louis tomlinson is twelve years old when he gets his heart broken for the first time. it’s always that young age, when you’re so vulnerable and you find someone pretty - and you’re in love just like that. it doesn’t occur to you when you’re that age that boys liking boys is wrong and unnatural, but:
there was this boy in his sixth grade class named john or jacob or something of that sort, and he was beautiful, louis thought. he had blonde hair that he gelled up into a quiff and green eyes and pale skin and he would sit behind the school and smoke cigarettes he stole from his older brother. he would choke on the smoke but, anything to be cool. (louis thinks that’s where his nicotine addiction began)
louis would join him and watch the smoke pour out of his mouth into the frost of november, and he would want to kiss his mouth which would mean his life is over.
he tells the pretty boy this one day, he says, “i’m kind of in love with you.” the boy leaves, eyes narrowed.
the next day, louis is punched in the face, in the gut, everywhere, until he can’t breathe - he can’t think - he is on the ground and boys, much larger than him, probably not even in the sixth grade - maybe eighth graders - are hitting, kicking him, whispering faggot and queer and he can’t do anything but sob and think i know i know i know.
he swore to himself that day that he will never fall in love again.
louis is on his tenth cigarette and he thinks i need to quit. (but he's not going to, addictions don't work that way). he puts out the cigarette and steps into the coffee shop where the walls are maroon and they play soft jazz, called something like pretty woman in french, (that's his other addiction: caffeine) and smiles at the young woman with bottle blonde hair at the table by the entrance even though he's not interested in the slightest. and, then he sees perhaps the most gorgeous boy in the world at the counter. and he has green eyes. (third addiction: boys with green eyes)
and so louis orders a black coffee and gives his flirtiest grin to the boy with insane curls, and somehow, he gets his number.
the thing is, louis is supposed to be good at this. he isn't supposed to get nervous when talking to a pretty boy he wants in his pants, because louis is confident and beautiful and who wouldn't love him? so when the boy writes his number down on the coffee cup along with, harry; you, me, drinks sometime?, louis tries to ignore the way his face feels hot.
he gets home and puts out his eleventh cigarette. (i need to quit)
liam’s coughing, he hates the smell of tobacco, but he doesn’t say anything because he loves louis. “how were classes, then?” he chokes out.
“they were okay. boring though. can’t wait to graduate. i went to that coffee shop, what’s it called - jolie dame - saw the fittest bloke ever, really liam. fittest, bloke, ever.” louis says, flipping off his converse and heavy coat.
“do you know how many times i’ve heard that?” he jokes, but is met with louis’ dead serious face, so he says, “okay, okay, i’ll bite. what did you do?”
“absolutely nothing, was about to shit my pants, really. but i got his number, i think.” he tried to hide his grin but it was near impossible.
“you think? you either got it or you didn’t!”
“okay yes, i got it!”
“louis, did you call him or what?”
“no! jesus christ, i know it’s so weird but i’m scared to! god, liam you should’ve seen him, he was so fucking pretty.” and liam smiles because he’s never seen louis like this.
“pretty? oh, louis. you barely know this boy.” liam rolls his eyes because this is the millionth time.
“i’ve got it bad, i know.” silence, and then, “should i not call him?”
they exchange glances and then liam grins, “what the fuck’re you doing just standing there, of course!” and so louis does, and it rings five times before the boy, harry, picks up.
“‘ello?” and fuck, damn, his voice sounds all tired and gravely and so rough and really hot.
“hi, um, i’m louis, i’m the boy you stupidly gave his number to today,” louis stutters and he can hear liam say in a harsh whisper put it on speaker, but he waves him off.
“which one?” harry jokes, chuckling a little bit, “i’m just kidding. yeah, were you calling to invite me out for drinks, possibly? or maybe to tell me to get the fuck away from you,”
“definitely not the second one,” louis laughs a little bit, loosening up, “er, so how about those drinks. are you free tonight?”
“for you, sweetcheeks? of course.” and that’s all louis needed. so he says he’ll meet him at that one little pub on that one street, and harry agrees.
“fuck wow, he is so fucking pretty.” louis gasps after hanging up, and liam shakes his head. “oh, don’t give me that. he’s really fucking gorgeous. like mad curly hair and - and green eyes, li.”
liam gives a sarcastic nod and eye roll then turns away to make a cup of tea.
louis arrives at 9 on the dot and he removes his earmuffs and puts them in his satchel, and he sees that harry isn’t there yet. slightly disappointed, he takes a seat at one of the booths and watches the snow fall, blues and violets and white mixing together, and he is tempted to take out another cigarette but decides not to, because what if harry doesn’t like smoking?
at exactly 9:08 harry arrives, with snowflakes on his eyelashes and a purple jack wills hoodie and he looks absolutely gorgeous. “hi,” he exhales, his lips purple and a frosty nose and louis kind of really wants to kiss him. (but he doesn’t - not yet)
“hi,” louis chuckles, “you look really good.”
and he thinks harry turns pink, but maybe that’s just because of the cold, “thanks,” he mutters.
by the end of the night, louis finds out that harry does like smoking, he wants to be a singer eventually, can make a fantastic fajita, and knows every song by the arctic monkeys by heart.
harry finds out that louis smokes too much, is addicted to coffee, loves to dance but really can’t, is majoring in drama (“that’s so gay, lou,” “you have no room to speak, harry styles.”), has an insane crush on ryan gosling, and loves chinese food and romantic movies.
louis drives harry home, windshield wipers swiping at the glass, and heater roaring.
“louis, i did have fun tonight.” and looking back on it, he only had two beers.
“i did too, i really did.” louis connects his eyes with harry’s for a second before putting his eyes back on the road.
“would you like to do it again or something?” harry says and louis almost chokes because he says it like he’s so small, wrapped in layers of snow and winter and this aura of adoration.
“you don’t have to ask, the answer will always be yes.” louis whispers, and he thinks it’s probably incredibly cheesy but he doesn’t regret it.
“okay. alright. fantastic.” harry smiles, big and pleased with himself.
louis drops him off at his flat’s doorstep and leans in close to harry’s face, so their lips ghost across each other’s, and harry pulls away and whispers hot in louis’ ear, “i don’t kiss on the first date,” and leaves louis with a kiss on the cheek, pink and beaming.
he gets home and crawls into liam’s bed and whispers, “i like him a lot, li,”
and liam kisses louis’ cheek and says, “i know you do, love, but don’t fall too hard.”
all louis does is snuggle closer. i can’t promise that.
he sees harry again the next day, of course he does. he walks into jolie dame and sees harry at the counter, smiling big. “hi, stranger.”
“hello, what can i do for you today?” harry jokes, smirking.
“i was thinking maybe you could come ‘round my flat for date number two?” louis looks down at the pastries, distracting himself.
“so last night was a date? i’m glad i wasn’t the only one who thought so.”
“definitely was a date.” louis writes down his address, “oh and i’d also like a black coffee.”
“on that coffee hype, then?” harry smirks.
“well then, love, this one’s on the house, even though my boss would probably kill me. the things i do for you!” harry winks and turns away to start the coffee machine.
louis sits outside with his cooling coffee and watches the snow fall and he smokes a cigarette and thinks of harry’s bright green eyes that engulf him, swallow him whole.
and when he gets home he puts out another cigarette and tries to ignore the sound of liam and his boyfriend of forever, niall, make love, but he ends up watching the notebook on full volume, but eventually falls asleep.
(if you’re a bird then i’m a bird)
he wakes up to the doorbell ringing and he thinks shit shit shit, but he opens the door without fixing his hair or clothes and he must look like a mess and then there’s harry - who looks so beautiful in a trench-coat and beanie and skinny jeans that hug his legs just perfectly, and he looks beautiful, he really does.
“looking good. did i wake you or something?” harry grins.
“you so hilarious, harry. you really are.” louis says, rolling his eyes, fixing his hair to the best of his ability without a mirror.
“aw, c’mon lou. don’t be bitter. you’re very pretty, if that makes you feel better.”
“it does. thank you.” louis says, smiling and then, he kisses harry. and harry doesn’t even try to fight it. (i have to quit)
this is the rest of december:
louis meets zayn, harry’s flatmate and other best friend, and the first thing zayn says is, “oh so this is the ‘very very pretty’ boy harry won’t shut up about,”. harry meets liam and then liam whispers to louis, “you have my permission to fall,”.
and then there’s watching p.s. i love you, discounts at jolie dame, chain smoking at two am, taking the train to doncaster, harry feeling accomplished when he makes louis laugh, traveling all over europe, harry and niall’s long conversations about majoring in music theory, going to every concert in london, writing music, taking in harry’s elongated syllables, holding each other closer, closer.
and the beat of each other’s hearts, pressed against each other, the way louis feels inside harry, then the fighting,
then “stay with me,”
then there is january:
harry and louis are drunk, (everyone is drunk) and when the clock strikes twelve harry pushes louis against the corner and kisses him quiet so no one will hear.
later, harry against his lips, his laughs disappearing into something sweeter, something intimate. london glitters with fireworks, the showering crystal snow and dark blues and violets, but louis can’t look away from harry. (i need to quit)
they move in together in june (or may. or july, they've lost track) into a little flat with two bedrooms and wooden flooring and they fuck in every room in the house.
it’s like this:
watching louis graduate, (harry has tears in his eyes, louis kisses them off his cheeks) falling asleep together on the same bed in their shared house, making breakfast for each other, "honey, i’m home!", smoking weed on the kitchen floor, kissing against the off-white walls, feeling so close that they can't tell where they start and end. louis, peeling winter off harry’s skin, and then pinning his hips to the bed, taking him into his mouth. he is a study of motion, arching and falling, toes curling. later sprawled on the bed, curled together like commas. (harry thinks, i want to stay like this forever.)
then theres louis, whispering into harry’s neck, soft and it’s supposed to be beautiful, but it doesn’t make the words less bitter, "don't fall in love with me."
and harry thinks, then i like you enormously.
london reeks of autumn and louis guesses it’s october. leaves are orange and red and yellow and it’s supposed to be beautiful, but louis is sick of the sweet maple scent and the chills that run through his toes. and harry is everywhere, he is curled up into his back, he is making tea in the kitchen, he is smoking a cigarette naked, in louis’ bed, in the creases of his brain and the folds of his mind. and isn’t that supposed to be a good thing? but.
london reeks of autumn and harry - and the walls of their flat close in on louis, and he can’t breathe. the space around him, the once large and new walls, shut around him and he is shrinking, smaller, smaller. he thinks he can’t stand that mop of curls anymore, those sickly green eyes. that routine he’s built up, where he wakes up next to harry, drinks coffee and smokes all day, then falls asleep all sexed out and tired. what was so new and exciting wore out and crashed. he is up to a pack of cigarettes a day.
he thinks, every moment spent with harry is another moment he could be smoking, or drinking a black coffee or dancing with another boy, because he is so young and much too beautiful to be tied down by this concept called love.
so he tells harry, “i think we should take a break.”
and then comes harry’s reaction, twisted and confused, “why, love?”
“it’s not like we’re dating or anything, harry,”
and then harry exhales, sitting up, “are you fucking serious, lou? then fine. leave. we’ll take a break, whatever.”
when louis buys the ticket to paris, the blonde woman with the plastic smile and lipstick on her teeth asks, “round trip, dear?”
and louis responds, “one way.” the words taste bitter.
louis spends christmas in paris, he’s met stanley (who turns out to be an amazing fuck), hannah, and eleanor. he hasn’t called harry once. (he’s thought about him though. harry grew on him like mildew, spreading over his brain and heart.)
he watches the city light up and shut down, his head pounding and he licks his wet-whiskey mouth. then his cheek against the toilet, one heartbeat after another.
and harry calls him, but of course he doesn’t pick up. (he never does)
on new years he gets a call from liam, and of course it’s not the first but this one shines brighter than them all:
“liam. liam, hi.” he says, out of breath because who knew nicotine could take so much out of you?
“louis please come home, i miss you - we all do.” liam says, and louis can picture it, his eyes wide and worry between his brows. “we love you so much.” louis thinks, that’s the problem.
“i will, i just. i needed some time off. i’ll come home, liam, i’ll come home.”
louis doesn’t know the girl he kissed at midnight, and later pushed against the desk in his room, hands on her waist and buried himself deep inside her. (he calls her beautiful when he tells her she should go in the morning, but doesn’t look into her green eyes) (he thinks that they will never be as bright as harry’s)
he texts harry this in the middle of february:
i’m coming home.
harry responds almost instantly:
louis arrives within two weeks and drops his duffle bag on the flat’s floor and holds harry close close closer, and he thinks harry is crying, but pretends to not notice the wet stain in his shoulder.
they’re smoking cigarettes on the balcony, and it is maybe four in the morning because the sky is light grey and he can see the golden sun trying to break through the haze, and they’re both naked and sexed out and then harry says, “so here’s the thing: i’m kind of in love with you,”
and then louis flashes back to every kick and punch and says,
“i told you not to do that,”
“louis, i can’t not fall in love with you,” harry says, eyes pressed shut, almost afraid of what’s going to happen, because he can’t lose louis, not again. “we live together, we fuck every night and we kiss and i make you dinner, how could i not fall in love with you?”
“i can’t give you what you want,” he states, blowing smoke out of his lips.
“you already have!”
“no, harry. you want curly haired kids with blue eyes and louisandharry, and you want all the love in the world but. love - it’s just that.i can’t give you that.”
harry sighs. “okay. okay.”
louis stands up and crawls into bed.
louis stays with harry, and there are good times, where he thinks, okay yeah, we’ll be alright. we’re always alright - in the end we always will be alright.
because there’s times like:
when louis wakes up and finds harry dozing next to him, lined with the orange-gold haze of morning, thinking god he is beautiful, and before kissing him awake he takes it in: harry’s long eyelashes, this never ending torso, porcelain skin (almost breakable), his hip bones that jut out, his skinny rib cage, (louis thinks he can count the bones) the soft pout of his lips, red and full.
when it rains in april, and they are huddled by the fireplace they hardly use and harry sings you are my sunshine into louis’ ear, pressing light kisses to his neck, cheeks, lips, lips, lips, and they end up making love on the wooden floor right there, and every breath louis takes is another three words he will pretend to regret.
when harry sings to louis, and louis thinks he’s heard the album whatever people say i am, it’s what i’m not from harry’s lips at least twenty times and he whispers to harry that his favorite is dancing shoes, so he sings it all the time. (put on your dancing shoes, you sexy little swine.)
and then when louis is flossing and his face is twisted, trying to get the back teeth, and he catches harry staring at him with a look of complete adoration in his eyes. this moment shines brighter than them all. (“what are you looking at, loser?” “just you.” “what about me, harry?” “i just love you, that’s really it,” and he says it until it rings in louis’ ears.)
there’s the way harry has seen the notebook so many times that he talks through the movie, thinks he can memorise every single line. (“if you’re a bird then i’m a bird,” no longer seems sweet, it seems fake, practiced, predictable, like he’s used that line on all the girls)
there’s harry who is never on time, and louis should have expected this since the very first day. they agree to have dinner at sunset but harry arrives when the blues and purples have swirled together and the moon is a ball of light in the thick clouds. it’s no longer beautiful and louis is impatient.
then louis never wants to go out on friday nights, he’s tired from working and would rather stay home and read and watch movies but harry, he is full of energy and so young, and wants to go clubbing every night. (“you’re so old, lou. c’mon.” “harry. i said no.”)
then dinner every sunday night at niall and liam’s, where they have the same fucking food because niall and liam couldn’t cook to save their lives.
“are you happy now, i’ve turned for two jobs for you. i’m a fucking great actor and directors want me, but i can’t. i can’t go because you’re pulling me down.”
“leave then,” harry says, fierce.
(but of course he doesn’t.)
it is june and the snow has melted, waves of heat hit london, blurring louis’ vision, hurting his eyes and it’s too much for him so he spends his days indoors but wishes he was doing something else.
(“louis, are you going to leave him?”
“no. well. yeah. yeah, i think so.”
“i don’t know. whenever i can’t take it. whenever the walls close in on me.”
“are you sure?”
it is july and louis whispers to harry, “i think, i think we shouldn’t do this anymore.”
and harry sighs, like it was inevitable. like they were destined to break eventually. all good things must come to an end, after all.
so there’s paris:
he is there for three months and has an affair with stanley, trying to ignore the guilt pushing into his head, trying to forget the vibrant green eyes still in london, waiting, waiting, waiting.
then there is new york:
it’s a change, it really is. girls swoon over his accent and he fakes a smile for them all, and he’s popular in the theatre club he’s joined. he’s getting somewhere. (at night he goes out, brings boys with brown eyes home, pretends he isn’t tired of it all, and doesn’t think of harry - not even once, really.)
(the arctic monkeys have a gig there and louis turns down front-row tickets because, not the arctic monkeys - anything but the arctic monkeys.)
he decides he likes america, so there’s san francisco:
the city glitters with christmas lights and he especially like haight and ashbury. he hops hotel from hotel for five months and acts at the a.c.t. theatre in union square. he fucks girls and boys that go to the university before asking for their age (or name), and he despises public transportation because he sees harry in everyone. (everywhere)
he has the same set of clothes, sweaters and jeans worn down and ten shades softer. there are green apple books with worn down covers that peel in the corner and have cracked spines. the out of the closet! thrift store. there’s fillmore. there’s high school girls in red and green short skirts that giggle when they pass by him. there’s cheap weed. there’s the castro. gay pride parade. downtown. the piers, and the wandering, wavering ocean. (but it’s not home)
so he goes back to paris.
stanley is there too, because he clings to louis, promises not to fall in love, and louis foolishly believes him. (well, half believes him. he doesn’t care at this point.)
they live together briefly in stan’s ratty old flat that have peeling walls and cockroaches, and they fuck on the dirty sheets and louis thinks how have i sunk so low, but stan has bright blue eyes and a big smile so louis doesn’t mind.
stan kisses louis, whose mouth tastes strongly of pot, and louis smiles, exhaling smoke into stan’s mouth, sucking on his tongue, pulling him close by his belt loops. (i need to quit)
it’s may again when harry catches up with louis.
louis’ tired, they both are, but he sees harry in a coffee shop and thinks it’s his imagination, but then harry is coming closer and louis panic settles in.
but harry is bright and beautiful and sitting across from him, whispering, “hi, lou,”
“how did you find me?”
“i always do.”
(he wishes it could be that simple)
“why are you here?”
“to find you.” harry says, like it was common knowledge, a fact.
“don’t do this to me harry, please.” louis begs, because it was so simple. him and stan’s fuck-buddy relationship, and harry far away in london, where louis couldn’t hurt him, couldn’t hurt him anymore.
“louis, i’m done hiding from you,” harry whispers, “why are you still running away?”
louis looks behind harry and into the large window, the reds and orange of the sky mixing together, swirling like cotton candy and the sun, gold and glittering behind the clouds, outlining harry and making him a halo, and louis swears to the gods that he’s gotten more beautiful.
“i’m not running away - you’re making this difficult. you always do.” louis says, fierce, then sighs, “would you like to come over?”
(the answer: yes)
next there is harry against a wall, pressing his mouth to louis’ neck, sucking there, marking him. he laughs into his neck and holds their hips together. and louis thinks that he’s never been happier that stan was visiting his parents for the weekend.
“fuck, harry, i want -” louis stutters, in between gasps, feeling harry’s hand on him.
“yeah. yeah, okay,” harry breathes into his neck.
they fuck on the couch, on the kitchen counter, in the bedroom against the wall, all different and special, and when they’re too tired to continue, they fall asleep curled together on the sofa, like apostrophes and quotation marks and commas, and they fit like tectonic plates. harry settles between louis’ collarbones and thinks i love you.
louis wakes up alone and wonders if this is what heartbreak really feels like.
louis spends a year without seeing harry.
he takes up the piano, learning songs by the fray and marina and the diamonds, (she’s upbeat and energetic and sadistic, what more could he want?) and sometimes the arctic monkeys.
(it’s the one that laughs and jokes around / remember cuddles in the kitchen / yeah, to get things off the ground / and it was up, up and away / oh, but it’s hard to remember on a day like today)
he moves out of his house with stan and lives on his own, rents out a little one room flat with brick walls and enough room for a studio to play music and memorise lines for another play he’s not that interested in, but it brings in okay money. at night he makes drinks for old men who would rather stare at his ass than anything - and it makes him feel so low. he has sunken to this point, where men who are almost twice his age go home with him and use him, use him and leave him in the morning, and he feels so close to dirt.
he talks to liam sometimes, but not very often. and sometimes he’ll get a good morning text, or maybe harry would call (sometimes, sometimes) but he’d press ignore and cry because this is it - this is his life now. he is 25 years old and he is so empty.
(he gets a call from lottie one day and they talk for five hours. he misses her so much.)
and he thought he was promising, he was promised that he would shine, outlined with the gold and eyes brighter than the carribean sea, with harry and liam and niall and zayn by his side to keep him safe and keep him from caving into this hole of a human being he has become. alcohol churns in his stomach, low and hungry and wanting moremoremore. drink after drink, boy after boy, cigarette after cigarette, (heartbeat after heartbeat).
he remembers when he came back from france for the first time, harry whispered, “you are my nomad and i love you sideways daily,” and he would reply, “richard siken won’t help you find your way into my heart,” but only pulled harry closer. sometimes, when a man, maybe 30 or older pushes into him he wishes harry would catch up to him again and take him back to london and cuddle him up like he used to. (he tries to push the thoughts away, but he can’t seem to get harry out of his head.)
he’s doing jobs he hates - plays and musicals that bring in hardly any money and he doesn’t like, plays that make him strip half naked and throw himself at women with too-big lips and lipstick to their noses. he’s doing men he hates - ones that push themselves into him before he’s ready, ones that like it rough and dirty and leave louis crying in the shower, scrubbing himself pink to get rid of the disgusting and purely dirty feeling he gets after they leave. and then, he’s low on money, the walls of his flat peel and during into an off-white, he rolls in dirty sheets in the middle of paris and when you think paris, you think eiffel tower and beautiful men and women and, it’s supposed to be pretty, but it isn’t. it’s not pretty at all.
( “so i learned a new song today.”
“did you really? sing it, then, love.”
“okay - don’t laugh, it’s still new on my fingertips.”
“wasn’t planning on it,”
“stop and wait a sec / oh when you look at me like that my darling / what did you expect / i probably still adore you with your hands around my neck / or i did last time i checked / but i crumble completely when you cry / it seems like once again you’ve had to greet me with goodbye / i’m always just about to go and spoil a surprise / take my hands off your eyes too soon,” he finishes, hands up from the neck of his guitar and now at the back of louis’ neck, “505 by the arctic monkeys.”
“you’re beautiful,” louis whispers, with his lips ghosting against harry’s, and it still sends lightning through his veins, the feeling of harry so close, even now.
“not as beautiful as you. never.” and harry meets him halfway, he always will. )
( louis feels the thrill now, it feels very new against his skin, in his stomach, boiling and brewing, turning into a low burr and sending shivers down his spine. because he’s never done it like this before, so tender and intimate and such intimacy would make him uncomfortable, but this time, he doesn’t care. )
louis wishes he wasn’t scared to be in love. he wants to be like harry, so young and open to his emotions and he wishes he wanted to settle down and stay with harry forever but he couldn’t - he wasn’t wired that way. he wonders what harry is doing now. moving about, probably. maybe he’s kissing some of the pretty boys that go into the coffee shop, every dip of his ribcage is freedom, and he thinks of louis only sometimes - when he is trying to sleep and the ghosts of his past haunt him.
it is june when harry is shot.
it is june and paris is liquid in the heat, and louis doesn’t have to wear layers and he is comfortable and free - and then he gets a call from the hospital and harry is shot and panic settles into his stomach. he learns harry was shot in rouen, on his shoulder and was going to bleed to death. it was in front of a nightclub - he was so close. (louis could’ve been there - louis could’ve saved him) and the nurse on the phone tells him to calm down and please visit, he was the only person they could call, and they need someone to be with him.
the nurse’s words are too big for louis to catch and they feel like metal in his ears so he only catches a few of them - enough to understand where he was and where he was shot and he needs louis.
before he hops into the car, he spends an hour in the bathroom with his head in the toilet and eyes dripping tears onto the seat. (the sky is orange with swirls of pink. louis would stop and appreciate it if he didn’t have somewhere to be.)
he doesn’t remember how he got to the hospital, he just knows he did.
the walls are so white it shines too bright (a wrong bright, like headlights flashing towards you) - and the red of blood, so red it doesn’t even look red anymore, and an occupied hospital bed, with a beautiful curly haired boy in it.
louis can’t even hold back a pathetic sob - because harry is twenty-three. you don’t just die at twenty-three. you have an entire life to live, people to meet, places to go, adventures to have, men to kiss - and then there’s an eye opening and then: “is this a hallucination?”
“no. no.” louis says, but he’s not so sure himself.
“why are you here? oh god.” harry groans, and he looks so tired.
“the hospital called me - i. god. i thought you were dead.” louis says now, wiping his eyes that are probably bloodshot from the lack of sleep and probably because he was crying a little bit. (he won’t admit to more)
“i’m not dead.” harry says, and it’s only half true. his arms are longer and thinner, knuckles sticking out in the white skin. louis can see his veins in the translucent skin, veins that used to be filled with electricity every time they touched. his eyes - a duller green, contrasting with the purple beneath his eyes.
“why are you in france?”
a sigh, and then: “to find you - why else would i be in france?”
“oh,” louis says, like a breath of winter, cold and very worrisome. “you’re so fucking stupid. are you okay?”
“yes, i’m fucking okay. i’m alive, aren’t i?” harry rolls his eyes, impatient. bitter.
two hours later:
“would you like to stay with me?”
they get to louis flat, and harry falls asleep on the sofa immediately. louis curls up next to harry and thinks he’s never looked more beautiful. and in the morning, louis finds harry naked cooking breakfast, curls wet and almost at his shoulders, and his lips and blue, and bandages covering his left shoulder. and then he turns and sets a cup of tea in front of louis.
harry breathes into his own cup, cooling it down, and he whispers, “i just want you to know that,” louis perks up, eyes bright and blue and very young, “that i am here because i am grateful. not because - i’m in love with you or want to spend the rest of our lives together or, whatever. this is thank you for saving me.”
louis says it now, fierce and bitter, he spits the words through his teeth:
“then i guess it’d be a great fucking time to tell you that i’m in love with you too, then?”
harry drops his shoulders and mutters fuck.
“what is it, harry? goddamnit, you’re supposed to fall in love with me too, and you’re supposed to tell me that we can finally be together because we feel the same way.”
“it’s just. fuck, louis, you were gone for more than a year, and now we’re both here and you expect me to still feel the same? after you left me and liam and niall and zayn and all of us for a year? how do you think i could still be in love with you after that?” harry hissed. his eyes have tears in them now - his jade being clouded up murky water.
“because you came to look for me, harry. why did you come and look for me if you weren’t in love with me?”
“because i wanted to break your heart, over and over again, louis, like you did mine. we were so happy. and you just left, and then you came back, and then left and left and shit. i spent days just - looking for you and wanting you back and i haven’t been with anyone but you, how fucking could i? i just - shit, lou. shit.”
then louis punches harry in the face, and harry smiles.
louis agrees, “yeah, shit.”
harry stays and he doesn’t fall back in love with louis. (yet.)
(but louis is a heart full of holes and a body full of hope.)
this is the rest of june:
they cook breakfast back to back and they watch movies on opposite sides of the sofa. it’s not comfortable, but louis is determined to make it work this time.
(“how’d you know where i was, anyways?”
“the nurse said you had my number in your wallet.”
“she also mentioned hearts around my name?”
“oh. well. you know.”)
louis invites harry into his bedroom one night, harry says no. the word please feels heavy on louis’ tongue, but he swallows it down. (not now, not anymore.)
then there’s july:
harry smokes shirtless now. louis watches him from the kitchen, the strong muscles in his back, his curls touching his neck. harry lets louis suck on his tongue and put his hand in his boxers. harry bites louis’ shoulder hard when he comes, then kissing lightly there.
they don’t speak afterwards. they still sleep in separate beds. louis hates it.
but. there’s a night when the clouds hang low in the sky and harry’s curls swoop over his eye now, and his eyes shine a million times greener, and he says, “so i’ve been living here for two months now.”
louis puts out his old cigarette. “yes,” he lights a new one, “you have.”
“and there are cockroaches in the kitchen and ants in the bathtub,”
“but.” harry stops.
“i think i’d like to stay.”
louis breathes out, almost choking on his cigarette, “yes. yes, of course.”
“i’m not here to hurt you, louis - not anymore. i want to see if this will work out. like, take two: harry and louis. if - if that’s okay.” he looks away, like he’s ashamed.
and louis can’t stop staring at harry.
“if you don’t want this - i can just leave. i mean -”
“no, no - i mean,” louis tangled his hands into harry’s hair and breathes into his mouth, “i want this. i want you. i -”
harry kisses him deep into the orange of the sky, and blue in louis’ eyes, the beating of their hearts.
it’s august and louis wants to move back to london.
he misses the tons of people, the cold weather, the pouring rain. he misses the british, the motherland. he misses the shit food and shittier coffee and tesco and health risks, but it’s home all the same.
he misses the sound of liam’s voice, he misses zayn, he misses everyone. he finds himself sick to his stomach when he realises he even misses the loud of liam and niall fucking. then he remembers how loud niall liked to scream.
he wonders if they’re still together. he hasn’t heard otherwise.
so him and harry pack up their things and go back to london. first, louis visits his mum, with harry holding his hand and breathing the same oxygen as him and he thinks, oh my god this is happening again, i am falling in love with harry again.
then he rings the doorbell to liam’s flat and starts crying when niall answers the door. niall calls up liam and liam starts crying too, because they’re finally here and talking after more than a year.
liam breathes against his cheek and gasps, "please tell me this is a permanent arrangement,"
and louis says, "yeah. i think so."
harry sits in the living room and watches the notebook (if you're a bird then i'm a bird) while liam and louis talk in the kitchen, quietly like it's a secret.
"are you back with him?" liam inquires casually, opening the fridge and taking out beers.
"we were never official to begin with, li," louis tries, but liam gives him a warning look that says, louis, i know you, and louis continues, "okay. yes. we're kind of back together."
"hm," liam takes out crisps and dip next, "he missed you a lot. couldn't do anything but complain to zayn and me and niall. we all missed you so much. what did you even do over there? did you see anyone else?"
"god, i missed you guys too, like hell. and yeah, yeah, i saw this bloke stan for a bit. was more of a flatmate who was a good fuck but, he's a little bit - not what i wanted. left my heart in london, i suppose."
"good thing, mate," and liam clinked beers with him.
at the end of the night, louis and harry get to their own flat that smells old and much too lived in, like yellowing walls and used books and coffee. louis completely crumbles when he steps in, because this is truly, truly home.
harry lets louis fuck him into the dirty sheets, curl up around him and breathe his vodka-infused scent. louis thinks: here is my heart, the one you've always had.
the leaves bake and turn brown, fall on the sidewalk. the world smells like maple and harry’s cologne. he works at the bakery again, (the owner loves him, so do the old ladies that flirt with him shamelessly) and he brings scones home and a kiss on the lips.
harry says, "today is a new day for us," and louis can hardly believe it, because just a few months ago he was running across the world, crazy in love with a dream of not being crazy in love, letting strange men push into him, twenty-five and already so numb.
now louis thinks he's memorized harry's face: the curve of his nose, the shape of his eyelids, his worry lines, his laugh lines, the space between his eyebrows, and god, the cupid's bow of his lips, his jawline, strong and prominent. he's working on memorizing his body, with his lanky arms and torso that goes on forever, bony hips, veins in his wrists. (i need to quit)
but there is one moment:
harry is curled around louis post-sex, the room smells like syrupy vanilla sex and the sky is dark violet, laced with clouds, as if the sky and clouds were entangled in an embrace. louis notices this, and pulls harry closer. he whispers, “you’re beautiful.”
and harry whispers, “you hold the world,”
theres that one time, in december:
nighttime is long and royal blue and mysterious, and the air is cold and snowy, like dropping stars, leaves fall to the ground and the world smells like christmas, with carols and trees and celebration, the sky is a mixture of purple and the lights illuminate the entire block. anyone would stop and appreciate the simple beauty of this time of year, but all louis can see is harry - miles east, north, south, west, in his peripheral vision, the backs of his eyelids, the corners of his heart is all harry, all belongs to harry.
they're chain smoking on the balcony like always, but tonight there is a certain intimacy in the air and a closeness that once would've been uncomfortable.
harry breathes out, "lou?"
"mmhm?" louis sighs out, closing his eyes and let the nicotine envelope him.
"i just want to tell you that, nothing's changed."
"what do you mean?"
"i mean, that night, all those years ago? when i told you i was in love with you and you left. nothing's changed. i'm still in love with you and you're still an asshole who's shaken by it." harry pauses and louis opens his mouth to speak, but harry continues, "and, this, whatever it is, it's absolutely intense and i'm fucking filled with this intensity and like shit, louis."
louis thinks: i am giving you my hands, the oxygen in my lungs, the space between my heart and ears, my body. all yours. here.
"harry, i. i'm not shaken by it. this is good. it's - this is okay. we're okay."
"then say it," harry says, with a sudden urgency in his voice.
"you know what i mean, lou, please."
louis leans over now, presses his lips against harry's, long and deep against the balcony, putting out his cigarette on the wall. he sucks on harry's tongue until all he tastes is harry's tobacco mouth and all he can think is come closer. when they pull away, louis presses his mouth to harry's neck, breathes the words like a prayer: "i love you."
on christmas eve the boys bring over all their friends, even the ones harry hasn’t met yet, and they open bottles upon bottles of wine and decide they’re going to get spectacularly wasted. harry is attached to louis all night, of course he is, smiling against his neck, meeting his friends, drinking his wine. he whispers, happy 26th, old man, into louis’ ear and smiles, kissing there. louis swats him playfully, says back, not my fault i fell in love with someone as young as you, my dearest.
niall gives louis a candle set and a bottle of cheap champagne. he smiles, hands intertwined with liam’s and said, “for you and harry’s date nights!” and louis laughs and hugs him tight. zayn gives him a marina and the diamonds t-shirt and louis smiles impossibly wide and asks how zayn knew, and zayn shrugs and laughs, saying, you look like the type.
liam gives him a necklace with a small paper airplane charm. he whispers, “so, if you ever need me, you can just send me a letter. or email if letters are too old school for you.” and louis tries not to cry into liam’s shoulder.
then harry. when it comes to him in the small circle, he smiles shyly and crawls to louis, who is wedged in between niall and liam across from him, and he slips an envelope into louis hand and kisses his lips lightly. louis puts a hand in his curls and keeps him close for a moment and he whispers, “i love you, hazza,”
“you too, lou, happy birthday,” harry mumbles, and slips back into his seat.
the other gifts are exchanged and it slips into the next day and the guests begin to leave around 2 am, slightly drunk and the only money left in their wallets is money for cab rides home.
while harry is cleaning up in the kitchen, putting away wine glasses and plates in the dishwasher, louis opens harry’s envelope at the kitchen counter. first, a bracelet falls out. it has one charm, a small anchor.
harry glances at louis, “it’s an anchor because er, whenever you go, if you ever go, i’ll always be here, pulling you down. because i’m home. like. yeah. there’s space for more charms, so i could give you more.” louis smiles and pulls harry into a soft kiss and opens the letter inside the envelope.
it reads (in harry’s ridiculously messy scrawl):
this is probably awfully cheesy but bear with me? first i’d like to start by saying happy birthday, old man! second, of course, i’d like to say that i love you. i’ve been thinking about that lately, like, why i love you so fucking much even after all that bullshit a few months ago and i’ve come to this, and bear with me because it’s really incredibly stupid: you’re an asshole. but, you’re beautiful and your eyes are bright blue and the way you smile into my mouth when we’re kissing and maybe i like the thrill of you running away and coming back and breaking my heart and then coming back.
i hope we do stay like this, the way we are in this very moment, for as long as possible. because i do love you and i love the way you make me feel and i love our stupid arguments, especially when it ends in you pressing me against the wall. fuck, lou. i always fall so fucking hard for people and i tell them i love them and i’ll never leave them but after the honeymoon phase it’s like nothing ever happened and i just lose that spark but louis, i’ve known you for five years and i still remember that fucking first day i met you and i wouldn’t let you kiss me and you were just this twenty year old with a nicotine addiction and i was this eightteen year old who just wanted some love or something, but you’re so much more. shit, i’ve loved you all this time and. oh my god.
i tell people i’m in love with them when i’m really not, basically. but it’s different with you. i promise. you shine so bright and i can’t imagine what i’d do if you leave again. look at yourself, my love. you’re brilliant and beautiful and when i’m next to you i feel ten thousand times more radiant.
love always, always, always,
they fuck messily that night, half drunk but all the love is still there. (it’s always there.)
on new years they kiss in the corner. the clock counts down to midnight and harry whispers before swooping in to meet louis’ lips, “another year with you, my love. couldn’t wish for anything more.” and he presses louis to the wall and kisses him rough, hands in hair and he thinks his heart is getting caught in his throat.