Actions

Work Header

The Worst Things Beautiful

Work Text:

“Louis you can’t keep calling here.”

“I know, I get it,” Louis doesn’t get it, not really, but he knows that’s what Zayn wants to hear. He tries to keep his voice under control, and he hopes that Zayn can’t hear that he’s fighting back tears as he says, “I just really need my best friend right now.”

There’s a silence, and then,

“Just your best friend? Because you know I can’t give you anything more than that anymore.”

He nods, even though Zayn can’t see him. “I know. How’s Liam?” Liam. Liam. Perfect fucking Liam. He doesn’t blame Zayn for choosing Liam over him. Liam is smart and hardworking and doesn’t need to stay in bed for days at a time because he can’t handle facing the world. Liam is everything Louis is not.

“He’s fine.” Another sigh from Zayn. “Louis, it’s four in the morning. What do you need?”

“I just…I need…” he trails off, then admits quietly, “I don’t want to be alone anymore.”

There’s a sharp intake of breath, and then Zayn’s saying sadly, “Oh Lou.”

He hears Liam’s voice faintly in the background, then there’s a muffled sound like Zayn’s covering the mouthpiece with his hand so that Louis can’t hear whatever it is he’s saying back to Liam. Louis hangs up then, because it hurts too much to think about the time when Zayn wouldn’t have even considered doing something like that, because there had been no secrets between them.

Louis wonders what happened to “best friends forever” and all the promises they’d made each other in their twelve years of friendship.

He resigns himself to the fact that he won’t be getting any sleep tonight and pulls on his shoes and coat, slipping out the front door of his flat and heading out into the cold London night.

He wanders the streets, marveling at how even London can look like a ghost town at this time of the night. Everywhere he looks is empty, void, vacant. He finds it ironic that the city that had lured him in with false hopes of a better life is currently reflecting how he feels inside. He doesn’t feel so alone right now though, not when the buildings and park benches are alone too.

There’s an ache in his heart. It’s been there for a while now, but he feels extra aware of it tonight.

He passes by a park and briefly considers drowning himself in the fountain he spots just inside the gates, but decides against it. Knowing his luck, his body would be found by some little kid in the morning, and then he’d be responsible for ruining a childhood and emotionally traumatizing the kid. I may be a lot of awful things, he thinks sourly, but I am not that much of an asshole.

He doesn’t stop to think about the fact that the thought of killing himself had entered his mind, because he knows that if he dwells on it for too long he’ll just end up feeling worse about himself.

He finds himself sitting cross legged on the sidewalk, his back pressed against the glass window of a bakery as he watches the remains of the night drift higher, fading into lightness. He knows he should get up, that sitting on the sidewalk like this isn’t something people his age are supposed to do, but he can’t bring himself to care. He’s been walking for hours by this point, and he’s too worn out to stand up.

“Already queuing up? Sorry mate, we won’t be open to customers for another hour.” The voice startles Louis, and he twists his head around quickly to locate the source. There’s a boy standing there, the prettiest boy Louis’ ever seen, and he’s holding a key and smirking down at Louis. His expression falters when he sees the look on Louis’ face, and he frowns. “Are you okay? Forgive me if I’m overstepping any boundaries, but you look…”

“Like shit?” Louis supplies.

“Sad.” The boy says instead. “You just look really sad.”

Louis shuts his eyes and nods slowly. “I’ve seen better days.”

“Well hey,” the boy says, and Louis opens his eyes to peer up at him. “Come inside with me. It’s cold out here, and I can make you some tea to warm you up a bit.”

Louis bites his lip and nods. He stands up and waits while the boy unlocks the door and goes inside to deactivate the alarm, and then the boy is back and holding the door open for him with a smile, so Louis forces himself to smile back and follows him inside.

“I’m Harry, by the way.” He holds out his hand, so Louis takes it in his and shakes it, marveling out how tiny his hand is in comparison with the other boy’s.

“Louis.”

“Nice to meet you, Louis. So, how do you take your tea?”

“One sugar, no milk, please.”

Harry nods and disappears behind the counter. Louis sits down at the closest table and stares idly out the window. It’s started raining, and he offers up a silent thanks to whatever entity it was that made Harry appear when he did, as he’s miles from home and the last thing he needs is to get caught out in the rain and end up sick. He sneaks a glance over at Harry, eyes roaming the lanky boy’s body. He’s wearing jeans so impossibly tight that Louis wonders if he’d had them sewn on, and he’s wearing a low cut v-necked shirt that exposes two bird tattoos on his chest, along with a myriad of what seems to be incredibly random tattoos on his left arm. His right one is strangely empty of tattoos, bar one that’s in the same spot as one on his left arm. It’s too far away for Louis to make out what it says. The idea of getting tattoos to fill his own right arm, ones that correspond to Harry’s tattoos, flashes through his mind, and he shakes his head. He’s going crazy. Absolutely batshit crazy. It’s not normal, he knows, to want to permanently mark up your body to match with a stranger. Even if that stranger has the prettiest brown curls and biggest green eyes he’s ever seen, and a mouth that looks positively sinful, like it was made for sucking dick or something. Harry looks over at him then, and Louis glances away quickly, embarrassed to have been caught staring. He forces himself to stare out the window at the rain, until he hears Harry walking over to him.

“Here’s your tea. I gotta go start baking. You’re welcome to join me in the back, if you want company, or else you can just sit out here.”

Louis offers him a smile. “Think I’m okay here, mate, but thanks.”

Harry nods, then walks off, and soon Louis can hear the sound of things being whisked and bowls clattering around. Then there’s the sound of glass breaking, followed by an “oh shit!” and Louis’ curiosity gets the best of him. He finds himself making his way into the back room, clutching his cup of tea tightly, and has to fight back a laugh when he takes in the scene in front of him. Harry is standing in the middle of the kitchen, a broken glass bowl on the floor in front of him, and there is flour everywhere. Harry is looking around him, the expression on his face one of absolute horror, and that’s when Louis loses it. He laughs so hard that tears form in his eyes, and he has to wipe them away. He catches a glimpse of Harry pouting at him, and it just makes him laugh harder. He eventually calms himself down and apologizes to Harry in between taking deep breaths.

“Sorry, I just couldn’t stop. It’s been a while since I’ve laughed like that.”

Harry’s expression softens at Louis’ admission. “It’s okay, I am kind of accident-prone.” He shrugs. “But hey, I really need to get started baking before people start showing up and demanding food. I hate to ask, but would you mind helping me clean this up?” He gestures around him.

“Yeah, sure mate. Where’s the broom?”

Harry fetches it from a storage closet and hands it to Louis. “Thanks, Louis. I really appreciate it.”

Louis smiles at him. “Least I could do after you rescued me from being caught out in the rain.”

Harry gives him a look that Louis can’t decipher, but then he’s turned away and has gone back to baking. Louis gulps down the last of his tea and sets the cup down before he begins sweeping up the spilled flour. They’re silent for a while, until Harry puts the first batch of muffins into the oven and turns to face Louis. There’s a troubled look on his face, and Louis freezes mid-sweep to stare back at him.

“I’m sorry if I’m being too invasive or something, it’s just…where’s your family, Louis? Do you have someplace to stay? There’s a shelter-”

Realization dawns on Louis and he lets out a short laugh, interrupting Harry. “I’m not homeless, Harry.”

“Oh.” Harry blushes. “Sorry, I just assumed…I mean, you were sitting out in the street at five-thirty in the morning, and…”

“It’s okay. I’m not offended or anything.”

Harry looks relieved for a moment, then frowns again. “But are you okay? You looked pretty miserable sitting out there.”

Louis shrugs. “It’s nothing.”

“It’s not nothing, Louis.” Harry protests. “I just think…” He trails off, and blushes as he blurts out in one breath, “I just don’t think someone as pretty as you should ever look that sad.”

Louis fish mouths at him, shocked. It’s been a long time since someone’s complimented him, and he certainly didn’t expect it from someone who looks like Harry does.

“I’m sorry, I’m not trying to hit on you.” Harry pauses, then shakes his head and grins. “Actually, fuck that. I am absolutely trying to hit on you. So please tell me now if you’ve got a boyfriend or, despite the fact that I’m pretty sure I caught you checking me out earlier, you’re actually straight. I’m really not in the mood to pine over someone unobtainable.”

“No boyfriend. And I’m definitely not straight. I just…why?”

“Why what?”

“Why are you saying this to me?”

Harry looks confused. “Because I think you’re cute, and I’d like to get to know you better. Isn’t that typically why people ask other people out?”

“You’re asking me out?” Louis asks dumbly.

“Well, yeah. Why wouldn’t I?”

“But you’ve seen me. You know I’m…I’m not happy. Why would you want to bother with me?”

“So you’re going through a rough time, Louis. Feeling sad doesn’t make you any less worthy than anyone else.”

“I’m not just sad, Harry.” Louis gives a self-deprecating laugh. “It’s more like chronic despair.”

Harry blinks at him, unfazed. “So?

Louis falters. “You’re being serious?”

“You know, Louis, if you’re not interested you can just tell me. You don’t need to try talk me out of wanting to take you out.”

“No. I mean, okay.” Louis stammers. “I’ll go out with you.”

Harry grins. “Perfect. I get done here at five, then I’ll need to go home and shower. So how about I pick you up around seven?”

Louis nods, feeling suddenly shy. “Yeah, that sounds good.”

“Here,” Harry holds out his phone. “Put your number in there.”

Louis does, then send himself a text so he’ll have Harry’s number in his phone as well. He hands the phone back, starkly aware of the way Harry’s fingers brush against his own.

“Tomlinson, huh?” Harry reads his name, then grins at him. “Well, Louis Tomlinson, I’d better get back to work. But I’ll see you tonight.”

Louis nods. “Okay.” He turns to leave, then glances back at Harry. “And Harry? Thanks. Y’know, for the tea. And for everything else.”

He doesn’t specify what everything else is, but he thinks Harry understands.

 

~~~

 

He drags himself back to his flat and practically collapses onto his bed, exhausted. He falls into a deep, dreamless sleep almost immediately, and wakes up around two in the afternoon. He’d quite like to fall back to sleep, but he needs to shower before Harry picks him up, and besides, he really should at least try to write something today.

He stumbles into his bathroom and turns the water on, then strips down and stares at himself in the mirror. He needs a haircut, he thinks, and the bags under his eyes are more defined than ever. He frowns; his belly’s gotten a little pudgier. He really should cut back on drinking and try to work out more. He sighs and steps into the shower, wincing as the hot water hits his body. He adjusts the water temperature and closes his eyes, enjoying the way the warm water relaxes his muscles.

He waits until he feels the water begin to cool, then quickly washes his hair and scrubs himself down before jumping out. He towels himself off, then makes his way into his bedroom, where he puts on his best pair of jeans and stares into his closet, frowning. He’s not sure where Harry’s planning on taking him, so he doesn’t know if he should dress his outfit up with a button up, or if a t-shirt will suffice. He finally decides on a plain white v-neck shirt, then settles down on his couch, his laptop resting on his crossed legs, and stares at his open Word document. He’s supposed to be writing the follow-up to his debut novel, except he’s been uninspired for months and has hardly written a thing. His agent is pissed at him, and he honestly doesn’t even know if he’s still got a publishing deal. His first novel wasn’t a runaway success, but it did okay. Enough people bought it for the publishing house to request a follow-up novel from him. Except Louis’ entire life went to shit, and he can barely find the strength to get out of bed most days, let alone create a world that will interest other people.

He’s pulled out of his self-deprecating thoughts by his phone buzzing. He glances at it and feels his heart flutter when he sees it’s a text from Harry.

Need ur address. Make sure u wear smthing warm, we’re gonna be outdoors. Xx

Well, at least that solved his shirt dilemma. It didn’t matter what he wore, it’d be hidden by his coat anyway. He texts his address to Harry, then types out and sends a second text before he can think better of it.

I’m really looking forward to tonight x

His phone begins ringing and he answers it without looking at the screen, assuming its Harry calling.

“Calling me instead of responding by text? You’re starting to look a little desperate-“

“Lou?”

Louis freezes. “Zayn?”

“Did you think it was someone else calling you?” He sounds surprised, and Louis feels irritation rising up in him.

“Believe it or not, Zayn, and I know it’s a shock to you, but there are people who actually give a shit about me and want to spend time with me.”

“That’s not fair, Louis.” Zayn sounds hurt, and Louis feels a flash of guilt, but he pushes it aside.

“No, Zayn. What’s not fair is you completely abandoning me for your perfect fireman. Is he a better shag than I am? Is that why it was so easy for you to forget about me?” He knows he’s behaving like a petulant child, but he’s too hurt to care.
“Louis,” Zayn warns, “don’t speak about Liam like that. I’m sorry that I can’t love you back, but-“

“You think I’m in love with you?” He laughs incredulously. “Don’t flatter yourself, Zayn.”

“So why are you so pissed off about me being with Liam?”

“I’m not mad at you for being with Liam, Zayn! Fuck, I’m happy for you, if you’ve found someone you love and who loves you back. I just don’t understand why that meant you had to forget about me.”

He hates how sad and whiny he sounds, but he can’t help it. He didn’t lie, he’s not in love with Zayn, but he feels absolutely heartbroken over him deciding he’d rather spend all his time with Liam than bother to maintain his friendship with Louis.

Zayn sighs, and when he speaks Louis can hear the sadness in his voice. “Louis, you’re my best friend. You’ll always be my best friend. But Liam knows we used to fuck sometimes, and I don’t want him to be unsure about how I feel about him. I just need to let him know he’s my number one priority, Lou. Do you understand that?”

“No,” Louis shakes his head, even though he knows Zayn can’t see him. “I don’t understand. I don’t understand how you can tell me you’re my best friend, but make zero effort to show it. Everything’s falling apart, and I really need you, Zayn.”

“I can’t be there for you right now, Louis!” Zayn sounds annoyed now. “You need to figure out how to pull yourself together. You’ve worn me out, Lou. I don’t have anything else to give you right now.”

The words hit Louis like a train, and he presses end on the call without saying another word to Zayn. He switches his phone off and curls up on the couch, his hands clenching into fists as he sobs.

“You’re worthless! Worthless, stupid, piece of shit!” he screams, punching at his thighs. He knows he’s getting hysterical, but he’s past the point of being able to calm himself down. “Stupid, stupid, stupid.” His voice trails off into more sobs.

He must fall asleep eventually, because the next thing he knows he’s being startled awake by a knock on his door. He tries to ignore it, hoping that whoever it is will go away, but the knocking continues, so he forces himself up and stumbles to the front door. He catches a glimpse of himself in the hallway mirror and winces; he looks like complete shit. He pulls his door open and stops in surprise when he sees Harry standing there. In all his trauma, he’d completely forgotten about their date.

“Louis? Are you okay? You didn’t respond to my texts and then your phone went straight to voicemail when I tried calling you, so I was worried.”

“Oh yeah. Forgot I turned that off.” Louis shrugs nonchalantly, ignoring Harry’s question about how he’s doing.

“Do you still want to go out?” He looks concerned, peering at Louis’ disheveled appearance. “It’s okay if you want a rain check or something.”

“Nah,” Louis shakes his head. “Just woke up from a nap is all. Give me a moment, I’ll grab my jacket and try tame my hair.” He holds the door open for Harry to follow him inside, then hurries off into his room to neaten himself up.

Harry’s sitting on his couch when he walks back into the living room, holding Louis’ copy of his first novel and reading the back insert. He glances up at Louis when he hears him approaching.

“You wrote this?”

Louis nods, surprised by the look of awe that Harry gives him back.

“You’re a published author? I had no idea I was in the presence of someone so talented.”

Louis blushes. “I wish I was as talented as you seem to think I am. I’m pretty sure I’m about to lose my publishing deal for failing to meet my end of the agreement. I’m supposed to have a second book finished by now, but I can’t seem to write anything worthwhile anymore.”

“Maybe you just need a muse?” Harry suggests, wiggling his eyebrows at Louis, who laughs.

“Are you volunteering?”

“Maybe.” Harry winks at him. “Come on, let’s get going.”

“Where are we going?”

“I was thinking we could go ice skating at Hyde Park? They’ve just opened it up and I figured it’d be something fun to do.”

Hyde Park is filled with people when they arrive, and Louis has a brief moment of panic at the realisation that he’s going to be attempting to ice skate in front of a rather large crowd of people. He tells himself it’ll be okay, because he’ll just cling onto Harry and use him to stay steady.

Except it turns out that Harry is even worse at ice skating than Louis is, and as he helps Harry stand up after he’s fallen for what must be the tenth time in as many minutes, he can’t stop giggling as he asks, “Why on earth did you think ice skating would be a good idea?”

Harry shrugs. “It’s fun.”

“Even though you’re terrible at it?” Louis teases him.

“Oi, watch it,” Harry warns him, but he’s laughing as he says it. He moves towards Louis, but ends up falling over again, and Louis starts laughing so hard he can hardly stand. He sinks down onto the ice beside Harry, still laughing, as he hovers over the younger boy.

His laughter fades out as he sees the way Harry is staring up at him. His eyes dart between Louis’ eyes and his mouth, and Louis barely has times to register what’s happening before Harry’s surging upwards and pressing his lips against Louis’. The kiss doesn’t last long; Louis has only just begun to kiss back when Harry pulls away, but his heart is pounding like they’ve just spent the last hour making out.

“Do you want to get out of here?”

Louis can only nod in response

 

~~~

 

Harry’s flat is a twenty minute cab ride away, and they spend the entirety of the ride kissing, Louis’ hands tangled up in Harry’s curls. They hold hands while Harry leads the way up two flights of stairs, and then they’re inside Harry’s flat and they’re kissing again, hands roaming each other’s bodies. Harry kicks the door shut and pushes Louis up against it, his hands fumbling at the button and zip on Louis’ pants. He tugs them down, sinking to his knees as he does so, and then Louis’ dick is exposed and Harry’s looking up at him with dark, lust-filled eyes.
“Can I?”

Louis nods, and Harry moves his head forward, tongue flicking out to lick at the pre come that’s already leaking out. Ordinarily Louis would be embarrassed by how turned on he already is, but he’s honestly never been more attracted to anyone than he is to the boy who’s currently licking a strip up the underside of Louis’ cock. And then Harry finally, finally, wraps his lips around Louis. He takes him in deeper than Louis was expecting, and his knees almost give out as he feels his cock hit the back of Harry’s throat. He looks down through hooded eyelids and sees Harry bobbing his head, his cheeks hollowed out, and he has to grasp onto Harry’s shoulders to keep himself steady. Harry pulls off of him with a pop, and his lips are wet as he murmurs, “you can hold onto my hair, I don’t mind.”

Louis nods, and tangles his fingers in Harry’s curls as Harry licks at his slit before wrapping his lips around his cock again. Harry’s fucking brilliant at sucking cock, and Louis is only vaguely aware of how hard he’s tugging Harry’s hair as he comes. Harry swallows his come and continues sucking him through his orgasm, stopping just when Louis’ starting to feel a little too tender.

“Holy shit, Harry.” His chest is heaving as he opens his eyes to peer down at the other boy, still on his knees in front of him. Harry grins and stands up, reaching out for Louis’ hand and tugging him down the hallway and into his bedroom, Louis almost tripping over his pants until he eventually just kicks them off, leaving them and his underwear trailing across the floor. They sink down onto Harry’s unmade bed, and Louis immediately reaches for Harry’s belt buckle, ready to return the favour.

Harry fucks the way he speaks, slow and steady, and Louis feels himself falling further and further apart with every deep thrust Harry makes. He clutches at the sheets, biting his lower lip to stifle the whine that starts to slip out. Harry detaches his mouth from Louis’ neck and looks up at him.

“Don’t do that. I wanna hear you.”

Louis nods. Harry picks up his pace, angling them so that he’s hitting against Louis’ prostate with every thrust, and Louis doesn’t let his inhibition hold him back as he gasps and allows himself to moan loudly. Harry gives a few more thrust and then he’s throwing his head back, eyes squeezing shut as he comes. Louis gives his cock a few tugs and then he’s coming apart as well.

Harry pulls out of him and disposes of the condom before he heads into his bathroom, coming back with a damp washcloth that he uses to clean the come that’s streaked across Louis’ stomach. He drops the washcloth onto the floor and curls up into Louis’ side, pressing soft kisses along Louis’ collarbone.  Louis hums appreciatively and lifts his hand to massage the back of Harry’s head.

“That was amazing,” Harry mumbles into Louis’ skin, yawning. Louis nods his agreement.

“Definitely worth another round, after we’ve rested a bit, yeah?” He knows he’ll be sore in the morning, but can’t bring himself to care. Not when he could be fucked like that again.

They exchange lazy kisses for a while, their legs intertwined and bodies pressed against each other.  Louis can’t remember the last time he’s felt so connected with another person, especially after knowing them for less than twenty-four hours. He’s not really one to believe in fate, or soulmates, but he feels like he’s been waiting for Harry to show up his entire life. He glances sideways and sees Harry watching him, his pink lips parted in a grin. Louis grins dopily back at him, then chuckles quietly.

“What’s so funny?”

“I just had the best sex of my life and I just realised that I don’t even know your last name.”

“It’s Styles.”

Louis blinks at him, because of course he’d have a name like that.

“Hmm. Harry Styles. You sound like a proper rock star.”

Harry blushes. “Nah, mate, I’m just a baker.”

The mention of food reminds Louis that he hasn’t eaten yet, so he gives Harry his most charming smile.

“Any chance that you cook as well as you bake?”

“You’re in luck, sir.” Harry disentangles himself from Louis and gets up, turning to dig through his dresser. He pulls out some sweatpants and tugs them on, then turns back to Louis. “Feel free to look through there for something to wear, then meet me in the kitchen.” He leans down and presses a kiss to Louis’ lips, then practically prances out of the room, leaving Louis staring after him in amusement.

A quick look through Harry’s clothes tells Louis what he’d already suspected – nothing would even come close to fitting him. He ends up finding his underwear out in the hallway and puts them back on, then digs through Harry’s pile of jumpers until he finds one that feels incredibly soft and still sort-of smells like Harry. He pulls it on and it’s so large that the bottom of it hits him at mid-thigh. He rolls the sleeves up so his hands poke through, but there’s nothing he can do about the fact that the collar is so wide it hangs down, exposing his collarbones and one shoulder slightly. He sort-of looks like a kid playing dress up in his dad’s clothes, but he feels so comfortable and relaxed that he really doesn’t care.

He heads in the direction of the kitchen, and Harry’s eyes widen when he spots Louis.

“Any particular reason you decided to wear the largest jumper I own?”

“It’s comfortable,” Louis shrugs. He glances down self-consciously. “Why? Do I look dumb?”

“God no. You look,” Harry’s voice breaks. “You look fucking incredible, Lou.”

Louis grins, pleased.  “So, Hazza, what are you making me?”

“Mac and cheese.” He gives Louis an apologetic look. “Sorry, I know it’s nothing special, but I hadn’t realised how desperately I need to buy groceries until now.”

“Nah, that sounds perfect.”

Louis hops up onto the counter and Harry immediately walks over to stand in between his legs. He slides his hands up Louis’ thighs and wraps his arms around his waist underneath the jumper, then presses a kiss against Louis’ lips.

“You have no idea how badly I want to fuck you right now.”

Louis mock glares at him. “I am not a piece of meat, Harold.”

 Harry laughs, then gives Louis’ hips a squeeze before he goes back to cooking.

They sit on the couch in the living room and watch a Friends rerun while they eat, and it isn’t long until Louis is riding Harry, the tv still playing quietly in the background.

He’s still wearing the sweater, because Harry had practically begged him to keep it on, and Harry’s hands are cupping his ass cheeks, his long fingers kneading into the skin as he throws his head back, a load moan escaping his red, kiss-bruised lips. He slips one hand around and starts jerking Louis off, causing the older boy to falter for a second before increasing his speed. They come together, and Louis slumps against Harry, breathing heavily as they come down from their highs. Harry presses a kiss to the top of Louis’ head.

“I just might be falling for you, Louis Tomlinson. I hope that’s okay with you.”

Louis nods, smiling into Harry’s shoulder. “I’m perfectly okay with that. And I just might be falling back.”

 

~~~

“You don’t think it’s weird, how it took us less than twenty-four hours to completely fall for each other?” It's a month later, and they're curled up in Louis' bed, listening to the rain pouring outside the open window.

Harry looks thoughtful, then shakes his head. “I don’t think it matters how long we did or didn’t know each other. I mean, when you know, you know.” He shrugs. “It just sort of happens.”

And god, Louis is so fucking in love with this boy.

“You know, for so long I just kept thinking about how I wanted to leave this place behind; old loves fading away with new ambitions. I wanted to throw myself into a new city and love it and own it and not be beaten down the way I am here. And then you happened. And I just…I really love you, Haz.”

“I love you too, Louis. So much.”

Louis twists around and connects his lips with Harry’s. They kiss slowly for a while, until Harry breaks their kiss and frowns.

 

“Louis, what’s it like for you? I’m not trying to be-” he trails off for a second, his big green eyes peering at Louis in concern. “I just want to understand how you’re feeling.”

“It’s just…it’s kind of like the feeling you get when it’s been raining for several days, and all you want to do is leave your house without worrying about getting drenched, but you know that isn’t going to happen.”

“I’ll be your umbrella.”

Louis can’t bring himself to tease Harry for how cheesy he’s being, because his boyfriend is gazing at him with such an earnest look on his face. And Louis knows, then, that he’s going to marry this boy one day. He wants to scream it from the rooftops, but he knows it’s too soon to be talking about marriage, so he sighs instead.

“I just don’t want to think anymore.”

“Think about what?”

“How badly I need to finish this novel, and the phone calls from my mother that I can’t bring myself to return, how I dropped out of university while everyone else has now graduated and gone on to working in real jobs, and how you’re the only thing keeping me from drowning in loneliness. It all hurts too much; it’s far too exhausting to think about. I want to sleep for hours, but I know I’ll just be waking up to the same damned unchanging sky.” He takes a deep breath, feeling like his lungs are constricting him. “Fuck, Harry! I wish like hell I knew why I am the way I am. I wish I could point out A, B, and C and say ‘yes, those are the catalysts that left me feeling this way.’ But I can’t, Harry. I can’t. It just happened.” He’s crying by the time he finishes speaking, and Harry immediately reaches for him, cradles him close to his chest.

“It’s okay, Lou.” He says softly into his hair. Louis shakes his head manically.

“No, it’s not. It’s really fucking not okay.”

“You’re right,” Harry admits. “It’s not okay. But I’ll be here for you until it is. And even longer after that, if you’ll have me.”

Louis feels warmth spread through him at Harry’s words. He pulls back and looks at the younger boy, somehow breaking into a smile despite the tears that were still making their way down his cheeks. “Yeah, I’ll have you. I’ll have you forever, if that’s what you want too.”

Harry’s lips are already on his before the sentence is completely out of his mouth.

 

~~~

 

 

They’re together for five months when Louis finally finishes his novel. He heads over to Harry’s flat after mailing his first draft off to his agent to find Harry waiting for him, a large chocolate cake sitting on the living room table.

“What’s this for?”

“This,” Harry says, wrapping his arms around Louis and kissing him deeply. “Is to celebrate my boyfriend being a literary genius.”

Louis laughs. “I’m hardly a literary genius, Harry.”

“You are!” Harry argues. “You’re absolutely bloody brilliant and I’m so proud of you.”

Louis nuzzles his face into Harry’s chest, breathing in the familiar smell of the bakery that seems to follow Harry around. They stand like that for a while, just holding on tightly and breathing each other in.

“I got you something as well as the cake. Well, I got us something, but it’s technically for you.”

“Ooh, presents!” Louis clasps his hands together and grins. “I love getting presents.”

Harry rolls his eyes, but he watches Louis’ face fondly as he pulls an envelope out of his pocket and hands it to Louis.

Louis opens it and pulls out two plane tickets. His mouth drops open and he gapes up at Harry, his expression shifting from shock to complete joy.

“Tickets to New York? Are you serious?”

 “You said you didn’t want to keep waking up to the same unchanging sky, well, here’s your way out.” Harry takes the tickets and brandishes them towards Louis, waving them in his face. “Niall said he’d be okay running the bakery by himself for three weeks. We can go explore America, Lou. Maybe you can get inspiration for a third novel. Or maybe we’ll just fuck in as many different cities as possible. It doesn’t matter what we do. The only thing that matters is we’ll be doing it together.”

Louis is too overwhelmed to speak, and Harry seems to take his silence as disinterest, because he starts rambling in an attempt to convince Louis that it’ll be a good idea.

“Come on, Lou, let’s do it. We are beautiful souls. God Dammit, we are fucking young, we are alive, and we are true. We’re young enough to say “fuck the world” and throw our souls into love. We will never be this young and free again. It’s just you and me and me and you and the entire world.”

Louis blinks, stunned, then starts laughing. “God, you’re brilliant, you know that?”

“Nah.” Harry looks bashful. “I just really fucking love you.”

 

~~~

 

They’re in Chicago when Louis decides to do it. He sneaks out of the hotel room while Harry takes a nap, leaving a note behind in case Harry wakes up. He’s nervous, but he’s never been surer about anything in his life (besides Harry himself, that is) and it turns out that it doesn’t hurt as much as he’d expected it to.

Harry’s awake when he gets back to the hotel, lying in bed and watching some trashy talk show on tv. He puts it on mute when he sees Louis, and gives him a lazy smile.

“Hey love. Where’d you go off to?”

“There was something I needed to do.”

Louis goes over and sits down beside Harry. He takes a deep breath, suddenly feeling nervous. He knows it’s silly though, that there’s absolutely no reason for him to feel anxious, so he rolls up his sleeve and shows Harry the compass that’s been permanently tattooed into his skin. Harry gasps and reaches out to touch it, stopping his fingers just inches from Louis’ skin. He looks up at Louis with wide eyes, the ghost of a smile on his lips.

“It points to home.”

Louis nods. “Yeah.”

He reaches out and takes Harry’s hand in his, so that the arrow on his compass is pointed towards Harry’s ship tattoo. “Remember when we first met? You thought I was homeless, and in a way I sort of was. But then I met you, and you’ve become my home, Harry. I don’t feel quite so lost anymore, not when I’ve got you to keep me centered.”

Harry looks misty eyed, so Louis leans over to kiss him.
“I know it’s not always easy to be with me, Haz. But you’ve never once made me feel bad for being like I am. You’ve loved me unconditionally since day one, and for someone who makes their living as a writer, I’ve been at a complete loss for words to describe just how much that means to me. So this,” he points at his tattoo, “is the best way I could come up with to say it.”

They make love like it’s the most important thing they’ll ever do, whispering “I love you” and “forever” into each other’s skin.

 

~~~

 

Louis’ novel is published and Harry cries when he reads the dedication. He drops the copy of the book that Louis gave him onto the floor, ignoring Louis’ protest of “hey! Don’t treat my pride and joy like that!” and throws himself into Louis’ arms.

“Yes!” He kisses Louis fiercely. “Yes yes yes!”

 

~~~

 

Harry insists on framing it, and Louis pretends to be embarrassed, even though they both know he’s secretly pleased.

It sits on the nightstand next to Harry’s side of the bed, and even years later, when their hair is greying and their kids have started having kids of their own, Louis will look at that aging piece of paper and smile because they are still just as madly in love as they were back then. And sometimes, when Harry thinks he’s sleeping or not paying attention, he’ll catch his husband staring at it, mouthing the most important words Louis has ever written in his life:

 

For H, who somehow makes even the worst things beautiful. Marry me?