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How Could I Ever Forget

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/// THE BREAKUP ///

 

As soon as Harry walks through the door of their shitty apartment just off campus, he knows something is off. First of all, Louis is home. He sees his Vans kicked off next to the door, and the television is blaring a Cubs game even though Louis is nowhere to be seen in the living room. He’s supposed to be at work, waiting tables during the lunch rush.

“Lou? Why are you–”

“Hey, H. Could you come here for a minute?” Louis calls to him from the kitchen.

He walks in, and Louis offers him a weak smile and gestures at him to sit down. Fuck. Harry knows that smile. It means Louis’ done something wrong. He wracks his brain for a few minutes wondering what he’s done now. Last time, he’d forgotten to tell him about his mom’s baby shower until the very last minute. They’d had to buy a gift on the way. Can’t be family related. He talked to Gemma half an hour ago and Lottie just last night.

“Okay, just tell me. You’re making me nervous. What’s happened?”

Louis takes a deep breath. It’s quite alarming.

“I’ve accepted a job in New York.”

“What do you mean you’ve accepted a job in New York?” Harry feels like his heart might pound right out of his chest. Louis is sitting across from him in their shitty apartment near campus three days after graduation looking guilty as hell, and Harry’s mind is reeling.

“I mean—I uh, accepted a job. In New York.”

“In New York,” Harry repeats back, dumbstruck.

“Um, yes, but Harry, I meant to talk to you about it sooner, but—“

“But what?” Harry jumps up from the chair and starts pacing their small kitchen. “When were you going to tell me you were moving to New York, Lou?”

“Well, I’m hoping it’s us moving to New York, but—“

“Us? Us ? What the fuck are you even talking about?” Harry runs his hands through his long hair anxiously. He feels like his world’s been turned upside down in the matter of a few moments. “How could you spring something like this on me?”

“Calm down, Harry. Let’s talk about—“

“Calm down. Calm down? You want me to calm down? My boyfriend of almost three years out of nowhere proclaims he’s moving half way across the country, and I’m supposed to calm down?” Louis is looking at him like he’s got two heads. Probably because Harry never yells. In fact, Louis has probably never heard him even raise his voice before now. “Stop fucking looking at me like that!”

“Harry, I—“

“Are you breaking up with me?”

Louis finally jumps up from the table. “No! Harry, Jesus. Just listen to me for a second. You’re not letting me explain anything.”

“Don’t really see how much there could be to explain,” Harry grumbles. “You’ve clearly been job hunting in secret.”

“Harry. Of course, I haven’t. I’ve been applying here. You know that. But there’s a company in New York that wants to use the software I created for my senior project. How can I pass that up?”

“What, there’s no company in Chicago that could use your encryption thing? Give me a break, Louis.”

“There’s no one who wants to hire me for it, Harry. They want to buy the idea straight out. This company actually wants to help me develop it properly. You know how much this means to me—“

Harry plops back into a chair. “Okay. I get that. I do. But what about me, Lou? What about us ? And why the hell haven’t you said anything about it before now? Before you apparently accepted something without talking about it with me.”

Louis sits back down, too. “Well, I didn’t know if it was all going to really happen for one thing. And when they called to tell me, I just was so happy and excited. I guess I—just didn’t even think about the idea you wouldn’t want me to take it.”

“It’s not that I wouldn’t want you to take it, but it’s a huge deal to move to New York. What about my family? And my career?” Harry’s mind races in panic at even the thought of leaving Chicago. “And my life? I’ve lived my whole life here, Louis!”

“But Harry, I’ll be making really good money. We can come back and visit all the time. Whenever you want. Every holiday. And you know your career opportunities aren’t very—stable. So I’ll be able to support you while you—“

“Excuse me?” Harry can feel his blood pressure rising. “What exactly are you implying about my work, Louis?”

“Harry. Come on. You have an art degree.”

Harry can feel his anger at Louis’ flippant tone about his career path shooting through his veins. “Yes. I do. One that I worked very hard on. And maybe no one is pounding on my door at this very moment, but that doesn’t make my degree worthless either.”

“Okay, but be reasonable here. What are you even going to do now? If you come with me, you’ll have time to figure it out and work on your photography, and it won’t even matter if you’re not making money at it or have a real job.”

“A real job? What exactly constitutes a real job, Louis? Because I’d count a real job as one where you get paid, and I’ve already got one of those.  I don’t need you to take care of me like I’m a child! What the fuck?”

“Well, you’re acting like one, Harry. You’re being unreasonable here. Surely you can see how this will help you, too.”

“I can’t believe this is what you think of me.” He glares accusingly at Louis before he stalks into their bedroom and begins throwing things into a bag.

Louis follows him and watches from the doorway. “What are you doing?”

“I’m going to my sister’s.”

“Don’t you think we should talk about this?”

“No. There’s nothing really more to talk about. You’re moving to New York. I’m not. Not much else to say.” Harry doesn’t even know what he’s putting in the bag at this point. He just keeps filling it up with whatever is nearby.

“Are you kidding me? This is all we’re going to discuss it? You’re just going to leave and—“

“No, you’re just going to leave, Louis. You’re the one leaving.” He turns around to look at Louis. “How soon?”

“What?”

“When are you moving to New York?”

“Oh. Um—two weeks.”

“Two weeks?! Oh my god.” Harry sinks to the bed. Fuck. Two weeks. Whatever he thought Louis was going to say, he didn’t think he was going to say two weeks. He’s got to get the hell out of here before he starts crying.

“Harry? Please don’t do this. Please just think about it. Just—I’ll give you some time to think about it, but please, I want you to come with me.” And while Louis’ pleading tone has convinced him of many things over the years, it doesn’t even come close to making up for what he’s done and what he’s said.

Harry silently grasps his bag and walks out the door.

 

/// TWO WEEKS LATER ///

The uhaul is almost completely full of the contents of Zayn’s and Liam’s apartment. Harry places a dining room chair atop the boxes and heads back into the apartment to see if there’s anything left. He finds Zayn and Liam having a very quiet argument in the nearly empty kitchen.

“He says he’s not taking any of his calls or even reading any of his texts. Don’t you think we should say something?”

“No. I think we should mind our own business.”

“But don’t you think he should know? Louis’ flight leaves in two hours, Z.”

“I know, but there’s nothing I can say to make Harry pull his head out of his ass.”

“Well, I think Louis has his head up his own ass for taking this job before talking to him.”

“Well, my best friend is at the fucking airport right now with a ticket in Harry’s name, still hoping he’s going to show up.”

“Well, my best friend is helping us move right now all fucking heartbroken that his boyfriend of three years didn’t value their relationship enough to include him in big decisions that affect them both.”

Harry’s heard enough. He walks in to interrupt.

“Guys, I don’t want you arguing over me and--I don’t want you guys to argue about me. What’s happened is not either of your faults. You’re about to make a very long drive to Vegas and start this awesome new life together. Please don’t let me and--please don’t let something about me ruin any part of that.”

Liam gives him a pitying look. Even Zayn’s face looks sorry. He picks up the last dining room chair and begins carrying it back out to the uhaul. He places it in the truck and pulls out his cell phone. Liam’s right. He hasn’t been even reading any of Louis’ texts anymore. His fingers shaking, he presses the text message thread that leads to many unanswered texts from Louis. The last one reads:

I’m heading to the airport now. I still have the ticket with your name on it. I’m not sure if you’ll ever even read this, but I had to try.

It doesn’t matter, he tells himself. Nothing has changed. Louis is still leaving. Harry is still staying. He’s still right, and Louis is still wrong.

He hugs Liam and Zayn goodbye and wishes them well. He tells them to text him when they get to Vegas, and he plasters a fake smile on his face before he turns away and then takes the train towards he and Louis’ apartment. No, just his apartment now. Not that he can afford to live there anymore on his own. He hasn’t stepped foot inside it since two weeks ago when he stormed out, but now he’s assured that Louis won’t be there. No, Louis is at O’Hare, pretending that they aren’t broken up. Pretending that what he’s doing isn’t leaving.

When he walks inside the apartment, it’s like the whole thing hits him again. Louis has left it sparkling clean and devoid of all his belongings. Harry feels like his throat is closing up. He chokes back his sobs as he notices that Louis has taken half of their framed photos and left the other half of them behind.

He finds a scrawled note on the kitchen counter.

I love you, H. It will never be too late to come to New York. Just say the word.

Harry’s not sure how long he sits on the kitchen floor clutching the note. Gemma finds him there at some point when he doesn’t answer her texts.

He looks up at her, his cheeks stained with tears. “Is he gone now?”

Gemma nods at him sadly. “Yeah, Harry. He’s gone now.”

 

/// ONE YEAR LATER  /// APRIL ///

Harry trudges back to Gemma’s after a long shift at The Crab & Goat. He checks his phone and sees there’s a text from Liam to FaceTime him when he gets home from work. Probably won’t have time to work on his latest photography project tonight then. He sighs and rubs his eyes. He hasn’t had much time for any freelance photography or any of the mixed media art he creates with his photographs either. Not when he’s got two jobs and student loans to pay, and of course, he tries to help Gems with the rent, too. He hates the months when he can’t quite come up with half. Even if she does say that whatever he can pay is fine.  

He calls out hello to Gemma before he remembers that she’s got a date tonight. He looks through the refrigerator for something to eat. He should have just eaten at the restaurant, but he just hasn’t been all that hungry lately. He knows he should eat something though. He finds a leftover Caesar salad and eats a few bites before he calls Liam.

As the call connects, he suddenly sees Liam’s smiling face beaming back at him. It makes Harry smile in return. Fuck, he really misses him.

“Hi, Harry! Hold on, let me go get Zayn!--Babe! Come here! Harry’s on FaceTime!”

Zayn’s handsome face joins the small frame, and Harry notices Zayn’s got a brilliant smile on his face, too.

“We have some news.” Liam says excitedly as he glances at Zayn sweetly.

Zayn clears his throat. “I asked Liam to marry me, and he’s said yes.”

“We’re engaged!” Liam exclaims, his eyes reduced to slits as he shows his ring to the phone.

Harry lets out a loud whoop at the news and at the obvious joy on the faces of his friends. “Yes! Oh my god! This is amazing! What awesome news! I’m so happy for you guys! So how did you do it, Z? How did the proposal go?”

“Well, he took me to Lago, so we could watch his fountains--”

Zayn gives Liam a half smile and shakes his head. “You know they aren’t my fountains, babe.”

“Like I was saying, Zayn took me to Lago’s which has an incredible view of his fountains as you eat. Well, we were on the open air patio, so we could hear the show, too. So of course, I wanted to go down and see them closer.”

“Aw, babe. I love how much you love them even though you see them all the time.”

“Well, Zayn. The incredible choreography that you design for the songs means that I’m seeing new things in the fountains all the time. Of course , I love them!”

Harry makes a fake gagging noise at all the mushiness.

“Stop!” Liam laughs. “We just got engaged! We’re allowed to be obnoxious. We’re not that bad anyway. Not like you and--”

Harry’s heart sinks like a stone. It’s been a year. You’d think he’d be fine with mentions of Louis. He watches on the screen as Zayn elbows Liam in the ribs.

Liam clears his throat. “Er, anyway, so after dinner we walked around a bit, and all of a sudden Zayn is hurrying me along to see the fountains, which I did think was very strange because he’s always saying he sees enough of them. And he was acting so weird. All fidgety and jumpy, and you know he’s never like that.”

Zayn looks a bit embarrassed. “I was nervous! It’s a big deal to ask someone to marry them!”

Harry laughs. “Okay, so on with it! This story is taking longer than if I told it. I want to know what happens.”

Liam rolls his eyes. “Nothing takes as long as one of your stories, Harry. But okay, so all of a sudden the fountains start playing “Your Song.”

Harry gasps. “That’s you and Z’s song!”

“I know.” Liam is smiling at Zayn again with hearts in his eyes. “He choreographed our song. Apparently, this has been months in the making, and my boss at the Bellagio and his boss at Wet Designs have been in on the plan. It was so beautiful, Harry. He made it so beautiful.”

Harry’s heart twists in his chest. It is beautiful. And not just the proposal. What Zayn and Liam have is so strong and so beautiful, and it is so what he thought he had with Louis. Before everything went to hell that is. Before Louis up and left him for New York. He knows Louis doesn’t see it that way, if he’s to go by all the text messages he ignores. It’s been a few months since he had any to ignore though. He’s so lost in his own thoughts, he misses at first what they’re talking about.

“--so we hope you guys can put aside your differences for us.”

“Wait. What? Sorry, I think I missed something.”

Zayn and Liam exchange a look. “Well, I’m asking you to be my best man, Harry.”

Harry beams. “Of course, Liam! I’d be proud to stand beside you on your wedding day.”

“Thanks, Harry! But um, well, Zayn of course has--”

“--asked Louis.” Harry finishes stiffly. “Of course. Well, I can’t speak for him, but you have nothing to worry about as far I go. I wouldn’t miss any part of this for the world.”

“Huh, funny.” Zayn says.

“What’s funny?”

“That’s just what Louis said when we told him a few hours ago.”

Harry bites back a response and decides to change the subject. “So when’s the big day?”

“July 29th.”

“A few months. Wow, that’s soon.”

“Well, we live in Vegas, Harry! Everything is faster in Vegas.”

 

///  THE BACHELOR PARTY /// MAY ///

Harry walks off the airplane and into the crowded terminals at McCarren airport, searching for Liam. When he sees his bright face, he drops his bag to rush forward and grab him in a bear hug, twirling him around.

Liam laughs. “Glad to see you, too, Harry! Missed you, you know?”

“Missed you, too, Li.” Harry grins, even happier to see Liam’s face than he anticipated. “Is Z already at the hotel?”

“Um, uh huh. He might not be there when we get there though because--well--”

“Oh. Right.”

“Yeah, he’s got to come pick up Louis and Niall soon, so we might not cross paths with him before he’s left for the airport.”

Harry pulse speeds up, a rush of white noise ringing through his ears.

“Niall? Who the fuck is Niall?” He snarls.

Well. He hadn’t meant it to sound like that. Liam visibly winces.

“Well, I think Niall is just a friend, if that matters.”

So Louis is bringing a friend along? How ridiculous. He wouldn’t be surprised if this Niall person was something more though. Louis hates to be alone. Always has to have someone’s attention. Always very good at getting it, too.

He tries not to think about it as Liam chatters on about wedding plans on the short drive from the airport to the Bellagio. Probably to avoid talking about the bachelor party. It’s making Harry even more nervous than he was already.

As the Bellagio fountains come into view, Harry is sufficiently awed. They’re enormous, even larger than he had imagined. It’s very cool that he knows someone who helps design the shows.

As they walk into the lobby, Harry is struck by the incredible glass sculpture dominating the ceiling space. It looks to be a Chihuly, but he’ll have to google it to be sure. It’s already giving him ideas about a piece he could create using some photographs he took at the Chicago Botanic Center. It whirls through his mind until the elevator doors close in front of them, and he can focus again on reality. Fuck. Reality.

“So Li--” He begins. “Who all is going to be a part of this party anyway?”

There. Getting the question that’s been haunting him for a month out of the way finally. Please let it be more than just he and Louis and apparently this Niall person.

“Oh. Well, you and uh, Louis, of course. And Niall.” Liam begins as Harry feels his muscles begin to tense up. “And Ed. You’ll like him. He’s super chill. He works with Zayn at Wet Designs. Oh, and the wedding planner sort of invited himself as well. Matty. He’s...something.”

Okay, well, at least it’s not just the four of them and Niall. At least there will be a few others around to take the pressure off of them.

Liam leads him to a room that adjoins he and Zayn’s room. He mentions that the other rooms for their party are down the hall a bit. Harry glances down the hall and can’t help but wonder which one is Louis’ room. Or possibly Louis’ and Niall’s room. His eyes narrow at that thought.

He heads into his room and checks out the incredible view of the fountains he has from here. He peers down and imagines his friends standing there, Liam listening to their song being played with a beautifully choreographed water show and the love of his life on one knee nervously asking to marry him. He smiles at the scene that he imagines and wonders when-- if- -he’ll ever get to a point where he can imagine anyone besides Louis there beside him.

Ed and Matty are both working today, so it’s been decided that they’ll all meet up for dinner, giving those that flew in a few hours to clean up. The problem is that Harry can’t help but find himself nervously pacing the room. It’s still two hours before they meet for dinner, and he can’t stand another minute of being alone with his thoughts in this hotel room. He grabs a sketch pad and a few pencils and heads out of his room.

When he walks outside, he’s hit with a blast of heat like any other he’s ever felt before. Damn, and he thought Chicago summers could be bad. He checks his weather app. 102°. Well. Explains why it feels like he’s walked into an oven. Also explains why there aren’t many people outside right now. With a sigh he walks back inside. Maybe he should just sketch out his idea for the floral mixed media art he wants to do inspired by the glass art ceiling in the lobby.

He walks back inside the lobby, wiping a bit of sweat from his brow, and then freezes in place.

Louis.

Louis is standing beneath the glass sculpture, staring up at it. He’s looking at the sculpture thoughtfully just as he always looked at Harry’s art, appreciative of its beauty. Louis always asked great questions about his art as if he wanted to always know more and better understand what the piece meant to him.

Louis’ hair is longer, a bit shaggy really. It’s so very strange to see him look any different than the last time he saw him. The scruff on his face, well, that does look familiar. With his head leaned back to gaze at the ceiling, Harry can see the curve of his neck stretched back. Harry knows just where to place his lips there to feel Louis’ pulse pick up when he’s that close to him.

He looks good. Christ, does he look good. In a white t shirt and cut off jean shorts that Harry would have teased him about a year ago, and yet, he’s the most beautiful man in the room. In the hotel. In Las Vegas. Fine. He’s the most beautiful man Harry’s ever seen period. He certainly doesn’t look heartbroken. He doesn’t look as though he’s been pining away for the last year.

He should have known it wouldn’t take long for Louis to notice him standing there, staring, but he’s still unprepared when Louis’ head whips towards him and pins him in place with the mesmerizing blue of his eyes. The first moment of it he thinks he catches an unguarded look, one of hurt maybe, definitely some surprise. Then the moment is gone, and Louis’ face is replaced with a mask.

The mask smiles at him, but the smile doesn’t reach his eyes. There’s no use for it, best to just get this over with now. Harry walks slowly over until he’s standing in front of the man who once meant everything to him.

“Your hair.” Louis says, his voice more gruff than Harry remembers it in his dreams. “You cut it.”

Harry runs his hand through his hair as if just now noticing he cut all his long curls off months ago.

“Yeah, I did.”

“It looks--” Louis looks like he already wishes he could take back what he’s begun to say. “--nice.”

A softer look crosses Louis’ face for a moment before it’s gone as quickly as it came.

“Uh, thanks.” Harry looks down at his feet rather than look back at Louis. It’s awful to be standing here talking awkwardly to someone who once knew you better than anyone.

Suddenly, a blond man appears at Louis’ side. This must be Niall .

“Ya done moonin’ over the ceiling, Lou? They got me room key ready finally. Don’t know why they only gave Liam one when they knew two of us were--” Niall seems to notice how close Harry is standing. “Well, who have we here?”

Niall’s grin is so infectious, Harry almost smiles back at him. Almost. Instead, he grits his teeth, waiting to hear what Louis has to say about him to his roommate .

Louis clears his throat and turns to Harry first. He gestures at Niall. “This is Niall Horan. He’s on the team that’s helping me develop my software.” He turns back to Niall. “Um, this is Harry--”

“THIS IS HARRY?” Niall shouts out. “Where’d all his hair go? Mate, you look different than in all the photos where you still have your hair--ow!”

Niall rubs his arm where Louis’ done something to it. Probably pinched him. Louis was always a pincher.

“Well, we should probably go clean up for dinner now that the keys have been sorted out.” Louis says as he begins leading Niall away from him. “See you later, Harry.”

There are two thoughts at war in Harry’s mind. The first being how badly it hurts to have Louis call him Harry when he’s never called him anything but nicknames or pet names. The second being that Louis has photos of him that this Niall has seen at some point.

///

The first thing Harry notices when he walks into Liam and Zayn’s hotel room before dinner is that Louis is wearing the shirt. What the fuck. He can feel his jaw tightening in anger. What is wrong with him? Why would he wear a shirt Harry bought him? One that Harry in particular liked? Fucking asshole. Fuck that shirt. Fuck that sheer black t shirt that you can see his tattoos through. He’s got his hair styled and off his face, so that you really notice his eyes immediately. Not that anyone could ignore Louis’ eyes. Liam takes one look at him and steers him toward the mini bar.

“Here. Drink this.” Liam hands him a beer, and it makes him feel slightly better just to have something to do with his hands besides strangle Louis who looks so unfairly hot standing across the room with Niall . Why even bring Niall if he’s just a friend? He basically introduced him as a work colleague. What the hell is that about? Harry sips his beer and tries not to think murderous thoughts.

Liam introduces him to Zayn’s friend, Ed, from work. He seems like a nice enough sort. Zayn talks about Ed’s work as though he’s the second coming, so if Zayn thinks this Ed guy is talented, he must be unbelievable. They’re just waiting on one more, Matty, the wedding planner. Harry is very interested to meet this one just based on the odd things Liam has said. He’s become very curious about him. Someone begins knocking on the door in a series of knocks. It sounds like they’re pounding out some sort of rhythm. Huh, Harry almost can think of the song actually. It’s on the tip of his tongue.

“That’ll be Matty.” Liam says with an apologetic smile. “Don’t worry. You’ll like him! You will! It’s just--he’s a little--something--”

“Oh, he’s something alright.” Zayn scoffs.

Liam opens the door and a slightly built man with wild curls bursts into the room. “Did you get it? Take a guess first before I tell you!”

Matty holds his arms open wide, grinning at them. “Well?”

No one seems to even understand what he’s talking about.

“Um, was it a Queen song?” Harry replies.

“Ha HAA! Yes! It is, handsome stranger! Okay, let’s let the others guess which song.”

Matty waits for a moment. Everyone stares at him blankly.

“What? No one? Really? Do you need to hear it again?” Matty starts beating out the rhythm on the table.

He stops and looks up eagerly at them.

“Er, is it Bohemian Rhapsody?” Liam guesses.

Matty heaves out a sigh of disappointment. “Fine.”

He waves at Harry. “Handsome stranger, go ahead and tell them.”

Harry shrugs one shoulder with a small smile on his face. “It’s Another One Bites the Dust.”

“Come on, people! It was so easy! I was going easy on you!” Matty shakes his head. He turns to Harry. “I already like you though, handsome stranger.”

Harry can’t help but smile at Matty’s antics. Ed is giggling now, and Niall nudges Zayn and says, “You were right. He’s really somethin.’”

When he glances at Louis, he’s surprised by what he sees there. Not only is he unamused, his eyes are narrowed, burning a hole right through Matty.

“Well, should we be off?” Matty asks loudly. “Don’t want to miss our reservation!”

If Louis has ever looked more displeased than he does in this moment, Harry hasn’t ever seen it.

///

Dinner is its own brand of frustration. Harry seats himself as far from Louis as he can get which means he’s sitting next to Zayn and across from Matty. Matty keeps them entertained, but Harry can’t help but wish he could hear what Louis and Niall are talking about over on the end. He swears he can feel Louis’ gaze on him, but whenever he turns to look, Louis is never looking back at him. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking.

Wishful thinking? Harry’s stomach drops. Why does he want Louis to look back at him? He doesn’t. He shouldn’t. It’s been a year. A year. Maybe it’s just because there hasn’t been much closure. They never even really had a break up talk. Just a fight and then silence. And then Louis moved halfway across the country. Well, Harry knows who to blame for the silence between them. Louis has sent countless texts and left countless voicemails. All of which Harry has ignored. And yet, they’re all still there on his phone. He hasn’t deleted one of them. He can’t really pretend he’s moved on either. He hasn’t been on one date or hooked up with even one person. Instead, he tells everyone he’s busy and pretends his bitterness isn’t what keeps him going at this point.

He has a plan though. It’s taken a year of shitty jobs waiting tables and having very little time to work on his photography and art, but he’s thought it through and he knows what he wants to do. He has a clear vision now, and he means to see it through. Maybe it’s good that he’s finally being confronted with Louis now. He can get the closure he’s needed and move on, and Louis can, too. If he even needs it. A queer, nauseous feeling at that thought sits in his gut, but he ignores it as best he can and tries to pick up the thread of conversation, which has apparently turned to karaoke.

They take a Lyft to the Fruit Loop area of Vegas, just east of the Strip to a bar called FreeZone. They split up into two cars. Zayn, Louis, and Niall head off in the first one; Harry, Liam, and Matty head there in the second one.

Liam is staring at him as they sit in the back seat, and Matty chats up the driver.  It’s making him feel unnerved.

“What?” He finally asks after a minute or so of intense staring.

Liam shakes his head. “It’s nothing.”

“It’s clearly not nothing, or you wouldn’t be staring at me.”

“It’s just--I thought you’d be a little--kinder about it.”

“Excuse me, Liam. Kinder ? Kinder about what?”

“Well, you’re basically ignoring him. Like he doesn’t even exist or something. When you’re the one who--you know.”

“No, actually I don’t know, Liam. When I was the one who what?”

“Broke his heart.”

Harry feels anger pouring through his ears at this from Liam of all people. From Liam ! Judgement from Liam. This is intolerable.

“Oh, really? Like when I moved halfway across the country to New York two weeks after graduation without telling him?” Harry exclaims, his voice rising to a pitch he’s never heard it at. This is so fucked up though. Liam is supposed to be his best friend! Liam is supposed to be on his side!

Matty turns around in his seat at this unexpected drama. “He did what now? Who are we talking about? You moved to New York? I thought you were the Chicago one?”

“I am the Chicago one.” Harry mutters. “ Louis is the one who moved to New York.”

“Mmhmm.” Matty nods his head. “And so you got dumped?”

“Yes!”

“No!”

Matty’s eyebrows raise to his hair. “Well, well. This sounds like a story.”

Liam looks at Harry with his kind, sad eyes. Harry really hates that look sometimes. He grits his teeth as he waits for it.

“He didn’t break up with you, Harry. He wanted you to go with him. He bought you an airline ticket, and he waited at the airport so long for you that he missed his flight. He had to wait for the next one.”

Harry’s breath catches in his throat, but Liam continues on.

“He never talks about it with me, but he talks to Zayn. And I hear bits and pieces of it from the other room. I know you never answer his messages or texts. God, Harry. Don’t you think you should have at least talked to him about it?”

Harry presses his lips together. He tries to remind himself that he’s kept this to himself for a year. He and Liam have never spoken about it, and that’s on him.

“Liam. I’m going to forgive you for this because you don’t know what you’re talking about. I should have maybe talked this out with you, and I haven’t. I haven’t really talked about it much with anyone.”

“Tsk. Stubborn.” Matty says from the front seat.

Harry frowns at him. “You know nothing about this, so please stay out of it.”

Matty lets out a bark of laughter. “I know the both of you sneak glances at each other whenever the other isn’t looking, so I already know enough.”

Harry gives him a look.

“Don’t look at me like that!” Matty laughs. “It’s enough to know neither of you is over the other. Christ. The tension in the room was incredible. Even I couldn’t really break it. Never seen anything like it before.”

Liam actually smiles at this. Smiles ! “They’ve always been like that. It’s very intense to be around.”

“I’m no longer speaking to either of you.” Harry declares as the car pulls up in front of the bar.

“Ah, but will you sing?” Matty asks.

“Maybe.”

It’s a busy night in Vegas, not there are slow nights in Vegas. There’s a bar and lounge area to the right and a dance floor to the left that becomes a stage for drag shows according to Matty. And apparently tonight it will be used for karaoke. Harry heads straight for the bar and orders a shot before he realizes Louis is a few feet down downing a shot of his own. He watches Louis intently. He can’t help it. He never could. Louis has always drawn his eye in every room he’s ever stepped foot in.

His eye is not the only one that’s been caught.

Louis tries to hand the bartender some cash, but the bartender waves off Louis’ money with a wink and a slide of a napkin across the surface of the bar. Even from here, Harry can see it has numbers written on it. A phone number. Harry clenches his fists at his side. He has no right to feel the jealousy that’s surging through his veins. He doesn’t wait to see what Louis does with it. He marches straight back to where he left Matty and Liam who have been joined by Zayn. Niall is already up talking to the DJ presumably about putting names down for karaoke. A waitress stops at their table to take drink orders.

“I need two tequila shots.” Harry says to her as she gives him a sad smile in return. What the fuck. How does everyone know he’s a wreck? Why can’t a guy have a couple of tequila shots?

The rest of the table looks at him knowingly. He sighs and ignores them. Niall and Louis return to the table just as their first round of drinks appears.

“I’ve got us all signed up!” Niall announces.

“What?” Louis asks.

“What?” Harry asks at the same time.

Their eyes meet briefly before they both look away.

Niall looks at them sharply. “Karaoke! We are all doing it. All of us.”

Niall’s tone implies there is no room for negotiation. “We’re not all up yet, so get yer liquid courage now.”

Harry offers a slightly bitter smile as he downs the first of his tequila shots. He nearly chokes on his second one as he sees Louis watching him, an odd look on his face.

By the time the next round hits their table, Harry can feel the liquor swimming in his blood. It feels great to be numbing some of these confusing feelings he still has for Louis. They cheer on the other people getting up to sing, some great, some not so great. Niall’s turn arrives, and he sings Ice Ice Baby to a rousing round of applause and many people standing up to cheer him on as he shimmies his narrow hips.

The DJ takes a break after Niall’s turn, and Harry watches as Louis slips away towards the bar. He’s sure it’s the liquor making this decision, but he slowly winds his way towards the bar as well. The waitress has been a little slow at coming back for the next round, so it only makes sense really. He watches as Louis flashes a smile at the flirtatious bartender, and a sour feeling enters Harry’s gut. He’s almost starting to get used to this feeling every time he sees Louis now. He doesn’t realize Matty has followed him until he’s shouting in his ear.

“Hey, Harry, do you want to sing a duet with me? I’ll go tell the DJ if you want to!”

Harry keeps staring as the bartender brings Louis another free drink. “Sure.”

“What song do you want to sing?”

Harry doesn’t even have to think about it. “Endless Love.”

“Uh. Okay, then. I kind of know that one. You sing that one often?”

“I used to.” Harry answers flatly, still staring as Louis sips his drink seductively.

Matty seems to catch on. “Ohhhhh. I see. You used to sing it with-- him. Are you sure you want to--”

“Yes!” Harry snaps. “Go sign us up.”

Matty throws his hands up in acquiescence. “Okay, okay!”

He stops watching Louis and orders another shot and a mixed drink. He downs the shot and makes his way back to the table.

“We’re up next, Harry!” Matty exclaims.

Louis still hasn’t shown up at the table. Maybe he’s still back there flirting with the bartender. He follows Matty up to the stage, his drink still in his hand. His mind feels pretty fuzzy now, but honestly he’ll never forget the words to Endless Love probably for the rest of his miserable life.

“Let’s fucking go!” He whoops to Matty who just laughs.

“So are you Lionel Richie or are you Diana Ross?” Matty asks.

“I’m Lionel, of course!” Harry shouts.

The song begins, and Harry lets his instincts kick in as he sings Lionel’s part. He’s determined to ham it up with Matty and make it fun. He’s going to reclaim this song for himself, damn it.

My love

There’s only you in life

The only thing that’s right

And then Matty comes in with an equally engaging Diana Ross.

My first love

You’re every breath that I take

You’re every step I make

Okay, hearing someone else sing those lines to him hurts a little more than Harry expected, but he soldiers on.

And I

And then Matty.

And I-I-I-I-I

Harry keeps going.

I want to share

He takes a breath to sing All my love with you in harmony with Matty when he’s suddenly being yanked back towards the side of the stage.

“What the fuck?” He says into the mic as Louis wrenches it out of his hand. “What are you doing?”

Louis looks more furious than Harry has ever seen him look, and it’s disturbing, is what it is. Disturbing and a little hot. Damn.

Louis drops the mic to the stage with a loud reverberating thud as the music continues, and Matty must decide the show must go on because he just keeps singing both parts to the duet.

“Those are expensive!” Harry tells him as Louis tugs him away.

“I need to talk to you.” Louis says as he keeps dragging Harry away from the stage and ultimately out of the bar entirely.

“Stop dragging me around!” He says as he pulls his wrist from Louis’ grip. “I’m not yours anymore, you know!”

The color drains from Louis’ face and returns with a dangerous reddening flush. “Oh, you aren’t, are you? Because I don’t remember you ever breaking up with me. And I damn well know I didn’t break up with you. So as far as I’m concerned, we’re still together.”

What. “What?”

Harry’s mouth hangs open as he waits for a response. Is he hallucinating? How much has he had to drink anyway? What is even happening right now?

“Lou, I think you’ve had a lot to drink and don’t know what you’re saying anymore.”

Louis’ eyes cast down at the ground. Harry watches his long eyelashes as they fan out across Louis’ cheek. He studies Louis’ beautiful face for a moment until he realizes he’s talking.

“--you never responded.”

Louis’ face looks as sad as Harry’s ever seen it. Fuck, he is too drunk to handle this right now. Or possibly ever since he’s been avoiding him for a year. Oh god. A year. That’s bad, isn’t it? Fuck, he’s talking again.

“I want you to say it now. Tell me now. I’m--” Louis takes a deep breath. “I’m ready.”

Harry has no idea what he’s talking about, but Louis has never looked less ready for anything. His blue eyes are swimming in unshed tears, his face taut, his shoulders hunched. He looks like Harry is going to hit him or something. Harry’s instinct is to take him in his arms and hiss at anyone who wants to come and hurt his boy. Somehow through his drunken haze, he realizes he’s the one who is hurting Louis.

“Say what, Lou? What do you want me to say?”

Louis straightens his shoulders. “I want you to say that it’s over. I want you to tell me to my face that you don’t love me anymore and that you’re over me.”

Harry feels like a dozen arrows have just punctured straight through his chest and into his heart. It feels like he can’t breathe. There is no way he can say those words no matter how drunk he is.

There’s a cab parked next to where they’re standing outside the club. Harry opens the back door and pushes Louis into it. He makes a cry of protest, but his reaction time must be off from all the alcohol. Harry climbs in next to him and tells the driver to take them back to the Bellagio. Louis stares out the window, his arms crossed over his chest, bitterness radiating from every pore.

Harry sighs and leans his head back against the seat. He closes his eyes, but it just makes him dizzy. As he sees the enormous fountains and pool, he sits up and tries to pay the driver, but Louis gets there first. Harry tries to protest, but Louis is insistent.

“Can I just take care of one thing for you? Jesus. Not everything has to be 50/50 with money all the time, you know? When you’re in a relationship, it’s a partnership with someone you love, and it doesn’t matter who--” Louis sighs. “Never mind.”

They stumble out of the cab and in through the lobby. Harry sways on his feet trying to look up at the glass flowers tumbling out of the ceiling, and Louis has to right him on his feet. Before Louis can say anything more, Harry takes his hand and leads him onto the casino floor. They pass machine after flashing slot machine through the grandly furnished room. Lights blinking and sounds blaring. Harry doesn’t even know where he’s leading Louis, but hopefully towards the bar.

Louis stops him as they pass a random slot machine. Harry watches as he pulls out a five dollar bill from his wallet and inserts it into the machine and gestures for Harry to pull the lever. Harry’s senses are still a little fuzzy as he pulls the lever and watches the little icons flip by. They’re still a little fuzzy when he realizes he’s looking at the same little icons lined up in a row. The loud noise and blaring lights that sound off from the machine startle him, and he looks to Louis’ amazed face.

“Hazza!” Louis shouts. “You won!”

“I won what?” His brain still confused. The only thing he can think is that he’s glad Louis didn’t call him ‘Harry’ again.

“You won--” Louis looks more carefully at the machine. “--like two thousand dollars!”

“What? No. It was your money though.” Harry insists.

“But you pulled the lever.” Louis argues.

“But it wasn’t my money!”

Louis shushes him as an attendant comes over to verify the win and happily hands over the receipt for the win.

Louis grins at him, his hand finding Harry’s hip in a long familiar touch. “So what should we do?”

Harry grins back at him. “We should celebrate!”

This is the last thing Harry remembers about the night.

 

/// THE NEXT DAY ///

When Harry wakes up, his eyeballs feel like they’ve been rubbed with sandpaper. He presses his fingers against them and groans; he’s not in his own hotel room. That’s when he feels the hard dick pressed against his back. Fuck. There’s also an arm with very familiar tattoos wrapped around him and the sound of Louis’ familiar breath against his hair. Some small part of his brain registers that he should not remember how someone breathes in their sleep if he’s moved on from them. He realizes he’s shut his eyes again, so he opens them to get a better look at the scene before him.

For one thing, there seems to be large amounts of money scattered all over the room. He can also feel Louis’ bare leg pressed against his own, and yes, he’s pretty sure they’re both naked. He sighs. Great. So he’s slept with Louis apparently. He tries to retrace the night, but the last thing he can remember is them being happy. What the hell.

Oh. The slot machine. Is that why they were so happy? Everything past that seems very hazy and blurred with odd images that he can’t quite piece together. Niall? He’s almost sure he remembers Niall being there at some point.

He can tell the exact moment Louis wakes up. The brief snuffling into his hair and then the stiffening of his body as he has a moment of confusion.

Louis tightens his arms around Harry, and Harry feels his heart clench a bit as Louis whispers his name, and then, “Is this a dream?”

Fuck. Harry knows this is a bad idea. No, a terrible idea. But god help him, it feels so good to wake up in Louis’ arms again. He hasn’t been with anyone in a year. A year! So fucking sue him if he wishes he remembered the sex.

He can’t help what happens next. He presses his ass back, rocking against Louis’ cock until he hears Louis whimper.

“H?” There’s a question there that Harry doesn’t care to answer. He doesn’t want to talk about it. He just wants it. He twists out of Louis’ arms until he’s facing him and captures Louis’ lips in a rough kiss. Louis melts into it, his fingers entwined in Harry’s hair, tugging at the short waves. Harry grabs at Louis’ ass and squeezes until he pushes enough that Louis understands what he wants. Louis scrambles on top of him, straddling him on the bed.

“This what you want?” Louis growls.

Harry says nothing, just grabs Louis and holds him closer. Their lips clash again as Louis begins grinding down, their cocks sliding against each other. Louis plants his hands on either side of Harry’s head on the pillow as Harry guides the rhythm they’re building with his fingers spread across Louis’ ass. He reaches his hand back to their cocks and slides them together with his fingers wrapped around them both. He’s not going to last long. Even if he apparently had sex with Louis last night, his body has been aching for him for longer than he cares to admit. Louis bites down hard on Harry’s lower lip as he comes into Harry’s hand, surprising him a bit. He groans and just a few more wet slides of his fingers has him coming as well.

Louis is still holding himself upright above Harry as they pant into each other’s mouths.

“Fuck.” Louis says as he collapses next to Harry on the bed. “Harry, I--”

Great. They were back to calling him ‘Harry.’

The hotel phone rings next to Louis’ head, and they both look at it suspiciously.

Harry motions at him to answer, so Louis shrugs and picks up the phone.

“Hello?--Oh, Niall, I--how do you know Harry’s here? Oh. Er, okay.” Louis looks over at him. “He wants me to put it on speaker.”

Louis presses a button on the phone. “Okay, Nialler, you’re on speaker now.”

This statement is met with gales of laughter that startle them both. When Niall seems to calm down a bit, he manages to get out some words. “So how much do you wankers remember about last night?”

Louis looks slightly chagrined as he admits, “Not much. How about you, Harry?”

Harry again. “I remember you won some money.”

“No, you won some money, Harry. It’s yours.”

“No, it was your money that you put in the slot machine. I remember that much!”

“It doesn’t matter.” Louis replies stubbornly. “You pulled the lever. I intended for you to get to play.”

“What do intentions have to do with it? It’s actions that count, Louis .”

That apparently stung a little based on the expression on Louis’ face, and he almost wants to take it back. Almost.

Niall’s voice on the phone interrupts them. “Well, I can see you two are already bickering like an old married couple!” Niall once again erupts into laughter.

Harry has a very bad feeling about this.

“Niall?” Harry asks calmly even though his heart rate has increased exponentially.

“Yeeeeees?” Niall answers.

“Do you know what happened last night?”

“Why yes, now that you mention it, Harry, I do. So if either of you would like to come pick up your marriage license, I’ve got it here in Ed’s room for safe keeping. I slept in Ed’s room last night, what with it being your wedding night and all. Thought you’d both want some privacy.”

There’s a brief moment of silence as he and Louis stare at each other in shock.

“No!”

“No!”

“Yes!” Niall exclaims. “Better start getting used to the idea, I’d say.”

“No! I’d never do that. Harry wants a big, romantic wedding. I’d never just--” Louis trails off.

“No! I’d never do that because Louis would want all his family--” Harry trails off. A flash of something--some memory--winds its way forward in his mind. Elvis. He remembers an Elvis.

“Oh, no. No no no no no no.” Harry leaps from the bed and starts pacing the room.

Louis just watches him silently.

“Niall?” Harry calls out. “Was there an--I mean did we--did Elvis--”

More laughter peals from the phone. “Did ya get married by Elvis, ya mean? You surely did, mate! Pretty good impersonation, I’d say, too. Really got your money’s worth.”

Harry sits on the edge of the bed and puts his face in his hands. He hears Louis tell Niall goodbye and thanks for nothing as he hangs up the phone. And then, he feels a tentative hand on his shoulder.

“H? Are you okay?”

Harry brushes his hand off. “No, I’m not fucking okay! We got married! By Elvis! Are you okay?”

“No.” Louis says quietly. “I’m not. That isn’t how I ever imagined us getting married.”

Harry glances over at him and hears Louis sigh as he runs an agitated hand through his hair. “Look. Let’s go get some breakfast somewhere and we can--talk. And just--figure this out, okay?”

“Yeah. Okay.”

Harry scrambles to put his clothes from last night back on, his head throbbing. His clothes smell of smoke and alcohol, but he doesn’t have much choice of attire at the moment.

“Just let me go get changed or something.” He searches his pocket for his key card and comes up empty handed. He glances around the room, looking for it. “I can’t find my key.”

“Oh. Uh--I think I remember you throwing things into the fountain?” Louis shrugs. “Until security made you stop. I guess you might have thrown it in there.”

“Great.”

“Let’s just go eat and then we can take care of that, okay?”

“Fine.”

Harry scoops some cash off the floor and stuffs it in his jeans pocket. They head out back into the hot Las Vegas sun and take a taxi to some diner, Louis went to on a business trip a few months ago. It’s still strange to Harry that he doesn’t know these things about Louis. That a whole year has passed them by without knowing what was happening in each other’s lives.

It sucks. It hurts.

As the taxi takes them off the strip and towards downtown Las Vegas, Harry finally lets himself think about Louis in a way he hasn’t for over a year. Of course, he’s thought about him, but he hasn’t let himself even attempt to move on or try to get over him. And now, he’s finally asking himself why that is. He’s spent a lot of time being bitter and upset, but he still never answered the phone when he called or replied to any of those texts because he knew if he did, it would really be over. And that scared the fuck out of him. Fuck. What now? Now that they’re married. Married ! Not exactly the closure Louis had been hoping for surely. Harry sighs and stares out the window until the driver pulls over in front of a diner.

They sit at a table against the windows. Harry trains his eyes on the laundromat across the street, just to avoid Louis’ stare. When the waitress comes to take their order, they both say, “coffee” at the same time, and she smiles at them knowingly. Harry looks down at his hands, clasped together on top of the table. This is the inconvenient moment he realizes he’s still wearing the ring. Louis’ ring. He instantly hides his hands beneath the table, but one glance at Louis’ face tells him he’s too late.

“You’ve been wearing it all weekend.” Louis says. He doesn’t have to say what he means. They both know. “Do you still wear it then?”

Harry’s face burns. Yes, he still wears it. Beneath the table, he slides the silver band on his middle finger up and down. He can’t believe he didn’t even think to take it off, knowing he’d see Louis this weekend. He feels like the ring suddenly weighs several pounds. Many uncomfortable truths have come to light this weekend for Harry. He feels several more lurking in the back of his mind.

They eat their breakfasts, somehow both determining they should eat before they talk. As soon as the waitress clears the majority of their dishes, Louis begins.

“So what are you thinking then?”

“What do you mean?” Harry asks carefully.

“I mean, what do you think about the fact that we’re married now?”

“Uhhh, I think we should be trying to figure out what the next step is, you know. For a--” He clears his throat. He never thought he’d ever have to say this word to someone, and he just can’t force it past his lips.

“For a what?”

“Please don’t make me say it.”

“You want a divorce, but you don’t want to even say the word? Fucking great.” Louis pushes his chair back from the table in anger.

“Well, I don’t know why you’re mad! Just because I said it first? Not like you’re suddenly happy to be married to your ex boyfriend! You came here thinking you were getting closure! You came here thinking you were going to be well rid of me by the end of the weekend!”

“Harry, can you keep your voice down?”

Fuck, does he hate hearing Louis say his name like that. “No! I will not keep my voice down!” He stands up and drops some of his casino winnings on the table and marches out the door. He looks both ways before darting across the street.

“Harry! Where are you going?” Louis shouts as he runs after him as Harry ducks into the laundromat.

Harry doesn’t turn around. He marches over to an open washing machine and begins stripping off his disgusting clothes from the night before and tossing them in.

“Harry! What the hell are you doing?” Louis asks frantically as Harry strips down to his boxer briefs.

“I’m washing my fucking clothes. I can’t stand to be in them a second longer.” Someone’s left their detergent sitting out, and Harry dumps some in and starts the machine. He sits down on a hard bench nearby as Louis just stares at him in shock.

A few people are now eying Harry as he sits furiously in his underwear. Louis glares at them until they all turn away.

Louis sighs and sits down beside him on the bench. “I hate when you run away.”

Harry knows he’s not talking about running across the street, so he mutters, “ You’re the one who ran away.”

“If you want a divorce, I can have a lawyer look into it when I get back to New York.” Louis says quietly.

Harry doesn’t look at him, just stares at his clothes as they tumble in the sudsy water. He wishes he could take back everything that happened last night. Maybe everything that’s happened quite a bit further than that. It definitely feels like it’s too late for that. Louis came here looking for closure. Maybe Harry can finally give him that. A divorce. That’s pretty fucking final.

“Yeah, if you could. Please.”

They sit in silence until it’s time to put the clothes in the dryer. Harry gets up and switches them out. He can feel Louis watching him. It’s his own fault for feeling bared by his stare. He is the one with no clothes on after all.

///

Harry lets two weeks go by with no word from Louis before he finally decides he’d better call and find out the status of the divorce. He’s been back at work, waiting tables and bartending on the weekends. He’s had precious few minutes to start working on the floral mixed media art inspired by the Bellagio’s ceiling. He’s got the winnings from Las Vegas, so he got a very large print made of the photograph he had in mind for this piece. He had tried to take only half the money, but he had later found the rest hidden in his suitcase. He’s not even sure how Louis managed to do that. Probably enlisted help from Liam. He even called and left a voicemail as well as a text message just before his plane took off, requesting his PayPal email so he could send him half. Of course, Louis hadn’t responded. It makes him a little nervous that Louis will keep ignoring him if he calls or texts again. This time it’s about the divorce though. Surely, he’ll pick up for that. Surely, he won’t be petty and use Harry’s tactics against him. Surely.

He calls after his shift at The Crab and Goat. He doesn’t realize how late it will be in New York before it’s too late, and he doesn’t want to hang up now. It rings a few times before Louis picks up.

“Hi, H.”

Even if they are getting divorced, Harry’s glad to hear a nickname. “Hi, Lou. Sorry I’m calling so late. I forgot to factor in New York time.”

“No problem. I’m up anyway. Still working actually. Work’s been pretty busy lately.”

“Oh, sorry. I shouldn’t have called. You can just call me back when you get time or if you’d just give me your email address maybe we could communicate that way.”

“It’s my project, H. So anytime you want to call me, I’m available, but no, I‘m not giving you my email address. I know you’ll just try to send me the money.”

“Half at least is yours, Lou.”

“I don’t need the money.” Louis sounds frustrated at the conversation.

“It doesn’t matter. It’s what’s fair.”

He hears a loud sigh on the other line. “Is this why you’ve called? About the money?”

“No. I--” Harry clears his throat. He can hear the nervousness in his own voice. “I’m calling about if you’ve talked to a lawyer yet.”

“Oh.” It sounds like someone’s punched Louis in the gut. God, Harry hates everything about this. “No, Harry. I--I’ve been really busy like I said, so I haven’t--I’m sorry.”

And we’re back to Harry again. He flops down onto the couch, and he’s grateful Gemma isn’t here to see this. She’d definitely wonder what was up. She’s already suspicious something is going on. She’s asked multiple times about what happened in Vegas.

“No, don’t be sorry. It’s fine, Lou. Just--when you get a chance--could you let me know?”

“Sure, Harry. If that’s all, I guess I’d better get back to work.”

“Shouldn’t you get some sleep, Lou? You know if you don’t get enough sleep, you can’t go through your problem solving techniques properly. Are you having trouble sleeping? Have you been drinking your tart cherry juice? I know you hate it, but it really was working for your sleep issues I thought--”

He hears a snort on the other end. “I’m fine, Harry.”

There’s a long pause and then a sigh. “Fine, maybe I’ll start drinking the juice again.”

“I knew it! I knew you’d stop drinking the juice! You are having trouble sleeping then! What about the supplements? Are you taking the supplements?” Harry asks.

“Harry, just stop. Yes, I’m having a little bit of a rough patch with the sleep, but really--”

“How long, Lou? You need your rest! You can’t possibly do your best without proper sleep.”

“A while, Harry. It’s been--a while.” Fuck, Louis even sounds tired. “But H, it’s really not your problem anymore.”

“Oh.” It’s Harry’s turn to feel like someone’s punched him in the stomach. “Right. I’m--just--sorry. No, you’re right. Um. I’ll let you get back to it. Just let me know.”

“Yes, Harry. I’ll let you know the minute my lawyer draws up our divorce papers.” Harry has never heard Louis use this tone of voice with him before. Snarky in a way Louis has never been with him. Harry had foolishly believed nothing could feel worse than what he’s already felt, but he was wrong. This is worse. In fact, he’s so caught off guard by it, he hangs up the phone without saying goodbye.

Louis isn’t the only one who has trouble sleeping that night.

///

Harry only lasts five days this time. He does remember to call earlier this time though. He splurges on a Lyft to take him home after work, so he can call Louis on the way.

He can hear the wariness in Louis’ voice, but he just can’t help himself.

“How have you been sleeping?” Harry blurts out.

There’s a brief chuckle that’s quickly stifled. “Fine, H. Really.”

“Have you been drinking your juice?”

“Yes, but Harry like I said, not really your--”

“Yeah, yeah, not my problem, I know. Too bad. We’re married, so I’m making it my problem.”

He hears a sharp intake of breath on the other end of the phone.

“Did you go get the supplements?”

“Hazza--”

“Did you?” Harry asks, insistent.

“No, I couldn’t remember which ones they were.” Louis grumbles.

“Go get a pen. I’ll wait.” He hears some shuffling around, so he presumes Louis is obeying.

“Got it.”

“Okay, you need to buy magnesium and vitamin D and potassium. If you can get outside often enough, you might not need as much vitamin D, but if you’re working a lot that’s probably not possible. Are you drinking enough milk? Or just enough for your tea and cereal?”

Louis laughs. “Ummm…”

“That’s what I thought.” Harry says with a frown. “Also, you wouldn’t need the potassium if you’d just eat a few bananas each day! You were doing so well before--”

Louis interrupts him before he can finish that thought. “Okay, I wrote it down. I’ll get them.”

“Promise me you’ll get them tomorrow.”

“I promise.” He can hear the smile in Louis’ voice, and it warms something in him that’s been dormant for quite some time.

They hang up before Harry remembers why he was supposed to be calling.

That night he dreams about the morning after in Vegas. He remembers the feeling of Louis’ slick skin sliding against his own. He wakes up gasping, his cock hard against his belly. He wraps a hand around himself as he remembers how it felt to have Louis pressing against him again. He brings himself off quickly, roughly, wishing Louis was there.

///

He calls the next day. Just to make sure Louis bought the supplements. He forgets to ask about the divorce again.

///

He forces himself not to call the following day. He’s made the last three calls. He doesn’t want to make Louis feel uncomfortable, he tells himself. He tosses and turns most of the night and keeps hearing phantom phones ringing.

///

The next day he remembers that Louis has called him many, many times before this, so it’s really only fair that he makes the calls now. He doesn’t let himself think any further than this before he’s dialing Louis’ number.

He asks about his sleep again. And about if he’s eating properly. Before he knows it, they’ve been on the phone for an hour, and Harry has explained his thoughts for his art piece based on the Bellagio’s glass flower sculpture and sent a few photos of what he’s got done so far.

///

He calls the next day, too. They talk about Louis’ team that’s developing his encryption software. They talk about the trials for it. They talk about how much pressure it is for him. They talk about relaxation techniques. Harry wants him to get more exercise for stress relief.

///

He tries one more time to not call, but he gives up around 11pm and feels terribly for calling Louis at midnight. In fact, he tells himself he’ll only let it ring twice before he hangs up, but Louis answers after the first ring. They sleepily talk about Gemma’s new boyfriend and whether he’ll be worthy of her.

///

At some point he realizes they’ve been speaking every day on the phone for a month. He doesn’t mention it though. Whatever this is seems fragile and new somehow, and he doesn’t want to ruin it.

He hates the looks Gemma gives him though. She’s watching him with pity every time he scurries off to his bedroom to talk to Louis. He’s not sure when she realized it was Louis he was talking to, but she knows. He wants to give an off-handed sniff and say he’s off to speak with his husband, but that would open up a can of worms he’s not ready for--yet.

///

One day Gemma finds the acceptance letters for the MFA programs he’s applied to. She sits him down with tears in her eyes and tells him how proud she is of him. He smiles, and he has to say, it feels pretty good that he got accepted to every program he applied to. They have a long talk, one that was well overdue about his fears for the future, why he’s been so scared to leave Chicago, what he hopes could come of all these phone calls, and which school he sent his acceptance letter to.

///

One month turns into nearly two, and he’s becoming anxious about not only Zayn and Liam’s wedding and seeing Louis again, but also all the plans he’s put into motion. He and Louis speak every day, but they don’t speak about the elephant in the room.

///

A few days before he’s due back in Las Vegas, Harry forgets to tell Louis he’s working late, going straight from The Crab and Goat to his bartending job. He ends up running late to the bar and has no time to try and call Louis to tell him. As soon as he walks through the door of the bar, they’re slammed with customers.

It’s 1 am before he gets his break, and he races out to the beer garden where it’s slightly quieter. His fingers are a bit shaky as he presses Louis’ name in his contact. Louis answers the phone almost immediately.

“Hey, H.” He says quietly. He sounds tired and like his nose is a bit stuffed up.

“Hey, Lou. Sorry to call so late, I got slammed at work, and I forgot to tell you I had back to back shifts. And I’m just now getting a break.” He stops explaining himself to ask about Louis instead. “Are you okay? You sound like you have a cold. Have you been taking your multivitamin--”

“Harry, what are we doing?” There’s a hitch in Louis’ voice that drops Harry’s heart right into his stomach.

“What do you mean?” He knows what Louis means, but god, he was hoping to do this in person where he could maybe read Louis’ reactions face to face.

“I thought you weren’t going to call. I thought--” He can hear Louis’ deep inhale. “I thought maybe you’d decided.”

“Decided what?”

“I talked to a lawyer.”

“What?” He whispers. He sinks right to the ground. He’s exhausted, and panic is rising up in his throat.

“I talked to one a while ago, but I didn’t know how to bring it up. I just--I feel like I’m being dishonest if I don’t at least tell you what she said.”

“Oh. Okay. Um, go ahead then.”

“Well, it’s not a really simple process as it turns out, but um, an annulment is a bit easier. We’d have to say that we weren’t really capable of making decisions at the time we got married, and she said that we could probably claim that seeing as how we were both very intoxicated at that point.”

Harry listens intently before he responds, his heart in his throat. “Is that what you think we should do?”

But Louis doesn’t answer him. He responds with a question of his own. “Is that what you want to do?”

“I think we should talk about this in person, Lou. I was going to wait and talk to you about it when we’re back in Vegas.”

“Okay.” Louis says. “I’ll see you in a few days then, Hazza. You should get back to work.”

“I’ll call you tomorrow.” Harry says firmly. “Wait, actually it’ll be later today. Past midnight, so yeah, later today.”

“Later today.” Louis agrees, and Harry thinks he can hear a smile back in his voice. “Night, H.”

“Night, Lou.”

 

/// THE WEDDING /// JULY ///

When Liam picks him up from the airport on the day of the wedding, he wonders how everything could feel so similar and yet be so different. He’s still nervous as hell about seeing Louis, but for some entirely different reasons this time.

“You know you really didn’t have to pick me up from the airport on your wedding day, Li. I could have taken a taxi.”

“Nah, it’s fine. I’ve got nothing else to do but wait, really. The Bellagio is taking care of everything, so all I’ve got to do is sit around and be nervous that Zayn’s about to run off.”

Harry gives him a look. “Li. Zayn is not going to run off. Don’t even say things like that! The man has been in love since he first set eyes on you at freshman orientation.”

“Yeah, well, anyone can get cold feet though when it comes to big decisions like this.” Liam glances over at him as if he’s said too much.

“I know a little something about that, yeah.” Harry admits. “But you guys have done this right. You’ve made your decisions together. Everything is going to be perfect.”

Liam beams at him. “Thanks, H.”

Harry has a brief moment where he wonders if he should have told Liam about what happened when he and Louis disappeared from their bachelor party, but he knows now isn’t the right time. He hates keeping such a huge thing a secret from everyone, not to mention that he’s got no one to talk to about it besides Louis, since no one else knows. Well, no one else but Niall.

Liam and Zayn have decided not to see each other on their wedding day until the ceremony, so Harry spends the remainder of the day by his friend’s very nervous side. He resigns himself to the fact that that means he won’t see Louis until then either. He doesn’t mind though. If Liam needs him, he’ll be there. Lord knows Liam has stuck by him all these years. Whether he’s right or wrong, Liam has always been there, and Harry means to always do the same for him.

He and Liam dress in their tuxes when the time comes and make their way towards the wedding venue, an expansive terrace overlooking the fountains creating a stunning view for a wedding. As Harry walks Liam’s sister up the aisle, he gasps at the beauty of the hundreds of white mums lining their path, leading up to an arch lined with the same white blooms. It’s beautiful and romantic and so very them . He smiles as he sees Zayn’s starkly handsome face. Zayn may look a bit nervous, but Harry knows it has nothing to do with his desire to marry his friend.

As Harry takes his place to the side, he finally meets Louis’ gaze. He’s felt it since the moment he started down the aisle. They stare at each other, a charge in the air that crackles between them. It’s a wonder everyone doesn’t notice, but then, everyone is paying attention to the couple getting married today, not the ones with a secret. Harry forces his eyes away to watch Liam walk down the aisle, grinning ear to ear, with his parents on either arm. He kisses their cheeks warmly and then turns to Zayn who offers his hand, which Liam gladly accepts.

Harry dares to look back at Louis and sees his own myriad of emotions reflected back at him in Louis’ eyes. He can’t seem to break away even as he hears Liam’s and Zayn’s vows. “May my heart be your shelter. May my arms be your home.”

It’s then that he’s sure. He’s clung to an idea of home where things felt safe and easy, but they weren’t. They weren’t safe and easy; they were uninspiring and hard. Instead, his home was devoid of the one thing--the one person--who made his home feel like home, where he could let go and feel alive. Louis .

There are photographs that must be taken and toasts to be made and food to be eaten and cake to be cut before Louis is able to make his way to Harry’s side.  As Your Song plays over the speakers, Harry slips his hand in Louis’, and they stand side by side, watching their friends dance their first dance as husbands.

When the dancing and drinking truly commences, Louis draws Harry back out onto the balcony. They watch the great spires of water rise and fall into the pool below.

Louis is the first to speak.

“I’ve requested a song. Will you dance with me when it plays?”

Harry smiles. “Sure, Lou. What song is it?”

“You’ll know when you hear it.” He answers as he waggles his eyebrows.

Harry rolls his eyes at that, and even though he doesn’t want these lovely brief moments to end, he needs more than brief moments.

He takes Louis’ hand and holds it, staring down at the veins crossing over it, the one knuckle larger than the others, the blunt fingernails of his smaller hand. He loves everything about this hand. He loves everything about this man.  “Louis?”

“Yes?”

“I don’t want a divorce.”

“You don’t?”

“No. I don’t, but if that’s what you want, I’ll sign whatever you’d like me to sign.”

“God. No. I don’t want a divorce, Hazza. Of course not. I never wanted to break up in the first place. I never wanted to be apart from you ever.”

It feels like Harry can breathe fully again, his lungs expanding after so many months of shallow breaths.

“Lou, I have something to tell you that I haven’t said before.”

“Okay?” He can see a furrow between his brows that he tries to press away with the tip of his finger.

“Don’t frown.” He scolds. “It’s not a bad thing--I hope. I’ve applied and been accepted to an MFA program for my art.”

“H! Oh my god that’s amazing! That’s wonderful! I’m so proud of you! When do you start? Are you starting soon or--”

“Louis. Just--hold on.” Harry takes a deep breath.  “I sent in my acceptance to The School of Visual Arts.”

What ? But Harry, that’s in New York. But you--I--are you sure? I can’t ask you to do this for me when I know how much you don’t want--”

“I do want though, Louis. I do want this. I want you and this marriage and to move to New York if it means I can be with you. And it’s not like going to SVA will be a hardship.”

“Oh god, Hazza.” Louis claps a hand over his mouth. “I’ve spent the last two months job hunting for something in Chicago. I was bringing you over here with every intention of asking you to give me a second chance.”

Harry lets out a loud bark of laughter. “Damn, we need to get better at making decisions together. Fuck, you didn’t accept a job yet did you?”

“No. I--uh--learned my lesson on that one.”

“Um, Lou. I guess I haven’t learned that lesson yet, since I went ahead and accepted for my master’s program without telling you. Do you want to stay in New York? Because if you don’t, we’ll figure it out. We’ll figure it out together this time, I promise. I’m not scared anymore. I’m only scared of losing you.”

The strains of Andrea Bocelli’s Con Te Partiro reach Harry’s ears, and he gasps.

“Told you you’d know when the song started.”

Louis leads him out onto the dance floor and draws him into his arms as they slowly dance under lights that never fade in a Las Vegas night.

“Tu mia luna tu sei qui con me.” [You, my moon are here with me] Louis sings softly in his ear, the fine hairs on Harry’s neck rise at the soft touch of his breath and the sound of his voice.

“Mio sole tu se qui con me.” [My sun, you are here with me] Harry sings back, brushing Louis’ ear with his lips. He can feel Louis shiver.

As the song ends, Harry is already pulling Louis off the dance floor, fire burning brightly in his eyes with the flames mirrored back at him. The elevator dings, and the doors open. Harry dashes in first and then pulls Louis in by his jacket.

“I think I should ask what your intentions are with me.” Louis says with a grin.

“Nothing nefarious, I assure you.” Harry answers haughtily. “I just intend to make you beg for it.”

“Is that right?” Louis smirks. “We’ll see about that.”

Harry pulls Louis out of the elevator and down the hall towards his room. It’s been months since they’ve been together, and even that one encounter though very satisfying at the time, had been cut pretty short by Niall calling with the news they were married.

Harry pulls Louis into the room, shutting the door firmly behind him, and pushing him gently into a chair, facing the side of the bed.

“Stay.” He commands.

Louis raises an eyebrow but does as he’s told. Harry walks behind the chair and slowly unties the bow tie from around Louis’ neck.

“You look so unfairly hot in this tux, Louis.” He says as he nuzzles his lips against Louis’ neck, feeling his quickening pulse.

He pushes Louis forward a bit and asks for his hands around his back. “If you’re comfortable with it, that is.”

Louis immediately complies with a high-pitched, “Yes!”

Harry ties them together with the bow tie, black wrapped around his wrists. It’s quite aesthetically pleasing, he finds.

He saunters back in front of Louis and pushes him into leaning back in the chair. He then slowly removes each article of his clothing, starting with his own black tie until all that’s left are a pair of tight, black boxer briefs. Louis’ eyes glitter in the dim light as he watches Harry’s every move. Harry sways his hips as he walks to the bedside table and pulls out what he’s looking for.

He stands facing the bed and away from Louis, giving him a view of Harry’s back as he bends himself over the bed, his ass perched in the air.  He slowly brings his briefs down over the swell of his ass before he slicks up his fingers and teases one at his opening. He hears Louis gasp behind him. He slowly enters himself, letting out a whimper at the sensation of both what he’s feeling and what he knows Louis is seeing.

“Let me know when you’re ready to beg, Lou.”

He lets his finger slide in and out a few times before he adds another. He groans at the wideness of his fingers filling him like this. He hears Louis fidgeting in the chair. He begins sliding his fingers in earnest now, building a rhythm.

“Lou?” He gasps out. And then he properly moans his name as he imagines Louis inside him instead of his fingers.

“Fuck.” He hears Louis hiss behind him.

When Harry whimpers as he enters a third finger inside himself, Louis finally cracks. “Please, please, Hazza. God, I’ll beg all you want, just please let me fuck you now.”

Harry pulls his fingers out with a sigh and turns back to face Louis, his arousal very evident now. He moves more closely and kneels down between Louis’ legs as he very slowly unzips his pants. Louis cants his hips up so that Harry can slide them down to his ankles. Harry slides a condom over Louis’ hard cock and then straddles him on the chair as Louis continues to beg for him, his hands still tied behind his back.

Harry rises up a bit, lining himself up with Louis and guides it into him with a gasp. Louis instinctively bucks up ,and Harry finds himself fully seated on Louis’ cock.

“Fuck, sorry.” Louis gasps. “It’s been a long time. Don’t really know how long I can even last.”

Harry plants his knees on either side of Louis and drapes his arms on his shoulders as he begins to build a rhythm riding atop him. They fan the spark that’s been between them all night into a raging fire.

Even without Louis’ hands on him, Harry comes untouched between them, his lips pressed to Louis’. Louis pushes up twice more before coming himself as he recites Harry’s name like a mantra.

///

As soon as they walk into the wedding brunch hand in hand, Zayn turns to Liam. “Glad your friend pulled his head out of his ass.”

“Glad your friend pulled his head out of his ass.” Liam returns.

Harry laughs. “Please, let’s not discuss who is the biggest ass in all this.”

“Oh, I know who has the biggest ass, but what does that have to do with anything?” Zayn smiles.

Louis slaps him upside the head. “Rude.”

“Hey, I didn’t say it was you!” Zayn laughs.

After the brunch, they take Zayn and Liam to the airport to send them off on their Hawaiian honeymoon. The four of them together again just as it was always supposed to be. They still haven’t said anything about the whole accidentally-married-in-Vegas thing, but it will come. Harry thinks it’s a conversation best left for a time when they won’t be stealing any spotlights.

Over dinner at Picasso, a place Louis knew he would like just based on the artwork that’s displayed, they discuss how pissed off their mothers are going to be when they find out. They giggle nervously and pledge to do it together and at the same time. Harry admits Gemma knows something is going on, but he’s not sure she knows the extent of it yet. She knows he’s moving to New York though.

Louis’ eyes glitter with emotion. “H, I know our wedding wasn’t the one you’ve always dreamed of, so when you’re ready I hope you’ll plan the one of your dreams and I’ll help you make it all come true.”

“I love you, Lou. I hope you know I never ever stopped, and I always hoped even when I was at my most stubborn and bitter that we would be together again somehow. And I’ll most definitely be planning another wedding, one that you can invite all your family to, so they can all watch as I promise that my home is a person and not a place.”

Louis smiles and clasps his hand across the small table. He makes a face as he must feel his phone buzz repeatedly.

He pulls it out and reads it. “Holy shit. It’s Zayn’s friend, Ed. He says Zayn wanted him to relay this message: Be out at the fountains at eight. Thanks a lot for telling us you assholes got married.”

“Oh my god!” Harry exclaims as laughter bubbles out of him. “How did they find out?”

“No clue.” Louis replies as he checks the time. “It’s seven-thirty. We should probably go.”

They quickly make their way down to the fountains and at precisely eight o’clock the tell tale strains of Con Te Partiro join Andrea Bocelli’s beautiful voice synchronized with the water dancing high into the night.

They stare at each other in wonder, jaws hanging open at this most incredible of wedding gifts.

Tonight, they’re the luckiest men in Vegas.