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I Ain't Leavin' Without Your Love

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Monday, June 8, 2020

“Finally,” Harry groans as he enters the airport terminal attempting to stretch his stiff joints. The trip from London down to St. Ives was only just over an hour, but he’s still recovering from the eleven-hour jaunt over from Los Angeles. He’s only twenty-six; should he really be aching this badly? He spins around in a circle searching for the baggage claim before finally spotting the carousel for his plane and dragging his weary body over.

Just as he approaches to search for his luggage, he’s nearly knocked off his feet by a smaller man racing for the door. “Sorry, mate!” the man yells back without bothering to slow down at all. Harry notices a suitcase in his hand that looks like his own, but he shrugs it off, figuring it must just be a coincidence.

“Yeah, yeah,” Harry grumbles, choosing instead to focus on finding his bag so he can get out of there and to a warm shower. Soon enough, he thinks he sees his luggage, only to pick it up and find a football-shaped tag that he most certainly did not put on it. He flips the tag over and finds “Louis Tomlinson” scrawled in black marker. Rolling his eyes, he tosses the bag back on the carousel; he doesn’t want this Louis person to think he’s trying to steal his clothes. He steps back and waits for his bag to come around the conveyor belt.

And he waits.

And he waits.

And he waits.

Soon enough, every bag from the flight has been claimed except for a brown duffel bag and the looks-like-Harry’s-but-it’s-not black and silver suitcase. “Oh, for fuck’s sake,” he mumbles to himself as he heads off to the customer service desk.

“’Ello, welcome to Newquay Airport, how may I help you?” says the polite middle-aged lady behind the desk.

“Hi…” Harry takes a second to read her name tag, “Marie. My bag seems to be missing. It never made it to the carousel at baggage claim for my flight.”

“Oh no, sir! I’m so sorry. Let me look into that right away. What flight were you on?” she asks.

“Flight, uh, 2941 from Gatwick. I’m Harry Styles,” Harry answers, showing her his boarding pass.

Marie types details into her computer, and a few seconds later, her brow furrows inquisitively. “That’s...strange. According to our records, all bags that were on the plane were unloaded.”

“Well, I’m telling you it wasn’t there.”

“Oh, I believe you, sir. I’m just not sure what could have happened to it. Perhaps we can check the other carousels in baggage claim and see if it got put on the wrong one somehow.”

Harry sighs. “Yes, that would be great. Thank you.”

Marie waves her hand, “Chris!” A young man around Harry’s age quickly appears. “I need you to search all the carousels in baggage claim and delivery for Mr. Styles’ bag. Sir, do you have the luggage tag you were given when your bag was initially checked?”

“Yes, yes, here.” Harry digs it out of the front of his carry-on and hands it to the young man for reference. “It’s a medium-sized bag, black body with silver trim, wheels, and handles, which are on both top and side. Alright?” Chris nods and jogs off towards the baggage claim area.

Marie smiles as kindly as possible and says, “If you would like, you can have a seat right over there, and I’ll let you know as soon as Chris returns.” She points to a group of chairs about three metres away.

Harry says nothing, just nods and heads to sit down, collapsing in a chair as soon as he reaches one. He unzips his carry-on and pulls out his phone, turning off flight mode. Seconds later, it rings. “Gem?”

“Harry, you made it, right? Are you on your way to the resort yet?” his older sister sounds impatient on the other end of the line.

“Not yet. I mean, yes, I made it, but I’m still at the airport. They, uh, misplaced my bag or summat, so I’m stuck waiting for them to see if they can find it. I’ll let you know when I’m on my way.”

“Okay, good. I’m just so glad you’re here. We’re all together! I can’t believe this week is finally heeeeeeeere!” she shrieks so loudly Harry thinks the people around him can hear her.

“Alright, alright, Gem. You can tone down the ear-piercing excitement just a bit,” he teases.

He can practically see her roll her eyes. She counters, “Caleb and I are getting married on Saturday, you twat. I’m allowed to be as excited as I want.”

“Not to mention your favorite brother has finally come back home from LA for the first time in two years,” he reminds her.

Harry had started working a second job on the weekends at a bookstore practically the second Gemma told him she and Caleb were engaged last year; kindergarten teachers in America don’t get paid nearly enough to afford a trip to the UK and there was no way Harry was going to miss his sister’s wedding. Gemma is a surgical nurse, and Caleb is a five-star chef, so they have more than enough money to have the wedding of Gemma’s dreams, and Gemma has wanted a wedding in St. Ives since she was a teenager.

“Yeah, yeah, there’s that, too. Be prepared, though. Mum is so anxious to see you I’m pretty sure she’s going to maul you the second she lays eyes on you.”

Harry barks a laugh. “I would expect nothing less. We both know I’m her favourite, after all.”

“Shut up. You just had to go and move eight thousand miles away, so she misses you a lot more than she does me,” Gemma retorts, again with the almost visible eye roll.

“Whatever helps you sleep at night, sister,” he gloats. Just then, he looks up and notices Marie leaving her desk and walking towards him. “Hey, Gem, I gotta go. I’ll let you know when I leave the airport,” he explains.

“Alright, see you soon.”

Harry hangs up the phone and sits up straight. His leg starts unconsciously shaking as Marie stops directly in front of him. “Mr. Styles, I’m so sorry, Chris cannot find your luggage anywhere in our baggage department.”

“Aggghhhhh.” Harry falls back against the seat and lets his head fall backward for a few seconds before sitting back up again. “So tell me what I’m supposed to do now.” He sighs deeply. He knows it’s not Marie’s fault, and she really is trying to be nice, but dammit, this is his first trip home in two years, and it’s already fucked up.

“I’ve already contacted my supervisor, and we will work with the staff at Gatwick to locate your bag and get it to you as quickly as we possibly can,” she explains. “If you’ll just come with me and leave us your contact information, we will be in touch as soon as we have details for you.”

Harry trudges over and fills out the provided form, then goes and finds a taxi to the resort. That was one awful way to waste an hour.

It’s about forty miles or so to the resort, Tregenna Castle, so Harry has a little time to relax after calling Gemma to let her know he’s finally on the way and, no, he still doesn’t have his bag. Damn airport.

He’s just nodding off when he feels his taxi come to an abrupt halt in front of Tregenna Castle’s main entrance. Harry looks at the meter and pulls three twenty-pound notes out of his wallet to cover the journey. He mutters a quick, “Thanks,” as he gets out and shuts the car door roughly behind him.

Harry has barely stepped two feet inside the lobby when he sees his mum running full force at him. “Harry!” Everyone knows that’s where Gemma gets her shrieking ability from. Anne barrels into him and clings on like he is a life raft. He takes a deep breath in as he leans down and inhales the scent of her perfume; it’s the same one she’s worn since he was a boy, and oh, how he has missed it. Resting his chin on her shoulder, he sighs and whispers, “Hi, Mum.” He can already feel a lump forming in his throat. Maybe it’s the shitty start the day has gotten off to, maybe it’s the jetlag, or maybe it’s (probably) that he finally gets to hug his mum for the first time in two years, but he has to will himself not to cry right there in the lobby.

Anne pulls back and begins planting kisses on every inch of his face she can reach. “I’ve missed you so much, my sweet boy!” she exclaims.

Now, Harry can notice people starting to stare. “I’ve missed you, too, Mum, but come on. I’m not coming home from war.” He gently pushes her off of him, and she concedes, looping her arm through his and leading him towards the lift.

“Now, Gemma said something about the airport losing your bag? Did you at least put one night’s worth in your carry-on?” Anne inquires in her usual mum voice.

Harry chuckles. “Yes, of course, just like you taught me. And Gemma’s got my suit for the wedding already here, but I don’t know what I’m going to do about the rest of the week. I didn’t budget for having to buy another week’s worth of clothes while I’m here, and this area isn’t exactly made for a teacher’s salary.”

Anne pats his arm and uses her other hand to hit the “up” button for the lift. “Well, we’ll help you out, of course.” Instantly sensing Harry’s hesitation at imposing, she adds, “Don’t you worry about a thing. It’s not like you can help this. We’ll work it out. Besides, almost everything for the wedding has already been paid for.” She presses the “6” and continues talking. “Gemma’s in my room right now going over her hair and makeup plans for the wedding. Robin and Caleb are off playing golf. I have an appointment at the spa, but I can cancel that, of course, if you want me to go to the shops with you.”

Harry rolls his eyes and answers, “Mum, I’m twenty-six. I’ve been doing my own clothes shopping for quite some time now, but thank you. I’ll ask Gems to go, though - get some good sibling bonding in while we can.”

“Fair enough. I’ve been looking forward to this massage. Now, you have your own room, then it’s me and Robin, and then Gemma and Caleb,” Anne explains as they step off and head down the hall to Harry’s door. “I already got your key from the desk.”

She slides the key in the slot, and the door clicks open to show Harry a modest-sized but still beautifully-decorated room. A king-sized canopy bed sits on a gold and burgundy rug and stretches across the center of the back wall, which is painted a deep green. The wood of the bed frame matches the large oak wardrobe, which houses a flat screen TV in its upper cabinet. There is even a small refrigerator. In the bathroom, Harry notices a large glass shower and a jacuzzi bath that looks like it will be perfect for his sore and tired body later tonight.

Harry sits his bag down on a chair and stares longingly at the big, fluffy bed. Anne sees him and asks, “Do you want to go get Gemma and go to the shops now, or would you like to rest first? I’m sure you must be exhausted from all that flying.”

“Oh, uh, let’s go now, because I think if I lay down on this bed now, I’m not going to get up for a long time. Plus, I’m getting hungry.” Harry nods and guides his mum to head next door.

“Of course you are,” she laughs as she opens the door to her room.

Harry sees Gemma propped up against the headboard of the bed staring intensely at her computer. Without even looking up, and with her most serious expression, she exclaims, “Mum, I thought I was happy with the hairstyle we had agreed on before, but now I just don’t know!”

Before Anne can answer, Harry chimes in, “Don’t worry, Gems. Whatever you choose, I’m sure you’ll look absolutely hideous,” with a smirk.

Anne swats his shoulder as Gemma sets her computer to the side and gets up to greet him. “You know, if I didn’t love you, I’d hit you right now,” she teases as she wraps her arms around his neck for a hug.

“It’s never stopped you before,” Harry reminds her.

Before this loving sibling banter can continue, Anne steps in. “Gemma,” she asks, “will you go with Harry to the shops? Since the airport lost his bag, he’s got to buy clothes for the week, and he needs our help to pay for it all. I’ve got that massage in twenty. We can figure out the hair situation after dinner tonight.”

Harry adds, “Plus, I figured you’d know this area a bit from coming down here to plan things.”

“Sure! I need to stop staring at that bloody computer screen for a bit, anyway. Just let me go get my purse.”

Gemma slips out of the room to go to hers as Anne digs her credit card out of her wallet and hands it to Harry. “Try not to kill each other before you get back here, hmm?” She stares at Harry with the maternal look that used to send shivers down his spine.

“Yes, mum,” he promises, and he leans in to give her a kiss on the cheek before leaving.

An hour and a half later, Harry and Gemma return to Tregenna Castle with enough clothes to get Harry through the week, a new piece of luggage to bring it all back to LA, and two pair of shoes that Gemma “needed.” One of the reasons Harry wanted to take Gemma instead of his mum is because Anne will take her time and insist on having Harry try on items he wouldn’t wear even if he were dead, but Gemma knows Harry hates shopping and will help him get it done as quickly and painlessly as possible. They get back to their rooms in time for Harry to take a quick shower to get the aeroplane grime and funk off of him before dinner.

Harry sits down at dinner in his new black skinny jeans and pink and white polka dot shirt, excited to enjoy some real English food. As soon as he sees fish and chips on the menu, he knows that’s what he is having. It was his favourite meal growing up, and they just don’t make it the same in America. His mouth is salivating before he evens gives the waitress his order.

He passes the time waiting for his meal telling Anne and Robin about this pair of twins in his class from the previous year. They were an endless source of entertainment (and headaches).

“So Clara comes running up to me as I’m standing by the tree during break time, and she tells me that Keegan climbed to the top of the climbing frame, got his foot stuck in one of the holes, and is now screaming and crying. He’s never gone that high before, ever, so I had no idea I had to even worry about that. I run over there to him, and he just keeps screaming, ‘Get me down!’ at the top of his lungs. I ask Clara why he climbed all the way up there, and she smiles so fucking proudly - sorry, Mum, language, I know - and tells me she dared him to. Peyton is standing there watching, he’s probably the biggest boy in that class, and he offers to go up there and get him. I’m thinking there’s no way I’m gonna risk having two of you stuck up there, so my only choice is to get up there meself and free him. You can imagine how well that went.”

“Like a baby giraffe trying to climb a ladder?” Gemma teases.

For once, Gemma’s joke is right. Harry nods and adds, “Pretty much. It took me a solid five minutes to figure out how to get up there safely meself, and another ten minutes to get Keegan to stop crying, free his foot, and figure out how to get him down without either of us falling.”

“But you did? You both got down safely?” Anne asks, eyes wide in typical worried mum fashion.

“Yes, mum, we both were fine. I was a bit out of breath by the time I could get all the kids back in the classroom and had to have a chat with Clara and Keegan afterwards, but --”

Harry cuts himself off when he notices activity in front of him. Just as the waitress arrives and sets his food down, he looks up and sees a large, rambunctious family walk by his table led by what appears to be the most beautiful man Harry has ever laid eyes on. The lighting isn’t great in the dining room, but Harry can still see that the man’s eyes are like little blue crystals. The man notices Harry, too, and gives him a sly little grin just as he passes from Harry’s view, so of course, Harry turns around to watch him continue to walk away.

The guy looks so familiar, but Harry can’t quite place him. He feels like he saw him recently, but where? Wait. Is he...wearing a Randy’s Donuts hoodie? Harry packed a Randy’s Donuts hoodie in his now-missing bag. Harry’s hoodie has blue marker on the bottom in the back (thanks to his best friend Niall’s nephew), and so does that one. And come to think of it, he remembers that the guy at the airport wheeling a bag that looked like Harry’s had brown hair with fringe just like this guy does right in front of him.

No, it can’t be. Harry’s just tired. This guy must be from Los Angeles, too, and he got a Randy’s Donuts hoodie of his own...right? That has to be it.

“Harry, are you okay?” Robin wonders. His deep voice brings Harry back to reality, and he turns back around to his family.

Harry shakes off the odd feeling that this isn’t just a coincidence and tries to focus on the meal and conversation in front of him. He finishes the story about Clara and Keegan. Caleb talks about his new sous-chef at his restaurant. Gemma tells all about the annoying new nurse she has to train. Harry tells some stories about the work he’s been doing at the bookstore, but all night long, he can’t stop thinking about that guy with the hoodie.

Throughout the meal, Harry can’t stop himself from turning around to peek at the mysterious guy in the familiar hoodie. Suddenly, he feels a thump from a sharp fingernail against his head. “Ow! What was that for?!” He turns back to the table, rubbing his head, only to see everyone else standing up and staring at him.

“We’re leaving, you idiot. Come on,” Gemma says.

“Fine, but you didn’t have to hurt me,” Harry replies with an eye roll as he gets up from his chair, too.

Anne puts her hand on Harry’s bicep and looks at him, obviously concerned. “Are you alright, m’love? What is back there that’s had you distracted all night?”

There is no way Harry is getting into this discussion with his family, especially not in the middle of the dining room, so he just shrugs it off. “Nothing, mum,” he promises, “just thought I recognised someone. It’s nothing.”

Later that night, they have family game night in Anne and Robin’s room. Harry loves it, really; it’s a tradition that he cherishes, especially now that he sees his family so rarely. It’s just hard for him to focus. There’s a guy somewhere in this resort, a really, really handsome guy, and he may or may not be wearing Harry’s hoodie.

How is he going to find him? And more importantly, did that guy really take his clothes?

Tuesday, June 9

Relax, Gem. You and Caleb go talk to the plate people, or whatever you call the people providing the dishes, and I will go pay the florist.” Harry is in full chill-brother mode this morning because Gemma got a call during breakfast that there is some issue with the tableware they had ordered for the reception. Gemma does not do well with unexpected problems. (It kind of runs in the family.)

She sighs heavily. “Oh, thanks, Harry. That’s such a help. Just please make sure to -”

“Confirm they have all the right flowers for your order before I pay them,” Harry cuts her off. “I know. You said it, like, six times. Just give me the paper with the list of flowers I should double-check for, the cheque for the florist, the address, and your keys okay? I’ve got it.

Gemma hands over the information, cheque, and keys before kissing him sweetly on the cheek. She teases, “You know, you really can be a doll when you want to be. It’s just such a shame it doesn’t happen more often,” giving him a wink before pulling Caleb toward the door with Anne following closely behind.

Harry pulls his phone out of his pocket and begins entering the address into the GPS as he meanders toward the exit. Suddenly, he feels a hand push harshly against his chest. He stops abruptly, looks up, and...what do you know? It’s the mystery man from the night before. He takes a step back and is just about to apologise when he notices what the man is wearing.

It’s his Rolling Stones t-shirt. Harry’s eyes nearly bulge out of his head. “Take off my shirt!” he exclaims without thinking.

The man chuckles, cocks an eyebrow, and asks, “Excuse me?”

Harry immediately realises how idiotic and creepy that sounded, but he tries to play it cool. “I, uh, I mean, you’re wearing my Rolling Stones t-shirt, and I want it back.”

The man looks down and examines the shirt he is wearing. “No,” he retorts, “I’m pretty sure this is my shirt.”

“No, it’s not!” Harry tries not to yell since they’re standing in the middle of the lobby. “It has a hole in the hem right there,” he points to the tear in the seam on the bottom in the front, “that my best friend Niall caused thanks to a terribly misplaced safety pin.”

“That hole could have gotten there in many ways. You’re not the only person who can tear a hole in their Rolling Stones tee, you know,” the man retorts.

Harry rolls his eyes, clenches his jaw, and tries not to stomp his foot for fear of looking like a little kid throwing a tantrum. Instead, he simply proclaims, “I AM TELLING YOU that is my shirt! And you were wearing my hoodie last night, too! You must have taken my bag at the airport, because I can’t find it, and the airport can’t find it, and now you have my clothes!”

“I don’t know what your problem is, mate,” the man answers as he scratches the stubble on his cheek, “but you must be imagining things. Good luck finding your bag, though.” He smirks and adds, “Maybe I’ll see you around this place again,” before walking off.

“What the fucking hell is this,” Harry says as quietly as possible. He wants nothing more than to follow this man until he gives him back his things, but if he doesn’t go take care of the florist for Gemma, his clothes will be the least of his problems, so he gives up and heads out to the car.

By lunchtime, the florist has been squared away and Gemma and Caleb have picked out all new tableware, so everything is much calmer. Well, everything except for the fact that there’s some dickhead wandering around this giant damn resort wearing Harry’s clothes with no shame. Harry sulks his way through lunch, but he doesn’t want to explain what is going on to his family, so he just says he has a bad headache.

Once they’re done eating, nobody needs him for anything, so Harry decides to go to the resort spa. Maybe a massage will help him relax; his mum could hardly stop raving about hers. He walks through the glass French doors, and immediately to his right, he sees a row of pedicure chairs. In one, he sees a young woman whom Harry is pretty sure was with the clothes thief last night at dinner, so he gets the attention of the front desk attendant and points to ask if he can just go over. She nods, and he clamors into the empty seat next to the woman. He slips off his shoes, and within seconds, a pedicurist is in front of him beginning her work. Harry wasn’t planning on getting a pedicure, but hey, there’s nothing wrong with taking care of your feet.

As his feet soak in the antibacterial solution, he glances over at the woman next to him. She has her head resting against the seat and her eyes closed, so Harry feels a little bad for disturbing her, but he’s on a mission today. “Lovely place, huh?” he says softly as he leans in her direction.

She sits up suddenly, slightly startled. “What?”

“I said, it’s a lovely place, innit?”

“Oh, oh yeah, it is. High quality treatments, and it’s all included in the price of your stay. Me mum couldn’t have picked a better place.”

“Yeah, exactly. I figured I’d come try the spa out while I’m here,” Harry agrees. “I’m Harry, by the way.” He reaches a hand over, and she shakes it.

“Lottie. Not many guys come to a spa to get a pedicure.”

He nods and laughs a little before explaining. “Yeah, well, I’m a teacher, and standing all day is a bit hard on my feet.” Just then, the leopard print around Lottie’s neck catches Harry’s eye, and when he takes a good look at it, he realises that it looks just like the scarf he packed. Just for the sake of curiosity, he thinks he has to ask her where she got it. “Hey, I love that scarf. Where did you get it?”

“Oh this?” Lottie instinctively looks down and touches the wrap. “My brother let me borrow it. I saw it in his bag this morning and loved it.”

“Your brother? The short guy wearing the Rolling Stones tee today with the ocean blue eyes?” Harry can feel his heart rate pick up a little bit as he looks at her for an answer.

Lottie is noticeably nervous now, but she responds, anyway. “Uh, yeah? Why do you ask?”

“I KNEW IT!” Harry yells far too loudly for such a serene environment, earning him several hushes and numerous harsh glares from people around the room. Lottie is giving him serious side-eye, obviously confused as to what his deal is. He grimaces, sighs, and leans as far back against his chair as he can before continuing. “Okay, so I’m pretty sure that your brother accidentally picked up my bag at the airport yesterday. No harm no foul, right? But when I asked him about it this morning, he basically told me I was crazy and walked off with this smirk that kind of made me want to smack him. I’m pretty sure that scarf you’re wearing is mine, and that’s the third piece of clothing I’ve found that he’s had possession of that I think belongs to me. Maybe I am crazy, but I just don’t believe in that many coincidences happening, you know?”

“Oh my god, the little shit.” Lottie busts out laughing as she unwraps the scarf from her neck and hands it over to Harry. Now, Harry is the visibly confused one. “He can act like a six-year-old when he sees a guy that he thinks is cute.” She, too, gives him a sly smirk - it must run in their whole fucking family - then puts earbuds in, turns music on, and shuts her eyes.

Harry wants to ask more questions, the first being what the hell?, but he doesn’t. He just lets Lottie enjoy her spa day and tries to focus on the good, cleansing feeling of the pedicure and leg massage. He definitely has her words echoing in his head, though, that’s for sure.

Harry doesn’t see the man for the rest of the day, despite keeping an eye out for him everywhere he goes. Where is he? What the bloody hell is going on?

Wednesday, June 10

Harry’s family and the clothes thief’s family actually run into each other at the dining room entrance on their way to breakfast. Harry locks eyes with Lottie, and she smirks and points her head toward her brother. Harry gives him a quick once over, and he doesn’t seem to be wearing anything of his, so Harry figures he can’t really make a scene and confront him without looking like a total fool. This time, however, instead of being preoccupied solely with the man, Harry’s mind is more focused on what Lottie had said about him. Does the man really find him cute? Why isn’t he doing anything about it, then?

The morning is taken up with pre-wedding family activities, so that at least helps him pass the time and stay semi-distracted. After lunch, Gemma frees him, so he goes to the resort pool in his newly-bought bathing suit only to find the man there. Not only that, he is wearing what has to be Harry’s yellow swim trunks. Again! Harry wants to scream at the top of his lungs, but the longer he looks at him, the more he realises just how damn good he looks in them. The bright yellow fabric hugs the curves of his hips perfectly, and the shorts are so tight against his beautifully round arse that Harry can feel his cock twitching a little. Why does the clothes thief have to be so dreamy and look so good in Harry’s clothes?...Harry shakes those thoughts away. Dammit, no! This man is a thief, and Harry needs to put him in his place. He stomps over to the clothes thief’s chaise, where he has just laid down.

“Get up,” he orders. Amazingly, the man does so without complaint. “This has got to stop. I’m tired of it. You need to tell me why you’re doing this. Now.”

He smirks. Go figure. “What do you mean?”

Harry’s jaw instinctively clenches. “This is the fourth clothing item I have found that you have that I am almost positive belongs to me! First, it was the Randy’s Donuts hoodie with the marker on the bottom in the back. Then, it was the Rolling Stones t-shirt that had the hole my best friend put in it. Then, it was the leopard print scarf you let your sister borrow that she wore to the spa. And now it’s these!” Without thinking, he grabs at the waistband of the swim trunks, trying to make a point. The man looks down, smiles, and gently places his hand on top of Harry’s when he does, and for a second, Harry feels a jolt of electricity course through him. He quickly realises it kind of looks like he’s trying to strip this guy naked, so he lets go. “You need to tell me why you are holding my clothes hostage.” He’s trying to stay calm so he doesn’t make a scene, but this little shit is making it very difficult.

The man continues to smile, asking simply, “Are you always this tense, mate?” He steps away from the chaise and points to it. “Maybe you should have a lie down. It could help you relax,” he offers.

Harry sets his towel and phone on the chaise but follows the man as he continues to take a few more steps back. “I don’t want to have a lie down. What I want is to have my clothes back,” he almost growls.

“You seem to have clothes right now,” the man counters, pointing toward the blue-and-green checkered shorts covering Harry’s bottom half.

“Clothes I had to buy here because my luggage I brought on this trip somehow disappeared with a small, brown-haired, shameless little thief!”

“Oh, that’s not very nice. Give me a break. I’m big!” The man pouts and crosses his arms. For a split second, Harry forgets how annoyed he is and thinks gosh, he’s beautiful. His lips are bright pink, plump, and oh-so-kissable. The way the sun shines on him, it looks like God put glitter in his sweat glands. And Harry can’t forget those eyes. They remind him of the ocean back in LA; he wants to drown in them.

With a deep sigh, Harry replies, “Fine, whatever, sorry. But I really fucking want to know why you are keeping my clothes hostage.”

“Why? Can’t you just stop and have some fun?” The man inches closer to Harry every couple of words, and Harry can hardly think straight because the proximity is messing with his mind and he also really wants to kiss him, and the man is so close he’s kind of wondering if he is going to kiss him right there on the pool deck.

“It’s, um...a little hard to have fun right now, thanks to you...” Harry tells him. He means to sound more annoyed, but instead it comes out soft and breathy, almost a whisper.

The man’s grin widens wickedly and murmurs, “It’s never hard to have fun.” He leans into Harry, making his breath hitch in anticipation, but before he can react, he is being pulled into the deep end of the swimming pool.

He struggles for a few seconds before he reaches the surface of the water, choking and coughing. He finds the man treading water beside him calmly with a cheeky grin plastered on his face. “That was rude!” Harry exclaims. “What if I didn’t know how to swim?”

Do you know how to swim?” the man asks.

“Well, yeah.”

“Then, what’s the problem?”

Harry can’t decide if he’d rather slap or kiss the smirk that seems to be permanently etched on the man’s face. Then, he decides that since they’re already both wet, he might as well get a little bit of revenge. “Nothing, there’s no problem at all!” he shouts as he jumps on the man and pushes him under the water.

Suddenly, it’s like Harry is transported somewhere else, somewhere where he doesn’t have to worry about finding missing clothes or deal with his sister being majorly stressed out about a wedding. He’s a kid again, splashing about in the water with a new friend. Their laughter is the loudest sound in the pool, but Harry doesn’t even care if they’re annoying people. He and the man play games like he used to with Gemma when they were kids in his uncle’s pool, and all that matters is that they’re having fun. Harry can’t remember the last time he felt this happy and carefree.

“Hey, Lou! LOU!” Seemingly out of nowhere, the shouts of a young woman interrupt their reverie. She’s standing at the edge of the pool staring right at them, so Harry knows she must be talking to the man. Lou. At least now he has an idea of what his name is.

“Yeah, Fiz?” he responds, and Harry can’t decide if he sounds disappointed or completely nonchalant. His head feels like it’s spinning.

“Mum needs you. C’mon.”

“Alright,” Lou turns to Harry and simply says, “See you later, Curly,” before swimming to the nearest ladder and climbing out of the pool. He disappears before Harry has time to get another word out.

“Bye...Lou,” he says softly, to no one at all.

Thursday, June 11

Most of Gemma and Caleb’s wedding party get into town this morning, so Harry doesn’t have a single minute to look for Lou, or even think about him, really, all day. He’s rather grateful for that, to be honest, as the way things left off for them the afternoon before left even more questions than he already had whirling around inside his head.

It isn’t until after dinner and dessert that Harry is able to break away from all the noise and festivities of the group. He decides to take a walk around the resort grounds to clear his head and enjoy the peace of the outdoors. It’s a beautiful, calm, English summer night...until Harry finds himself walking straight toward Lou on a trail. And he’s wearing one of Harry’s jumpers. Of fucking course.

“Hey, Curly, fancy meeting you here!” Lou says with a smile.

Harry completely ignores the question and forcefully says, “You’re wearing my clothes again.” A hot pink Gucci jumper is swallowing Lou’s petite frame, and Harry points at it. “That was a Christmas present from my sister.”

Lou pulls the bottom of the jumper forward to examine it before inquiring, “This? You sure?”

“Yes!” Harry takes another step forward and grabs the sleeve that is far too long for Lou’s arm. His brain doesn’t register that he is also holding Lou’s hand until he is shouting, “I KNOW THIS IS MY JUMPER! IT DOES NOT EVEN FIT YOU!” He lets Lou’s hand drop back to his side, and dammit, he’s trying so hard to be mad, but Lou looks so cozy and comfortable wearing his jumper with his little sweater paws that it’s next to impossible not to smile. So he does. Maybe. Just a little.

With a slight air of haughtiness, Lou counters, “I happen to like wearing jumpers that are a couple sizes too large for me. It’s like wrapping up in a blanket wherever I go without the extra effort.”

Who the hell is this guy? Harry wonders as he stares at Lou in awe; he’s so intrigued he doesn’t know what to do. How does he always have an answer for whatever I say? And why the fuck does he like my clothes so much?!

Harry groans out of sheer frustration and squats down to the ground, his head in his hands. He tries to regain his composure until he hears a burst of almost-childlike laughter. He looks up to find Lou reaching for his hand.

“Come on. Let’s go,” Lou says as he pulls Harry up from the ground.

Harry is suddenly very nervous. “Where are you taking me?” he asks.

Lou is leading him by the hand, so Harry can’t see his face when he answers, “My room.”

“Uhhh…” is all Harry can manage to get out.

This causes Lou to suddenly stop, turn around, and promise him, “No, not like that! I’m going to give you your clothes back.” It isn’t until Lou brings Harry up to his room on the ninth floor and he sits down that they finally have a real conversation.

When Lou flings open his door and lets Harry in, Harry stands awkwardly by the wall, not sure what to do. He crosses his arms and holds them tight against his chest, glancing around the room nervously, afraid to look directly at the gorgeous, mysterious man who brought him up here. “This is...nice,” he mumbles while looking out the window.

“Well, go on, sit down!” Lou insists, motioning to the bed.

“You sure?” Harry finally gets up the nerve to make eye contact and raises an eyebrow.

“Yeah, of course. I didn’t bring you up here so you could just stand there looking terrified of me. I’m not going to bite, mate. Sit! Make yourself at home!”

“Well, alright then,” Harry sighs as he sits down on the bed, slips his feet out of his shoes, and flings them toward the wall. “I have so many questions.”

“Such as?” Lou asks as he does the same, moving to sit a foot or so away from Harry on the bed and turning toward him. It’s very similar to the one in Harry’s room, but the room itself is much larger and nicer.

“Let’s start with your name and why the bloody hell you’ve been holding my clothes hostage all week and wearing them. I’m going to have to wash everything now! And I just had to borrow money from my family to get new clothes that I didn’t need,” he cries exasperatedly.

Lou pulls off the jumper and hands it to Harry with big, sad eyes, and Harry’s frustration almost immediately dissipates. He’s fucking lucky he’s so gorgeous. “Well, I will gladly pay your family back for whatever they spent on your clothes. And my name is Louis Tomlinson.”

“Ah, I saw your bag at the airport! I first thought it was mine, but when I realised it wasn’t, I didn’t take it,” Harry cuts in with a glare, but there's no real heat behind it. “Oh, and my name’s Harry Styles.”

Louis chuckles and continues, “Nice to meet you, Harry Styles. Yeah, yeah, I called them on Monday and found out my bag was still there, and they held it for me until I could go pick it up. I really was planning on giving you your things back on Tuesday when I saw you in the lobby, but you are so handsome and adorable when you’re flustered that I just...well, I didn’t want that to be the last time I saw you.” Louis’ cheeks dust pink at his admission.

“Ah, yeah,” Harry bites his lip nervously. He smiles slightly, not wanting to seem too proud, because it’s a damn good feeling to hear something like that from a man as gorgeous as him. “Your sister may have mentioned something about that.”

“Which one?” Louis asks.

“Which one?”

“Yeah, I have five sisters. Well, I don’t think Doris would tell you, since she’s only six and I’m her favorite sibling, but any of the others are total possibilities.”

Harry’s eyes nearly pop out of his head at this revelation. “Five sisters? Holy shit. Well, uh, it was Lottie. I ran into her at the spa, and she was wearing my leopard-print scarf,” he explains. “When I asked her why you would refuse to give me my clothes back, she said you can kind of play games with a guy you think is cute.” Louis grins cheekily. “But seriously, you have five sisters? And you’re here with all of them?”

“Yep, family holiday,” answers Louis. “I’m here with me mum, stepdad, five sisters, and one little brother - Doris’ twin. I carved out time because me mum was tired of never seeing me. I’m always tied up with work.”

“Oh, that’s cool. I’m here with my family because my sister’s getting married here on Saturday. What do you do?” Harry questions.

“Oh, uh, I’m a music producer. I fly back and forth between LA and London a lot, so I never have time to make it up to Doncaster to see everyone. I do get to see Lottie occasionally, though; she and her fiancé live in London. What about you?” Louis asks in return.

For the first time in his life, Harry is almost embarrassed to answer. “I’m a kindergarten teacher just outside of LA in Manhattan Beach. It’s nothing exciting like your job, but I really love it. I love my kids.”

Louis scoots a bit closer. “No, no, that’s amazing!” he reassures him. “I probably would have gone into teaching if I hadn’t had a couple incredible music professors who mentored me and encouraged me to go this route. I think it takes a really special person to do what you do.” Louis and Harry lock eyes, and Harry can feel the butterflies awakening in his belly.

“Thanks. That means a lot,” Harry replies. “Now, for my next question, why did you insist on making me feel like I was imagining that you were wearing my clothes? Why the hell didn’t you just talk to me like a normal person?”

“Well, what would be the fun in that?” Louis sounds so completely serious that Harry can’t help but giggle.

“Don’t you have anyone in your life you can torture, instead of random strangers? Isn’t that what siblings are for?” he inquires with a cheeky smirk of his own.

Louis shrugs. “Mum told me if I ruined this holiday with me usual pranks, I wouldn’t be invited to Christmas for the next five years. My best friends, Liam and Zayn, they work with me, they’re immune to my jokes at this point. And...well, uh…” For the first time all week, Louis actually looks nervous and somber. “I haven’t been in a relationship in a year or so. My last boyfriend...Dominic...he left me for a guy he worked with.” Louis looks physically pained to get those words out. Harry can tell it’s still a rather raw wound for him. Not knowing what else to do, he moves closer to him and rubs his back gently. Louis smiles sweetly and asks, “What about you? Are you…um...in a relationship?”

Harry stops rubbing Louis’ back and begins anxiously twiddling his thumbs. “Oh, I, um, I only came out a couple years ago. I was involved for, like, three months with a guy who lived in my building right after I came out - his name was Alex - but it turned out that what…” Harry can feel the words getting caught in his throat, but he wants to be as vulnerable as Louis just was, so he forces himself to continue. “What I thought was a good thing really wasn’t. I appreciate him, because he helped me accept who I am after spending my whole life fighting the reality that I’m gay, but it turned out to be a really unhealthy relationship.” He stares at his lap as Louis closes the distance between them on the bed.

“Hey, hey, look at me,” he orders as he grabs Harry’s hands. “I know we just met a couple days ago, but I can promise you that that you’re gonna find somebody great.”

“How do you know that?” Harry retorts.

“Because I just met you, and I already know that you’re incredibly kind and patient. If I were in your shoes and someone was doing to me what I’ve been doing to you all week, I would have punched them already. I know that you love your family. I saw you walking out of the dining room Tuesday morning taking care of your sister when she was stressed out. I know that you’re selfless; you devote your life to kids, and you get paid terribly for it. I know that you love to have fun; messing about in the pool with you yesterday was honestly the most fun I’ve had in ages. If I can realise all of this in just a few days, I can’t imagine what it will be like for the guy who has the chance to spend his time falling deeply in love with you,” Louis says like he’s been keeping a running “Reasons Why Harry Is Amazing” list in his head since the first time they laid eyes on each other.

Louis reaches one hand up to caress Harry’s cheek, and Harry leans into it like a kitten. “Thank you, that was very sweet of you,” he answers as he smiles sweetly. “Can I be honest now?”

Louis nods, letting go of Harry’s cheek, and sits up straight, but he holds on gently to both of Harry’s hands. Harry bites his bottom lip as he thinks about his next words carefully. “You’ve absolutely driven me mad this week, no question, yet I’ve wanted to kiss you like crazy more than anything,” he admits. He feels his cheeks flush, but he continues, “It’s like you’ve got a fucking spell on me. I can’t stay mad at you because all I can think about is wanting to know what your mouth tastes like.”

“Well,” Louis’s lips purse as he holds in the grin that is threatening to burst at the seams of his lips, “you have my full permission to find out....if you still want to, that is.” His eyes widen as he looks at Harry expectantly. They aren’t as bright as they were at the pool yesterday; instead of an ocean blue, they look darker and more hypnotic. His eyelashes flutter gently against his slightly pink, sunkissed cheeks, and that’s all the invitation Harry needs.

All Harry manages to get out is, “Oh believe me, I want to,” before he pulls Louis into him to connect their lips. Harry can taste a hint of peppermint lip balm as he falls backward into the pillowy cushion of the mattress, and he gets lost in the otherworldly feeling that washes over him. The kiss makes him feel like he’s floating on clouds above the room, watching everything happen, because it seems so unbelievable that Harry is here, right now, with a man like this. Louis instinctively moves to straddle him, their lips never separating until Harry snaps out of his fog says, “Wait, wait,” and moves Louis long enough to slide up the bed and rest against the headboard.

Louis follows him and resumes his position in Harry’s lap, his lips finding their natural place back on Harry’s. Their kiss starts out a bit forceful and desperate, like they’re finally finding water in a desert, but they soon slow down to a smooth but still hungry rhythm as their tongues slip into each other’s mouths.

Harry begins to kiss along Louis’ collarbone, right along a tattoo he thinks reads “It Is What It Is” when he hears him softly ask, “Can I take off your shirt?”

“Only if I can take yours off, too,” he says, not stopping his trail of kisses until he feels Louis pull at the hem of his shirt. He lifts his arms so Louis can remove the tight fabric before quickly slipping Louis’ t-shirt off, too. He expects to return to his mission of marking up Louis’ collarbone, but instead, Louis pushes him gently down into the mountain of pillows.

Holy fuck, your abs,” he says breathlessly as he kisses just above Harry’s navel.

The touch of his warm lips against Harry’s cool skin sends shivers up Harry’s spine. Louis kisses his way straight up the massive butterfly tattoo on his abdomen, and Harry runs his fingers through the soft fringe getting sweaty on his forehead. He can feel his cock beginning to get hard in his jeans, and he thinks he feels the start of Louis’ erection rubbing against his leg, too. This feels so good. It feels right. Harry didn’t know being with someone could feel this right.

Louis makes it all the way up Harry’s torso. He kisses him softly and whispers, “You’re so damn beautiful. I don’t think you’ve heard that enough.” He glides his fingers through Harry’s shoulder-length chocolate curls and says it again between kisses. “You’re,” kiss, “so,” kiss, “damn,” kiss, “beautiful.” Kiss.

One look in each other’s eyes and they return to the passionate kisses they began with. Harry’s definitely hard now. He can feel his cock starting to throb, aching for release, but he only has the ability to focus on one thing, and that’s the beautiful man who is kissing him like his tongue is his life support, like he needs Harry’s mouth on his in order to keep breathing. Harry is certain that if there is a heaven, it can’t be as good as where he is right now.

“Can I suck you off?” Louis says. Harry nods instinctively, but as Louis reaches for the button on his jeans, he snaps out of it and realises what he just agreed to.

“No, no, wait!” he exclaims, pushing Louis back as gently as possible.

Louis looks up, eyes wide with worry. “What’s the matter? Did I do something? I thought you nodded, I’m sorry.”

Harry shakes his head and explains, “No, it’s not you. I did nod, I was just so caught up in the moment that I just, I realised that I’m not ready for that just yet. I’m not a one-night stand kind of guy. Never have been. I hope you can understand that.”

Guilt floods Louis’ face. “Oh shit, I’m sorry. I’m an idiot. I went too fast. I’m sorry, I got caught up in the moment, too,” Louis apologises.

“No, no, you’re not an idiot. It’s fine. Thank you for understanding. But uh, I do...” Harry looks down at his tented jeans, “I do really need to have a wank. I think my cock is going to explode. You can have one, too, and we can, uh, watch each other...if you want.”

Louis smiles and replies, “Yeah, I’d love that, except -” He leans up on his knees far enough for Harry to see the wet spot in the crotch of his jeans. Harry’s a little amazed and very flattered that Louis came just from making out with him. “You can definitely go ahead and have a wank, though. I like watching,” he says.

Harry sits up to lean against the headboard, unzips his jeans, and can immediately feel a bit of relief. As soon as he pulls his jeans and pants down under his bum, his cock pops out, desperate for attention, already leaking precome. He gives one hand a quick swipe with his tongue and grips the base of his dick, sliding slowly up and down as his other hand teases his balls gently. He looks quickly over at Louis, who is sitting facing him, and Louis gives him a small smile and nod before he closes his eyes and sinks into the moment. His strokes gradually pick up speed, and it’s only a minute or so before Harry feels the heat in his belly that tells him he’s close. He begins to frantically tug his cock, desperate to hit release and find relief. Not long after, he feels the tightness and electricity spread from his stomach down to his toes and all the way up his spine as streaks of milky white come shoot up his chest. He strokes himself through the aftershocks until his body relaxes and he lets go.

Louis crawls off the bed and tells him sweetly, “I’m gonna get you a cloth to clean up.” He soon comes back with a warm washcloth and gently helps Harry clean the mess off his chest.

After resting for a couple of minutes, Harry reluctantly pulls up his pants and jeans, zips them up, and moves to grab his shirt and shoes.

“Wait,” Louis calls softly before fully realizing what he’s doing. Without saying a word, Harry turns and looks at him. Louis bites the inside of his cheek and asks, “Would you...maybe want to...stay?”

Harry gives him a huge smile and immediately crawls back up onto the bed. “Honestly, I was hoping you’d ask,” he tells him.

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah.” He gives Louis a peck on the lips before pulling his jeans back off. “I really was.” Harry slides down under the duvet and turns on his side facing the edge of the bed. Just as he closes his eyes, he feels Louis climb in behind him and wrap an arm around his waist.

“This okay?” Louis checks.

“Yeah. Feels nice,” Harry says as he rests his arm on Louis’. Louis places a soft kiss to Harry’s head. Harry’s last thought before he drifts off to sleep is that he could get used to this feeling. It feels like home. He hasn’t felt that in a long time.

Friday, June 12

Louis tells his mum he has a headache so he can skip breakfast, but he promises he’ll meet everyone for lunch, so he isn’t expecting to wake up until the late alarm he set. Instead, an angelic voice coming from the bathroom is enough to bring him out of his slumber.

Harry. He’d spent the night with Harry. Harry is in his bathroom singing. And he’s good, really good. Louis sits up and reclines against the pillows, basking in the sweet sounds.

How would you feel if I told you I loved you?

It’s just something that I want to do.

I’ll be taking my time, spending my life

Falling deeper in love with you.

So tell me that you love me, too.

A few minutes later, Harry exits the bathroom, drying his curls with a towel. “Oh, you’re awake! I’m sorry, I woke you! Shit. I hope you don’t mind I took a shower here. I have to meet my family soon and didn’t want to risk going downstairs in my same clothes from yesterday and having to answer questions,” he says nervously.

“Harry, it’s fine. Why didn’t you tell me you could sing?” Louis cocks an eyebrow at him.

Harry instantly blushes and looks away. “I don’t know,” he tells him. “I’m not that good. I just sing around the house and stuff. It’s not like I do it in public or anything. I’m sure you’ve heard a lot better in your line of work.” Harry tends to ramble when he gets uncomfortable, and Louis can tell no one’s ever told him he has a talent for this before. He wonders how many people have even heard Harry sing before.

Louis climbs off the bed and goes to Harry. Grabbing him by the waist and pulling him close, he looks him right in the eye and reassures him, “Babe, I do this for a living. I know when someone can sing. You’re fucking incredible.” Harry gives him a small smile. “If you’re up for it, I’m going to get you in a studio when we get back to LA. I’m headed straight there after this holiday ends. People need to hear you,” he promises.

Harry shrugs and answers, “I’ll think about it,” as he slips on his outfit for the day and zips up his suitcase. He turns back to Louis and says, “I’m gonna be crazy busy with rehearsal stuff all day, but I’ll text you, okay?”

“Okay, sounds good. Maybe we can meet up tonight after the dinner?” Louis asks.

“Definitely. I’ll see you soon.” Harry leans in and gives him a quick peck before heading out the door.

Texting Louis is the only thing that keeps Harry calm while dealing with Gemma’s insanity. He’s being extra nice since it is the day before her wedding, after all, but she’s annoying him to no end, and he has to let it out somewhere.

Harry (11:03): She’s trying on her dress again. As if she or it would have magically changed sizes since last week. Or someone would be able to do something about it by tomorrow.

Louis (11:06): What? This place doesn’t have an on-call seamstress? I’m shocked. 3 stars.

Harry (11:07): Why do I have to be here for this? She has bridesmaids.

Louis (11:08): Hush and be a good brother.

Harry (12:35): Now, she will barely eat lunch. I thought brides were supposed to be this obnoxious on the actual day of the wedding, not the day before.

Louis (12:36): I’m pretty sure it runs in the family, as far as I can tell.

Harry (12:38): Rude.

Louis (12:40): :*

Harry (14:49): She’s now arguing with my mum about whether or not we should all have to wear our suits and dresses for the rehearsal.

Louis (14:52): Wtf why?

Harry (14:53): Who the hell knows. I quit trying to understand her years ago.

Harry (16:30): Mum won the argument. Thank god. That suit is uncomfortable as shit. I don’t want to wear it more than once.

Louis (16:34): I bet you look gorgeous in it, though. :)

Harry (16:36): Of course I do.

Louis (16:38): Oh lord.

Harry (16:39): I’ll let you see for yourself tomorrow. ;)

Louis (16:40): Yes please!

Harry (18:17): Omg this is boring. Listening to my sister and the pastor tell us the most obvious shit! I get it. Walk in. The rest of us stand there. Smile. Vows. Rings. Tears. Walk out. Boom. Done. Can I go now?

Louis (18:19): Hahahaha. The pain is almost over. Deep breaths.

Harry (18:20): I’m hungry. There’s good food waiting. I want it.

Louis (18:22): Geez, are you six?

Harry (18:23): Sometimes. Gotta go. Gemma’s about to come yell at me for not paying attention.

Gemma and Caleb had chosen to have their rehearsal dinner in the main courtyard for some reason that Harry does not understand, so all the guests are wearing coats to fight off the cool evening breeze. Harry has on a black button down, black trousers, and gold boots with his long leopard-print coat and a flower beanie. Gemma isn’t too pleased - she wanted him more dressed up - but she lets him off because, well, Harry can charm anyone when he needs to, even Gemma.

One of the perks of getting an actual top-of-the-line chef for a brother-in-law is that Harry never has to worry about eating well when he’s around, especially not at special occasions. They have choices of duck à l’Orange, Beef Wellington, truffle oil risotto, rosemary asparagus wrapped in bacon, roasted artichoke with chipotle aioli, roasted garlic and herb potatoes, white chocolate raspberry cheesecake, and individual chocolate lava cakes for dinner. Harry wants to take a bath in the delicious smells that wash over him.

He stuffs himself to the limit and listens to Gemma and Caleb’s maid of honor and best man talk, praying that he digests some before he gets up to deliver his ode to his sister. When it’s his turn, he grabs hold of the microphone, and Anne, seated between him and Gemma, gives him a stern look that clearly says, “Behave yourself.” He steps in front of the head table and takes a deep breath.

“Hi, I’m Harry,” he starts, giving a small wave with his free hand. “Most of you already know me, but for those who don’t, I’m Gemma’s younger brother. I thought a long time about what I was going to say in this speech, and words failed me, which if you ask my family, they’ll tell you almost never happens. I could tell you the story about the time Gem locked me out of the house when I was seven because I was getting on her nerves. How about that?” The group laughs. “No, that would be mean. My mum might kill me, and Gem might bring me back to life just to kill me again. Hmm...I could tell you about the time I tried to punch one of her ex-boyfriends when I was thirteen for breaking up with her. He was a football player and about fifteen centimetres taller than me. It didn’t work out so well.” More laughter. “What can I say? I’m a very protective brother.” He turns around and looks right at Caleb. “You hear that, mister? You may have the knives, but I have massive amounts of love and loyalty running through my veins.” He watches as Gemma rolls her eyes and kisses Caleb on the cheek, then turns back around. “No, instead, I’m gonna tell you what Gemma did for me when I came out as gay to my family.”

He takes a deep breath to relax. He hasn’t told this story to many people, and it’s a bit nerve-wracking to do it in front of a group. “Two years ago, that was the last time I was able to come home to visit. Mum was having a big dinner for everyone to celebrate, and that night after the meal, I was up in my old room. I’d met this guy back home in LA that I really liked. He was the one who helped me accept who I was after spending my whole life trying to fight it. I’d decided I was going to tell my family on that trip, but I just didn’t know how. Well, Gemma found me in my room that night, and I was pretty much on the verge of a panic attack. She started trying to talk me down from it, and I basically just shouted ‘Gems, I’m gay!’ and started sobbing in her lap. She just sat and rubbed my back until I stopped. I told her that I didn’t mean to tell her like that, and that I didn’t know how I was going to tell Mum, Robin, or Dad. She hugged me, told me that she loved me and it was okay, and that she wouldn’t say a word until I was ready. The next morning, I woke up, and there was a small rainbow flag tucked underneath my pillow with a note that said ‘Don’t be afraid. You’re perfect and loved as you are, even if you’re not ready to share it with the world yet. Thank you for telling me. I’m here, always. Love, Gem’ And she sat next to me and held my hand as I told my parents.”

Harry turns sideways so he can glance at Gemma; he can see her dabbing at her eyes. He continues, “I still have that flag pinned up in my bedroom in LA. She was my first, best, and truest friend. No matter what I was going through, or what I needed, she was there. When I moved 8000 miles away and was terrified and homesick, she Skyped me every morning before she left for the hospital, and usually even on her days off.” He can feel himself having to choke back tears now. “So much of who I am today is because of her. She is kind, generous, compassionate, selfless, and even more beautiful on the inside than she is on the outside. Caleb, you’ve got a real gem here. Pun completely intended.” He has to pause for raucous laughter, and he’s pretty proud of himself for fitting that in. “I love you both, and I’m so happy for you. Congratulations.”

As the group applauds, Gemma gets up and runs around the table. She nearly falls into his arms, and the thump of her hitting his chest echoes into the microphone. “I love you so much,” she whispers through tears. “I’m so proud of you. Never forget that.”

He gives her a kiss on her temple and whispers back, “I know, sis. I love you, too.”

They go back to their table hand in hand, and as soon as Harry sits down, Anne leans over and pats his leg. “That was beautiful, love. Good job.”

“Thanks, Mum.”

A little while later, someone Harry doesn’t know is in the middle of a speech, and he feels a buzz in his pocket. He pulls out his phone as discreetly as possible.

Louis (21:05): Turn around. :)

Harry does, and in the doorway, he sees Louis standing there holding a large bundle. “I’ll be right back,” he tells Anne quietly. Heading to where Louis stands, he soon sees that he has a bouquet of two dozen red roses in his arms. “What is this?” he asks, bewildered.

“I wanted to do something to apologise for stealing your clothes...and I maybe also wanted to show you that you’re worth wooing properly,” Louis explains, looking at him earnestly.

Words fail Harry once again as blush fills his face from a mix of total endearment and shock, so instead of trying to speak, he just pulls Louis to him and dips him back into a deep kiss. When he stands them both back up straight, he smiles and asks, “Are you free for the night?”

Louis confirms, “Yeah, yeah, Mum and Dan just put Doris and Ernest to bed, and my other sisters all went to the cinema.”

“Great. Well, take these up to your room. I’ll come up as soon as I’m done.” He gives Louis a peck on the lips before heading back out to the dinner.

As he passes Gemma’s chair, she pulls his arm, so he stops and leans down to her level. “What is going on? Who was that?” she questions.

Harry looks back at the now empty doorway and smiles before answering, “I don’t know quite yet. But I like him.”

Finally, just after ten o’clock, the party dies down enough that he convinces Gemma and Anne to let him go. He tells them it’s just because he’s exhausted (which he kind of is), and Gemma wants everyone to be well-rested for tomorrow, so it doesn’t take much persuading. His heart feels like it’s pounding out of his chest as he makes his way up to the ninth floor and knocks on Louis’ door.

Louis opens the door and barely gets out a “hey” before Harry crashes their lips together and slams it shut. He slides his fingers through Harry’s curls and sucks hard on his bottom lip. When Harry finally pulls back, with wide eyes he asks, “What was that for?”

Harry sits on the bed and begins taking off his boots as he tells him, “For the flowers. For already wanting to make me feel special. For being you. Isn’t that enough?” He pulls off his beanie and drops it on the floor by his boots and coat. “C’mere.” He waves Louis towards him as he crawls up the bed and collapses on the pillows on his side. Louis quickly joins him, facing him so his head rests on Harry’s shoulder and their legs become entangled. “Is it weird to say that I missed you today?”

“If it is, I’m weird, too, because I also missed you,” Louis responds. This gets him a big smile and a forehead kiss from Harry. “After last night, and getting to wake up with you here, everything just feels better when you’re around, it’s weird. It’s like there’s more peace in my life.”

“Funny. I was going to say the same thing,” Harry tells him.

They lay in silence for a few minutes, just enjoying the comfort of getting to hold each other, until suddenly, Harry separates himself from Louis and flings himself onto his back. “Can I be honest?” He sounds exasperated.

Louis leans up on one elbow and looks at him, concerned. “Of course you can. What’s up?”

Harry bites his lip before blurting out, “This is kind of freaking me out.”

“What is?”

“This. Us.”

“What? Why? I thought everything was good. We were just laying here,” Louis asks, with a clear tone of panic in his voice.

Harry quickly sits up and turns toward him. “No, no! It is good,” he promises. “That’s the thing. It seems too good to be real. I just met you three days ago. I just had my first real conversation with you yesterday. Somehow, though, I already feel this connection with you that I haven’t felt with anybody else. And it’s scary. I know you’re not my ex, but what he did still feels fresh in my head, even now, and I just can’t reconcile the fact that I want to be so vulnerable with someone I just met when someone I thought I knew well burned me so badly.” He drops his head into his hands, ashamed and scared of disappointing the wonderful man in front of him.

“Hey, hey, c’mere,” Louis says, scooting closer to him on the bed. He holds him for a minute as Harry rests his head on his shoulder, and when Harry sits back up, he touches his cheek gently but with intention. “Listen. I get it. This is weird. I didn’t spend the night with Dominic for almost three months after we started dating, but falling asleep with you in my arms last night felt like the most natural thing in the world. It is scary to trust somebody again when you’ve been hurt before, but I’m not Alex, and you’re not Dominic, right?”

“Right,” Harry agrees.

“Okay, so I can tell you I’m not perfect. I’m not a perfect person, and I’m definitely not a perfect boyfriend. But I do feel a connection with you that tells me I want to know you better, that I don’t want the end of this week to mean the end of our time together. Is that what you want?” Louis asks, sounding already pretty certain of the answer.

Harry leans up on his knees, wraps his hand around the back of Louis’ head, and gives him a gentle kiss. “Absolutely,” he answers, before sitting back down.

Louis grabs one of his hands and plants a kiss on it. “So we’ll take it one day at a time, yeah? I don’t think any of what has happened this week was a coincidence, and I’ve learned you should pay attention to Fate when she intervenes.”

“I wholeheartedly agree,” Harry says as they lay back down on the bed. He moves his arm for Louis to rest his head on his chest. “Thank you.”

“You thank me too much. Stop it,” Louis teasingly chastises as he looks up at him.

Harry gives him a kiss and explains, “I can’t help it. It’s what I do when I feel this lucky.”

The pair stay on the bed for hours, asking every question they can think of. It’s as though their hearts are desperate to learn everything there is to know about each other. It isn’t until almost two in the morning when Harry admits he has to get some sleep in order to be prepared for Gemma’s big day that they get ready for bed, easily falling into the same position as the night before - Louis spooning Harry, Harry resting his arm on Louis’, both cocooned in complete peace.

Saturday, June 13

Harry leaves Louis’ room at half-seven this morning. He’s supposed to meet Gemma, his mum, his dad, and Robin for a family breakfast at nine, but he knows Gemma, and he fully expects her to be banging on his door by quarter past eight. He couldn’t sleep last night, anyway. His big sister is getting married today; he may or may not be a little emotional about it.

He is nearly spot on with his guess. At 8:20, the knocks start. “Harryyyyyy,” Gemma cries through the door. “Please tell me you’re here and awake!”

He hops out of his bed and goes to let her in the room. “Why wouldn’t I be here?” he asks nervously, wondering just how much she knows.

“I don’t know. You tell me, mister. I came to talk to you last night after everyone left the rehearsal dinner, and you weren’t here. Did it have something to do with that man you were talking to in the doorway?” Gemma looks at him suspiciously.

“Yeah, it did,” he answers as he looks away. He’s a terrible liar, and Gemma knows him too well, so he figures he might as well just come out with the truth. He doesn’t feel like getting into details, though, so he diverts her attention to much more important news. “But hey! Let’s not talk about that right now! You’re getting married today!”

Gemma smiles so wide she could almost light up a room. “I know!” she squeals, jumping up and down several times as she grabs on to Harry.

Harry pulls her close and gives her a gentle kiss on the forehead. “Let me get a shower and wash up, okay? You want me smelling nice and fresh for the wedding, don’t you?” he teases.

“Ha!” Gemma laughs. “Of course I do. Alright, I’ll go.”

“Where should I meet you for breakfast?” he asks as she heads toward the door.

She stops, turns around, and answers, “I stayed in our room last night, and Caleb stayed with one of the boys, so just meet us in the hall and we’ll walk down together, yeah?” She points a finger at him. “Nine on the dot. You better not be late.” Gemma gets her serious voice from her mother. It makes Harry laugh inside every time.

“Yes, yes, of course, don’t worry! I wouldn’t do anything to mess up your perfect day. Now, go, unless you want to see me strip naked,” Harry orders, moving to pull his shirt off as a joke.

“I’m gone!”

As soon as the door shuts, Harry heads for the bathroom to turn the shower on. Thirty minutes later, he’s dressed, smelling fresh and clean, and surprisingly awake for having about four hours total of sleep.

The bridesmaids and groomsmen are all having breakfast with Caleb in a separate room from the Styles-Twist family, because he and Gemma made a pact not to see each other on the big day until she walks down the aisle and Gemma wants some time with just her family before she starts getting ready. Caleb’s parents passed away five years ago, so the group wants to make him feel extra special and surrounded with love today.

“Gemma, you have to eat something,” Des insists as they sit around their breakfast table.

She scratches at her forehead anxiously. “I want to, but I already feel like I’m going to throw up.” She digs her phone out of her pocket and begins texting furiously. “Plus, I keep thinking of a million things I need to check with Morgan about.”

Anne reaches over and grabs her arm. “Darling, she’s your wedding planner, and she’s been phenomenal throughout this whole process. I’m sure she’s got everything under control. You need to eat. You don’t want to get faint in the middle of the day, do you?” she asks knowingly.

“No,” Gemma sighs. “I don’t.”

“I can imagine it now. You standing up there in your dress, in the middle of your vows, and all of a sudden, ah!” Harry throws the back of his hand to his forehead and pretends to collapse dramatically.

“Not. Helpful. Harry,” Anne tells him sternly.

“Sorry, just trying to lighten the mood.” Harry shrugs and goes back to his breakfast. Gemma may not want to eat, but he definitely does. He’s going to need plenty of nourishment to get through this day.

Between Anne, Robin, and Des, they finally convince Gemma to eat some toast and eggs and to drink some orange juice, but that takes up practically all the time they have together before Gemma’s bridesmaids show up to take her and Anne off to the ladies’ dressing room. Harry follows them, wandering down the hallway past their room until he finds the room where Caleb and his seven other groomsmen are getting ready.

It’s eleven o’clock now. The ceremony is due to start at two. The men don’t take more than half an hour to get their suits on, so the photographer decides to get the photos of just them taken care of while they have time to spare. Afterwards, they all sit around in the room chatting, but seeing as Caleb is the only person there that Harry knows, he feels quite left out of the conversation. Caleb tries to include him when he can, but Harry is rather bored. He spends most of the time dreaming of Louis, wondering what he is doing at any given moment.

Around quarter past one, there’s a knock on the door. It opens, and there appears Poppy, one of Gemma’s close friends from nursing school. She’s already in her ankle-length royal blue dress, the color of which matches the men’s ties. “Sorry, boys,” she says. “Harry? Gemma wants to see you.”

Harry gladly hops up from his chair and follows her to the girls’ prep room. Poppy lets him in but immediately goes in a side room and shuts the door. Harry sees bouquets of orange daisies with white daisy and blue delphinium accents spread around the room, surrounded by piles of hair and makeup products, but his eyes are immediately drawn to his stunning big sister, standing in front of a mirror in her wedding dress. He’s speechless.

Gemma smiles softly and says, “What do you think?”

“Gem...you look…” He tries to form words as they walk toward one another, but they just aren’t coming. He settles for kissing the side of her head on her hair, a loose updo with small curls framing her face, because he knows she won’t stand for him to mess up her makeup. “I don’t know what to say,” he tells her. “You look so beautiful.” He steps back so he can take it all in. Her strapless, mermaid-cut dress is the perfect fit, and it has a lace overlay that shines with just the right amount of crystals as to not be overbearing. There’s a small train in the back, too, which is exactly what Gemma wanted. He knows that he’s seen this dress before, and he’s seen it on her before, but there’s something about seeing her all dolled up and wearing it on her wedding day that makes him want to cry. He gets lost in the moment until he remembers that she had asked for him, so he straightens up. “What did you need me for? What can I do?” he questions, ready to do whatever it takes to give his sister the perfect day she deserves.

“Nothing, silly,” she laughs. She leads him over to a couple of chairs, and they sit facing each other. “I just wanted to talk to you for a minute without anyone else around, before all the craziness of today really begins. I’ve been thinking about that speech you gave last night, and I just want you to know how much it meant to me. You said I was your first, best, and truest friend, and I want to make sure you know that you were the same for me. My being married isn’t going to change that.” Harry grabs her hand and kisses it. “I know we’ve had our problems, but I really couldn’t ask for a better brother. You’ve always been there, always tried to protect me, always believed I’d be happy and successful one day even when I didn’t. No one will ever replace the relationship that we have, not even Caleb. You know that, right?” She looks at him earnestly, and he can tell she means every word.

He stands up and pulls her tight into a hug. “Of course I do, Gem,” he reassures her, kissing her on the head once more. He steps back to look her in the eye as he says, “And just so you know, if Caleb turns out not to be as good as you deserve - which is perfect, if you ask me - then I’ll kill him.” He puts on his most serious face in an attempt to sell the threat.

Gemma doubles over laughing. “Nice try, little brother. You can’t kill a spider, so I highly doubt you could kill another person.”

“Maybe.” Harry rolls his eyes. “But I’ll definitely want to, and I’ll make it known.”

“Fair enough,” Gemma replies as she straightens his tie and dusts off the shoulders of his jacket. “You know, you’re going to meet someone who’s perfect for you one day, too. I promise. You’re too good for someone not to love.”

Harry bites the inside of his cheek before telling her quietly, “I might already have.” Gemma doesn’t say anything, just looks at him waiting for an explanation. “Obviously, I can’t explain it all right now, seeing as you’re getting married in like half an hour, but that guy from last night?” Gemma nods. “He’s really something special.”

“Well, bring him to the reception, then,” Gemma answers nonchalantly. Harry gives her a look that says he’s not sure that’s a good idea, but she continues, saying “Don’t worry, you don’t have to introduce him or anything. I just want to see him with you for myself. Mmkay?”

Harry stutters, “Uhhh, umm, I…”

“You know, it’s bad luck to say no to a bride on her wedding day,” she teases.

“Alright, alright,” he concedes. “I’ll invite him. Can’t promise he’ll come, though. He’s got family here, too.”

“Okay, good. Now, go on, get back out. Mum, the girls, and I need to finish our last touches.” Gemma waves him toward the door with a smile on her face. “I love you, Harry.”

“Love you, too, Gem.” Harry leaves the room and immediately pulls his phone out of his pocket to text Louis as he walks back down the hall to the guys’ room.

Harry (13:28): Hey, you free this afternoon/evening?

Louis (13:29): I probably can be. Why do you ask?

Harry (13:29): My sis told me to invite you to the reception.

Louis (13:30): Uhh idk Harry. Meeting your family?

Harry (13:31): Yeah, I said the same thing. But she promised I didn’t have to introduce you or anything. And I’m sure she’ll tell my mum the same.

Louis (13:33): Uh okay. If you’re sure it’s what you want, I’m always down for a party.

Harry (13:34): :) Awesome. It’s in the Rose Ballroom. Starts at 4, but if you show up later, it’s no big deal.

Louis (13:35): K. I’ll talk to my mum and see what plans she’ll let me out of today. Talk soon xx

Harry (13:35): xx

At two o’clock sharp, Harry, Caleb, and the rest of the groomsmen walk in and take their places at the front of the Gold Ballroom. Even though he promised himself he wasn’t going to cry, he feels the tears well up in his eyes as soon as the processional song begins. (Gemma and Caleb chose Train’s “Marry Me” because they did actually meet in a cafe.) By the time Gemma makes her way down the aisle with Des and Robin on either side of her, there is a steady stream of tears running down his cheeks. Thankfully, he makes it through the ceremony without breaking out into a full-on cry, and he feels a huge sense of relief as he walks up the aisle out of the ballroom with Poppy on his arm. He checks his phone as Morgan shepherds the wedding party off for their pictures.

Louis (14:24): I won’t be able to get there until around 4:45/5:00, but I’ll be there. See you soon :) xx

This is enough to leave Harry smiling throughout the entire tedious picture-taking process, something that would normally bore him to death. He gets to spend more time with Louis; he’ll put up with just about anything for that.

When Harry and the wedding party get to the reception, the guests are standing around snacking on food from the buffet and chatting. There’s low music in the background from the DJ to accompany the afternoon until the party really gets started when Gemma and Caleb arrive. Harry is kind of hungry, but he mostly wants to sit and hide to avoid being bombarded by family he hasn’t seen in years. He knows they’re all going to ask a million questions about America and what he’s been up to, and half of them aren’t thrilled about the fact that he came out, and he just really wants Louis there so things feel less awkward.

He decides to sneak up to the buffet and try to get a plate when it’s mostly empty; there’s only a few people in line, and he doesn’t think he recognises any of them. It isn’t until he’s scooping a pile of coconut shrimp onto his plate that a hand suddenly grasps his shoulder.

“Harry!” a deep voice shouts directly into his ear, startling him enough that he drops the spoon. It rattles against the metal serving pan that’s keeping the food warm, and the shrimp go flying.

“Shit!” He jumps and turns to find some guy he doesn’t remember smiling at him like they’re longtime friends. “Uh...hi?”

“What, you don’t remember me? I’m Sammy! Your second cousin?” the man says, sounding a little offended.

Harry decides to play along, even though he has no recollection of this guy whatsoever. “Oh right, sorry. Hey...Sammy. I just didn’t recognise you. It’s been a while. How have you been?” he asks, reaching out a hand for Sammy to shake.

Instead, Sammy pulls him into a hug so suddenly and forcefully that Harry nearly smashes his plate of food between them. “I’m great, mate!” Sammy announces jovially. “I’m so happy to see you back here. It’s been, what, four or five years since we’ve seen each other? But I guess you weren’t gonna miss your sister’s wedding, huh? You’re out there in the good old U-S of A, right? How is it?”

“It’s great,” Harry mutters, looking away anxiously. “Just busy teaching.”

Sammy steps closer. “Teaching? What do you teach?” he asks.

Harry sighs and loosens the tie around his neck. “Kindergarten. Five and six-year-olds. But hey, listen, it was great to talk to you, but my mum should be coming in soon, and I really just need to sit down and eat. It’s been a long day.” He normally likes talking to people, but right now he’s just so tired, and Sammy is really making him feel uncomfortable.

“Oh alright, of course,” Sammy answers as he steps out of Harry’s way. “Go on, then. We’ll catch up before the night’s over, I’m sure.”

“Yeah, yeah, bye,” Harry says as he escapes the awkward conversation.

Thankfully, Harry is only noticed by a couple aunts and another cousin as he rests and eats his plate of hors d’oeuvres. Around 3:45, Anne comes in, and he points her to the buffet; she joins him after getting a plate of her own. They chat a little bit about the ceremony until their talk is interrupted with the scratching of a disc and the DJ tapping on his microphone.

“Alright, alright, alright, ladies and gentlemen,” he announces in his best DJ voice. “If I could have your attention, please, I would like to introduce you to the newly married couple making their first public appearance as husband and wife...Mr. and Mrs. Caleb and Gemma Harrington!!!” “Shut Up and Dance” begins playing on the speaker system, the doors to the ballroom are thrown open, and Gemma and Caleb come dancing in, hand-in-hand. Harry sees his sister, happier than she’s ever been, and he feels like his heart could burst with love and pride. “Now, let’s get this party started! Everybody, out on the dance floor!” the DJ commands.

Harry had made a promise long ago to Gemma that he would dance at her wedding instead of hiding and being a wallflower, so he swallows his last bite of food, downs a big gulp of water, and heads to the center of the room, where Gemma and Caleb are already having a blast. He keeps his phone in his pocket on vibrate, though, just so he knows when Louis is on his way. The good news about having promised to dance is that it helps pass the time and keep him from staring at his phone the entire time until Louis gets there. And for once, he doesn’t care if he looks like an idiot; he knows he’s always been a shit dancer, but this is a special day, and he’s going to have fun.

Later on, he’s sitting watching Gemma, Des, and Robin’s father-daughter dance (Gemma starts with Des, and then Robin takes over halfway through - they’re both her dads in her eyes) when he feels the notification he’s been waiting for.

Louis (16:38): Almost back to the resort with my fam. Gonna change, then I’ll be there. xx

Harry (16:39): Great. Can’t wait to see you. :) xx

Louis (16:40): Same, babe. :)

It’s while Gemma is throwing her bouquet to all the single girls in the room that he feels a light tap on his shoulder. He spins around in his chair to find the same shining blue eyes that drew him in on day one staring down at him.

“Hello, handsome,” Louis says. “Stand up so I can get a full look at you in that suit.”

Harry obeys him and then gives him a slow twirl. He cocks an eyebrow and asks, “What do you think?” knowing full well what his answer will be.

“You were right. You look fucking gorgeous.” Harry smiles proudly, and Louis leans up for a small kiss.

Harry grabs his hand and steps back to examine him. “You’re not so bad yourself, sir,” he reminds him, “even when you aren’t wearing my clothes.” He winks, and Louis looks away, obviously blushing, even in the poor lighting of the ballroom. He is wearing a tight-fitting purple jumper with a white collared shirt underneath, black jeans, and white and black espadrilles.

“Yeah, I tried to wear something nice. I didn’t exactly come prepared for a wedding,” Louis explains.

“You look great, babe,” Harry reassures him, pulling him close and wrapping an arm around his shoulder. “Don’t worry. Let’s just have some fun.” A quick kiss to his temple, and he drags Louis onto the dance floor, both of them laughing.

They get lost in the freedom of dancing like no one is watching, even though a lot of people are. Harry already told Louis about his more conservative family members last night, so it isn’t a surprise that they are getting some stares; the thing is...they just don’t care. They jump around and dance like crazy people to rock and pop songs and don’t pay attention to anyone but each other.

When Ed Sheeran’s “How Would You Feel” starts playing, Harry and Louis pull each other close and slowly sway together.

“I love this song,” Harry says with a smile.

“I know,” Louis tells him.

“How’s that?”

“Because it’s the song you were singing in my bathroom yesterday morning that woke me up.” The glimmer in Louis’ eyes tells Harry that he didn’t mind having his sleep interrupted at all.

“Oh, yeah,” Harry answers, smiling fondly and blushing at the memory.

“You wanna know a secret?” Louis whispers in his ear.

Harry whispers back, “Sure. What?”

“I like it better when you sing it.” Louis kisses his cheek and rests his head on his shoulder until the song finishes.

Afterwards, they decide to take a break for some refreshments. All the dancing plus all the body heat in the room has them both overheated and out of breath. Once they get their food and drinks, they find two empty chairs to fall into and begin munching away in silence.

“Oh, Harry, there you are!” Gemma’s voice interrupts their peaceful meal, and Harry looks up to find her walking directly toward them. He almost chokes on the petit four in his mouth.

“I’ve been looking everywhere for you,” she says as she reaches the two of them. Then, she turns to Louis with a smirk and says, “This is Louis, I’m assuming? Hello, I’m Gemma, Harry’s sister.”

Harry stands up and grabs her as gently as possible by the shoulder. Through gritted teeth, he says, “Gem, you promised I wouldn’t have to introduce you.”

Gemma looks over her shoulder at him and shrugs. “So, I lied. And remember, I’m the bride. It’s my day. I get what I want.”

Louis wipes his hands on his napkin and stands up. “Harry, it’s fine,” Louis reassures him. He turns to Gemma and puts on his charming smile that Harry loves, saying, “Gemma, yes, I’m Louis. It’s so lovely to meet you. Congratulations on your marriage. Thank you so much for inviting me today.” He extends his arm out and shakes Gemma’s hand. “You look beautiful.”

Harry sighs. This is one of the reasons he’s falling for him; the man can turn on the charm whenever he needs.

“Thank you, Louis,” she responds a bit dazed, already caught in Louis’ spell. “It’s a pleasure to meet you. Anyone who is special to my brother is important to me, so I’m happy to have you.” Ever the wonderful hostess, this one. She gets it from Anne.

Harry touches Gemma’s shoulder again. “Uh, Gem? You said you had been looking for me. Did you need something?” he asks, trying desperately to divert this conversation away from the fact that Gemma just told Louis he is special to him.

Gemma shrugs again and replies, “I just wanted to make sure you are having a good time. Are you having a good time, Harry?” She stares at him with a knowing look and a shit-eating grin.

Any other day, Harry would tickle her until she cries from laughter, but today, he just has to take it. “Yes, sis. I’m having a wonderful time,” he calmly assures her.

“Good. Glad to hear it. Then, we’ll talk soon. It was nice to meet you, Louis,” she says as she smirks and walks back toward the center of the room.

Harry drops his head onto the table for a few seconds and groans before sitting up and telling Louis, “I’m really sorry about that. I should have known she was lying.”

“No worries, Harry. She was nice. Although I might tell anyone else who asks that I’m an old childhood friend.”

“Sounds like a good plan to me,” Harry agrees.

The rest of the evening goes fairly smoothly, with only a few more family members and friends trying to find out exactly who Louis is. They accept his “childhood friend” story, though, mostly with ease, but Harry sighs when 8:00 comes around and the guests do the confetti send-off for Gemma and Caleb. (Even though they’re only going upstairs to the honeymoon suite, they still wanted something special for an exit.) This signals the official ending of the reception, and everyone but Gemma’s immediate family and some of the wedding party has left.

“I’ve gotta go upstairs for a bit. Doris and Ernie asked me this afternoon if I’d do something special with them before bedtime tonight,” Louis explains to Harry as they clean up the table they had been sitting at. The resort staff will clean the ballroom itself, but they’re supposed to at least get all the rubbish in the provided bins.

“Alright, I’m gonna stay here and help get everything sorted and cleaned up. Who knew one hundred and fifty people could make such a mess?” Harry jokes.

Louis barks a laugh before giving him a hug. “Text me when you’re done here?” he asks. “I’ll let you know if I’m back in my room or not.”

“Okay, will do. See you later.” Harry gives him a peck on the lips and watches him leave before getting back to work.

It takes much longer than Harry thought it would to get everything in order to Anne’s liking, so it isn’t until almost 10:30 that he is upstairs climbing onto Louis’ bed to cuddle with him. He’s just in his partially unbuttoned dress shirt and pants now, having abandoned the jacket, vest, and tie hours ago.

“I can’t believe I have to leave tomorrow,” Harry says with a deep sigh. He pulls Louis tighter into his chest and kisses the top of his head.

Louis runs his free hand up and down Harry’s torso. “Yeah, I know. But this isn’t the end. I’m sure of that,” he reminds him.

Harry asks hesitantly, “What’s next, though?”

“What do you mean?” Louis’ brow furrows as he pushes himself back to get a better look at Harry.

Harry turns onto his side and puts one arm under his head. “What happens when we both go back to LA? You’re constantly traveling between there and London, and you’re so busy with work, and I don’t want to get in the way of that, ever. I teach in Manhattan Beach and can’t go anywhere during the school year except Christmas break, and maybe Thanksgiving break. How is this going to work? I’d hate myself if I stood in the way of your career.” He bites his lip and turns his head to the side; he doesn’t want to sound like an idiot, but he really is worried and kind of anxious.

Louis turns Harry’s head back toward him. “Hey. Hey, now. Look at me,” he says gently. Harry does. “Here’s what I believe. I believe that when you really want something, you fight for it. I don’t care if I have to build a whole new studio in Manhattan Beach; if you’re in this, too, I will do whatever I have to in order to be there and make this work. You are something special, Harry Styles, and I’m not gonna let you go without giving this a fighting chance.”

Harry pushes Louis onto his back and leans over him. Looking him right in the eye with as much determination as he can muster, he promises, “You, Louis Tomlinson, are pretty damn special, too. And I’m gonna do my best to make sure you never forget that.” He lays on Louis’ chest before kissing him slowly and softly. There’s no desperation, no sense of urgency or force, just a sense of familiarity and comfort and ease, like their lips met each other long before they ever did.

A minute or so later, Harry pushes off of Louis and curls up next to him. He reaches out his hand, and Louis holds it, their fingers intertwining on top of Louis’ chest. “What time is your flight tomorrow?” Louis questions, looking over at him.

Harry thinks for a minute before answering. “Uh, Gemma, Caleb, and I all have a flight to London at eleven. I think we’re leaving about eight.”

Louis turns onto his side to face Harry. “So let’s just enjoy every moment we have right now, okay?” he asks, smiling softly. “We can figure out the future later.”

Harry nods. He can’t figure out how he feels so at peace and like he’s watching a fireworks show at the same time whenever he looks at Louis, but he does. And he likes it.

“Yeah, okay,” Harry responds. “That sounds like a good idea to me.” He touches Louis’ cheek and kisses him gently, his eyelashes fluttering as he pulls away.

That night, before falling asleep with Louis in his arms, he thinks to himself, I think I’m gonna win this time.

Sunday, June 14

Harry reluctantly drags himself out of Louis’ bed at six. While he understands why his mum wants to take everyone to the airport herself, since they have no idea when they’ll be able to all be together again, it really would be nice to have an extra hour or two snuggling with the beautiful boy he has to leave behind. As he heads back down to his room for a shower and breakfast, he just keeps reminding himself that Louis is only here in St. Ives for another week with his family. Then he’s returning to LA, too, and then they can start to figure out what the future will look like for them.

He spoils himself for his last morning there and orders room service, which he manages to time perfectly to show up five minutes after he gets out of the shower. Bacon, eggs Benedict, breakfast potatoes, and fruit are enough to fill him up nicely for a while. He’ll stock up on some snacks for the flights at the airport.

He takes his time putting on a comfortable outfit of joggers, a t-shirt, and a light jacket. (If that jacket is meant to cover the fact that he’s wearing the Rolling Stones t-shirt that Louis was wearing earlier this week and still smells like him, well...no one has to know.) He gets down to the lobby at ten to eight and sees Gemma, Caleb, Anne, and Robin standing off to the side in a group with their bags; Des had to leave last night. He strolls up, dragging his two suitcases and his carry-on behind him.

“Oh, there you are!” Gemma exclaims. “I was afraid you were going to be late.”

Harry looks at her like that’s unfathomable. “Of course not, Gem. I have to get on the same flight that you do. And I’m pretty sure Mum here would cry if she didn’t get to take me to the airport.”

“Damn right, I would,” Anne says. “You’re my baby. I need to get every second with you that I can.”

Harry is about to say something else sarcastic when, in his peripheral vision, he spots Louis standing a couple metres away. His hair is ruffled and frizzy and sticking out in different directions, and he’s wearing plaid pajama pants, a loose white t-shirt, and sandals; it’s obvious he rushed down from his room in hopes of catching Harry before he leaves.

Without looking back to his family, he asks, “Can you give me a minute? I’ll be quick, I promise.” But he walks off before any of them can give him an answer.

He gets over to him, and Louis still has his hands in his pockets when he looks up at him and says, “You didn’t say goodbye.”

“I know,” Harry answers. “You were sleeping so peacefully, and I thought if I woke you up, I wouldn’t be able to leave.” He reaches his hands out, and Louis takes hold of them. “I’m sorry.”

Louis assures him, “It’s okay,” as he squeezes his hands and takes a step closer.

Harry bites the inside of his cheek and nervously tells him, “I need you to promise me that this isn’t the end.”

Louis pulls Harry down so his head rests on his shoulder and says softly, “Not a chance. I have to get a return on my investment on those flowers. Roses are expensive, you know.”

Harry cackles, still holding tightly onto him. He eventually stands up straight and matter-of-factly says, “You’re an idiot.”

“Yep.” Louis nods proudly. He gives Harry a quick kiss and insists, “Now go, or this time, I’m gonna end up hiding you away in my room instead of just your luggage.”

“Fine,” Harry sighs.

They kiss one last time, and it’s a kiss full of promise. Promise that this is not the end, promise for a future together, and for the first time, Harry’s able to put the questions aside. He knows he has found something special, and for him, that’s enough.

On the way to the airport, Harry is daydreaming of ocean blue eyes and sunkissed skin when his phone buzzes with a text.

It’s from Louis.

Louis (08:24): If I could fly, I’d be coming right back home to you. I miss you already. See you next week, babe. xx

Harry slides his phone back into his carry-on with a smile. A week feels like a long time to wait, but it’s nothing compared to forever.