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take my hand (take my whole life too)

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Louis is awakened by a cold nose pressing into his neck and the tickle of curls against his skin. It’s a gloomy sort of morning, but then again, it always is in London. Waking up to Harry is pretty much a guarantee that it’ll be a little bit brighter, though.

“G’morning,” he mumbles, slow and soft against Louis. “Did you sleep well?”

Louis can feel Harry’s erection pressed against his back, so he laughs to himself, short and sharp, before rolling himself over so that he’s straddling Harry, rolling his hips down against him.

“Yeah,” Harry smirks, leaning up to kiss him. “Had very pleasant dreams.”

Fucking Christ, this boy will be the end of him, Louis thinks, with those red lips and blown pupils on display. He chances a look sideways to where his watch is sitting sideways on the bedside table, and oh, fuck.

“Shit,” he mumbles into Harry’s mouth, “Haz, hold on.”

Harry pulls back, pouting, “What?”

“Got a meeting with the publishers in like, an hour,” Louis rolls off Harry and sits up. “Need to get ready.”

Harry’s frowning properly now, eyebrows all scrunched up like an adorable kitten.

“Hey, don’t get pouty with me,” Louis says. “We’ll have plenty of time tonight.”

He leans back over to kiss Harry again, nibbles down on his bottom lip, and Harry turns it from a sweet peck into something that has Louis gasping as he pulls away.

“I really have to get ready, Harry,” Louis gets up and strips off on his way to the bathroom, grabbing a towel. Harry follows him, chattering as they go.

“Lou, I know how busy you are, but I remember we spoke about flying over to Nice for mum’s wedding and you told me you’d let me know and, well. I just want you to meet my parents. For them to know what you mean to me.“ Harry looks almost nervous, and Louis hates to let him down like this, but.

It’s kind of a huge commitment. His own family doesn’t know he’s even seeing someone and he sort of prefers it that way, despite how close he is with them. If he told them, there’d be all those awful questions about the future and how serious they are and Louis just wants to skip all that, have lazy morning sex and go to sleep with Harry next to him and pretend it isn’t all awfully foreign and adult.

So he shakes his head as he turns the hot spray of the shower on, grimacing. “It’s like I said, Harry, I’m still going to have so much going on, I’ve got a deadline that I need to be writing to, y’know? I can’t just up and leave. You know how hectic it’s all been. I’m sorry.”

Harry just sort of stands there for a moment, an almost unreadable look on his face, and Louis can tell he’s fucked up.

“It’s okay,” he replies, and walks out.

Fuck.

When Louis gets out of the shower, Harry’s standing in their outdated linoleum kitchen in only his pants, idly flipping through the newspaper whilst wielding a frypan, and it’s so typical Harry that Louis can’t help but smile. He doesn’t really know much about commitment, but he knows that he could get used to his.

“Like a good little househusband, you are,” he says, smirking.

“Watch yourself or you won’t get any eggs,” Harry shoots back, and well, Louis would hate to miss out on Harry’s cooking. Or any breakfast at all, for that matter. Louis is big on breakfast, has been since he was six and would start his Saturdays with a fry-up before heading out to play football with Stan and the other lads.

They eat in a sort of companionable silence, with thoughts on his book proposal running through Louis’ mind like corners of a story that he can’t pull together. Its sort of a dark, macabre novel set in a dystopian world, where a certain amount of people have the ability to cheat death and naturally, everyone goes fucking batshit. It’s a big ask for a first-time author, and Louis is sort of bricking it.

He’s about to leave, slinging the bag with his set and costume design ideas over his shoulder, when Harry says, “hold on, got your tea.”

“You’re a lifesaver,” Louis says gratefully, leaning against the kitchen counter as Harry pours his Yorkshire into his travel mug. And then, so quickly that Louis almost misses it, Harry fumbles and suddenly there’s boiling water on him, and he’s swearing.

“Fuck, Jesus fuck, buggering ouch,” he yelps, grimacing and cradling his burnt hand in the other.

Louis’ reaction is almost reflexive – he spins to the freezer and pulls out a bag of frozen peas, pressing them against Harry’s hand soothingly.

“You okay?” He asks, standing on his tiptoes and kissing Harry’s forehead.

Harry smiles gratefully at him, says, “Fine.”

They’re walking out of the house, Louis ducked underneath Harry’s umbrella, dodging the sprinkles of rain, and frantically trying to gather in his mind the parts of what he wants to present to the team of people that might be making his ideas a reality.

“The idea that death might one day be conquerable is what is presented to the characters and within this –“ Louis mumbles to himself, barely aware that he’s thinking out loud.

Harry cuts him off, because of course he does. “You do know that death is inevitable, yeah? That stuff’s out of your control. The things that you can control are your own choices.”

“Okay,” Louis counters, “That’s another point of view. I’m really not going to debate destiny, though. You’re far too much of a romantic for that.”

He’s walked ahead a little, frantic in his nervousness, and he almost misses the little sound of indignation Harry makes when someone bumps into him on the sidewalk and spills their coffee almost on his coat, but he doesn’t and it’s rather adorable, really.

While he’s distracted from work, he suddenly remembers the reservations he’s made tonight, wanting to celebrate the (hopeful) success of his meeting with Harry. “Oh, and just in case I don’t talk to you before tonight, dinner? At that Italian place we love. Seven o’clock.”

Harry’s face falls. “You’re kidding me, right?”

“No?”

“Tonight. Seven o'clock,” Harry’s frowning again, eyebrows drawn together and mouth set in a firm line. “That’s when my concert is, you colossal twat. The one I’ve been preparing for all term?”

Shit. Shit. It’s confirmed; Louis is actually the worst boyfriend ever. “Yeah, I couldn’t have forgotten that, that’s –“

“Tonight,” Harry cuts him off emphatically, “At seven.”

Louis just sort of gives up. “I’m sorry, I’m a total arse. Really, I can’t believe I forgot.”

“Good luck with your meeting,” Harry sighs, the way that he always does when he’s upset but doesn’t want to fight, doesn’t have the energy for it, and pecks him on the cheek. “We can do dinner after my concert.”

“Sounds perfect to me,” Louis says as they part ways and he flags down a taxi. While he’s walking, a harried-looking businessman in an oversized coat bumps into him and his arm flies up instinctively, wrist hitting a pole on the sidewalk and the face of his watch cracking. “Damn it,” he mutters to himself.

All in all, it hasn’t exactly been an ideal morning.

+

Louis’ meeting doesn’t go much better, either. He’s in the middle of a spiel on the importance of the readers understanding his characterization, the way that the upper classes cling to life while the bourgeoisie underneath them accept their fate.

And then Harry shows up, walks right into the room with an old folder of Louis’ under his arm and shaking rain out of his curls. All eyes in the room turn to him, including the fucking publishing team and his editor, and he sort of blushes.

“I’m so sorry to interrupt, I really am, it’s just that – Louis?” He stammers out, eyes flickering around the room and holding out the folder, “You left your things at home?”

Louis has not, in fact, left anything at home. He hasn’t touched that folder for about half a year. Everything he needs is currently sitting on the table next to him.

“I’ve got it all right here,” he smiles at Harry, as polite and clipped he could be, even a little bit cool. If an expression of hurt crosses Harry’s face at the unexpected formality, then that’s not exactly Louis’ fault, is it?

Louis is sure that he’s sending please leave right now signals to Harry, but Harry sort of ducks in awkwardly past the desks and kisses Louis on the cheek, just a faint brush of lips, and Louis kind of wants to die on the spot.  He’s aware of how much of a complete arsehole he’s being, but he can’t help himself. It’s almost like a car crash in that he can’t stop himself from making this worse.

“Bye,” Harry says as he pulls away, looking uncomfortable and confused. He almost trips in his haste to get out of the room and close the door behind him, and he looks once, almost furtively, over his shoulder before he goes, locking eyes with Louis.

Louis is the one that looks away first.

+

It’s fucking ridiculous, how hard it is to get a taxi at night in London. Louis is already running late, has been wandering the streets and contemplating his failure of a life all afternoon, and Harry’s already pissed off at him, and this is the last thing he needs right now, weaving through people on the sidewalk as the rain drizzles down on him (most likely ruining his hair).

When he finally gets into the fucking cab, something feels sort of off. The taxi driver seems friendly enough, sure, but he has this smile, and it’s just. He’s looking at Louis like he knows more about Louis than he himself does, and Louis would be lying if he said it didn’t make him feel uncomfortable.

“Where can I take you tonight?” he asks, and Louis rattles off the address that Harry had texted him earlier, settling in to watch the city fly by. He sort of likes taxi rides by himself, prefers it when the driver leaves him to plug in his earphones and just disconnect from the world for a while.

It doesn’t really work, though, because all he can think of is Harry’s hurt expression when he’d brushed him off earlier, and his frown when he’d told him he couldn’t meet his parents, and the fact that they seemed to be drifting even though Louis wanted him more than ever, and –

“You alright back there?” The driver asks, looking sort of concerned. “Got anything you need to get off your chest?”

And Louis has had a shitty day, and he’s about ninety percent sure that it’s going to get worse in the next few hours. He’s got a headache developing and is tired and just wants to go home and get into bed and curl up with Harry next to him.

So why the hell not, he thinks. This is pretty much what taxi drivers are there for, right? To act as people’s unofficial therapists?

“I’m fucking tired, for one thing,” he starts, “I’m tired and I’ve just potentially cocked up one of the biggest meetings of my life and I’m off to my boyfriend’s graduation concert and, like. He’s absolutely brilliant, y’know? Sometimes I look at him, and it’s like. Shit, you’re a real person. But other times, it’s hard. Because he’s always there, and he wants me to go meet his fucking parents in France or whatever, and it’s stressful. Does that make sense? Am I the biggest arsehole ever?”

The taxi driver sort of laughs, “It sounds to me like you just need to let go, and let yourself love him.”

Louis wonders where the stereotype of taxi drivers being good with personal problems came from, because this is possibly the worst advice he’s ever heard. But he thinks about it, thinks about how Harry’s the best thing that’s ever happened to him, and he thinks that, yeah, maybe he can try.

+

Louis manages to duck in only fifteen minutes late, weaving his way up to the seat in the front row that’s been reserved for him. Harry’s not on yet, thank god, but he still feels guilty. He didn’t even send flowers, he realizes, contemplating actually punching himself in the face.

It’s not that Louis doesn’t enjoy the performances, but he’s really just holding out for Harry, and if his eyes glaze over during the girl with the violin’s bit, then nobody has to know, do they? (He certainly hopes Harry doesn’t find out, because he’ll probably give him a lecture on appreciating all different genres and forms of music. It’s a good thing Louis finds it endearing instead of irritating.)

And then Harry’s on, walking on in a smart suit in black and white, and Louis’ breath hitches. He looks so fucking gorgeous, and Louis is the only one that gets to go home with him and he suddenly feels so overwhelmingly proud.

Harry Styles is a real person, he thinks, not for the first time since they’ve started dating.

Louis is the only person that notices the slight tremor in Harry’s hands when he sits down at the piano and nods at the page-turner, lowering his fingers to the keyboard. And he fills the hall with music, the Bach that he’s been laboring over for months, the melody interweaving with the bass harmonies. If he could see music as colour, Louis thinks, this would be an explosion of it, deep reds and oranges.

Harry looks most at home when he’s on a stage, his eyes focusing intently on his music and brow wrinkled as he plays. It’s this that Louis was chasing when he started acting, the natural-looking feel of it that he never really captured. It’s this that he realized he was missing when he decided to step off the stage and start writing instead. It’s not exactly every day that an actor retires at the age of twenty-one, but Louis likes the idea of breaking stereotypes.

His performance is over almost too quickly. Louis wonders if it’s Harry himself that makes the music seem almost magical, or if Louis just thinks everything Harry does is pretty much perfect.

(It’s probably a mix of both, if he thinks about it.)

There’s a standing ovation at the end, with the polite applause overwhelming. When Louis stands up, he can’t really help himself. He knows it’s meant to be formal and people should be restrained in their applause and all of that, but he lets out a whistle anyway, smiling to himself as Harry takes his bow, joined on stage by all the other performers. When Harry’s eyes search the crowd and find Louis, he grins widely, sending him a wink, which, well. Louis can hardly be blamed for blowing him a kiss, and it’s not sappy at all. It’s just nice.

The applause continues until all of them are offstage, but Louis keeps clapping even after it dies out.

+

The moment of joy passes quickly, though, and Louis is reminded of just how exhausted he is when Harry pulls him backstage to say hi to everyone.

“Want to say hi to you, first,” Louis says, and kisses him. He wants everyone back here to know that Harry is his, that only he gets to take him home after all of this is done.

When Harry pulls away, he’s laughing, breathless. Louis can tell he’s high off his performance, the adrenaline still coursing through his veins. Louis used to be like that after performing as well – he figures it’s his duty to indulge Harry.

The only thing is, greeting people and talking about his job and congratulating the other performers gets old after about ten minutes. When they wave off one of Harry’s friends, a soulful-looking violin player called Zayn, and his lavender-haired girlfriend Perrie, Louis turns to Harry, intending to ask him to leave, but Harry’s eyes are trained in completely another direction.

“Oh, Katie!” He exclaims, his eyes lighting up as he turns back to Louis, “Lou, you have to meet her, she’s only six and she’s already a little prodigy and she’s so sweet and –“

Louis laughs, and says, “Yeah, alright.”

It’s not that Louis doesn’t like kids. Hell, he half-raised four younger sisters. It’s just that now is possibly not the best time for dealing with one, with part of him wanting to go to bed, part of him needing a strong drink, and part of him wanting to go home and fuck Harry into the mattress.

So yeah, he’ll meet the kid, but it’s not like he’s particularly happy about it.

“Hi, Mr. Styles,” says a harried-looking woman in a fake fur coat, her daughter clinging to her hand and looking up at Harry in awe.

“Call me Harry,” He replies, and takes Louis’ hand, “It’s nice to meet you, Mrs. Clarke. This is my boyfriend, Louis. Louis, this is Katie and her mum.”

“Call me Liz,” the mother smiles warmly, “It’s lovely to meet you both, Katie’s been going on about how excited she’s been for weeks now.”

Katie looks like she’s about to burst, bouncing on her little toes, and she exclaims, “It was so good, you were so good! I want to play like you one day.”

Harry squats down so that he’s at her height, and smiles, “You’ll be better than me by the time you’re my age, sweetheart.”

It seems to go on and on, and Louis appreciates how close Harry is with his students and it’s all very lovely and everything, but after a while he can’t help himself from nudging Harry and whispering, not very subtly, that he would quite like to leave, now.

Liz looks quite taken aback, and Harry almost flinches, but he says, “I’m so sorry, but I do have to be off. We’re going out for dinner to celebrate.”

Harry’s perfectly cordial when they say their goodbyes, but Louis can tell from the set of his mouth that he’s in trouble, and it’s confirmed when Harry wordlessly flags down the cab and slides in, staring out the window and not saying a word to Louis for the entire trip.

+

Harry doesn’t stay silent for long, though. They’re at his favourite Italian restaurant, one that they only ever go to when they’re splurging out and it’s a special occasion, but Louis can tell he’s not appreciating it by the way he keeps sighing and darting his eyes anywhere but at Louis’ face.

“Um,” Louis begins awkwardly, “How was the rest of your day?”

Harry frowns at him, sort of like, are you really trying to do this right now?, but he answers, “Alright. Gem’s got her exhibition tomorrow, so I went over in the afternoon to help her set up and that. She’s so worried, but. It’s Gemma. She’s always brilliant.”

“Ah, that’s good.”

There’s a stilted pause, the tension between them pooling, until Harry asks, “How was the rest of the meeting?”

And, oh. This is the part where Louis has to tell him, about the way he walked for hours through London after being terrified of losing everything (including Harry), about the cab driver, about his feelings.

“Not good,” he starts, “I mean, they’re sort of on board, but it’s all very uncertain and with this sort of thing, if things aren’t firm… Well.”

Harry purses his lips, reaches out to stroke a thumb over Louis’ hand on the table, “I’m sorry.”

“S’alright,” Louis shakes his head quickly, waving it off, “And I mean, after that, I kind of just…wandered through the streets a lot. Like, for hours, just thinking. Thinking about me. About us. About if we can make it through all this.”

Harry withdraws his hand abruptly. “Wait, what?”

Oh, shit. Louis has cocked this up already and he’s barely even started. “No, no, I didn’t mean that,” he says hastily, “But you have to admit, we didn’t have the greatest morning, and the meeting was, well. I was wondering what to do. And then, on the way to the concert and I got in this cab, right, and the driver was talking to me, and it was odd. Kind of cathartic. He said something and it made me realize. Even though you and I, we have problems, we share a lot too. I need to appreciate you, because, I adore you, Harry.”

Harry isn’t really reacting the way Louis had hoped. Actually, he looks sort of pissed. And when he opens his mouth and says, “I –“, Louis cuts him off before he can begin.

“Look, what I’m saying is that I want to push on. We can get through this. Okay?” Louis sort of pleads with his eyes.

Harry looks more miserable than Louis has ever seen him and he’s not meeting Louis’ eyes when he says, “No. It’s not okay.”

“What?” Louis asks, not really sure if he’s heard Harry properly.

“I got offered a teaching placement in Manchester,” Harry says. “Staying with you would be the only reason I’d be staying in London, now. And I would do that in a heartbeat, if I thought that we were really special, y’know?”

Louis is so, so confused. “But, we are. We are special, Haz.”

“Really?” Harry asks, and then it’s like the floodgates open and everything comes spilling out. “Because you never tell me how you feel. It’s like you hate talking about yourself. You basically told me that you don’t want to meet my parents, and you know how important they are to me. You forgot my fucking concert, for Chrissakes. I introduce you to my favourite student, and you act like she’s got something contagious.”

Louis opens his mouth – he’s not really sure what he wants to say, how he can possibly defend himself, but Harry doesn’t let him speak.

“Look, Louis. I know that you care, somewhere deep down. But I feel like I’m not that high up on your list of priorities. And that hurts.” Harry chokes a bit on the last word, like he’s trying to press back a sob, and fuck, Louis has messed this up so badly, has ruined everything he cares about. And then Harry’s standing up, and it’s like it’s all happening in a dream because he’s saying, “I can’t do this anymore,” and walking out of the restaurant.

Louis has to follow him, runs out of the place calling Harry’s name as he goes, but Harry’s already getting into a cab.

“Shit, Harry, wait,” Louis calls, almost tripping in his haste, and then he’s at the door of the cab, holding it open. “Harry, you – you can’t do this to us, you can’t just leave like this.”

Harry just stares at him, face tinted pink with unshed tears brimming and that is absolutely it, Louis cannot see him cry. He only ever cries when they watch Titanic or The Notebook and Louis will never, ever admit it, but he might tear up then as well, so it’s perfectly justified.

“How is this going to work, then?” He asks, sort of resigned, “Am I just never going to see you again?”

Harry blinks, looking away for a second as Big Ben starts chiming for eleven o’clock, the bells ringing out over them, and then the tears spill from his eyes. He reaches up to wipe them away almost instantaneously, looking angry with himself.

“Are you coming or not?” The cab driver asks, gruff, and Louis looks at him impatiently for a second before realizing it’s the same guy that drove him to the concert, and isn’t that just goddamned ironic? “In or out, my friend? It’s your choice.”

Louis just stares for a second, and as the clock flicks onto eleven, Harry looks up at him, shaking his head slightly, and pulls the door closed.

The cab’s driven about several hundred meters, and Louis is just standing there dumbstruck. He’s not sure that this is real. He might have to pinch himself, just to make sure, but fuck, he can’t do this. He can’t let the one sure thing in his life get away just like that.

So he starts running just as the taxi stops at a red light, and he’s aware that he’s currently the cliché in every single shitty romcom he’s ever seen, but he can’t really bring himself to care.

He’s almost there, panting (Louis Tomlinson and running are things that do not usually mix), when a lot of things happen at once.

First: the light goes green.

Second: a horn sounds from somewhere to his left.

Third: a car comes barreling out of absolutely nowhere and drives straight into the taxi that Harry is in.

Louis sinks to his knees at the gunshot noise of the collision, and now this really has to be a dream, can’t be real, because Harry’s in there, and that other car just plowed into the cab and people don’t just survive crashes like that and there’s this awful high pitched screeching noise coming from somewhere and this is not happening.

He doesn’t know how his body does it, but suddenly, he’s running again, pushing through to where people are already gathering at the scene of the crash, and he doesn’t realize that the screaming was him until he tries to call for help. He cuts himself off and tries to compose himself a bit, but his voice is still wild when he calls out, “Someone, get help, help, please!”

Louis can see Harry lying on the ground, and he has no idea how he got out of the car, but when he reaches him, he drops to his knees on the bitumen beside him. Harry looks awful, cuts all over his face and blood on his pale skin, his curls mussed, and Louis checks frantically for a pulse, hands scrabbling for Harry’s wrist, and he sighs in relief when he feels the faint beating, because it’s weak, but at least it’s there.

But as he’s sitting there, waiting for the ambulance, he can feel Harry’s heartbeat fading, and suddenly it’s gone and there’s this sinking feeling in his stomach as the sirens get nearer but then Harry’s being lifted onto a stretcher and away from him and he’s somehow in the ambulance and Louis honestly can’t keep up with everything happening, so he shuts his eyes for a little bit. Just for a bit until the world sorts itself out, he promises himself, because he has to wake up to see Harry again.

But when Louis comes back to himself, it’s in the waiting room just as Gemma rushes in, tears streaming down her face as she sees him.

“Louis,” she sobs, and Louis takes her into his arms wordlessly, kisses the top of her head.

“I know,” he murmurs, “I know.”

They’re told that Harry has massive amounts of internal bleeding and that they’ve taken him into emergency surgery, that they don’t know what’s going to happen.

“We try to stay hopeful, but we can’t make any promises,” the harried-looking nurse says, and Louis tries to ignore the voice at the back of his mind telling him that he’s lost his boy.

The waiting room is sort of eerie, and although Louis is wearing his coat, he can’t stop himself from shivering anyway. Something in his mind registers it’s probably something to do with shock, but everything seems terribly unimportant when he thinks about the fact that Harry’s in an operating theatre right now, surgeons cutting him open and trying to put him back together.

He doesn’t know how long they’re there for, but Gemma has dozed off on his shoulder fitfully, occasionally starting and looking around before realizing where she is and dropping back off again. Louis is exhausted, but he can’t bring himself to fall asleep, is too scared of what might happen when he wakes up.

It feels like years before anyone comes to find them. It’s not the nurse this time, it’s a surgeon with dark circles under his eyes and a grim expression. Louis nudges Gemma awake and they stand up, looking at him hopefully, but Louis knows the answer before the doctor opens his mouth and he suddenly feels very ill.

Gemma clings to Louis’ arm like they’re in a hurricane, and he can feel her tight grip through his coat. He slings an arm around her shoulder and squeezes as the doctor starts speaking.

“I’m very sorry, but…” Louis only registers the first several words, and then it’s like he’s underwater and everything else is very far away, and the surgeon is saying things like ‘the damage to his internal organs was too high’ and Louis thinks he’s going to be sick.

All he can think is this isn’t happening this isn’t happening I never told him I loved him he has to come home he can’t do this to me this is my fault, playing over and over in his head, and he has to stagger backwards to a chair, dropping down into it and burying his head in his hands.

Gemma’s sobs are echoing loudly in the room, but Louis doesn’t even notice that he himself is crying until the wetness from his eyes seeps onto his hands, and then it’s like some invisible barrier opens and he can’t stop. Somehow, what seems like only seconds later, he’s stood up again and is hugging Gemma tight while his entire world crashes down around him.

It feels like he’s sort of left his body, is watching what’s happening to him from someone else’s eyes, or maybe that’s just the exhaustion speaking. The sun’s coming up as he gets home, lets himself into their (his, he corrects himself through the fog of his brain, it’s only his, now) flat.

He has every intention of falling straight into bed and sleeping for possibly the rest of his life, but as he’s kicking off his shoes, he trips over a book on the floor and has to lean down to pick it up.

It’s one of Harry’s, a little journal that he was always scribbling lyrics in and had forbade Louis to read, under any circumstances. The thing is, Louis has never been much good at following rules, so he picks it up and crawls into bed with it, this little piece of Harry.

He doesn’t recognize much of it, little pieces of sentences scrawled without very much sense, but there’s one page that’s titled For Lou, and Louis can hardly bring himself to read the lyrics, but he does.

He regrets it sort of instantly, because now he knows. He knows that Harry loved him, and that Harry was the best thing to ever happen to him, and that he’s never going to get that back.

Louis thinks, at least, if he’s going to be missing Harry for the rest of his life, that he couldn’t have chosen anyone better.

 

+

The next morning, Louis is woken by the sound of Harry’s voice saying, “Hey, I thought I told you not to look in there!”

It takes him a moment to register that Harry is here, curled around him like every morning, and he almost jumps away from him.

“Haz?” He asks sleeping, turning around to make sure that Harry’s actually there, that he’s not hallucinating this.

“G’morning,” Harry says, pecking him on the lips, “You have to get up, you’ve got your big meeting today!”

Louis wonders what’s happening, if he’s somehow slipped into an alternate universe where he hasn’t completely fucked everything up. Or maybe that strange surreal feeling from last night was real, and the whole thing was just a dream.

Harry certainly feels solid and warm beside him, and apparently he has his meeting again today, so he thinks that yeah, it was probably just a dream. Something really fucked up. Because it’s sort of a twisted version of Groundhog Day, making him relive his last hours with Harry.

So he puts it out of his mind, but he’s a little wary about it anyway. He deliberately picks out a different suit and coat to the one he wore yesterday, asks Harry if he can just pop some bread in the toaster instead of cooking, and it’s not paranoia, really, if he’s just being careful about it.

It’s all going fine until Harry’s washing up his plate and accidentally turns the water on too hot, scalding himself.

And then it’s exactly like it was yesterday morning, as he cradles his hand and swears loudly, “Oh, jesus fucking hell.”

Louis reacts reflexively again, pressing the frozen peas against Harry’s hand and kissing it like that’ll make it better, before realizing that this has already happened, and then he’s suddenly terrified.

“Shit, Harry, this is so fucking weird,” He says, shaking his head and sitting down to ground himself. It feels like the world’s spinning and he’s standing still in the middle of it all. He goes on, “I had the weirdest fucking dream and it started just like this and it was like I was living out today, and I had my meeting and then, we were at dinner, and –“

He can’t go on, runs out of breath.

“What happened, Louis?” Harry says gently.

“You got hit by a car,” Louis’ voice is very small, “You were in a taxi and there was a crash and. And you didn’t make it, and I’m scared that it’s going to happen again, and it can’t happen again. God, I can’t lose you.”

Harry’s looking at him so softly and there’s so much love in his eyes that Louis’ chest gets tight again, and then he says, “Louis. Babe, it was just a dream, okay? A weird, really fucking messed up dream. Today will be perfect, I promise you. Yeah?”

Something about Harry’s voice is just inherently calming. Louis can feel his whole body relaxing against the chair he’s in, and he takes Harry’s hurt hand and kisses it again.

“Yeah,” he says, but he knows he’s going to be careful today anyway.

+

As soon as Louis walks into the meeting room, he can tell that something’s different. The atmosphere is a lot lighter, and the publishers and executives all seem more casual, more friendly.

This time, when he’s speaking, he makes sure that anyone outside the room looking in through the glass panel in the door can see him holding his folder and manuscript, and when he sees a figure hesitate, he doesn’t break from what he’s saying for even the shortest of moments. Harry only lingers for a moment before he’s gone again, and Louis knows that he won’t ever mention it, will let Louis go on thinking he was never there.

After he’s finished speaking, everything’s wrapped up in a flurry of shaking hands and professional smiles, and Louis’ editor, a lanky guy called Greg, grins at him and says, “I’ll call you. Good work.”

That’s pretty much all he needs to know that this is going somewhere, and the idea of Louis Tomlinson, actual real published author, might be coming true. It’s an odd thought, but it also feels like everything he’s ever wanted is falling into place.

He walks home through the city streets, thinking of what he wants to do for Harry tonight. It’s the most important concert he’s ever played, and Louis wants to congratulate him.

The idea comes to him when he’s trying to figure out what had happened yesterday, or in his dream, or whatever the fuck it was. The words Harry had said at the restaurant are resonating in his mind, because the fact that he doesn’t think he’s the most important thing in Louis’ life is ridiculous.

Honestly, Louis doesn’t really know how he fell so hard for Harry, and it scares him a bit, the hold this boy has on him.

And then he realizes, he needs to tell Harry that, but despite the fact that he’s a writer, he’s always been a bit shit at expressing himself out loud. So he’ll write it, he’ll write Harry a short story and he’ll say everything that he can’t say out loud.

So he goes home, and he sits down, and he writes.

+

Louis doesn’t know how he’s written almost twenty pages in the space of almost several hours, but he’s sitting there holding a manuscript. It registers with him that it  might be completely shitty, but he’s said everything he wants to, and now all he wants to do is see Harry.

It’s not too late to swing by where Gemma’s setting up for her exhibition, steal Harry away for lunch and deliver him back, so Louis gathers his things up and leaves, flagging down a cab.

It’s only after he’s given the directions that he looks at the cab driver’s face properly, and this has got to be some kind of sick joke. It’s the same guy, the one that told him to ‘just love’ Harry and who fucking drove off with Harry in his car and got him killed.

And Louis can’t live like this, can’t go without letting Harry know that he’s the most important thing in his life, and he has to show it before he’s too late. So he changes his plans, checks the train times on his phone before he arrives at the studio.

“Hey,” he calls when he walks into the studio. He weaves through the canvases and stops for a moment to admire a self-portrait Gemma’s done. She really is talented; Louis supposes it must run in the family.

“Lou?” Harry’s surprised voice says from behind him, “What’re you doing here?”

“Wanted to surprise you,” Louis says, “C’mon, get your coat. We’ve got a train to catch.”

“Wait,” Harry says, “I can’t do that, I’ve got –“

“Your concert tonight. I know,” Louis replies. “S’alright, we’ll be back in time for you to make it, I promise. It’s not that long a trip.”

Harry laughs, “Okay.”

“Okay?”

“Yeah.”

+

They’re in the town where Louis grew up, and they’re climbing a mountain. Neither of these things was on Louis’ agenda today, but if this is how it’s turned out, feeling the cool autumn breeze with on his skin with Harry next to him, then he thinks that’s alright.

They’re only halfway up when it starts raining, because it’s fucking England and of course it does. It’s only a sprinkle at first, but it’s only a few minutes until it’s hard and heavy on their skin and Louis is pointing to an old house that an elderly man in the village owns and stays in occasionally, mostly in the summer.

They sprint through the rain, Harry’s hand clasped firmly in Louis’, laughing and stumbling like teenagers.

“Shit,” Harry laughs as they get in, closing the door. “Fucking England, of course there’s a torrential storm when we’re trying to revisit childhood memories or whatever the fuck.”

Louis is already looking around, shivering a little, and he’s so grateful when he finds blankets and candles hidden away in a little cupboard that he could probably kiss the guy that owns this house. (That is, if Harry wasn’t the only person he wanted to kiss.)

“C’mon,” Louis says, gathering the blankets in his arms and dumping them on the couch, “Let’s share body heat or whatever they do in the Antarctic.”

So Harry settles himself onto the sofa next to him, bundling them up in the blankets and tangling himself through Louis so that he can hardly tell when one of them ends and the other begins. It’s the kind of thing that they usually don’t have time to do at home anymore, because Harry’s busy with his music and Louis is working, and Louis hasn’t realized how much he’s missed this easy sort of intimacy until now.

“Hi,” he says, resting his head on Harry’s shoulder and leaning up to kiss him.

Harry’s smiling into it, and Louis would be huffy about the fact that Harry’s grinning instead of kissing back properly if he wasn’t about to smile widely at Harry’s happiness himself.

“Hi, love,” Louis replies, pulling his arm out from where it’s tangled in a blanket, and then he spots his watch. The glass face of it is cracked, and this is happening again, and his breath turns shallow, feels like he’s choking. He knows, then; knows this is it.

He kisses Harry again, long and slow, and it doesn’t really feel like it’s leading anywhere, which Louis always appreciates. Being with Harry is so easy sometimes, and Louis lets himself wonder why he made it so goddamned complicated.

“What would you do,” Louis begins, knowing that this will only hurt him more, “If this was your last day on earth?”

Harry thinks for a bit, brow furrowed in concentration, and then he says sort of cheekily, “Go skydiving. See my family, see my friends.”

“What else, Harry?” Louis teases, but he’s fighting back tears, hoping against hope that Harry will say something about him.

“M’only joking,” Harry shakes his head, turns serious, “I’d want to do what I’m doing right now. I don’t really care what exactly it’d be, but I want to spend it with you, Lou.”

Louis kisses him, because the alternative is sobbing. It starts slow and sweet, but then Harry is licking into his mouth and something about it feels urgent, reminds him that this is the last day he’ll ever have with Harry, and Louis presses down, shifts them so that he’s lying on top of Harry.

Harry smirks a little, and then they’re kissing again, hot and dirty because that’s the way it ends up being with them every time. Harry tastes the same as he always does, sweet and familiar, and it’s isn’t long until Louis is gasping, his dick filling up against Harry’s thigh.

Harry’s hard, too, and when he ruts his hips up experimentally against Louis, he almost groans. Their clothes disappear, although Louis isn’t exactly sure how, and that shock of skin-on-skin contact is as fresh as if it was the first time.

(Everything feels like the first time with Harry, and Louis is terrified that he’ll never have the time to get used to it.)

“C’mon, wanna fuck you,” Harry says, and the sound of his voice is almost too much for Louis to deal with, so he kisses him instead, tries to muffle his groans in Harry’s mouth.

They find a packet of lube in Harry’s wallet, and he opens him up with his fingers until Louis is shaking underneath him, begging for it.

“I need – Need you in me,” he groans, a choked sob escaping from his throat when Harry twists his fingers and hits a spot deep within him. “Please, Harry.”

Harry is everywhere, and Louis is completely dazed by it, the feel of his body on top of him, melting against him like two puzzle pieces that fit together perfectly. When his cock finally pushes in, the familiarity of the feeling overwhelms Louis and he can’t help the gasp he lets out, pulling Harry closer to him.

He’s hardly bottomed out when Louis rolls over, keeping them firmly together, so that he can ride Harry. He can’t deal with all of this at once, needs to have some sort of control, and this is the one thing he can change.

From Harry’s blissed-out expression, Louis can tell he doesn’t mind, and from then it’s just choked gasps and moans, Louis’ hands gripping onto Harry’s hips firmly (he’s pretty sure he’ll leave bruises, but Harry’s always liked that) and Harry holding his waist.

Louis is so close, and Harry’s hand is gripping his cock, stroking it the way he knows Louis loves, and he’s saying, “Fuck, you’re so gorgeous like this, love seeing you ride me –“ and then Louis is coming, tears spilling from his eyes as Harry follows.

He has to hide his face afterwards, too scared Harry will ask him what’s wrong, not wanting to explain, but he holds Harry tighter than he ever has.

+

“I wish we’d gotten to the top,” Louis says. “Would’ve loved to show you my old spot.”

They’re sitting in the local pub, the same one Louis and Stan used to sneak into on Friday nights and order pints, thinking themselves so grown up. Louis knows now that their fake IDs were shit, and the bartender probably just didn’t have the heart to turn them away, but the memories are still fond.

“S’alright,” Harry shrugs. “Next time.”

Louis tries very hard to think about the fact that there’s not going to be a next time, and his chest feels tight again.

“It’s weird,” Louis says, looking around. “Being here.”

Harry just gives him a questioning look.

“Well, I started coming in when I was seventeen with my old best mate, because my parents were divorcing and it was hell at home, screaming matches while my younger sisters sobbed the whole time. I just needed to get out, y’know? But I felt like shit about it, because I had to look after my girls, and so I’d go home, usually pretty pissed, and tuck them in and kiss them on the forehead because, dunno. I think I wanted someone to be proud of me.”

“I’m proud of you,” Harry says, sort of shy. “And, I mean. I know it’s early, but like? I think you’d be a great dad. We’d be pretty great.”

Louis can’t breathe, but he replies, “I’ve always wanted a daughter. S’pose it comes from having four little sisters.”

Harry’s beaming, then, and he launches into a spiel about how he’s always wanted a little girl as well, and he’s talking about fucking cribs and baby names and Louis can’t deal with this, he has to just sit back and smile and nod and try not to cry.

He wonders how he realized this so late, that he wants to give Harry the whole world, that he would do it if he could.

+

When they finally get home, Louis is ready to fall into bed, but Harry’s amped up, adrenaline already coursing through him in anticipation of being on stage. He’s comparing his bowtie and regular tie, trying to decide which one works better with the suit. Usually, Louis would help with that, but he’s too busy sneaking out to order flowers and get them sent up to Harry when he’s backstage.

He’s sent a photocopy for the song Harry wrote for him up along with the flowers, with the message I want you to play this tonight. It’s beautiful. He knows Harry will be grumpy about the fact that Louis has been reading his music journal, but it’ll be worth it when he inevitably gets that standing ovation.

They share a cab on the way there, even though Harry has to be there a good forty-five minutes earlier than Louis. It’s quiet in the taxi, one of Harry’s hands laced through Louis’ and the other tapping out a melody on his thigh. Harry’s usually more jerky before performing, but Louis thinks that his presence might be calming him slightly, and not for the first time, it hits him. This, whatever it is, is special. It’s worth more than Louis’ own life, he thinks.

The rest of the performances are even less interesting than they were the night before, now that he’s already seen them, and Louis forces himself to do the polite thing and not pull out his phone and start texting Harry, no matter how tempted he is. He thinks about how pissed he would be if someone did the same while Harry’s playing, and it pretty much stops him.

But they seem to go faster, this time, and Harry’s walking on stage and he looks even more radiant than last night, looks perfectly at home. He powers through the Bach again, the melodies weaving perfectly with the harmonies. The thing about Harry’s performance is this, Louis realizes, the fact that he’s technically perfect but brings something more into it, some kind of life. That’s what sets him above everyone else.

(Then again, Louis might be biased.)

When he finishes, Harry goes to stand up, but his page turner pulls out the sheet music that Louis had photocopied from his journal and pushes him gently back into his seat.

Harry looks confused at first, glancing over it, but he recognizes it quickly and then he’s looking into the audience, his eyes meeting Louis’. Louis just nods, once, and Harry smiles, mouthing okay.

Harry’s always been nervous about singing, but Louis doesn’t know why. When he opens his mouth, starting the first words of the song, the entire audience is enthralled, caught in the grasp of this beautiful boy at the piano.

Wise men say, only fools rush in

But I can’t help falling in love with you

It’s over too soon, but the polite applause that Louis is expecting turns into a standing ovation, with people cheering and whistling. He has to blink back tears, suddenly, because he’s so overwhelmingly proud of his boy, of everything he’s done.

+

“You never told me,” Harry says, flicking through the menu, even though Louis knows he’s going to order the same pasta that he always does. “How your meeting went.”

Louis smiles. “It, um. It was good? I don’t really want to like. Jinx it or anything. But it was pretty great.”

“I’m so proud of you,” Harry breathes, and Louis wants to laugh, because if anyone should be saying that, it’s him.

“I’ve actually got something for you,” he replies. “Because you wrote me a song and it seems hardly fair to not reciprocate.”

“What, like when I suck you off in the mornings and you roll over and go back to sleep instead of helping me out?” Harry teases, laughing a little at the end.

“Funny,” Louis deadpans, reaching into the side pocket of his coat. “But no. I kind of wrote you something?”

It’s like Harry melts when Louis gives him the bound manuscript, his eyes turning wide. “Louis,” he says, his voice almost reverential. “You didn’t.”

“It’s, um. It’s sort of ridiculous, about this idiot writer who can’t seem to finish anything he starts, and this piano prodigy that waltzes into his life. And the first guy’s always been a bit emotionally fucked and he falls in love with the musician and it scares him half to death and he’s sort of a massive twat about it. It has a happy ending, though, because I know you like those. I like those too. And it’s in Paris, because I know you love Paris and I want to take you there someday, and –“

He’s cut off by Harry leaning over the table and kissing him. It’s chaste, because after all, they are in public, and Louis has never liked public displays of affection, but it’s pretty effective in getting him to shut up.

+

 

They leave not long after they finish eating, mostly because Harry leaned over the table and whispered to Louis, “When we get home, I’m going to fuck you so hard that you cry.”

They’re standing outside, waiting for a cab, and it’s raining again, but neither of them mind very much, not really. And then it all hits Louis, the fact that it’s almost eleven and they’re in the same place that they were last night and that it’s all happening again, and it’s like he can’t breathe.

“Harry,” he says as Harry tries to flag down a taxi. “Wait.”

“What is it, Lou?”

“I love you.”

It’s the first time he’s said it in so many words, although he thinks Harry must know by now, has to know from the way he looks at him and the way he holds him at night. But Harry’s face lights up like he’s six and it’s Christmastime, and he just says, “Say it again.”

Louis can’t help himself from laughing despite the churning in his stomach, and he says, “I love you. Honestly, I really fucking do. If it wasn’t for you, I don’t know where I’d be now. You’re kind of everything to me.”

Harry’s smiling wider than Louis has ever seen him, and he says, “I love you too, you complete twat. I always have. I thought you knew that,” before leaning in to kiss him.

It’s the perfect storybook kiss, in the rain outside a fancy restaurant in London, with their lips slotting together like they’re finally coming home.

When Harry pulls back, he’s shaking his head a little and giggling. “This is a lot wetter and colder than it looks in The Notebook.”

Louis blinks, and tears he hadn’t realized he’d been holding in spill down from his eyes. Harry doesn’t ask, but if he did, Louis would blame it on the rain.

+

They slide into a taxi, and Louis checks the driver out of habit, and it’s the same guy that drove Harry last night because of course it is. He contemplates getting out of the car, but he figures there’s nothing he can do at this point. He’s got his own plan for this, anyway, and it’ll be worth it, because it’s for Harry. Anything he does for Harry is worth it.

Harry nuzzles into Louis slightly, and Louis kisses him reflexively. It almost hurts doing it now, because their kisses, their touches, are numbered. The car starts as Harry laces his fingers through Louis’, and he smiles at him.

When they pull up at the red light, Louis knows this is it. His heart is pounding and he turns desperately to Harry.

“Hey, I love you so much, y’know that? I love you I love you I love you,” He’s almost frantic with it, wrapping himself around Harry.

“Louis, what –“

But there’s no time to explain, so Louis pulls Harry in for a bruising kiss, makes a shield with his body for Harry to burrow into, to keep him as safe as he can when it all happens.

That’s when the the clock chimes eleven, the light goes green and the cab drives forward.

 

It’s been a pleasure, Harry Styles, Louis thinks, next time we’ll get it right.