pulls him closer until their noses are brushing, until their lips are just inches from touching. Harry’s jaw goes slack, and he feels warmth everywhere, even though his teeth are chattering and his breath is coming out white and frosted.
“Lou,” he breathes, nuzzling against Louis’ forehead.
The crashing of ocean waves is loud in the distance and the orange sun dips even lower beneath the horizon, hiding away, guilty.
“Yeah,” Louis nods, but Harry doesn’t know the question he’s answering.
So he just shifts his head a little, fitting his mouth to Louis’, and then they’re breathing through each other in the dark, mouths opening and closing and loving, loving, loving. Louis’ hand tightens on Harry’s neck and Harry’s hand tightens on Louis’ hip, bringing him even closer. He trying not to make noise because the boys are right there but it’s hard, it’s so hard and Louis’ licking at his lips, biting them, and Harry’s on fire in the middle of winter.
“Eh, Harry?” Niall pipes up suddenly, his voice floating over from the other side of the trunk.
Harry tries not to groan as he pulls away from Louis, and he’s breathing heavily so it’s a moment before he answers. “Mhm?” He says, surprised when the sound comes out steady if not a little too thick. And then his mouth is opening around a silent gasp as Louis doesn’t move away—he just relocates to press hushed open mouthed kisses over the dip of Harry’s neck. Louis moves down, biting at Harry’s collarbone, and Harry curls his hand around Louis’ wrist under the blanket.
It’s not a warning. He wishes it was, but it’s not.
“The party’s going to be fun, isn’t it?” Niall asks, and the way his words are blurred means that he’s falling asleep, that he’s talking just to talk.
Harry nods, trying to keep himself from making a sound. “Uh—”
Louis lowers himself down even more, his head disappearing beneath the blankets, and then he’s mouthing at Harry’s chest through his jumper. It’s just the warm impression of his lips but it’s so good, it’s fucking wonderful, and Harry squeezes his eyes shut against a groan.
“—Uh, yeah, mate. It’s gonna be cool,” He answers Niall finally, and his voice comes out strained, thinned out.
“Yeah,” Niall agrees, and his voice is even softer now, far away and sleepy. Harry realizes that he’s probably just a few minutes from sleep. “Anyway, night, man.”
Harry exhales sharply, his words coming out in a rush. “Night, Niall.”
Any other time, Niall would have realized what was making Harry sound like that, all stressed out and clipped, but tonight, with the ice cold waves crashing in the distance and the wintery state of the air, Niall just falls into silence and then into sleep.
As soon as he does, Louis’ rising up out of the blankets again, kissing into Harry’s mouth in a way that makes him whimper. Louis’ lips are slightly chapped from the cold and he tastes like peppermint tea and honey, and Harry’s heart expands with everything that he’s feeling. He kisses back, seeing stars and planets exploding behind his closed eyelids, and as the minutes pass, their kisses become gentle, soft. Louis’ hand is still in Harry’s hair, though, fingers scratching lightly at his skull, and it’s so bloody hard for Harry not to just open up his legs and beg for it. He’s got so much need inside of him, so much desire, and it’s all for Louis. It always has been.
Pulling back, Harry presses a kiss against Louis’ forehead before pressing his cheek there instead, teeth chattering as the frosted air fills the space where Louis’ mouth used to be. Harry thinks his lips are probably blue by now, but he doesn’t mind, not really. It’s unbelievable how much he’s missed this. He shifts a moment later, moving down to rest his head against Louis’ shoulder, and then Louis’ wrapping his arm around Harry’s body, pulling him in.
“Hi,” Harry whispers, grinning up at Louis in the dark.
Louis watches him for a moment, blue eyes heavy. “Hey.”
His voice is low and steady, so Harry sinks back into it, letting his gaze travel up to settle on the inky sky above. White stars are scatted across it like spilled paint and as the full moon washes pale silver light over the water and across the snow-choked parking lot, Harry thinks that being with Louis is like standing in the middle of a meteor shower.
Chaos, chaos, calm. It’s something you can’t forget.
Harry suddenly knows the answer to his question.
Fuck the sun. It’ll be Louis that kills him first.
Harry wakes up the next morning drenched in rain and frost.
Sitting up, he pushes soaked hair out of his eyes and squints through the storm, noticing that the rain has seeped into their blankets and clothes, freezing over everything. Fuck.
It’s the kind of rain that falls down in sheets, cold mist rising from the ground and hanging like a blanket in the air. In the distance, the ocean crashes and sprays over the black rocks, but Harry can’t really make anything out. The shoreline is all white fog, hidden by distance.
Blinking, he looks down at the place where Louis lays fast asleep beside him, bundled up in blankets on the trunk floor. He’s even beautiful like this, with his hair matted to his head and his eyelashes darkened by the rainwater, mouth blue from the cold.
Harry watches him for a moment before moving to sit over his thighs, their hips locking together like a piece of some puzzle. The rain falls loudly around them as he leans down and kisses over Louis’ closed eyelids, over his cheeks and his nose and then his mouth, his mouth, his mouth, love and desire buzzing through him like blue smoke.
“Wake up,” he whispers, cold hands cradling Louis’ face.
“Harry, go to sleep.” Louis mumbles with a frown, his eyes still closed.
Harry laughs, brushing his thumbs over Louis’ eyebrows before leaning in again and kissing Louis’ mouth, licking at the rainwater on his lips. “It’s raining, Louis,” he breathes, “you’re freezing.”
“I like the rain,” Louis frowns, shutting his eyes tighter.
Harry watches him for a moment, eyes wide. God, Louis’ such a bloody child. “Come on, you grouch,” he mutters, the rain falling down and soaking his clothes as he kisses Louis’ mouth again and again and again—little pecks that send his head spinning, small touches that make heat settle in his veins. “I want you,” Harry breathes, pressing his hips down against Louis’, soft and hazy in the storm. He’s suddenly really turned on. “I want you, Lou, wake up.”
Louis blinks awake at that, rainwater dripping from his eyelashes as he stares up at Harry, gaze steady and burning. The rain falls down on them in sheets, tiny pelts of ice that make Harry’s bones shake, but then Louis says, “Fuck, Harry,” and he’s all warmed up again.
“I want to touch you.” Harry says, almost whimpering as he rests his forehead down against Louis’. Their teeth are chattering and it’s so fucking cold that he can’t feel his toes, but he forgets about all that when Louis tilts his head up and kisses him—slow and lazy, he kisses in a way that makes Harry’s gut twist with heat.
“Hey, are you two shagging over there?” Niall shouts suddenly, his voice floating over from the other side of the trunk. His words are distorted by the booming thunder overhead, and Harry groans, his head falling down onto Louis’ shoulder with a thud. Fuck, fuck, fuck. Louis laughs, his hands smoothing over Harry’s drenched hair as if to calm him down. A moment later, Niall shouts: “Li, I reckon they’re really shagging over there!”
Harry sighs and sits back up, looking over his shoulder to see Liam and Niall on the other side of the truck, laughing as they fold up blankets and sleeping bags. Zayn’s still fast asleep somehow, his dark hair soaked and flattened to the side of his face. Well, he is asleep until Niall jumps down on top of him, yelling, “Zayn! Wake up! Wake up! We’re in the middle of a bloody hurricane!”
Zayn blinks awake, and for a moment he looks like he’s about to give Niall shit before he notices the rain. And then he’s muttering, “Shit,” before moving out from under Niall and hopping out of the trunk, his booted feet crunching over iced gravel as he rounds the back of the truck to the driver’s seat.
Liam and Niall laugh at that, following after Zayn and shielding their heads from the rain as they jump into the truck after him.
And Harry just grins, rolling off Louis and onto his back before tilting his face up towards the gray sky, letting the chilled rain drum down onto his skin. Louis and him are laying side by side, their arms brushing together, and Harry knows that later on, all of the snow covering the lot will be ice. Closing his eyes, he lets the cold rain wash over his skin, and he wonders how it can be like this now when in a just few days, everything will explode into nothing but heat and dust.
Thunder rumbles overhead.
In the distance, the ocean moans.
When Harry opens his eyes again, Louis is looming over him, and his face looks like nothing but a dim silhouette. Behind him, the sky is white like milk, and Harry swallows, rain dripping off his eyelashes. Louis just smiles and places his hand on the back of Harry’s neck, his fingers gentle like Harry’s something he could break. The storm grows stronger but warmth spreads through Harry as he reaches out and fists his fingers in Louis’ drenched shirt, pulling him closer.
It seems he always wants Louis closer.
Louis breathes out a laugh, and the sound is nearly drowned out by the wind as he collapses down onto Harry, dipping his head so that his forehead is resting against Harry’s again.
He says, “I used to hate the rain.”
Harry squeezes his eyes shut, just focusing on the feeling of Louis being this close to him, and he can’t help but think that this will all be over soon, that this is the end of everything.
The light of the sun is weak and watery.
Harry takes comfort in that.
As Zayn finally starts to drive, he pulls Louis down onto the drenched blankets and then they fold themselves together, burrowing deep beneath the bend of each other’s arms, their legs tangling together, spreading warmth. And then there’s nothing but cold air and hazy treetops dusted in ice and snow, and there’s no sound except for the humming of the engine and the steady rhythm of raindrops against the earth.
The next night, the boys watch the news again.
It’s midnight and there’s a blizzard whirling like static outside, snowflakes bright white against the dark black sky, and the air in the room is cold so Harry rests his head against Louis’ shoulder, finding warmth. Sharon’s back on the telly again—the blond woman from before, Harry recognizes her instantly—and he can’t quite believe that she’s still doing this, even now, when they only have so much time left.
The background is royal blue behind her face, and she looks concerned as she speaks into the camera. “Well, Bill, it seems that as the world comes closer and closer to the end, the population continues to dwindle at a rapid pace. All over the globe, cases of suicide have absolutely sky-rocketed. Companies have shut down and stores are being looted. Everything is in absolute chaos. What are your thoughts on this, as I know that you have a wife and children? Tell us, what’s going through your mind right now?”
The television cuts to an image of Bill, who’s sitting at a desk and staring down at his hands. He shakes his head, smiling in a way that ends up looking like a frown. He looks up at the camera, sighing. “Well, let me just tell you, Sharon, that I’m just sitting here wondering if there’s any way that we can get ourselves out of this mess.” He laughs, but it seems forced, like there’s nothing he finds funny about it at all but he’s laughing anyways, putting on a show. Harry gets that. “I, well, like you said, I have a wife—Kate, who I love with all my heart. And I have my children, two boys and a girl. Charlie, the oldest, is eleven, and there’s Max, who’s three. April’s in the middle. She’ll be six in January.” Bill breaks off, frowning into the camera. “Sorry. I mean, she would’ve been. She would’ve been turning six in January.”
And then Bill’s crying, he’s just breaking down, his whole body racking with sobs as he lowers his head down onto his desk, clawing at the papers there like they can save him. He keeps on talking, words coming out hysterical, muffled against the fabric of his sleeve. “God, she’ll never be six. My boys will never grow up. They all wanted to be astronauts, for fuck’s sakes, oh, god. Oh, god. Oh, god, save us.”
He’s still crying, and then the image is cutting back to Sharon, who’s staring at the camera with a sorry sort of look in her eyes. It’s a moment before she starts speaking. “Hello, Sharon O’Dowd here. Bill is having a bit of trouble at the moment, but he’ll be back with us after the break to comment on the dramatic increase in gas prices. Stay tuned.”
Niall groans, pointing the remote towards the television and turning it off, the whole room swimming in darkness again. “A bit of trouble,” he scoffs, “that man’s having a bloody mental breakdown and they want him to talk about the gas prices. Ridiculous.”
They’re all quiet for a while after that, not talking or thinking about anything in particular, so there’s no warning for what happens next. Not really. It’s like one moment, they’re sitting in the dim silence of the living room, and then the next moment, Liam’s standing up and grabbing his jacket off the arm of the sofa before moving out of the room and into hallway.
The boys stay silent, casting each other questioning looks, but then there’s the distinct sound of the front door opening and closing—it’s a sound that echoes through the house, ringing loud against the silence.
Louis frowns, sitting up beside Harry. “Did Liam just leave?”
Niall sits up too, craning his head to look out into the hall. “Dunno.”
“I think he just left,” Louis says.
Zayn stands up and disappears into the hall, but a moment later, he’s standing in the living room doorway again, dark eyes wide with alarm. “He’s left, but the keys are still here.”
“What about Louis’ keys?” Harry asks, growing more concerned now. “He could’ve taken his car instead?”
Zayn shakes his head, wrapping a scarf around his neck. “No, Louis’ keys are on the counter. So are Liam’s.”
“Wait, are you going out there?” Niall asks, his blue eyes widening. “The roads are covered, you know.”
“I’ll be fine,” Zayn says, slipping into his parka before zipping it all the way up. “I’ve just got to find Liam, yeah?”
Niall nods, and then Harry says, “I’ll come with you.”
Zayn stares at him for a moment, and then he nods, already turning away towards the door. “Yeah, okay. Let’s go.”
After twenty minutes of driving, they find Liam on the highway.
The lane is bracketed in with dark pine trees on either side, and rain is falling down in sheets, soaking through Liam’s hair and through his clothes, pelting against the car windshield and making everything into a blur. Liam keeps moving though—even as Zayn rolls up behind him and the headlights slice through the storm, he keeps moving forward with his two feet balanced on the dashed line that runs down the road.
“Damn it,” Zayn mutters, his voice loud against the silence as he brings the car to a stop, not even bothering to take the key out of the ignition before cracking the car door open and climbing out, icy wind and rain flooding in to the car. He moves like somebody’s life depends on it.
Then again, Harry thinks, maybe it does.
He goes to undo his seatbelt but then Zayn’s stopping him with a hand to his wrist, half of his body in the car and the other half out. He’s already soaked and shivering, dark hair slicked down with rainwater. He shouts so Harry can hear him over the thunder, “It’s alright, man, you stay here, I’ll get him!”
Harry’s eyebrows knit together. “You sure?”
Zayn glances away, peering at the place where Liam is walking further and further away in the distance. The glow of the headlights illuminates the road in front of them, making it shine bright while the rest of the world stretches off into darkness. “Yeah,” Zayn says, his eyes still trained on Liam. “Yeah, just—I’ll be right back!”
Harry nods, and then Zayn’s slamming the door shut, the storm becoming muffled again. Raindrops pelt against the rough, and through the windshield, the sky is nothing but a dark purple haze. It brightens up every now and then as lighting rips across it, turning the plum of it into lilac. Sighing, Harry shifts in the seat, his tired eyes settling on the place where Zayn is walking fast towards Liam, grabbing him by the shoulders and turning him around.
They’re the only thing Harry can see, really, just them and darkness, and beneath the flash of the headlights, Liam looks like a broken bird. Even through the storm, Harry can tell that he’s crying.
He sighs, scrubbing a hand over his face.
The air conditioner blows hot air around the car, making it a bit hard to breathe, so he rolls the frosted window down and lets the storming air flood into the space. It’s all wind and rain and it’s so fucking cold that Harry’s teeth start to chatter. In the distance, Zayn has his arms around Liam but Liam’s fighting him off, trying keep moving, but Zayn’s yelling, his words distorted and drowned out by the storm as thunder roars above. The iced rain slants into the car and drenches as he listens to Zayn shouting over the rainfall. “Fuck, Liam, do you want me to build you a bloody shelter? Huh? Is that want you want?” He keeps his arms around Liam as Liam punches into his chest, the storm soaking through their hair and clothes. “Because I’ll do it, alright?” He shouts, sounding like he’s on the verge of tears now. “Shit, Liam, you know I will!”
And then Harry’s watching through the blurred glass of the windshield as Liam’s hand fists in Zayn’s shirt, his drenched body racking with sobs and shivers—and he has to look away, he has to roll the car window back up and be on his own again. It’s just something about seeing them together like that that makes Harry feel like he’s intruding, like he’s putting himself in places where he has no right to be. There’s something about them together like that that makes him think of the sun, of the world ending, makes him think of the time running out—
Harry starts a bit at the feel of something vibrating against his leg, and then calms when he realizes it’s his phone. He almost forgot he even had a phone. “Hello?” He breathes when he answers.
“Niall passed out,” Louis says, his voice swimming on the other end. And there’s warmth spreading through Harry just at the sound of him, all soft and far away like that. He sinks back deeper into his seat, closing his eyes as he leans his head against the cold glass of the window.
“Yeah?” He murmurs. His voice is suddenly low, sleepy, and he almost smiles. It’s the kind of voice that only Louis can bring out of him. He imagines Louis back at the house, laid out on his bed beneath pale squares of moonlight, and his heart squeezes in his chest. How the hell can he miss Louis so much already? It’s barely been a half hour.
“Mhm,” Louis’ replies, sounding gentle and steady like he knows exactly what Harry’s thinking about. “Where are you now?”
Harry opens his eyes at that, peeking out of the window and into darkness. It’s all heavy rain and slush, pine trees and a road sign further up that he can’t make out. “No idea. Some road. We’ve just found Liam.”
“Good, good. I was getting worried. S’he alright, then?”
Harry looks out the windshield, peering through the blurred glass to see Zayn and Liam are holding each other in the rain, their bodies ignited by the white beams of the headlights. Thunder rips through the sky as Harry closes his eyes again, leaning back the glass of the window. It’s freezing cold against his cheek. “Yeah, I’d say so. I think he’ll be fine.”
There’s a beat of silence after that. A swallow.
“I miss you,” Harry breathes, squeezing his eyes tighter. It’s ridiculous to say out loud, he knows that, but here in the hushed dimness of Liam’s car with the rain pelting against the roof like drums, he sort of wishes he had Louis to keep him company. “I don’t know why, because I just saw you, but I miss you a lot.”
Louis huffs a laugh out into his ear. “You wanna hear something funny?”
“Sure,” Harry says, smirking softly even though he has no clue what Louis’ going to say. He just likes the way that Louis’ voice is all amused like that. “What’s funny?”
“I’m wearing your clothes right now,” Louis laughs. “Don’t even know how the fuck it happened, really, it just sort of did.”
Warmth spikes up in Harry’s stomach at Louis’ words, a shiver running through him that’s not all from the cold. And then he’s being stupid, because suddenly he’s imagining Louis’ legs and Louis’ feet and his ankles and his stomach and his neck and his—
“Shit,” He says, and the word comes out strained, a mix between a groan and a laugh. “Why’d you have to go and say that, Lou? Now I want to kiss you.”
Louis fakes offence, a soft fondness to his voice. “Oh, what? And you didn’t before?”
“Shut up,” Harry laughs, pinching at the bridge of his nose. His eyes are still shut as he speaks, feeling warm and hazy and safe. “I always want to kiss you, but now I’m really thinking about it. Now I want it so bad I might pass out.”
It’s a bad line, but fuck, it’s true. The closer the days get to the end the more frantic he is, the more craving, always thinking about Louis and always wanting to be near him, to smell him, to taste him, to breathe him in. And okay, some might argue that it’s always been like that, but Harry’s trying to keep his dignity intact. At least a little bit.
Louis sighs, low and heady. “You mind telling those two to hurry up?”
“Alright,” Harry smiles even though he knows that Louis can’t see him. “I’ll see you soon, yeah?”
“Yeah,” Louis says, and then he’s gone and there’s just the muted beeping of the dial tone in Harry’s ear, the rain falling down onto the windshield and making everything into a blur. Harry sighs, turning his cellphone off and shoving it back into his jacket pocket.
He doesn’t check his missed calls or messages, not tonight.
He scanned them over the other day and noticed that most of them were sent by reporters and telly broadcasters—people looking for his opinion, for a good story to end the world with.
Harry shakes his head, placing his hands in front of the heater to warm them up.
It’s a moment before there’s a knock on the car window, Zayn’s face looming and blurred out by rainwater on the other side. His dark hair is soaked, matted down on his forehead as the storm whirls on and on and on.
He mouths something from behind the glass—shouting, but the words are lost in the storm—and Harry’s confused for a second before Zayn’s pointing over to the empty driver’s seat, his eyes wide. “Can you drive?”
Harry nods, climbing over into the driver’s seat and twisting the keys in the ignition. The engine hums as Zayn swings open the car door and gently pushes Liam into the backseat before following in after him, lightning forking across the sky and brightening the rainwater that soaks their skin. Harry glances at the rear view mirror, watching the way that Liam breathes in a shaky breath when Zayn wraps a soaking arm around his shoulders, pulling him in close. And he watches the way that Liam’s eyes shut when Zayn presses a kiss to his temple, both of them shivering with chattering teeth, leaning against each other in the dark.
Again, he sees the love there. Bright and obvious.
He sees it and he doesn’t say anything but he’s smiling because they see it, too. As thunder roars loud and shakes the earth and Harry’s bones, he places his hands on the steering wheel, presses a foot down on the gas pedal, and drives.
Back at the house, Harry finds Louis upstairs in the darkness of his bedroom, just where he expected him to be. Harry doesn’t even speak, he just shivers as he strips out of his jeans—they’re drenched in rain and frost, numbing Harry’s legs until he can’t feel a thing—and Louis watches him from the bed, his eyes steady and low.
The room is all moonlight and shadow again.
Everything’s softened around the edges, seeming far away and dream-like, and Harry likes that, but he hates how the room is freezing cold like this, like someone’s got a window open somewhere. “It’s bloody freezing in here,” he stutters, shaking his hair to get the rain out.
“That might be because you’re nearly naked, love.” Louis points out, sliding off of the bed and crossing the room to Harry, his hands ending up on the bottom of Harry’s jumper.
“Smart-ass,” Harry mutters, but his voice is strained as Louis thumbs his fingers over the jut of Harry’s hipbones, beneath the jumper and beneath the second t-shirt there, warming him up.
Louis watches him for a moment, and then he’s nodding towards the bed, hands resting on the skin of Harry’s lower back. “Sit down. I’ll run a warm bath, yeah?”
“I don’t want a bath,” Harry frowns, his words muffled against Louis’ forehead. He’s so warm, and he smells like clean laundry and everything else that’s good. He’s wearing a pair of Harry’s gray sweat-pants and one of his frayed black t-shirts with a band name on it, and they’re so big on him, it’s ridiculous. It’s so cute Harry think he might cry. “I just want you.”
Louis laughs, shaking his head, but he sounds a bit reluctant. “You’ve got a blue mouth, babe. You’re taking a bath.”
Harry grins, kissing over the fringe of Louis’ hair. “I’ll have blue balls too in a minute.”
“Shut up,” Louis sighs, but his hands are gentle as they come up to rest on the nape of Harry’s neck, a warm pressure. “I’m not fucking a corpse. Go sit down, and I’ll run a bath.”
“Louis,” Harry whines, but he listens, turning around and making his way towards Louis’ bed. He sits down on the foot of it, the springs groaning beneath his weight. Sighing, he watches as Louis steps out of his socks in front of the bathroom door. “It wouldn’t be blue if you kissed me, you know.”
Louis laughs at that, shaking his head. “No can do, Curly.”
And then he’s disappearing into the bathroom, not even bothering to turn on the lights as he moves further in, the sound of running water filling the silence a moment later.
“Well, why not?” Harry frowns, staring at the bathroom door.
“’Cause I wouldn’t want to stop if I did,” Louis answers, his voice floating out from the bathroom. “Been wanting your mouth all night, really.”
Harry could faint. “How’s that a bad thing?”
Louis doesn’t answer, and Harry just sighs, looking around the room. The window beside the bed is the only bright spot in the whole place—it’s huge, taking up the entire wall. Moon beams strike against the frosted panes, casting lines of watery light across the carpeted floor.
Harry loves the way Louis’ room looks at night.
It feels frozen in time, like a corner of a universe where it’s just them, the white moon, and the frosted pine trees outside. There’s no sun here. There’s no orange light here, there’s no fear.
“What do you think, Curly? Bubbles or no bubbles?” Louis asks suddenly, appearing in the bathroom doorway wearing nothing but a pair of thin boxers. Bloody hell, that boy has the kind of body you’d write songs about.
Harry swallows, his mouth dry. “Bubbles, please.”
“I knew you’d say that,” Louis laughs, disappearing into the bathroom again. The sound of running water stops and then the room grows silent, it grows hushed. It’s past midnight now, maybe one or two in the morning, and Harry’s freezing cold but he’s also naked and sort of aroused, and he really, really just wants to kiss Louis on the mouth.
Louis appears in the doorway again, his smile warm. “Come here.”
Harry grins, standing up and following Louis into the bathroom, cold air making him shiver. The tiles are cool beneath his bare feet, and the lights are still turned off. The room swims in shadow and moonlight.
A small square window above the bathtub lets the light in, and there’s a stand-up shower on the opposite wall, all glass and cold tile. Harry stands in the doorway, noticing two sinks and a stretch of mirror.
“You’ve got a big bathroom.” He notes, watching as Louis nears the bathtub, naked and lovely beneath the wintery light.
“I suppose so,” Louis shrugs, stepping into the tub one leg at a time.
“It’s nice,” Harry adds, walking further into the room. He avoids his reflection in the mirror as he reaches the tub and steps inside, soapy bath water splashing soft around his ankles. It’s that big type of tub, you know, the type you could swim in if it wasn’t so shallow. Sitting down across from Louis, Harry makes sure not to slip, and then he settles down, letting the water rise up to his neck. He stares at Louis and Louis stares right back.
The air around them feels soft, fragile—like glass that would break if they spoke too loud.
In the dimness, the lines of Louis’ face are soft, and Harry’s eyes travel everywhere. He doesn’t even know what to focus on, really. Louis’ hair is falling down in front of his eyes, eyelashes casting ghost shadows across his cheekbones, and Harry wants to kiss him so badly that it hurts.
Louis blinks, almost smiling. “What?”
Smiling back, Harry shrugs. “You’ve just got a nice mouth, is all.”
Louis grins, and his teeth are all white. “I’m sure I do.”
“I’m serious, baby.” Harry laughs. “I love your mouth.”
“Baby?” Louis repeats, his wide eyes shining blue in the dark. His mouth is open, though, corners quirked up like he’s trying not to laugh. “Did you just call me baby?”
Harry moves back a bit, defensive. “No.”
“You did,” Louis smiles, and the sound of his voice echoes out—it bounces off of walls, somehow. It falls back into the water again. “You called me baby.”
Harry frowns, but when Louis keeps on smiling at him, Harry ends up smiling too. He shakes his head, embarrassed. “Shut up.”
Louis laughs loudly, licking his lips as the sound fades out. He looks at Harry softly and they’re quite for a moment, moonlight washing in through the frosted window and edging their faces in silver.
“You’re my baby, you know that?” Louis asks.
Harry sighs like he thinks Louis is the stupidest thing in the world, but butterflies are erupting in his fingertips like light and stardust exploding. He feels giddy—he always does when Louis talks to him like that. “Well, why do I have to be the baby?”
Louis gives him a look. “Because you’re younger.”
“Yeah, but I’m also taller,” Harry points out, grinning as he moves slowly across the tub, soapy water rising up over his mouth, soaking the curled hair at the nape of his neck.
“You weren’t taller when we met, though.” Louis says, his voice warm.
Harry just smiles, keeping his eyes on Louis as he moves in even further, closer and closer until he’s coming up in between Louis’ legs, the bathwater splashing warm around them. Louis leans backwards a bit, but he keeps watching Harry, his head resting back against the cold tile of the wall.
“I’m your baby then, yeah?” Harry murmurs, leaning in closer to brush his nose against Louis’. Both of their mouths open a little wider at the contact, and Harry’s not hard yet, but he’s aroused in that tired sort of way that he always seems to be around Louis—like just one touch could get him going. “I’ll be your baby.”
Louis grins, tilting his head so that his lips are only inches away from Harry’s. His breath falls warm onto Harry’s mouth and the places where their naked limbs are touching feel hot, buzzing, electric. “Okay.”
“Okay?” Harry repeats, grinning as he kisses Louis once, a feeling that heads straight towards his cock.
“Okay,” Louis nods, his voice a whisper as he brings his hands up to cradle Harry’s face, kissing deep into his mouth. His lips are slightly chapped from the cold and Harry thinks it’s the most wonderful thing he’s ever felt, really, so he kisses back, slow and hungry and searching. He lets his mouth fall open, gasping as Louis’ tongue trails along his bottom lip, warming him up.
“Turn around,” Louis whispers, his hands falling down beneath the water to rest on Harry’s hipbones. “I’m gonna wash your hair, yeah?”
“No, come on Lou.” Harry mumbles as he kisses Louis again, slower this time, feeling like he could go on like this forever. When Louis doesn’t kiss back, Harry pulls away, blinking in a way that brings everything into focus. Louis’ smiling at him, fond and gentle, his blue eyes looking like stars. Harry frowns, his head falling down onto Louis’ shoulder. “You’re such a tease,” he says, and then he’s turning around, settling in the warm bathwater with his back to Louis’ chest.
Louis laughs, and it’s quiet for a moment before Harry’s listening to the squirting sound of a shampoo bottle behind him, the smell of it sweet and flowery in the air. Harry’s eyes flutter shut as Louis’ splashes water onto his head, droplets of it running down is face and down his chest. “Have I been teasing?” Louis asks.
“Yeah, you have.” Harry says, and he’s trying to sound angry, but he ends up laughing when Louis chuckles behind him, lathering soap suds onto Harry’s wet curls. Sighing, Harry keeps his eyes shut. “A boy like me can only last so long, you know.”
Louis hums, his hands scratching gently over Harry’s skull. “Is that so?”
“Yeah,” Harry exhales, grinning slow as Louis massages the soap onto his head, gentle and warm and loving. Drops of water run down his back like little rivers, and Harry shivers at the feeling of it all—of Louis’ breath puffing warm against his ears, the cool air slipping in through the cracks in the window, frosting the glass, and at his own cock, hard and aching between his legs. He just wants Louis to touch him.
Outside, the world is silvery and frosted again. Through the glass of the window, all Harry can see are the tops of pine trees, standing out bright against the navy blue sky. Everything is blanketed in snow, swallowed up, and Harry loves it, just like he loves the darkness of the room and the moon beams shattering against the surface of the bathwater, casting wavy patterns of light.
“Lie back,” Louis whispers, rubbing his hands over Harry’s shoulders.
Nodding, Harry moves a bit forward in the tub before lying back slowly, bending his legs beneath the tap so that his whole body fits. The water rises up over his ears, making everything sound soft and far away, but he keeps his eyes trained upwards, straight on Louis, whose looking down at him with a gaze as bright as the sun.
As bright as the sun, but more gentle. More caring.
Harry’s suddenly so tired.
“I’ll rinse the soap out, yeah?” Louis says, but his voice sounds like it’s coming from somewhere else, travelling through the water for miles before finally reaching Harry’s ears. Nodding, Harry keeps his eyes open as Louis’ fingers move through his hair, getting rid of the soap and the suds. Like this, Harry’s looking up as Louis looks down, and the lines of Louis’ face are blurring out into nothing, into vague shapes that are all blue and white and silver. He’s lovely, he’s so lovely, and Harry’s half-asleep but he’s also hard, and he’s so in love that he’s sick with it.
He’s laying back with his head resting between Louis’ legs, and the parts of his body that aren’t covered by the water feel cold, goose bumps rising there like braille—his knees, the upper parts of his calves. It’s as if he’s slipping in and out of consciousness and Louis’ hands are the only thing keeping him upright and steady, awake but still dreaming somehow.
“I used to think that we’d grow old together, you know.” Harry breathes.
The words are lost to the sound of the bathwater moving softly in his ears, and he’s not even sure if he spoke out loud until Louis’ hands stop moving in his hair. He frowns down at Harry, moonlight washing half of his face in silver.
“We did grow old together,” he says, but his voice is still so far away.
“You know what I mean.” Harry answers quietly, watching Louis in the pale blue dimness of the bathroom. “I thought we’d be older than this.”
Louis is quiet for a moment and then he’s sighing, his thumbs brushing over Harry’s temples. “This is the oldest that we ever could’ve been, Haz.”
The water softens the sounds of his voice until it’s just an echo of what it could’ve been—until it’s just a handful of words that Harry breathes in, tucking beneath his tongue for the night even though he’s not sure if he believes them.
He blinks, and the wetness of his eyelashes blurs everything into stars. “Are you afraid?” Harry asks, looking up at Louis. His words sound distant but he’s too tired to sit up, so he just keeps laying there in the bath water, both of his hands resting on Louis’ ankles beneath the surface. He tries not to think about this morning, when he woke up to find Louis throwing stones at the sun. "For the world to end, I mean.”
Louis shrugs, looking away from Harry, his eyes settling on the window instead. The edges of his face become sharp like this, drenched in moonlight and shadow, and it’s a while before he answers.
“I suppose I thought I wasn’t at first,” he starts, his eyebrows furrowing in thought. “But then you lads showed up and I realized how much I’d be leaving behind.”
“I’ll be coming with you,” Harry replies, sitting up a bit so that his head’s more on Louis chest than in the water. The sounds come back into focus again, sharp and clear and close-up. “Whenever we go, we’ll be going together.”
“But that’s not what I want,” Louis admits, looking back down at Harry with a frown. His eyes are so sad and so deep that Harry’s breath hitches, suddenly struck by all that Louis’ feeling. Louis shakes his head, almost frantic, but his words are soft. “I don’t want that.”
“Lou,” Harry says, frowning.
“You know I woke up this morning, and I looked at you, the way that you were sleeping beside me like that, and I thought—bloody hell, he’s going to be dead in less than a week.” Louis shakes his head again, like he can’t even wrap his head around it, and Harry’s not sure how to put what he’s feeling into words. Louis keeps talking, though, all of his thoughts spilling into the space between them like dust. “I looked at your legs and your belly and your mouth as you slept and I just couldn’t stand the thought of you not existing anymore. I’m pissed off, and I’m—” Louis’ voice breaks, and he looks way again, exhaling shakily. “God, Harry, I’m bloody terrified.”
Harry’s shakes his head, he can’t even help it, because it’s everything he didn’t want to hear but he feels better now that he’s heard it.
A true sadness is better than a false comfort, anyways, and he wishes that he could take Louis’ fear and hide it in himself, because he’s always been fearful, hasn’t he? He’s used to it.
“I don’t want you to be afraid,” Harry murmurs, looking up at Louis in the dimness. The bathroom is quiet and frozen with winter, filled with the soft sounds of stirring bathwater and his own words, spoken across the space with a gentleness that could kill. “Wherever we go, we’ll be there together.”
Louis huffs out a laugh, but the sound is wet. He’s looking down at Harry with the kind of fondness that people dream of. “You really believe that?”
“Of course I do,” Harry says, smiling.
Louis narrows his eyes. “But what if it’s just nothing—like, blackness—and our minds are just floating around in the dark forever?”
“Then my mind will be floating next to yours the whole time,” Harry grins slowly, bringing his hand up so that he can trail a finger over the line of Louis’ jaw. The bathwater stirs, and his arm is covered in soap but he doesn’t mind. “We’ll find the lads there and we’ll have ourselves a blast, alright?”
Louis nods, but he’s not smiling anymore, not really.
He’s just watching Harry and something is burning brightly in the deep blue of his eyes—it flickers there, like smoke or like dust, it suffocates kindly. Harry exhales, suddenly aware that he’s still hard and that Louis’ hard, too, the stiff line of his cock pressing into the dip of Harry’s lower back, distracting. “Lou,” he breathes, tentative.
The moment is heavy as Louis looks back at him, gaze wavering from Harry’s eyes to his mouth. Swallowing, Louis nods, he just nods, and then—
And then it seems like Harry’s on Louis’ lap without even moving, like he blinks and then the next second he’s groaning into Louis’ neck, the sounds muffled against the skin there. Louis’ hand moves over his cock, quick strokes that send his head spinning, that send his thoughts spiraling out into the dark, lost in oblivion. Like so many times before, all he’s left with is Louis’ name.
“Fuck,” he gasps, toes curling in the water as arousal smashes through him, white pinpricks of heat that start in his belly and spread out, out, out, until they’re everywhere, until he can’t think anything other than yes, fucking hell, yes. Harry kisses over Louis’ neck, open-mouthed and desperate, and it’s a little bit messy but he doesn’t care, not when Louis’ touching him like that, not when Louis’ making those little sounds in the back of his throat like he’s got words stuck there. He’s lovely, he’s so bloody beautiful that Harry can’t even stand it. His heart rattles like a tin can in his chest. “Louis, fuck. You’re perfect.”
“Thanks, babe.” Louis laughs, but the sound is strained as he strokes Harry faster with one hand, the soapy bathwater splashing around him, over Harry’s chest and shoulders. He’s having trouble breathing.
His back arches as the feeling grows more intense, and it’s like he’s drunk at sea, pleasure crashing around him in waves as Louis’ other hand makes a piano out of his rib cage, fingers moving over the bones in a way that feels so fucking good.
“Oh, shit, Louis.” Harry breathes, and it doesn’t take much before he’s coming, eyes clenched shut as his body racks with the feeling of it all.
Louis slows down but pulls Harry through it until he’s got nothing left to give, until he’s turning around and kissing deep into Louis’ mouth, their noses pressing against each other’s in a way that might bruise. Harry hopes to hell that it does. He’s still riding out the high of having Louis’ hands on him like that, and his stomach jolts as sparks of arousal ignite inside of him again, his body getting ready for the next round.
“You’re bloody hot when you come,” Louis murmurs against his mouth, licking over his bottom lip.
Harry almost sobs, bringing his hands up to cradle the sides of Louis’ face, his thumbs brushing over his cheekbones. Harry’s so worn out but he can feel Louis’ erection pressing against his stomach, and he wants to touch him right now, he wants to make him feel good.
“Lou,” he says, breathing heavily as he pulls away from the kiss, their foreheads pressed together in the dimness of the bathroom. “I want you to fuck me, alright?” He murmurs, fingers trailing through Louis’ hair and pulling gently.
“Fuck,” Louis groans, his head falling back against the tiled wall with a thud. The line of his throat is pale white, but Harry knows that there will be bruises there in the morning, all in the shape of his mouth. Louis nods, his eyes on the ceiling. “Yeah, alright.”
And then he’s standing up and pulling Harry with him, bathwater moving around their ankles, soft and lilting and warm. The air is cold as they step out of the tub, and then they’re laughing and kissing, wrapping towels around each other to keep warm before stumbling out into the dark of Louis’ bedroom again, moonlight casting squares of brightness over the bed and across the carpeted floors.
Louis lays down first and Harry follows him, crawling to kneel between his spread legs and kiss over his hipbones, his lower belly, and his cock until Louis is whimpering and Harry is hard again, the sounds they make echoing loudly against the silence of the room.
There’s not a lot of talking, but there’s a lot that gets said.
When Louis starts moving inside of him, he plants kisses along the slope of Harry’s spine like he’s trying to grow flowers there. Harry imagines that, having a body made of flowers. He imagines what Louis’ trying to say, imagines that it sounds something like you broke my heart and I forgive you.
When Louis moves Harry onto his back, they watch each other as they moves, Louis’ hips stirring slowly as he leans down and kisses Harry with his eyes open. Thank you so much for coming back.
He’s not sure if he’s being hopeful or what, but it’s hard to focus when Louis’ hitting against that spot inside of him with every flick of his hips.
When Harry comes for the second time, he doesn’t close his eyes.
His body racks with the tremors of arousal, and the whole room blurs into nothing but moonlit squares and shadow as he watches Louis—the only clear thing in the whole space, the only thing that stays still enough for him to see and recognize and remember.
His come splatters onto his stomach, messy and thick, and he breathes heavily as he watches Louis come too, both of them looking at each other in the dimness, smiling in the slow sort of way that they always do.
Louis leans down and kisses him again, once it’s all over.
His lips are chapped from the cold, and he trails his fingers through the mess on Harry’s stomach, making patterns there. “I love you,” he says suddenly, speaking into Harry’s mouth. He pulls away, looking down at Harry with a focused look on his face. “I fucking love you, alright? Don’t you go forgetting that.”
Harry’s grinning so wide that it hurts, because it’s the first time Louis’ said those words in a long time, and it feels so good. It feels fucking magnificent.
“I love you too.” He laughs, pulling Louis back down until they’re kissing again, starting out fast but slowing down as they sink back into sleep together, lower and lower and lower, lost.
Harry can’t wait ‘til the sun gets a load of this.
The clock beside the bed reads five o’clock am when Harry wakes up to find Louis’ side of the bed empty, again.
He lays there for a moment, watching the dim light steal slowly over the walls, but when he doesn’t hear any sounds coming from the bathroom, he frowns and kicks away the sheets, thinking that he’s gonna have to hold Louis a bit tighter next time. He winces against the cold air as he makes his way across the room to the window, squinting through the frosted glass of the window to search for a familiar face down below.
Unlike before, though, Louis isn’t there.
He isn’t there, and he isn’t throwing stones at the sun. Instead, the drive is empty and covered in snow and slush, stretching down into the line of pine trees that stand by the main road. The sun isn’t even out yet. There’s just a watery orange line of light spreading out along the horizon, fading up into the dark blue sky of early morning. From here, Harry can see the tops of houses in the distances—other houses, with their own people and story and lives inside of them.
But still, there’s no Louis.
Frowning, Harry turns away from the window and doesn’t even bother getting dressed before making his way down the stairs slowly, wooden steps whispering beneath his bare feet.
He finds Louis in the kitchen.
It’s dark at this hour—the whole room swims in shadows, dimness tinged blue by the glowing buttons on the microwave—so it takes a moment for Harry to make out the shape of Louis sitting there at the kitchen table, slumped over with his head in his hands.
“Louis?” Harry frowns, leaning against the doorframe.
Louis raises his head at the sound, blinking like he’s surprised to see Harry standing there. His blue eyes seem heavy and his hair is tousled with sleep, but Harry thinks he’s the most beautiful thing in the world.
When Louis doesn’t speak, Harry steps further into the kitchen. “Do you know what time it is, babe?”
“No. Didn’t check.” Louis says, looking back down at the table.
His words are strange, distant, and that’s when Harry notices that his hand is clenched around a cellphone, knuckles nearly gone white with the force of it. Harry’s eyebrows furrow as he reaches the table and sits down in the chair beside Louis’, their arms brushing together, spreading warmth. “Hey,” Harry says quietly. “Hey, what’s wrong? Talk to me.”
Louis takes a moment before he starts to speak. “Zayn told me,” he starts, his thumb playing over the cellphone buttons. “What they said on the radio, I mean. About you trying to kill yourself ‘cause you got rejected by a girl.”
Harry frowns, watching the side of Louis’ face in the dimness. “That’s why you’ve gotten up at five in the morning?”
“No,” Louis says as he flips the phone shut, thumbing over the front of it. “I came down for a glass of water, then I got to thinking.”
Louis glances over at him, and his blue eyes are steady, careful. “That maybe we should just do it now.”
Harry’s frown deepens. “Do what?”
“Come out,” Louis replies, his words leaving his mouth in a rush. They stumble over each other on the way out. “We could call up that fucking radio twat and let him know what’s really going on, yeah? Just you and me. Right now. We could do it.”
Harry stares at Louis for a moment, both of them facing each other as pale morning sunlight washes in through the sliding glass door, slipping slowly over the walls and over the stove and over the fridge, brightening the edges of everything.
“You want to come out?” Harry repeats, his mouth quirking up even though he’s trying to keep a straight face.
“Well, I just—” Louis breaks off, like he’s searching for the right words. Beneath the milky light of morning, he glows like something set on fire. “I just want you to know that I’m not ashamed of this, right? I never have been. I don’t want people thinking that you’re less than who you are because of me not telling them the truth.”
“Lou,” Harry blinks, letting the words sink in. His whole heart feels like it’s filled with glitter and helium, floating, up and up and up, flying—but beneath that, there’s something else, something deeper. He wipes a hand down his face, sighing. “Louis, I don’t want to come out.”
Louis stares at him for a moment, eyebrows furrowed. “What?”
Harry huffs out a laugh, shaking his head. “I don’t want to come out,” he says again, putting more weight behind it this time. It’s strange saying the words now, because he’s spent so many years saying something else, but it’s true. He doesn’t owe that radio twat the truth. He doesn’t owe anybody anything. What he loves his for him. It’s nothing to do with shame or fear of rejection. It might have a little bit to do with preservation, with keeping love safe.
Louis’ still staring at Harry like he’s set himself on fire.
“You don’t want to come out?” He asks, and he’s speaking slowly, the look on his face somewhere between confusion and amusement. “Why not?”
“Because it’s never really been a secret,” Harry shrugs, keeping his eyes on Louis’. “I’m already out to everyone that’s spoken to me for more than five minutes, so.”
“Well, what about the fans?” Louis asks, starting to grin.
Harry laughs, shrugging again. “I reckon they’ve known for a while.”
Louis smiles, nodding. “Alright. No radio announcement, then.”
“No radio announcement,” Harry agrees slowly, and then he’s leaning in to rest his forehead against Louis’, eyes falling shut as their noses brush together in a sleepy sort of way, heady and intoxicating. He places his hand on the back of Louis’ neck, just feeling. “This is ours, yeah?”
Louis nods, swallowing. “Yeah.”
Harry grins, and he keeps his eyes closed as he shifts his head a bit, tilting his mouth up so that his lips brush against Louis’, soft and warm like the rising sun. Louis smiles before closing the distance between them. That’s the end of them speaking for a while.
When Harry was little, he used to think that the sun was a lemon.
It made sense back then, the idea that some other boy threw it up into the air and left it there like it was the part of his lunch that he was too full to finish. In the backseat of his mum’s car, Harry watched the sun as it followed them down the open highway, watchful.
It was the middle of summer, and the air in the car was sticky with heat. Harry’s clothes stuck to him like a second skin, but the sky was blue like water that day, clouds white like ice cubes.
Harry remembers wanting to go up there and swim.
The sun sat in the sky like a lemon slice in a glass of ice water, its citrus light spreading out over the horizon, orange and yellow and lovely. At eight years old, Harry imagined poking a hole in the sun with a straw and just drinking it up, letting the light run down his chin and fingers like lemon juice.
When he told his mum that, she just smiled and shook her head.
“Harry, darling, the sun would burn you if you got that close.” She laughed, and her voice was warm and full of love like it always was. Harry frowned, sinking back in his seat. How could the sun ever burn him? That didn’t make sense. After a moment, his mum glanced at him in the rear view mirror, laughing when she noticed the look on his face. “Alright. How about we get you some milk from the moon? Would you like that?”
Slowly, Harry’s sulk turned into a smile. “Yes, please.”
Milk from the moon ended up being vanilla ice cream with rainbow sprinkles, which Harry got and licked up and loved. But later on that night, when the moonlight was washing into his bedroom and lighting up the dinosaur stickers on the wall, he still couldn’t quite understand how the sun could ever burn him.
It’s sort of funny now though, seeing how right his mum had been.
It’s sort of funny, except well, it really isn’t funny at all.
On the last day of the world, Harry wakes up early.
The sky is still dark with early morning as he kisses Louis awake, the bedroom swimming in shadow and dim sunlight. Louis moans in that sleepy sort of way that makes Harry’s whole body buzz with heat and arousal, and this time, they fuck slowly.
This time, they fuck like they’ve got all the time in the world.
An hour later, the house grows loud as the rest of the boys wake up.
They all pile down into the kitchen where Liam’s set out five steaming mugs of warm milk and honey on the counter, and Harry drinks his slowly, letting the warmth of it run down his throat like sunshine. They sit in silence, and then after that they all leave their mugs in the sink and dress up in coats and gloves and boots before heading out back—past the snow and the broken wooden fence, past the woods full of ice and soft sunlight, and out onto the frozen pond that sits surrounded by frosted pine trees, completely closed in.
It’s a quiet sort of afternoon, passing by like a dream.
No one really speaks much and Harry likes that, somehow—he likes the way that they all know what to do without actually having to hear the words said out loud. Louis lays down on the ice first, and Harry lays beside him, and then Niall, Liam, and Zayn are all hunkering down as well, faces towards the sky, limbs all over the place. Whether it be at their knees or their hands or their feet, they’re together. And it’s nice.
As the evening moves closer, the world becomes tainted blue.
Their breath comes out white and everything seems frosted and still as the sun dips lower beneath the trees, disappearing. They all just lay there on the frozen pond, and Harry focuses on the sound of Louis breathing next to him and the warm feeling of Louis’ arm brushing his. He’s wearing that red jacket again, bright and vivid against the white and blue tones of winter, and Harry thinks that he could live in this moment forever, he’s so bloody happy.
“Quick,” Niall says from the other side of Harry, his voice floating up into the dark. “If I was a part of the solar system, what’d I be?”
“Boys, I think Niall’s been drinking again,” Louis says, teasing.
The boys laugh and Niall shuts them up, saying, “Hey, I’m being serious here. If you could choose any part of the solar system, what would I be? Name anything.”
“I think you’d be Uranus, personally.” Harry grins, his eyes still on the white blue sky above.
Louis laughs, the sound making Harry glow, but Niall just nudges him with his shoulder, shaking his head. “Pipe down, Harry, we all know the only anus you think about is Lou’s anus, am I right boys?”
Harry groans out an, “oh my god,” but then Louis’ next to him saying, “God, I hope so,” and then that’s it they’re all laughing, each and every one of them, their breath puffing out white and frosted. Harry can’t even feel his toes anymore but he doesn’t mind it, not really.
When they all calm down and the world grows silent again, Zayn sighs from where he’s laying somewhere above Harry. “I think we’d be a solar system, all of us. We’d be our own planets but we’d still be together.”
It’s quiet for a moment before Louis says, “that was the cutest bloody thing I’ve ever heard in my life,” and his voice sounds like he’s in literal awe which makes them all start laughing again, dog-piling on top of Zayn and smothering kisses over his face, smothering love.
Later on, they go back to the house and hang up the decorations and lights for the party while Harry makes chicken fajitas on the stove, thinking that if he could have chosen any way to spend his last day, this would have be it.
The sky is dark when people begin to arrive.
They trickle in slowly, filling up the kitchen and the living room and the foyer all at once, packed together in the space like fish in a too small pond. Harry doesn’t see anyone he knows, and thinks that a lot of people caught wind of the party and just decided to show up—because the world is ending, and because there’s nothing else to do.
But Harry’s always loved that feeling at the beginning of a party.
It’s like he’s standing at the edge of a precipice, high above everything else, just waiting for something to happen. Waiting for whatever will push him over the edge of it all until he’s falling, falling, falling, until he’s hurtling downwards, until he’s flying back up.
Most of the time, nothing happens. Nothing much, anyways.
The parties end and then he wakes up the next morning and goes to sleep the same night, the sun rising and falling until it’s all a blur of day and night, of then and now, of what could have been and what really is.
Louis’ house seems bigger tonight.
Even with the all the people and the music playing so loud that Harry feels it in his bones, every room seems to lead off somewhere else, into darkness or into colored lights and laughter, and it all feels new and unfamiliar even though Harry’s been here for over a week.
When he gets to the kitchen, he finds people clustered around a keg. Niall’s there, with a bunch of people that Harry doesn’t recognize. They’re all laughing and talking and shouting, but the noises bleed together until they’re just one sound—until it’s all just background noise, something that Harry can sink back into. Red cups are littered all over the floor, along with beer cans and potato chips, and Harry’s glad that he won’t have to clean up the mess.
Through the glass of the balcony door, he can make out the shapes of people standing outside, talking and smoking, bundled up in winter jackets, the orange tips of their cigarettes glowing bright against the pitch black sky. No one is familiar and everyone seems a little hollow around the eyes, but Harry’s happy. He really fucking is. His whole body is buzzing as the music pulses and stirs around him, shaking the floors and the ceilings, and he’s smiling for no reason now, staying in the kitchen long enough to fill his cup up with something fizzy and strong before taking off, pushing through the crowd.
Things move past him in a quick blur as he makes his way through the house—pieces of conversation and laughter, the feel of coats and winter jackets brushing up against his skin, the smell of beer and smoke, heady and hazy, all spinning and whirling together, making him dizzy.
When he reaches the living room, he stops in the doorway and stands up on his toes, searching for anyone familiar. People glance back at him with hooded stares before looking away again, their bodies strung in time with the music. The ceiling is high and there’s a disco ball spinning there, one of those cheap black ones that Niall picked up from the dollar store the other day—it pours patterns of colors all over the room, beams of red and blue light that hit against bodies and bounce back, pooling against the walls, turning everything into a maze of color and darkness.
He peers into the darkness, noticing that the chairs have been pushed up against the far wall, and that the coffee table is there too, already covered in empty shot glasses and plastic cups.
The light shifts and Harry catches sight of Liam and Zayn in the crowd. Their silhouettes are edged in red light, foreheads pressed together as they dance, fast and pulsing, surrounded by people on every side. Zayn has a cigarette between his teeth, but his eyes seem heavy as he watches Liam, taking his cigarette away just a moment before he’s ducking in, their mouths meeting in a slow kiss.
Harry looks away. He has to, because it feels private, somehow, even though they’re standing in the middle of a packed room. But still, he’s grinning like a bloody idiot, can’t even believe that it took them so long to get together, to figure it out.
It’s just a moment later that he’s watching Louis enter the room from the other doorway—the one that leads into the kitchen instead of into the hall—carrying a sweating bottle of beer and smiling. Louis hasn’t noticed him yet so Harry takes the time to remember everything about this moment.
He wants to remember everything from the way that the blue light plays over Louis’ face like rain, to the smell of smoke and booze that hangs heavy in the air, mixing in with the fresh scent of winter. He wants to remember the people and the laughter and the voices that seem to echo, becoming air. Music pours out of speakers from somewhere else in the house, but it swims all around him, loud and booming. It thrums through his veins like lightning, making his head feel thick and fuzzy, like he could just float away.
Louis is laughing with someone by the doorway, and then his shape is lost in the darkness as the green light cuts away, flashing around the room before coming back again, landing bright and electric on his face.
This time, he’s looking in Harry’s direction, and then a second later his eyes are widening as he actually notices Harry. From across the room, the blue of them shines brighter than the full moon.
The space between them seems endless, so Harry starts moving, he just starts pushing through the crowd, stumbling towards Louis as the sound of pulsing music grows louder around him, so loud that he can barely hear himself think. The world seems to spin and melt away as Louis watches him, walking away from the person he’s talking to and weaving through the crowd until they’re meeting in the middle of the dance floor.
“Hey, Curly!” Louis shouts over the music, grinning as he wraps an arm around the back of Harry’s neck, the lip of his beer bottle pressing cool against the nape there. “How are you liking the party?”
“It’s good!” Harry yells back, and he feels like he’s in a dream.
The lines of Louis’ face are sharp, and the green lights have switched into blue now—the color washes over the room, igniting the dancing bodies until everything looks like it’s underwater, blurring silhouettes all edged in electric blues.
Louis leans in, and when he speaks his breath puffs out warm against Harry’s ear, sending shivers down his spine. “You look good!”
Harry laughs, pressing his forehead against Louis’ as he closes his eyes, trying to make everything slow down, or stop spinning. Louis’ mouth brushes over his, but they’re not kissing, not really. They’re just dancing, bodies strung in tune with the music as the crowd moves around them in waves. Like this, the music seems to melt away, folding back into the dark until all that’s left is the sounds of Harry’s heartbeat and Louis’ breathing. The air is cold, like someone’s cracked a window open somewhere in the house to let the smoke out, but Harry still feels warm.
It’s the good kind of warmth, though—the kind of warmth that comes from a room of dancing bodies and air full of cigarette smoke, heady and remote. The song switches into something familiar, and Harry listens as the words pour out over the room like milk.
Oh, reckless abandon. Like no one’s watching you.
His eyes blink open, and Louis’ staring at him in a way that makes his breath hitch. Their foreheads are still pressed together and they’re spinning around and around and around as the music pulses louder, shaking the bones of the house.
“It’s our song, Lou!” Harry shouts, laughing loud. He feels giddy all of a sudden, loving the way that the blue lights shine on Louis’ face and brighten the edges of it. He remembers a time years ago when the blue lights were gold instead and their all of their clothes were made for summer. “Do you remember?”
“Yeah, I remember.” Louis nods, his eyes heavy as he watches Harry for a moment, and then they’re kissing again.
It happens so fast, like seconds shifting into minutes, and Harry just melts into it, sinking into the feeling of lips and tongue and teeth. He doesn’t think about the sun or the seconds running out. He doesn’t think about the time he’s wasted or the mistakes he’s made. He just smiles into Louis’ kiss as the music swells around them, voices and laughter fading into background noise.
Harry lets his mouth fall open as Louis licks over his bottom lip, and he feels arousal spike through him then, hot and insistent.
In that moment, it’s like there’s this tunneling effect and Harry’s suddenly floating out of his body to watch from somewhere else, somewhere where him and Louis are just pictures of themselves. He sees it so clearly like this—he sees the beer sloshing out of his cup as he ropes an arm around the back of Louis’ neck, bringing him closer; he sees the way that their chests are pressed together in the dimness, the music sounding milky and far away as they dance; he sees the crowd of people surrounding them, he sees the flashing lights slicing through the dark like moon beams, all green and blue and magenta, a spectrum of everything that will never be here again.
Louis pulls away, and his breath is heavy as him and Harry sway, staring at each other as the world spins around them. Louis looks at Harry warmly, the blue of his eyes getting lost in the dark. “Are you afraid?”
In that moment, Louis is the most beautiful creature that Harry has ever seen, and it’s not about his face, not really. It’s about the light that lives in the lining in his skin, it’s about the life force there and the way his smile seems to glow. It makes Harry want to yell at the sun for being so greedy, for having to take Louis with the rest of them—Louis, the careless. Louis, the brave. Struck down.
Harry has to shout over the music, his words coming out steady and soft as Louis washes him. “I’m not sure!”
Louis throws his head back as he laughs, and Harry wishes that he could live in this moment forever. He’s hard in his jeans already, and so he lets his eyes fall shut as his head drops down onto the place where Louis’ shoulder meets his neck. The cotton of his jumper is soft on Harry’s cheek, smelling of alcohol and something else, something more like clean laundry and mint leaves, and Harry never knew it was possible to love another person this much.
The music switches then, becoming something much faster, shaking the walls. It’s one of those auto tuned electronic songs that you’d find playing on the radio, but Harry doesn’t mind. He sort of likes it.
The room swims with light and shadow and smoke, and Harry almost groans when a smashing sound echoes loudly through the house, causing Louis to break away, his blue eyes wide as he strains to listen.
“Did you hear that?” He shouts, frowning at Harry.
Before Harry can answer, Niall’s voice is floating in from somewhere else, trickling over the loud music and the laughter and the conversation. “Bloody hell!” He’s yelling, “Why the fuck would you touch that?”
“Oh, god.” Louis groans loudly, his gaze flicking towards the doorway before he’s looking back at Harry, frowning. “I should check that out, shouldn’t I? You wanna come with me?”
“I’ll wait here,” Harry shouts back. “Just be fast!”
“Why?” Louis yells, grinning wide. “Will you miss me?”
Harry rolls his eyes, fighting the urge to just lean in and kiss Louis again, whisper into his mouth, why, yes. Yes, I will. Instead, he takes Louis by the shoulders and spins him around, shoving him gently in the direction of the kitchen. “Just hurry back, alright?”
“Whatever you say, sunshine!” Louis shouts over his shoulder, laughing as he turns away to weave through the crowd. The copper tones of his hair are lost in the sea of dancing bodies, and Harry blinks, already feeling the emptiness beginning to settle in the pit of his stomach.
People move around him like shadows, just echoes of what they could be in the daytime, but they look absolutely magical, like those glass ballerinas that used to spin in his mum’s jewelry box. He catches the stares of some of them as they dance and their eyes are looking glassy and hollow, bare skin drenched in fairy colored light. Most of them are probably on drugs or something else, but Harry doesn’t really mind. They can do whatever they want with their end of the world.
Minutes pass quickly, and Harry’s skin begins to itch.
He stumbles forward as someone pushes past him to move out into some other area in the house, and the air in the room is starting to feel thick and fuzzy because Louis hasn’t gotten back yet and Harry’s not sure where to put himself. He stands on his tip toes, searching the crowd for a familiar face, but he finds nobody. Zayn and Liam have probably moved out onto the porch, where fireworks are going off outside. Harry tugs at the collar of his shirt, trying not to cough at the smoke in the air.
His mind seems to blank, like a television full of snow.
He’s not sure how long he stands there, but suddenly the idea of an empty bedroom upstairs, full of darkness and silence and moonlit squares, seems strangely appealing.
Wiping at his eyes, Harry lets the world blur around him as he moves through the crowd, pushing past people and doors until he’s walking down the hall and then up the stairs, wooden steps groaning beneath his feet. He reaches Louis’ door, twisting the knob and pushing it open slowly, like he’s afraid that people will be naked on the bed.
Thankfully, the room is empty.
Shutting the door behind him, Harry lets the music fall away until it’s nothing but muffled noise, sounding far away and distant, like the speakers have been covered in blankets. The window is cracked open a bit, covered in frost, and the cool air that floods in makes it easier to breathe, but Harry’s heart is still beating too quickly in his chest.
Harry steps out of his shoes before making his way to the bed and sitting down on the foot of it. As he looks around the room, he seems to notice things that he never really noticed before—little memories scattered around, suddenly coming into focus as the moonlight washes in through the window and colors everything a hazy sort of purple, the sort of purple that edges on dark blue.
On Louis’ dresser, there’s a picture sitting in a silver frame.
Harry stands up, moving towards the dresser like he’s being pulled by something bigger than himself, and his eyes widen as he picks up the frame, brushing his thumb over the glass.
It’s a picture he recognizes instantly, and he doesn’t understand how he didn’t notice it before. In the photo, they’re standing on the shore of a frozen beach, bundled up in scarves and beanies, pink cheeks pressed together as they smiled. The picture only shows their shoulders upwards, but Harry remembers the way that Louis’ hand had been resting sure and steady on the jut of his hip, the warmth of his hand burning past the denim of Harry’s jeans, singeing the skin there.
Harry lets his hand trail over the picture, over Louis’ smiling mouth, and then he’s blinking back heat as he places the picture frame back down on the dresser before turning away again, his eyes travelling around the room. A square of moonlight pools on the bed, inky and pale, and Harry thinks of stripping out of his clothes and laying down in it, letting the light wash over his skin and calm him down. But that would be weird, that would be fucking strange, so he doesn’t do that.
Suddenly, he thinks about the photographs that he and Louis took years ago, cramped together in some photo booth in a the country that they were performing in that night—Tokyo, America, Harry can’t remember. The names come to him, blurry and interchangeable. Mostly, he remembers the way that their laughter was muffled as they kissed, limbs tangling together in the darkness.
He wonders if Louis kept them, if they’re still around.
One minute he’s looking in the drawers and checking between the books on the shelf beside the bathroom door, and then the next minute he’s on his knees, crawling across the carpet until he’s sliding beneath the bed, moonlit shadows growing dark around him. He shifts, laying down on his stomach before resting his chin over his crossed arms, the underside of the bed less than an inch above his head.
The sound of music is muffled like it has to float for days before reaching him, and Harry lets the noise wash over the silence, he lets it calm him down. His breath is back to normal now, and he’s watching the place where the bottom half of the door is visible in the dimness.
It’s a while before the door opens up, the music growing louder as a slice of orange light splays over the carpeted floors, softening the shadows of the bedroom. Louis steps inside—Harry knows Louis’ feet anywhere—and then he’s whispering, “Harry?”
Harry could cry knowing that that voice, that body, will be gone soon.
“Louis,” he says, and for some reason it sounds like he’s begging.
Louis walks further into the room, shutting the door behind him. And then it’s a blur as he kneels down and picks up the bed skirt, lowering his head to peer under the bed, smiling when he sees Harry there. “Nice hiding place.”
Harry has his chin resting on his forearms, so his words are muffled when he says, “Come here.”
Louis gets this soft look in his eyes and then he’s under the bed beside Harry, kingdoms away from the flashing lights and the sun, and this—this is what Harry wants forever. Both of them lay on their sides so that they’re looking at each other in the tight space, and Louis is tracing Harry’s mouth with a gentle finger, spreading warmth that manages to reach even the deepest parts of him.
Harry want to close his eyes, to sink back into it, but he doesn’t.
He just stares back at Louis, watching the way that his face seems all bluish and gray in the dimness. Harry has so many feelings inside of him, spinning and whirl, expanding into smoke and into dust. All he can do is try to shrink himself down, centering himself in his skin, deeper and deeper until all that exists is the feeling of Louis’ finger on his bottom lip.
Harry licks his lips, his whole body buzzing. “Fuck, I love you.”
I don’t want this to end is what it sounds like.
I wish we had more time is what it sounds like.
Louis blinks, and his eyes seem heavy as he shuffles in closer, placing his hand in Harry’s hair, fingers tightening there like he’s afraid to let go. Harry swallows, arousal waking up. Louis’ breath is warm as he presses small kisses to Harry’s cheeks, to the corner of Harry mouth, to his eyelids. Harry exhales, his fingers tightening on Louis’ hips. His whole body relaxes as he moves into the touch, pathetically sick with love and a need for things to just keep going.
“Tell me a story,” he breathes against Louis’ neck, shutting his eyes as he presses his forehead to Louis’ throat. He shifts so that he’s laying half-over Louis, their legs slotted together in a lazy sort of way.
Louis’ presses his mouth against the crown of Harry’s skull. “A story?”
Harry nods, his voice sleepy. “Yeah.”
“Alright,” Louis starts, and Harry thinks it’s lovely, the way his voice gets softer in the dark like that. “Once upon a time, there was a yellow giant. For a long time, the yellow giant was alone and he hated it because he had nobody to talk to, so he started looking around for mates that he could laugh and play around with.” Louis pauses, like he’s trying to think about what to say next. It’s a moment before he starts speaking again. “One day, he came across a planet. There were people living there, so he watched them for a while—from a distance, of course—and was really happy when he noticed that they liked having him around. Because, you see, without him, the world was bloody cold. And I mean fucking freezing, babe. You definitely wouldn’t last.”
Harry huffs out a small laugh, the sound muffled against Louis’ throat. He keeps his eyes shut, smiling softly. “And why not?”
Louis’ whole body moves when he shrugs. “Well, because I wouldn’t last, and you could only go on so long without a cuddle.”
“I’d find someone else to cuddle with,” Harry points out, his fingers brushing over the nape of Louis’ neck. He’s lying, of course—Louis is right. Harry’s already tried to last without him and it just doesn’t work.
Laughing, Louis’ voice becomes a whisper. “Have you quiet finished?”
Nodding, Harry smiles again, focusing on the way that Louis’ body rises and falls on every exhale. With his ear against Louis’ throat like this, he can hear the swimming sounds of a heartbeat, of a pulse moving slow. It makes him sad for some reason.
“Thank you,” Louis sighs, his finger tracing patterns over Harry’s back. The feeling is all soft and hazy, warmth spreading through the fleece of Harry’s sweater. Louis keeps talking and Harry loves the sound. “As I was saying, the yellow giant was pleased, thinking that he finally found some mates to live his life with. But every time he tried to get close to them, they’d end up getting hurt. That was the first time he realized that he wasn’t like everybody else—he was a ball of heat, really, just something that they couldn’t get close to.”
When Louis stops talking for a second, Harry nudges him with his forehead, feeling sleepy and content and relaxed. His words are blurred around the edges. “Keep going, Lou. I want to know what happens.”
“Okay,” Louis says, and Harry can hear the smile there. “When the yellow giant realized that he’d burn every person that he ever tried to love, he got really sad. His light became, like, really weak, I guess—and when winter came and it started snowing all the time, he thought it was all his fault. Thought all his mates would freeze to death, right, ‘cause he’d never seen a planet so white and cold before.”
“What he did do then?” Harry asks, his head swimming.
“He started moving closer. I suppose he couldn’t help himself.” Louis says, speaking against the crown of Harry’s skull. “Winter melted away and the people were happy at first, looking up at the sky to see the yellow giant sitting there. And the giant liked that, their attention, and he loved them so much that he just kept moving in.”
Harry frowns. “But wouldn’t that hurt them?”
“I’m getting there,” Louis whispers, his hand moving up beneath Harry’s fleece sweater, warm and gentle and steady on the skin there. Harry breathes in, liking the way that Louis smells like smoke and something clean as he speaks. “So, the yellow giant moved closer, and he was so distracted by their attention after being alone for so long that he didn’t even realize when his light became too much for them to handle.”
Harry blinks his eyes open, but he keeps his ear pressed against Louis’ throat. He likes it here, under the bed where the moonlight doesn’t reach them. “He killed them, didn’t he?”
“I’m afraid so, Curly.”
“I don’t get it.” Harry frowns, not liking the way that the story’s turning out. Why couldn’t the yellow giant just stay away? Why couldn’t he find friends his own size, friends that would bask in the heat of him instead of burning? “I thought you said that he loved them.”
“He did love them,” Louis says, and his voice warm and steady. “That’s why he couldn’t stay away.”
Put like that, Harry supposes it makes sense.
“He sounds like a bit of a bastard.”
“Yeah.” Louis laughs, trailing his thumb over Harry’s shoulder blade, a small touch that makes him shiver. “Yeah. He does, isn’t he?”
“Huge bastard,” Harry breathes, cold air chilling the parts of his back where Louis’ pulled his sweater up. “Did you just come up with all that off the top of your head or what?”
“I’ve been thinking about it for a while, I suppose.”
Harry’s quiet for a moment, his fingers brushing over the nape of Louis’ neck. “It’s a sad story,” he says finally.
“The best ones always are, babe.” Louis replies, whole body rising on an exhale.
Harry smiles slowly, brushing his lips against the dip of Louis’ throat. His eyes are still closed. “I like it when you call me that.”
He’s never said it out loud, but he’s always loved it when Louis calls him names like that—stupid names like babe and baby, Haz and Curly, love, sunshine—just little things that are all for Harry. Now, with the end of the world breathing down their backs, Harry’s not sure why it’s taken him so long to admit it.
“You like it when I call you babe?” Louis asks, surprised.
“I like it when you call me anything, to be honest.” Harry smiles, still speaking against Louis’ throat. He’s being serious, too. Even the way Louis says his first name is magic, the lines of each letter coming out soft and fuzzy, drunken and bold.
“Really.” Louis says, but it’s not a question. He sounds amused.
Harry nods, his forehead falling down onto Louis’ shoulder. His stomach rises and falls like an ocean wave as he breathes—cresting high, fading back with every exhale. He loves knowing that he’s not alone in this.
Raising his head, he’s careful not to hit the underside of the bed as he meets Louis gaze. His eyes are watchful, silvery blue in the dimness, and Harry’s suddenly struck by the beauty of it all. Sadness swims in the pit of his belly though, empty and cold as he remembers that both of them will be gone by tomorrow morning. Both of them will be dust.
“I really fucking love you,” Louis says after a while of silence.
Harry grins, slow and giddy, his face hovering over Louis’ like he’s about to lean in for a kiss.
Their bodies are lined up to match now—hips against hips, shoulders against shoulders, Harry’s hands in Louis’ hair, Louis’ hands on Harry’s back. It’s a wonder they can both fit under the bed, and they’re so close like this, Harry’s mouth brushing against Louis’ chin in a way that sends him shivering. He’s certain that they’ll float away the moment they separate, that they’ll move through the walls and through the bricks of the house like mist, evaporating into nothing, into everything, winter swallowing them up before the sun does.
“I know,” Harry murmurs back, the words blurred against Louis’ chin as he kisses it. That one touch seems to send his whole body buzzing, and he thinks about the party downstairs, the bright lights and the smoke, the room spinning into a world of color and sound. The music trickles into the silence of the bedroom, muted and strange, and Harry can’t even bring himself to miss it. He’s too focused on kissing over Louis’ eyelids and nose, on just loving him in the ways that he knows how. He’s mapping out his body and wishing that he could hide there, that he could tuck himself between the gaps in Louis’ ribs. “And I love you too. I think that you’re the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.”
“You’re lucky Niall didn’t hear that,” Louis says, swallowing thick as Harry kisses over his eyelids again. “You’d have some explaining to do.”
Harry grins, looking down at Louis as the shadows move like ghosts around them. “We should probably go find them, shouldn’t we?” Harry asks, his voice just a whisper. “You know, end of the world and all that.”
Louis nods, and his eyes are warm. “Yeah, let’s go.”
And then Harry’s kissing him again, because he can’t help it, and because it might be the last time he ever gets to do it like this, soft and slow and searching. Louis breathes into his mouth and it’s like the feeling spreads through Harry’s whole body until it’s all he can feel—Louis’ teeth scraping over his bottom lip, Louis’ chest pressed flushed against his own, the beat of their hearts, together, one.
It’s the first time in a long time that he’s felt happy but so fucking sad at the same time and he’s not even sure how to explain it, how to define it, how to lay it down in a way that makes sense.
He just knows that Louis’ licking into his mouth and making him see stars, arousal and love burning inside of him, so bright that he feels it in his bones and in his blood. Nothing is blurring or spinning together.
Everything is clear, sharp—and suddenly Harry’s crying, his whole body racking around a sob as he kisses Louis’ mouth rougher, harder, storing away the moment in his mind like he can take it with him wherever he’s going, like he can put it in his pocket and it will stay there.
“God, Lou.” He breathes, nuzzling his forehead against Louis’. His voice breaks as he starts to cry harder. “Oh, fuck. I’m gonna miss you.”
Louis tilts his head upwards, his mouth landing someplace near Harry’s ear. “Hey,” he whispers, and his voice sounds strained with emotion, like he’s trying hard to keep himself to together, and that makes Harry cry even more. He can’t believe that it’s all ending, that Louis’ hair and Louis’ eyes and Louis’ bones will all be gone by tomorrow morning. “I know,” Louis whispers again, pressing his mouth to Harry’s wet eyelids, just feeling. “I know.”
“God damn it.” Harry breathes, his sadness pouring out of him and settling between them like water, thick and suffocating beneath the bed. He tries to see through it, but the tears don’t stop even as he searches for Louis’ lips in the dark, whole body shaking around sobs that echo. “Remember me, alright? ‘Cause I swear to god, Lou, I’ll fuck you up so bad if I find you floating around with some other lad’s mind in the dark.”
Louis nods against Harry’s forehead, laughing wetly. “I’ll remember.”
“Yeah?” Harry asks, sniffling around a grin.
Louis watches him for a moment, the blue of his eyes burning bright in the dimness. When he speaks, his voice is low. “I will.”
They’re lips meet then, and Harry’s mouth is starting to hurt but he doesn’t mind, and he thinks that if he could remember one thing about his life it would be this—the love. The love he has for his mother and his father and his friends, the love he has for his fans, for the people that stuck by him when the rest of the world turned their backs. And of course, the love he has for Louis, bright and buzzing and electric.
They kiss like they’re starving.
Like they’re looking for something or like they’ve already found it.
Harry’s crying again, and he thinks that Louis might be, too.
“You’re too much, Curly.” Louis says when he breaks away, his head falling back onto the floor with a thud.
Harry frowns, pursing his lips, and Louis watches him for a moment before surging up and kissing him again—just small pecks, like he can’t even help himself—once, twice, and then three more times before he finally breaks away.
“We should probably head back down.” Louis says, and his pupils are all blown out as he looks at Harry, the blue of them looking like ice water. “End of the world and all that.”
Harry grins slowly, nodding, and then it seems like they’re back downstairs without even moving.
The party’s still going strong even though it’s almost midnight, and the music vibrating through Harry’s chest is so loud that he can barely hear himself think. He likes it, though, feels like he’s floating as he follows Louis through the crowd, forcing his way against the tide of people moving in the other direction. Louis glances back at him, and Harry catches the hints of a smile there before Louis’ looking away again, leading them towards the living room.
They stop at the living room door, hands twined together as they watch the lights flash red and blue over the crowd. People are dancing, just black silhouettes in the dimness, the colors blurring together until the lights become purple, until everybody looks half-bruised.
Louis squeezes his hand, nodding towards a place across the room.
Harry follows his gaze, noticing Niall standing in the doorway that leads back out into the kitchen. He’s chatting with Liam and Zayn, and the details of their faces are smudged by the smoke in the air. As if he could sense Harry looking, Niall’s suddenly glancing around the room, grinning wide when his eyes land on Harry’s. And then it’s only a second later that Zayn and Liam are looking over, too, all five boys watching each other as the colors flash and whirl around them.
They don’t even have to speak the words.
Louis just nods towards the hallway behind him and Harry—the one that leads out to the stairs and the front door—and suddenly the other boys are making their way across the room as if being pulled by something, elbowing through the dancing and the blue smoke and the lights.
Harry smiles, turning to follow Louis down the hall and into the foyer, where moonlight washes in through the glass squares of the door, casting milky patterns of brightness across the tiled floors. Zayn and Niall and Liam trail in behind him a moment later, and then they’re all dressing slowly, silently—pulling on their coats and their hats and their gloves, bundling up. Harry keeps one hand on the wood paneling of the wall as he steps into his shoes, and then Louis’ opening up the door and they’re all moving out of the house into the frozen air of winter.
“It’s bloody freezing out here,” Liam mutters, breathing into his hands as they walk down the porch steps, snow and ice crunching beneath their booted feet. “You’d think it be warmer with a solar flare on the way, wouldn’t you?”
Harry nods, his shoulder bumping against Louis’ as they weave their way through the snow-covered cars lining the drive, all of them unfamiliar.
“I heard they’re getting it quite bad in America,” Niall says, glancing back towards them with his hands shoved deep in his pockets. His breath comes out white, dazzling against the pitch black sky. “Hectic stuff, man. Apparently shop windows have been melting off onto the roads and everything.”
“Really.” Harry says, amused at the way that Niall’s acting like he knows what he’s talking about even though he probably doesn’t. He stops walking as they reach Louis’ truck, which is parked on the road in front of the mailbox. “Where’d you hear that?”
Niall shrugs, making his way out to the place where Louis’ truck is parked on the road. “It’s all over the news.”
Louis laughs, his car keys jingling as he takes them out of his pocket and starts flicking through them, searching for the right one. “Get in the truck, lads. Harry, baby, you’re up front.”
Harry grins, warmth spreading through him like a fire. “Okay.”
“Of course Harry’s up front.” Zayn says, shaking his head as he pulls the van door open and hops inside, Liam following in after him.
“God, Zayn, I just love it when you get jealous.” Louis teases, sliding into the car and shutting the door behind him with a thud.
Harry grins and makes his way around to the passenger side, careful not to slip on the ice as he climbs inside, teeth chattering as the air grows even colder. He rubs his hands over the lap of his jeans, warming them up. The windshield is covered in frost.
“And if any of you start shagging in here, I’ll fling myself out onto the road.” Niall says, his voice straining as he stretches a thick quilt over his lap, getting comfortable. “Also, I reckon I’ll feel a bit left out if you do.”
“No worries, mate. You can join me and Harry if it comes to that.” Louis replies, buckling his seatbelt in the driver’s seat.
“I really don’t know what I see in you,” Harry says.
The engine starts up as Louis places the key into the ignition, before glancing over at Harry, his eyebrows raised. Moonlight makes the one side of his face look silver. “You do realize that you’ve got four nipples.”
“Hey,” Harry frowns, trying not to grin when Louis smiles at him.
The boys are laughing in the backseat, and everything feels warm and light and hazy. Harry glances out the window to where Louis’ house sits in the distance, only half-visible through the gaps in the trees, and it’s covered in fairy lights and snow. He suddenly wonders what it would look like in the summertime.
“On a serious level, though,” Louis starts a moment later as he begins to drive, speaking much more quietly this time, like his words are meant just for Harry, “I definitely know what I see in you.”
The end of the world is a lot brighter than Harry expected.
As Louis drives them down the long stretch of road, Harry keeps his eyes on the world outside the window. The midnight sky is the colour of fresh milk, bright white and blinding, spilling out over everything. It’s strange, because he’s never seen a sky look so pale at two o’clock in the morning, but it’s also sort of nice at the same time.
It seems like the moment is frozen, untouched.
There’s no up or down, no sides or ceilings—it’s as if they’re just driving into whiteness, into nothing, the pines trees bracketing the road passing by them in a blur. Like ghosts, Harry can only see them if he looks hard enough.
“Bloody hell,” Niall says suddenly, his voice floating up from the backseat, where he’s bundled up in blankets and quilts, blue eyes settled on the white mist. “This is some proper end of the world shit, isn’t it?”
“I’m quite sure that that’s the point, Niall.” Liam replies, but Harry thinks he hears a smile there.
“It’s like a flashlight or something,” Zayn adds.
Harry looks into the reflection of the car mirror to see Zayn following Niall’s gaze, his dark brows furrowing at the sight beyond the frost-covered window. Light is stealing over their faces slowly, softening the edges, and Harry smiles when he notices that Zayn’s holding Liam’s hand but he’s got an arm around Niall’s shoulder too, all of them linked together.
Harry smiles, turning back to look out the front windshield as they speed further and further down the road. Slush snaps like twigs beneath the worn out tires of the car as Louis drives. It’s just Harry and his four boys and the long stretch of road ahead, the road and the white fog and the sun that casts shadows of nothing across the windshield, pale shadows that brighten his hand clasped with Louis’ and the cozy fullness of the backseat. Niall is laughing as they drive towards the horizon, speeding faster and faster and faster until the white mist is nothing but something that blurs past them, bouncing off of the car windows like a great big streak of light.
After a while of silence, Louis brings the back of Harry’s hand up to his mouth, just feeling, just keeping it there.
Harry’s whole body feels like it’s burning gold.
The light shifts and suddenly the sun is visible on the horizon, bright orange light spreading like tangerine fizz over the black roads and the trees made white by the winter snow.
It’s not scary—it’s thrilling, and Harry realizes for the first time that there’s no point in life if you’re just drifting through it. There’s no point if you’re not doing what you want, what you like, what makes your bones feel like they’re nothing but stardust and things that float. All of his memories are coming back to him, moments that his mind has captured over the years, and the details of them are all grainy and washed out like they’ve been bleached by the sun.
Him at three years old, fast asleep in his grandmother’s garden—him at twelve years old, climbing up the backyard tree thinking that it would take him to the moon—him at sixteen, meeting his boys for the first time, a spark unfolding inside of him that made him unafraid.
All of these things are the things that he remembers.
Everything else is irrelevant, interchangeable, and a laugh bubbles up in his throat as he finally sees the clearness of it all, the basic truth of it.
Love what you love, who you love, and don’t be quiet about it.
The memories snap back as a feeling of heat floods through his body—a feeling of warmth, not burning—and then everything erupts, becoming bright white and blinding. They’ve cracked open the car windows, so Harry has to squint against the light as he turns his head to the side, the cold wind speeding through his hair and through his clothes, full of snow. Louis looks back at him, not even bothering to watch the road anymore, and Harry’s heart swells up as he realizes that Louis’ laughing, too. It’s like sunshine’s pouring out through his teeth and through his pores as the wind around them grows louder, louder, deafening.
Harry smiles, shifting in his seat so that he can squeeze his arm back through the gap between the car window and the head-rest of his seat, offering his hand to over to Liam, who takes it with a warm grin. Then he’s watching as Liam squeezes Zayn’s hand tighter, as Zayn nods and tightens his arm around Niall’s shoulder, and then how Niall reaches his other hand forward to Louis, who takes it as the wind and the light pour into the car, his foot on the gas pedal the only thing that pushes them forward.
“Boys, it’s been a good life!” Louis shouts over the noise, his blue eyes crinkling as he smiles wide, turning his face towards Harry.
“It’s been fucking incredible!” Niall yells back, blonde hair whipping around his face, almost white beneath the sunlight.
“I wouldn’t change a thing!” Zayn shouts.
“Because nothing else could ever compare!” Liam yells finally.
His words are almost lost to the wind around them, but Harry hears them loud and clear. They sit beside him and they seem true. So he laughs—he laughs and he smiles and he glows because it’s all he remembers how to do right now, with the sun sitting up on the horizon like a reminder of what’s coming. There’s no sadness here. There’s no anger. Twelve days was all it took.
As they head towards the sun, Harry keeps his eyes on Louis.
The light is so bright and the wind is so loud that he can barely make anything out, but Louis’ mouth is moving so Harry tries to focus in on that, tries to see what he’s saying, and he can’t, but then it’s like Louis’ voice is floating up over the chaos, ringing out loud and clear.
I’ll see you soon.
Harry laughs, almost crying as he tightens his hand around Louis’.
The end of world is filled with warmth and love and brightness. It rises up like morning, swallowing up the dark, and Harry isn’t afraid when the world melts away or when the earth roars as it burns, as it breaks, as it disappears. All he feels is the light—so much light that it fills him up, that it soaks through him and makes him feel like he’s moving through a tunnel that’s leading up, up, up—a tunnel that makes everything echo, that makes words echo, that makes Louis’ words—echo.
I’ll see you soon, I’ll see you soon, I’ll see you soon.
Time bends and stops and stretches on, but Harry’s already gone, floating back into the light with hope burning in his veins like lightning. He imagines sitting in the center of the sun, with the light coming forward and the dark stepping back, the dark disappearing.
Just think about what that means.