“What is an angel if not a monster of some kind?” – Smoke by Dan Vyleta
A quiet night. A mist, falling over the town. And one small boy, wandering through the streets, wrapped in a silver haze.
The moon wasn’t out, and the sky had wrapped its inky blue self around that little boy’s window. The boy had slipped out of bed, followed the pulse that echoed through his whole being and settled in his blood, throbbing. His feet had been so light on the pavement; anyone who could see him would have thought he was floating. He was. There were wings that stretched out behind him, small and delicate, lacking the feathers that one would expect from an angel of death.
One could not deny, however, that this was exactly what the small boy was. Perhaps he was not fully grown into his own Grieving, but it was there, present, and it slowly unfurled as he flew down the street. He barely looked up as he went, his whole being too set on ridding his body of the throb in his blood.
When he reached the house with the lights on in the front window, he seemed to know precisely what he was doing, despite never before having done it. He let himself hover outside the second floor window for only a moment, before he pressed the latch and flew in, landing with grace on the carpeted floor.
The woman in the room who was laid in bed looked up, and yet the man who was kneeling by her bed head was unaware that there was another presence in the room. The man was muttering soft words to his wife, assuring her against the pain that was splayed across her face. For a moment, the boy faltered. And then a gasp left the woman’s lips, and her body trembled, and the boy was next to her, kneeling in the space directly beside her husband. The boy leaned forward, embracing the woman in his own silver haze, and the woman’s face opened completely. She recognised him.
“It’s okay. You and me, we’re going to go away.” Were the words the boy whispered.
The woman relaxed in the boy’s embrace, an easy acceptance in her expression. In that moment, the boy leaned forward and pressed his lips to hers, gathering her pain and her life force with it, removing it from her until she was nothing but peace and softness.
The moment it was done, the boy removed himself, let the woman’s lax body fall gently back against the mattress, and then took himself back to the window. He spared no glance for the husband still knelt by the woman’s side, nor did he notice the two small figures standing in the doorway to the bedroom.
He flew away, as quickly as he could, trying to take as much space as he could from the family before the grieving became him. When the sadness of the whole family finally did hit him, the boy dropped down onto the closest rooftop. His silver wings glinted in the moonlight as though the moon shared his grief, his protective haze slipping away as his small body shook with a pain and sadness he had not yet become accustomed too. He would grow to know it though, would learn to bear this grief like it was his own identity, and, with time, it would be his identity. For an angel of death cannot long remain anything other than itself.
Louis had been noticing this boy for at least three weeks at this point. He should probably go up to him, say something, anything that wasn’t him creepily watching him from across the room in their Classical Studies class, but Louis just couldn’t. He was too overcome by the boy’s curls and the way he spoke so slowly whenever he was answering a teacher’s question, as though everything he said required such a careful construction of words.
Add this to the fact that the boy was known for hardly speaking to anyone if he wasn’t in a class, and Louis was fairly certain he was happy to sit right here and just observe him for the rest of his life, thank you very much. Yes, no interactions were necessary at all. None. Louis was quite happy to silently pine away for a boy he had never had a conversation with. He was also completely content knowing nothing about the boy except that his name was Harry and that he must live somewhere in town. Yes, Louis was perfectly content never knowing anything more about him, and his curiosity was not going to get the better of him and make him do something stupid like approach the boy or-
“Care to venture an answer as to which god was responsible for this, Mr Tomlinson?” Said his classics teacher, and Louis whipped his head away from where he had been staring across the room at Harry.
“Um… Zeus?” Louis said, picking the only name he could pull up in the moment. His teacher sighed, and for a flicker of a moment Louis thought he saw a semblance of a smile appear on Harry’s face across the room. Was he… laughing at Louis? Ouch.
His teacher was giving him a very unimpressed look when he shifted his glance back to her. “If you had been paying attention in the slightest for any of this entire semester, Mr Tomlinson, you would be aware that we are currently studying the Roman’s mythology, in which case you would have referred to Zeus as Jupiter. Not only that, Mr Tomlinson, but if you were listening at all in this class, you would be aware that we are discussing the patriarchal lineage of Romulus and Remus, and the correct answer would have been Mars. Honestly, you may as well leave the class now and come back for the end of year exam, and we’ll get the same result.”
Louis turned red, and whilst he was relatively used to the cutting remarks of his classics teacher, he still managed to mutter a sheepish “Sorry.”
His teacher barely heard him though, already continuing a very long and very arduous story about the foundation of Rome. Or was it Italy as whole? Louis truly had no fucking clue. He’d joined this class on a whim, after having read Percy Jackson a few too many times as a young teenager, and now, well. Now he was regretting it. It wasn’t because he was no longer interested. It was just because there were simply so many facts to keep track of, so many names and dates that he simply could not care less about. It was the stories that intrigued Louis. The Odyssey, the Iliad, all of it. Hera and her golden sandals, the apple of discourse and Hades and Persephone’s myths. Stories of the underworld, angels, demons, and explanations of the world that no one believed any longer.
Louis wished he could believe them, partially wished he could turn back time so science couldn’t disprove every interesting religion that had ever existed. How wonderful it would be if Louis had full faith in the gods. How amazing it would be if Louis had spent his childhood being told stories that he continued to believe to be true even as he grew. Sadly, this wasn’t the case. And every class in which their teacher explicitly outlined the falsities of the mythology felt like the loss of a simpler world.
Louis had been concentrating so deeply on his thoughts he hardly realised he was staring, not until Harry abruptly shifted, right in front of Louis’ eyes, almost a flinch, and Louis blinked twice, adjusting his gaze to the floor. Had Harry noticed him staring? Had he flinched under Louis’ gaze? Louis wasn’t sure.
The class ended and all Louis' courage seemed to show its face at once as he packed his books up so quickly that Niall, who had been sat beside him watching YouTube videos on his laptop screen the whole class, didn’t have time to catch him. Instead, Louis was one of the first out the door, second only to Harry. Harry was always the first out of the classroom. Perhaps this was to avoid any social interaction, Louis considered for the first time. He dismissed the thought quickly, as he followed Harry down the corridor. The boy had long legs, and moved with an elegance Louis had never before seen on any other seventeen year old. Louis hardly managed to keep up, but he did, lengthening his strides in a way that made him look slightly ridiculous, but soon he was next to Harry, matching him stride for stride.
“Hey Harry.” Louis addressed him, and Harry looked towards him them as if only just noticing Louis beside him. His step faltered just slightly.
“Um, Hi?” Harry responded. His tone wasn’t unfriendly, but carried a heavy dose of confusion, as though he was partially unsure whether Louis was really talking to him rather than somebody else.
“Hello.” Louis responded cheerfully, a slight smile tugging at his lips. So Harry was as shy as he seemed. Louis didn’t say anything else for a moment, and then gave himself a metaphorical slap to the head. If he wanted to carry out a conversation, he had to have something of some substance to begin with. Right. Louis could totally do this. “What do you think the chances are that Mrs Elingsworth is even going to pass me in that class?” Louis asked, his eyes filled with mirth. He knew it was a dumb conversation starter, but he was trying, thank you very much.
Harry didn’t seem to hold his bad conversation techniques against him however. “Probably not, to tell the truth. I think it’s much more likely she’ll kick you out of the class, once and for all.” Harry said it quietly, like he was still unsure as to the motives behind Louis’ random conversation, but there was an attempt at humour in his answer, so he mustn’t have been too uncomfortable.
“Definitely an issue I’ll probably have to deal with in the future.” Louis said, nodding his head decidedly. “I just can’t keep up with all the dates and names.”
They had made it into the quad by this point, halfway to the cafeteria. “Well, maybe if you tried to pay some attention, you’d be okay.” Harry said lightly.
“Touché, it might be worth giving a shot.” Louis rearranged his books in his arms, shifting them so they came to rest against his hip. Louis watched as Harry’s eyes traced the movement for just a second. Interesting.
“I could- erm, I could give you some of my notes if you wanted? I noticed that you’re not much in the habit of taking notes yourself. They’re not much, but they might help?” Harry seemed cautious in his offering, but Louis smiled anyway.
“Really? You don’t have to; I’m perfectly okay being a lost cause.”
“Yeah, I’m happy to. I mean, better they help someone else as well rather than just me.”
“Okay then. I’d love that, thank you.” Louis assured Harry. “Are you coming to lunch?” He asked, and for a moment he thought he’d crossed the line between their delicate acquaintance they were forming there, because Harry stiffened slightly. But then Harry’s shoulders loosened again.
“No, not today.” Was all he answered with, and Louis thought he wouldn’t press it. He’d coerce Harry into coming to lunch with him another day. Enough progress had been made for that day.
“Okay. Well, I’ll see you around yeah?” Louis asked, as he settled his books down outside the cafeteria.
Harry carried on walking, calling a quiet “Yeah, see you in classics.” Over his shoulder.
Louis smiled to himself, because despite how reserved their conversation in hindsight had been, he had still talked to Harry, established something. And maybe he could improve upon it. He watched Harry walk away, watched that flawless gait and ease of movement until he disappeared behind the old art buildings. Louis had to tamp down on his curiosity about where Harry was going as he waited for Niall to catch up to him. The blonde boy was a good few metres behind Louis, and did not look overly happy to have been left behind.
The next day, Louis practically bounded into his classics class, eager to see Harry and attempt to begin a new conversation that day. But by the time he had settled into his seat next to Niall, and Mrs Elingsworth had begun her regular morning spiel, Harry had not arrived. His seat sat empty, and hardly anyone other than Louis seemed to notice.
Even when Mrs Elingsworth began taking attendance, murmuring a “Now, let’s see who we’re missing today”, no one had volunteered Harry’s name immediately. Instead, Mrs Elingsworth went through the names one by one until she reached the S’s and finally realised.
Harry, it seemed, had managed to cultivate an almost invisible presence within this school.
“Where d’you reckon he is?” Louis asked Niall once Mrs Elingsworth had given the class instructions to begin a task, leaning over to nudge him slightly with his elbow. Niall started and quickly hid the YouTube tab on his laptop screen. He then realised Louis had only been asking a question, and laid a hand flat across his own chest.
“Jesus Christ, Louis don’t do that. I thought Mrs Elingsworth was standing right behind me or somethin’.” Niall complained in an angry whisper. Louis just laughed quietly. “What’d you say?”
“I said, where do you think he is?”
“Who?” Niall asked, his forehead creased.
“Ohh. I dunno. He’s probs sick. Or wagging.” Niall said, and his disinterest of the subject was so blatant Louis couldn’t help but continue, if only to provoke Niall a little.
“I can’t imagine he would ditch, he doesn’t seem like the kind of person to just wag, do you think?” Louis continued.
“Probably. I don’t know, as if I even care.” Niall said, his agitation becoming clearer.
“But it’s weird, don’t you think? I mean, he seems like a person dedicated to his studies. Odd he would miss school.” Louis said, and at this point he was just reaching for something to continue to say, just so he could continue to rib Niall. He’d hit the sweet spot in that moment because Niall finally pulled out both his headphones, and answered Louis with a harsh whisper.
“Jesus christ, Louis, mate, I really could not care less. Find him on Facebook and send him a message and ask him for god’s sake, or stop talking about him. I don’t care which it is, but this constant nattering about your crush needs to stop until I at least finish watching this video.” Niall sounded desperate by the end of his small monologue, and Louis had to hold in a laugh. It was always fun to annoy Niall.
Satisfied, he leant back in his chair, and sat quietly for the rest of the lesson, his gaze every now and again coming to rest on the empty desk across the room.
It was that night, when he was sat at the dining room table with his whole family, that he first faltered into thinking that perhaps there was more to Harry’s back story than a little shyness. His mum was at the head of the table, discussing her last hospital shift with Dan, when he caught onto her words over the din his four sisters were making.
“She’s an odd one, that Anne Styles. She seems nice enough, but she doesn’t really have any friends here at all, and yet she doesn’t go out of her way to talk to people, to any of us at the hospital really. She just shows up, does her shift and goes home again. She hardly speaks to anyone unless she has to.” His mum was saying. Louis creased his forehead.
“Is that Harry Styles’ mum you’re talking about, Mum?” Louis asked, placing his cutlery down. Jay turned her head to Louis and nodded in agreeance.
“Yes. She’s got one other child, but I think she’s older, out of school. Do you know Harry?” She asked. Louis nodded, and then reconsidered.
“Well, sort of. I’ve got a class with him. Haven’t spoken much with him though.” Louis amended.
“I suspect he doesn’t say much then?”
“Nah, not really. He’s pretty quiet. Just kinda minds his own business.”
“Is that the curly haired one? Who moves like he’s a fricking ballerina?” Lottie asked, her attention caught and drawn away from where she had been talking to her younger sisters about their weekend plans. Jay frowned at Lottie.
“Don’t say fricking, it’s not nice.” She chided. Lottie pulled a face, and Louis pursed his lips to hide his smile.
“Yeah, that’s the one.” Louis agreed easily.
“He’s rather easy on the eyes.” Lottie declared, and Louis bit down his lip. Jay caught the look and smiled. Louis could practically see the teasing that was about to occur.
“Seems like someone is very much aware of that fact.” Said Jay, and Louis felt his cheeks burn just a little. “Might have to go easy on what you say, Lottie.”
“Louis likes someoneeeeee.” Daisy sing-songed, whilst stabbing peas one by one onto the end of her fork.
“No, I don’t.” Louis protested, but it was a weak effort, because not only would no one believe his denial, but he didn’t really care if they knew.
“Oh he so does!” Lottie squealed. “At least you’ve got taste. So I’ll allow it.”
“Oh good, or I may have just had to change my mind about him completely if you didn’t.” Louis shot back sarcastically, and Lottie just returned the comment by sticking out her tongue.
They settled into an easy silence for a few moments as they all continued to eat, until Lottie piped up once more.
“He doesn’t really have any friends though, does he?”
“Who, Harry?” Asked Jay, and Lottie nodded. “Doesn’t surprise me. His mum’s not overly eager to socialise either. Must run in the family. They’ve been living here for almost half a year now, and Anne’s yet to have attempted to make any friends or join any of the school committees. They seem to spend all their time in their own house, no sense of community.”
“He seems nice enough.” Louis defended, not entirely sure why he felt the need to defend Harry, but doing so anyway. He refused to make eye contact with anyone at the table as he said it, and poked his peas around on his plate.
“Mmhmmmmmm” Hummed Lottie exaggeratedly. “I’m sure he is nice. Have you recently had a conversation with him, Louis? Something you’d like to share?”
“No.” Louis said decisively. “Can I be excused?” He followed with immediately, looking to Jay and Dan. They both took pity on him, thank god, and nodded. Louis had never scraped his chair back so quickly in his life, dumping his plate into the sink and heading up stairs.
The next day, Louis was halfway to his classics classroom when he noticed Harry just a few steps ahead of him. The boy had headphones in, and though his ever present grace was still there in the way he walked, he was walking slower, almost lethargically. Louis saw his opportunity and picked up his own pace.
“Hey Harry.” He said, relying on the old faithful conversation starter he’d used the last time. How original. Harry looked to the side, making eye contact with Louis and pulling his headphones out.
“Oh. Hi!” Harry said, enthusiastically, and Louis smiled.
“You’re back! I mean, like, because you were away yesterday.” It had taken exactly thirty-eight seconds for Louis to sound like a twat. Great. Harry didn’t seem to mind though, just shifted his eye contact away from Louis slightly and nodded.
“Yeah. Wasn’t- um… feeling too well.”
“Well, I’m glad you’re back.” Louis informed Harry, and Harry’s forehead dipped into a tiny frown at that. It was as if he was trying to figure out why Louis would have missed him in the first place.
It was ten minutes into their classic class when Louis finally realised. Harry was... wrong. Or, at least, not right.
There were dark crescents under his eyes that Louis hadn’t noticed before, and Harry was wearing a sweater, despite the fact that the humidity was making Harry’s curls coil tighter than usual. He looked like the world was pulling on his life force. Louis ached to reach out to him from across the classroom. Had he even slept at all?
When the class finished, Louis followed Harry out the door, again. He had half a mind to ask him if he was okay, but he knew he couldn’t. Strangers didn’t usually appreciate concern.
“Hey, Harry?” Louis asked, voice cautious in a way it wasn’t in their last conversation. There was something about how slowly Harry was walking, and the bruises below his eyes, and the way his hand had shook holding the pen as he wrote in class that made Louis feel the boy had suddenly become fragile, tipped over the edge into some abyss, the bottom of which was only going to hurt. Harry just tilted his head towards him in answer, and didn’t make eye contact this time. “Do you think we could… study together some time?” He felt like he should tack on an explanation to make it seem like he wasn’t just trying to spend time with him. But he had no explanation to give, and if Harry didn’t ask for one, he was not going to get one.
Harry turned to look at him then, stopping. “Why?” Fuck. Louis’ forehead contorted. “No, I mean like. Why me? There’s plenty of kids in that class who know what’s going on. Why would you need me to study with you?” Harry looked insecure, like he was waiting for Louis to drop the punch line.
“I...” Louis let out an agitated huff. “I don’t know. Because you’re nice, and sometimes it’s nice not to be alone…” Louis didn’t say the part about Harry seeming like he was alone often. Harry didn’t ask him to elaborate.
“Sure… I guess.” Harry said, and he was forming a timid smile with his lips. A dimple emerged that Louis had never seen before, but reminded him of crescent nail indents on wrists.
“We could go to yours or mine… I really don’t mind.” Louis said, standing opposite Harry. He couldn’t remember when he stopped walking too. He must have simply mirrored Harry’s actions. “My house is pretty hectic, lots of siblings, but I’m sure we could find a quiet space somewhere-“
“It can’t be mine.” Harry interrupted. Louis blinked but nodded in assent.
“Sure. That’s fine.”
“Just… Mum doesn’t like me having people over. Sorry.” Harry continued, grasping at straws to explain. Louis wasn’t phased in the slightest. “You know what? What if we just do the library? After school today?" Harry’s suggestion was timid as he glanced up at him.
A bell rang faintly from behind the school chapel and Louis nodded. “Okay, yeah, that works. I’ll see you there, then? Unless you’re heading to the cafeteria?”
Harry shook his head in refusal. “No, I’m not. I don’t really ever have anyone to go with so...” Harry trailed off, and before Louis could clarify that he was asking Harry if he wanted to come eat with him Harry was already headed in the direction of the old art buildings again.
The library was dead quiet as Louis entered, most students having headed home as soon as the school day finished. Harry was already there, a hoodie added on top of the sweater he was wearing earlier. It was almost thirty-three degrees out, and Harry was wearing a sweater and a hoodie. Is the boy even human? With those curls, Louis doubted it. He was crouched over a desk, head down, pen scrawling across the paper with that same shake Louis had noticed that morning. It seemed unnatural on Harry, the visible stutter. It didn’t mesh well with the way he walked as if he were born from fairies. For the second time that day Louis wondered what was causing him such visible distress. He brushed the thought aside for the moment though and walked over to him.
“Hi.” He said quietly, keeping his voice at library volume, despite the fact he was fairly certain they were the only ones in there, save the librarian.
“Oh hi!” Harry said, and he sounded genuinely surprised to see him, his eyebrows raised slightly, that shy dimple appearing.
“What? Did you think I wouldn’t come?” Louis asked, settling a folder down on the table and letting his bag drop to the floor, the thud jarring in the quiet.
“The thought crossed my mind. Only once, but still.” Harry said, and he seemed unabashed now, so much more relaxed than he had been after Classical Studies.
“Well, I’m here. What are you listening to?” Louis said, motioning to Harry’s headphones, one dangling on the table. Harry perked at the question, sliding a hand into the pocket of his hoodie to pull out his phone.
“It’s Joni Mitchell. I think it was Snow Patrol a minute ago.” Harry said. He looked up at Louis, face earnest, and Louis dropped into the chair beside him. God, he was even more stunning up close. He had green eyes that were welcoming and warm, and the line of his jaw could cut glass. But the thing that caught Louis, that tripped him up and kept bringing him to a grinding halt, was Harry’s lips. Soft and pink, like a rose just about to wilt. They were saviour’s lips, Louis thought. Or maybe a sinner’s.
Louis pulled himself out of his spiraling thoughts as quickly as he could, trying to refocus. “That’s an interesting mix you’ve got there. A little bit random.” And Louis knew he’d stepped a foot wrong, when Harry turned his head away from him slightly, shuffling the paper he’d been writing on and capping the ink of his pen.
“Not really. They fit more than you’d think.” Harry said defensively.
“I’m sure they do, I didn’t mean it like that. I love some of Joni Mitchell’s songs. That one… I’ve looked at love from both sides now, from up and down.” Louis sang softly, out of tune and off-key. There was no one he was trying to impress. Except, maybe Harry. But Harry was smiling widely and leaning forward slightly, into Louis’ space. Hello there.
“I love that one of hers. It always makes me feel like a child when I listen to it.” Harry continued. “What else do you like?” and Louis thought it was the first time Harry had asked anything about Louis. Maybe, just maybe Louis was cutting through Harry’s shy reserve.
“Okay, don’t think I don’t know what you just did.” Harry said, interrupting Louis, who was midway through a rant on the shortcomings of country music. Louis blinked, lips parting slightly in confusion. “You purposely side-tracked us from getting any study done by talking about music. That’s very sly.”
“It’s not sly at all; I had no intention of avoiding work. How was I supposed to know you would be so passionate about music?” It was false innocence and cheeky, but it brought a smile out of Harry.
“You had every intention. Now, open your folder. I have to at least teach you something before we leave here.”
“Oh surely not. Isn’t the library closing soon?” Louis said, dodging.
“Not till seven-thirty. I have an hour to try and get Mrs Ellingsworth to respect you in the slightest.” Harry had a determined set to his mouth, and Louis rolled his eyes, but opened his classics folder anyway.
The night was on the brink of closing in around the windows of the library when Louis yawned and tried to answer Harry’s question. He was a good teacher, which had come as a pleasant surprise to Louis. He was patient and soft with him, answering even his silliest questions. He didn’t mock, and he seemed to be genuinely trying to put Louis at ease the whole time. He wasn’t sure when the roles reversed to Harry trying to reassure him.
“Okay, so the River Styx. You needed like, a coin to pass it didn’t you?” Louis asked, and he was definitely grasping at straws a little bit, but Harry was nodding encouragingly, so.
“Yeah! You had to have a coin to pay the ferrymen, who took people across the river. If you didn’t have a coin your soul didn’t get to cross, and it was stuck in a kind of limbo, one foot in the land of the living and the dead. Hence the burial rite.” Harry spoke as though he knew this, as though he had read and re-read mythology books, scouring them for hours. He had the answers to everything, and Louis was amazed. Perhaps, a little in awe.
Despite his amazement, he couldn’t help yawning again. Harry caught the action, and immediately started putting his papers away.
“We should probably go. There’s only fifteen minutes till closing time anyway, and you look tired.”
“So do you.” Whispered Louis. His voice came out much softer than he expected, and Harry flinched a little at it. He slipped his books into his bag.
“Yeah, well. Not much I can do about that.” Harry responded, standing up. Louis mimicked the action, and they walked out of the library together, both calling a thank you to the librarian as they left.
“Why are you tired?” Louis asked. He didn’t know if this was crossing the line that they seemed to have so carefully drawn in the sand of their young friendship. They had just spoken about music for several hours, but maybe this was too much, too soon. They started the walk down the library steps, and Louis thought maybe Harry wasn’t going to answer the question. But then he drew breath.
“Sometimes I feel like those lost souls.” Harry said quietly, and then he sucked in another breath, like the fresh air was making him braver, more honest. “One foot with the dead and one with the living.”
Louis didn’t know what to say to that, and scuffed his feet along the gravel as they walked down the school road and out the gates. Harry’s feet didn’t make a noise.
“What do you mean?” Louis asked quietly. Harry startled, like he had almost forgot Louis was next to him.
“I mean, I feel like I’m in limbo. I’m a breath away from death every moment I live.”
“Aren’t we all?”
“Not like me.”
Harry was speaking in tones that made hairs stand on the back of Louis’ neck. Perhaps it was too heavy a topic for two boys who were barely even friends, whose friendship seemed tentative and precious, and so easily breakable. However, Louis couldn’t find any reason to think this was too much, or that Harry shouldn’t be saying these things. It seemed right and natural, for Harry to be confiding his thoughts in Louis as they walked home through the rapidly darkening twilight.
“What do you think it feels like; death?” Louis asked quietly. He didn’t know why he wanted to ask the question, or receive an answer. He didn’t know why he felt it was okay to ask Harry this.
“Like everything you love gone cold.” He answered like he was reciting from a textbook, like it was a feeling he’d known too many times for it not to be branded in his heart. There was something in this boy, Louis thought. Something like sadness. But the sadness wasn’t his own.
“What went cold on you?” Louis asked, and then he felt the brush of Harry’s fingers on his own. They’d stepped too close together, there was hardly a space between their bodies as they walked. The brush was tentative, cautious in a way that could be passed off as accidental. Louis ignored its tentativeness and secured Harry’s hand in his own, threading his fingers through Harry’s elongated ones. Harry shivered slightly, but didn’t pull his hand back.
“Too many things.”
They parted when they were two streets over from Louis’ house. Louis stood on the sidewalk, in the dark, and watched Harry make his way up the street. He leant against the ivy covered brick fence of the corner house until Harry’s shadow vanished before his eyes. He could feel the absence of Harry’s warm palm in his. Louis pushed off the wall, and turned home. He’d thanked Harry for the study group, and Harry had teased him for the lack of studying they’d done. It was amazing, and disorientating, how quickly and easily Harry slid from a boy talking of death like it was an old friend of his, to becoming a seventeen year old again, with rosy cheeks and teasing words. It was like whiplash, and it was intoxicating. Louis was a little bit done for.
He walked in the front door in time for dinner. He had told his mum about his little library date, but didn’t tell anyone else. For now, it was all his secret. His wonderful little secret of Harry and Joni Mitchell and mythology. Louis didn’t feel like sharing just yet. That night, Louis dreamt of souls without coins, and a river that had a heartbeat.
The next day, Louis decided he was going to do something. It was either really brave or really stupid, and Louis couldn’t settle on one option. So he allocated it the title of stupidly brave. It was when he walked into the Classical Studies classroom, and he was about three minutes late, intentionally. There were three spare seats in the classroom, his usual one, which was next to Niall, one next to Harry that was always empty, and the one at the front of the classroom that everyone avoided because it meant Mrs Ellingsworth would ask you almost all the questions. Louis couldn’t remember the last time he walked in and didn’t sit next to Niall. But today he was going to mess with the whole system. Today he placed his books down next to Harry, and sat down.
Harry’s head whipped up instantly from where he had been writing something into his notebook. Before Harry could say anything, though, Mrs Ellingsworth spoke.
“Nice to see you’re changing it up, Mr. Tomlinson. In both time of arrival and seating choices. Perhaps Mr Styles will prove to be less of a distraction than Mr Horan.”
Louis’ face was burning and he ducked his head a little. He wished Mrs Ellingsworth hadn’t called the entire classes attention to his change of seats. Niall was staring at him from across the room, half offended, half confused. Louis ignored his insistent attempts at eye contact.
When the class returned to its previous activities of quietly whispering as Mrs Ellingsworth rambled about some new fact, and half the kids continued to game on their laptops, Louis turned to Harry, who hadn’t moved in the slightest.
“Is this okay? I don’t mean to intrude, I can move back if you want.” Louis said, slightly nervous. He hoped his voice didn’t show it. Harry tilted his head to look at Louis, and his face was serious for a moment before he smiled.
“No, you’re fine. I like some company.” Harry said, his voice slightly gruff. Probably because it was hardly nine in the morning, and the first class of the day. Louis wondered if Harry got lonely, without friends. Maybe he did have friends though, and they were just outside of school friends. Louis doubted it. He felt mean for thinking it, but Harry seemed like he was on his own at the moment.
Louis smiled back, probably too brightly, but he couldn’t help himself. They stayed quiet for the rest of the lesson, and for the first time Louis actually learnt something in the class, because he was listening, rather than staring at Harry. Granted, the only reason he wasn’t staring at Harry was because the ninety degree angle his head would have had to turn at to continue staring would have been a touch too obvious.
As the lesson nearly came to an end, Louis leant slightly in his chair towards Harry. “Will you have lunch with me today?” He asked it quietly, so that if he got rejected, half the class wouldn’t hear it.
“I- um- sure.” Harry said, stumbling on his response.
Louis grinned at that, again. He’d been doing an awful lot of grinning lately, and Harry returned it with a shy smile. He was about to say something more when Mrs Ellingsworth dismissed the class. Harry stood up, and Louis did the same, collecting his books off the desk.
“Okay. I’ll meet you at the front of the cafeteria, okay?” Louis instructed, not wanting to risk losing the opportunity. Harry nodded his agreeance. “Good. Now, you’ll have to excuse me. I have a biology test I need to go fail.” That startled a laugh out of Harry, and it was warm and loud and beautiful and Louis kind of wanted to revel in it all day.
As Louis left the room ahead of Harry, Harry called a “Good luck!” after him. Louis hugged his books a little closer to his chest.
He was halfway to the science blocks when he heard Nail’s voice behind him. “Oi! Twat!”
Louis laughed at the address and turned on his heel to face him. Despite Niall’s insult, he looked cheerful, as he always did, a bright smile across his face. “Yes, Niall?”
“You ditched me. Again. And you didn’t sit next to me in class.” He pressed, and Louis shrugged, nonplussed.
“I know man. I’m sorry.” Louis turned again as Niall met his side and they continued towards their science classroom together.
“No you’re not.” Niall replied cheerfully, and he nudged Louis with his elbow. “You’re just happy you got to sit next to the pretty boy with the curls.” He teased, his words drawn out at the end of his sentence.
“You’re right, I’m not actually sorry in the slightest.” Louis caved, a smile spreading across his face. He’d sat next to Harry. And he was having lunch with Harry. The day could not get any better.
“Didn’t think so.” Niall said in response, and there was a slight lull in their conversation as Louis contemplated what on earth he and Harry were even going to talk about at lunch. He’d been so eager to ask that he hadn’t considered that Harry would actually say yes.
“Hey Ni, what are the chances you want to be the best friend ever and wing man for me at lunch today? I’m having lunch with Harry and I don’t want to go alone.”
“Not a freaking chance, Tommo. You can handle that one on your own. I hate third wheeling.” Niall dramatically shuddered, showing his repulse. Louis rolled his eyes.
“Come on. What if you bring Liam? Then you’re third and fourth wheeling so it’s not so bad.”
“Nope. Sorry, you’re on your own for your date.” They reached the door to the science classroom and Niall turned to look at Louis. “Have you studied for this thing? Because I have a feeling this is going to be the pits.”
Louis just shook his head, not bothering to tell Niall that the only thing he studied yesterday was Roman mythology and the colour and texture of Harry’s curls. He was pretty sure Niall would put him in a headlock for that comment anyway, so it was probably best.
There was twenty minutes left of Louis’ last class before lunch. He couldn’t concentrate, kept jiggling his knee, despite Liam’s glares for jolting the table on which Liam was trying to write his English essay in neat, legible handwriting. They weren’t even in English, they were in art class, and yet Liam was stressing about handing it in after lunch. He’d always been such a perfectionist, so intent on getting grades that would keep his options open. Half the time Louis wondered if it was because he wanted to be academically successful or simply because he wanted to be able to get into a university that would take him as far away from this town as he could get.
It was fair enough, Louis thought. They all had their demons here, Liam more than others. But maybe that wasn’t a fair thing to say either. Louis didn’t really know of anyone else’s demons. Maybe they were worse than Liam’s. He didn’t know. He hoped that demons couldn’t get any worse than the ones Liam had.
Liam gave him another look and reached out, placing a heavy hand on Louis’ knee to stop its motion.
“Can you just be like, still for two seconds? You’re making me feel like jumping out of my own skin.” He said it and went straight back to writing his essay. It was a credit to Louis’ energetic personality, really, that Liam didn’t think more of Louis’ restlessness, simply assuming that it was another round of ‘Louis can’t sit still for more than fifteen minutes at a time’.
Louis muttered a soft “Sorry” under his breath, and tried to get back to the folio piece he was busy annotating. He had no skill in art, not really, but what he lacked in ability he made up for in dedication. He was precise with his annotations, cautiously printed letters scrawled across his pages, and every stroke of a drawing was intentional, calculated. It was an odd and stark contrast to Louis’ otherwise spontaneous, wild personality. He was uncontainable, and yet, within pages, completely contained.
Whenever people glanced at Louis’ folio, or looked at it in length like Liam often did, they were always surprised, intrigued, or confused. Mostly, Louis thought they assumed it wasn’t his folio. He often saw them double-checking the name on the front cover. It never really hurt, though. Louis didn’t mind. He was proud of his own duplicity, his ability to make himself whoever he wanted to be in the moment.
Finally, the call to pack up was uttered by his teacher, and both he and Liam began clearing off their shared art table, stacking papers inside their folios and brushing pencil sharpening to the floor. Liam had the finished essay under his arm, and was smiling brightly.
“Are you coming to lunch?” Liam asked, as they wandered slowly out of the art building. The red brick of the building had excluded some of the humidity from seeping into the art rooms, but as they stepped outside into the sun, the air was hot and curling around them.
“I um, am, yeah. But I’m meeting someone. Got a lunch date.” Louis said, not even blinking at the term. It was the term they all used when they were meeting someone for lunch at the cafeteria, platonic or otherwise, and no one ever usually took it out of context. But in this moment Louis felt his own mind start to take it out of context. “I mean, just catching up with a friend. For lunch.”
Liam narrowed his eyes. “What friend?” He asked, and Louis knew he had over explained, taken this from subtle to suspicious. It was too late to fix it.
“Harry. The boy in my classics class. We hung out at the library the other day.”
“Oh yeah. He’s really nice. Super quiet, but nice. He could probably do with a friend who’s loud like you.” Liam said, and something in Louis’ shoulders eased. They continued their easy amble towards the cafeteria.
“Yeah, I like him. He’s quiet and pretty chill, but he’s got great taste in music. I reckon once he comes out of his shell a bit, he’d be good fun.” Louis said, nodding his head in agreeance with Liam’s previous statement. When they rounded the corner to the front of the red brick cafeteria, Louis saw Harry standing there. He was in less layers today, seemingly feeling the humidity this time unlike his nonplussed concern for it yesterday when he was in a ridiculous amount of clothing for the weather. He’s leant against the wall of the building, clad in a casual white t-shirt and black skinny jeans. Louis may or may not linger on the way his legs go on for miles. Literal miles. Okay, not literal. But close to it.
He said a quiet goodbye to Liam, who had already bumped into a group of their other friends, and tossed a subtle wave over his shoulder as he approached Harry. The boy was gnawing lightly at his bottom lip, frown placed oh so delicately on his forehead as he stared ahead, watching their cohort spill into the cafeteria in waves in front of him.
“Hey.” Louis said once he was close enough, and Harry glanced up.
“Hi.” He said, dropping his lip from between his teeth. The action allowed room for a tentative smile on his face. “How did your biology test go?”
“Absolutely crucified it.” Louis said, without any disappointment behind his words. Harry had remembered, and he was flattered. “Didn’t know a single thing. I think Mr Suttersby is going to see if he can give me a grade lower than an F.”
As he spoke, he reached out a hand to grasp Harry’s elbow, pulling him gently to join the line that was heading into the cafeteria.
“Surely it can’t have been that bad.” Harry said, amused.
“Oh it can have been, and it was. I spent half the damn period just staring at the paper. I probably can have all up got about five marks out of fifty.” The other students around them rippled with movement consistently, and Louis had to step slightly closer to Harry to avoid ending up separated from him. He had his voice slightly raised, so Harry could hear him over the chatter of the other conversations going on around them.
“That’s ten percent at least!” Harry announced. “Isn’t that an E not an F?”
“I honestly don’t know. We’re gonna find out though, when I get the test back.” Louis shot Harry a rueful smile. Harry returned it.
“Yeah, make sure you let me know how it works out for you. If you have to start applying to drop out and become a tradie, best if we all know in advance so we can help write your references.” And that was… new. Harry was making a joke. That was a joke! Louis’ smile widened. God, this Harry Styles was doing something to him. He wasn’t sure what, but he was doing something, that’s for damn sure.
“Yes, well, my dear Harold, you will quickly learn that no tradie would even bother taking me on as an apprentice, so even that’s out of the question. Perhaps I could become a hairdresser.” Louis reached out a hand and pulled down gently on one of Harry’s curls, watching as it sprung back up to its original place.
“Why not a tradie?” Harry asked, his smile filled with mirth. Jesus, was that all either of them did? Grin at each other? Surely both their faces would get tired eventually, Louis reasoned with himself. But for now it was… nice. Really, really nice.
“I can’t even construct a bookshelf without taking out one of the supporting walls in my house.” Louis made the comment offhandedly, as they had reached the front of the line and the teacher was motioning for them to walk into the cafeteria. Harry spluttered as they walked in, the din of hundreds of students surrounding them.
“You did what?!” He asked. Louis grinned, recognising an opening for a dramatic story. Louis launched in to recounting the time last summer when his mum had asked him to put up a bookshelf in Lottie’s room, and he accidentally nailed through the one part of the wall that was actually important, caused one of the wooden posts inside the wall to split, and led to a very hysterical mother on the phone to professional tradesman begging them to come fix it before the entire supporting wall collapsed and the house with it. Louis hadn’t been allowed to do anything even close to resembling construction work since. Honestly, that was fair enough.
By the time Louis finished telling his over dramatized version of the story, they had grabbed their food and were sat at one of the tables, each on either side of the long wooden tables that were lined up across the cafeteria. Harry was laughing along with him, and he had loosened up completely, his posture relaxed and at ease.
“Look, I really wouldn’t blame your mum for not letting you near a tool box again. Sounds like it’s far too expensive.”
“Oh it is.” Louis assured. “Especially when me sisters all wanted a bookshelf each. Mum figured after my first attempt, it was better to let professionals do it.”
Harry poked a fork at his food. It was some sort of bean burrito, with rice on the side. The meals at school were always odd, and Louis was always hesitant to eat them, but today’s meal was one of the better meals, so he wasn’t overly fussed.
“How many sisters do you have?” Harry asked, before putting a bite of burrito in his mouth.
“I’ve got four. Fizzy, Lottie, Daisy and Phoebe. Daisy and Phoebe are twins, and the youngest. They’re all absolutely wild, but I love them to bits. I guess our whole family is slightly untamed, to tell the truth. What about you? Siblings?” Louis’ voice got fond when he talked about his siblings. He knew it did, but he couldn’t really help, didn’t really mind it. They were all just, so great that he couldn’t help be fond of them.
Harry swallowed. “Just the one sister, she’s older, out of school. Her name’s Gemma, and she’s brilliant too. Wild in a more quiet, rebellious nature. She’s got so many hidden tattoos I’ve lost count, and mum would lose it if she ever found out, but Gems keeps them hidden under her watch bands and long sleeve shirts. The last time mum suggested we all go to the beach was about a year ago, and I think Gem nearly had a heart attack.”
Louis chuckled at this, imagining a girl with Harry’s dimples and little lines of black ink running over her. “Mum says she sees your mum at the hospital all the time.”
Harry stiffened at this, his back straightening. “She does?”
Louis frowned, confused. “Yes? Isn’t she a nurse?”
Harry relaxed and nodded, understanding blooming across his face. “Oh, yeah. She is.”
“Me mum’s a nurse there too.” Louis offered, to try move on from Harry’s odd reaction. Harry nodded and smiled, and their conversation continued on.
They spoke for too long, and by the time they walked out and dropped off their trays, they were both saying a rushed goodbye to each other and practically bolting for the next class, with only three minutes to get there. On Louis’ casual jog across the campus to get to his next class, which just had to be all the way out by the old gym, Louis catalogued all the things he’d learnt about Harry during lunch.
He had a sister he loved, a mum, no mention of a dad. He loved mythology and any mentions of gods or ancient religions or beliefs. He had no interest in maths, or science, and when Louis had prodded as to why he disliked science Harry had simply said “It’s boring. And half the stuff we learn is going to be proven wrong eventually.”
Louis had to admit he made a fair point.
He liked Fleetwood Mac and James Blunt and Pride and Prejudice. He had read almost every novel Louis could think to name, and Harry had simply answered with “Great book” or “Horrendous” and other small comments on each of the novels. Louis couldn’t help being so enamoured with this boy. It wasn’t even his fault. How was anyone supposed to not get a little obsessed by a boy with curls who moved like he was a freaking angel and was well read and listened to good music and was happy and smiley and charming? In all honesty, really there was no logical next step for Louis except to fall in love with him. It simply had to be done.
Louis had so badly wanted to ask Harry to study with him in the library again tonight, but he assumed that might be pushing it, and didn’t want his enthusiasm to come off as creepy.
He entered his classroom out of breath and a little bit sweaty. Then again, the humidity meant everyone was always a little bit sweaty, so really Louis was just matching the standard set by the rest of his classmates.
"Love is a cruel master. There are no lengths to which it does not force the human heart." - Virgil, The Aeneid.
Somehow, he and Harry fell into a pattern of chatting quietly in Classical Studies, much to the frustration and anger of Mrs Ellingsworth, and then they would meet for lunch, spending the whole hour in the cafeteria almost without fail, talking and laughing and just taking each other in.
Louis loved it, but a part of him was unsure. He wasn’t sure if Harry knew what Louis’ intentions were, if he got that Louis was interested in him in more than a friends way. A part of him was terrified that Harry was just glad for a friend, and would want nothing more from him. But Louis could manage that, he told himself. He could be just Harry’s friend. He didn’t want to, but he could do it.
This had been going on for two weeks, and Harry had slowly and steadily gained his footing around Louis, and joked with and sassed Louis as much as Louis did him. It was nice, that. The way Harry had become so comfortable in himself around Louis. He’d stopped doing the stiffening up thing, and his smile was less guarded, brighter.
Niall caught up to him that morning on their way to Classical Studies.
“Hey Tommo!” He called from behind him, and Louis halted and turned to face Niall.
“Hey mate.” Louis smiled scraping a hand through his fringe.
“Where ya been lately? Haven’t seen you at our lunch table in days.” Niall said, and then he grinned. “You finally got into Harry’s pants?” His smile was cheeky. Louis pretended to be scandalised.
“Niall! Watch your mouth. Don’t be so crude.” He reached out a hand to swat at Niall, but he dodged away. “I have been having lunch with him, yes, if that’s what you meant.”
“D’you reckon he’s into you?” Niall asked eagerly, unintentionally bumping Louis’ arm with the books he was carrying.
“I dunno. I can’t tell if he thinks we should just be friends or not.” Louis let out a huff. He was relieved at having finally said it aloud, the thought that had been running through his head for at least all of this week.
“Well you better figure it out. Because I’m perfectly alright with you ditching me in classics class and at lunch to sit with him, if it’s gonna get you laid. But if not, I’m gonna be offended on your behalf.” Louis chuckled at that but Niall continued. “But don’t you reckon there’s something a little off about him? He’s so… reserved. It’s like he’s hiding something.”
Louis brushed the thought aside, laughing. “What? What do you reckon he’s hiding? D’you thinks he’s secretly an axe murderer or something?”
Niall frowned. “No, just, like. Something. I mean his whole family showed up so randomly here. Like, mid-semester last year. Who does that? And then they had no reasoning, no explanation. And they hardly leave their house, me mum says, except for Harry to go to school and his mum to go to work. No one’s even seen his older sister.”
This time Louis frowned as well. “Where are you even getting this from Ni? I’m telling you, there’s nothing weird with him. He’s just shy and a little reserved, and I’d place bets he got that from his mum, and that’s why the whole family keeps to themselves.”
Niall was about to reply when they rounded the corner to their classics classroom and Harry came into view. Niall cut himself off sharply, and Louis could see as he re-evaluated his sentence. “Whatever. I trust your judgment. But if he’s secretly a Russian spy, don’t say I didn’t guess it.” He said in a hushed voice. Louis chuckled lightly.
“If I find that out, Ni, you’ll be the first to know.”
They walked into the classics classroom a few minutes later, and Niall headed to his original seat while Louis settled himself down in the seat next to Harry. It was a good thing Niall never got bent out of shape over it. He’d never been a possessive friend, and Louis loved him for it. He just somehow managed to take everything Louis did in his stride, with an easy smile and a laugh.
Harry sent him a smile as soon as Louis sat down.
“Did you listen to it? It’s a great album, makes me smile listening to it.” Harry said, and Louis can only assume he was referring to Coldplay’s A Rush of Blood to the Head they’d spoken about yesterday.
“I did, yeah. It’s brilliant. The Scientist is amazing,” Louis didn’t add that he’d spent half the night lying in bed with his headphones in, just listening and listening. “Don’t know how it makes you smile. Half the songs make we want to cry.”
“That’s the beauty of it though, isn’t it? It’s so melancholy and beautiful.”
“It’s the lyrics that get me, so simple but they still convey all the emotion.” Louis explained, and then he opened up his pencil case, pulling out a pen and opening his notebook, because Mrs Ellingsworth was shooting them both daggers from across the room. Louis thought they were supposed to be working on an essay or something that they started last lesson. Louis wasn’t really sure what the task actually was and was just praying it wasn’t due at the end of the lesson.
“I know! They’re so-” Harry cut himself off, a frown falling into place on his face, and his back stiffened slightly in his chair.
“So…?” Louis hinted, trying to coax Harry to continue. Harry just glanced at him, and his eyes were… darker somehow. The usually crisp green had become a forest colour.
“Nothing. Never mind.” Harry dismissed, and he opened up his own book, picking up a pen and beginning to write.
“What were you gonna say?” Louis pressed.
“No, nothing. It doesn’t matter.” Harry said, hardly looking. Louis could feel that Harry was shutting off slightly, and despite his frustration, he let it be. Instead, he began writing his own essay, watching Harry out of the corner of his eye. Half way through the lesson, Harry tugged on a sweater he’d had looped casually over his shoulders, and the boy couldn’t stop fiddling with the sleeves, rolling them down over his wrists so only his fingertips showed.
Sporadically, Harry would straighten up and roll his shoulders, tugging slightly on the fall of his jumper over his shoulders. His hands were shaking again, and Louis could not figure out what had gone wrong, what sent Harry into this. Was it him?
Louis re-scanned his own actions since he had walked in the room, thinking it through. Maybe Harry had heard Niall talking about him before class. But that wouldn’t make sense, because Harry had been fine when Louis had come in. Maybe he’d gotten a text message that was bad news, or maybe he simply remembered something he had to do. Louis was silently praying it wasn’t him. He just really didn’t want it to be his fault.
When class was almost over, Louis leaned towards Harry, brushing a hand over his upper arm. Harry flinched back, and Louis instantly retracted his hand, regretting the action.
“Sorry. I was just, going to ask if we’re having lunch today?” Louis said quietly. Harry looked at him, a blank stare on his face for a moment. Then he blinked and slowly shook his head.
“Um, no. Sorry. I can’t today… I have a thing I’ve got to do.” Harry’s eyes were downcast as he said it, his fingers going back to pulling and twisting at the sleeves of his sweater.
“A thing?” Louis asked, confused. He’d kind of just assumed that the two of them having lunch was like, a thing now. But clearly Harry didn’t see it the same way. Or maybe Harry had just gotten sick of Louis. It was fair enough, he figured.
“Yeah... I have a um, meeting, with the careers councillor. Plans for next year and stuff.” Harry said. Louis could almost sense he was lying, but he wanted to give Harry the benefit of the doubt. Or maybe he just wanted to believe Harry was telling the truth.
“Oh. Okay. No worries. Do you- do you think we could do some classics study after school instead?” Louis was tentative, as he didn’t want to receive a second, shittier lie as well. But Harry visibly brightened at the mention, and nodded thoroughly.
“Yes! Yes, we could.” Harry said, and then added quietly “I’d really like to.”
Louis smiled at that, feeling once again assured that Harry genuinely liked spending time with him.
However, Louis still didn’t believe Harry had an appointment with the careers councillor. Especially not when they walked to the cafeteria and said goodbye, and Louis watched as Harry walked the same path he’d seen him walk weeks ago, when they’d first spoke, to out the back of the old art buildings. The careers office wasn’t even in that direction. So Louis ignored all common courtesies of not stalking people, and trailed after Harry. He hung far enough back that Harry wouldn’t have noticed him if he glanced behind him, but he was still able to watch as Harry walked straight behind the old art buildings, and then ducked under the fence there that marked their schools perimeter. Behind the fence were only dense trees and it was generally the place couples went to hook up or smoke, out of sight of school administrators.
Louis’ stomach turned at the thought of Harry coming out here to meet a girl to hook up with. Or a boy for that matter. Literally Harry hooking up with anyone that wasn’t Louis turned his stomach. Then again, Harry really didn’t seem like the type to do that. Maybe he was just coming out for a smoke. Whatever the reason, Louis had to know for sure what he was doing. So against his better judgment, Louis crossed to the fence and ducked under, a lot less gracefully than Harry had done.
He was soon in a density of trees, green surrounding him as he tried to figure out what direction Harry had gone in the dark foliage. God, Louis prayed there weren’t snakes there. But of course there would be, it was February in Australia and Louis was wandering through the fucking bush to chase a cute boy who was most likely here to meet a girl. So of course this was where Louis would die from a snake bite.
He tried to tamp down on his melodrama, glancing in both directions. And there, to his left, was a glint of silver showing through the trees. Louis didn’t remember Harry having been wearing silver, but maybe he’d taken his sweater off. Or the grey of his sweater was simply reflecting as silver in this density. The crackle of dried leaves made noise under his feet, and Louis paused. He began to walk more cautiously, intent on not letting Harry know he was there. Mainly because this couldn’t get much creepier, Louis was literally stalking him right now.
When he had a clear vision of the back of Harry’s head through the trees, Louis took a few more daring steps forward, and ducked behind a tree. Peeping out on the other side, he found he had a perfect vision of the boy.
Silver. Feathers. Wings that spanned from one tree trunk to the next. Harry’s curls, tumbling so low they almost brushed the feathers. A boy who wasn’t a boy. A boy who was an angel.
Louis barely held in his gasp, his whole body recoiling backwards in pure shock. Because that was exactly what Louis was seeing, a boy draped in heavy feathers that formed the shapes of wings. The plumage caught the refracting light within the thick bush, and the silver of the feathers diluted into greys in places, some so bright they were verging on white. But the curls were unmistakable. This was Harry. And before Louis could process this, could decide whether he did get bitten by a snake and this whole thing was an elaborate figment of his imagination, a silver haze fell like a curtain over Harry’s figure, and he was gone.
Louis sank to his knees next to the tree he’d been hiding behind, his mind whirling. Not possible. It was not possible. He couldn’t be an angel. Angels didn’t even exist for fucks sake.
But the wings, they were unmistakable. And the way he just disappeared. No explanation short of magic would allow Louis’ mind to be satisfied. Magic, yeah right. This isn’t Greek mythology.
So Niall had been right. Harry had been hiding something. But the boy wasn’t a Russian spy. No, no. The boy wasn’t even human.
Louis sat there in the underbrush until the humid air started licking up his spine, driving his whole body to sweat, and Louis pulled himself to standing. Slowly, slowly, Louis made his way back through the condensed bush.
When he got back onto the school perimeter, he checked his phone to see the time. He’d missed the second to last class after lunch, and he’d only make art class on time if he hurried. Louis picked up the pace. The air around him was thick with tension, and Louis knew that meant a thunderstorm coming. The heat around him tamped everything down in a shimmery kind of way. These thirty plus degrees days had to stop. Their classes didn’t even have air conditioning, for Christ sake. But a storm was coming, which meant some form of relief from the heat.
He spent the start of art inside his own mind, sorting through mythology facts, thoughts of Cupid, Eros, and Hermes’ winged sandals running though his mind. If angels were scattered throughout history, throughout nearly every cultures mythology and beliefs, maybe they were real. Surely a coincidence like that, coming from cultures that had never interacted, was too great to be ignored, and now, Louis had a coincidence even greater; he had Harry and an image of full silver wings.
“Hey. Louis, what are you doing?” Asked Liam, when they were half an hour into the lesson and Louis hadn’t said a word to anyone, hadn’t even opened his folio.
Louis blinked and rubbed a hand over his own eyes. “Um, nothing.”
“Clearly.” Liam responded. “Where were you last class? I hate when you ditch me in English, I always have to sit next to Mike, and he never says a word and I get so bored.” Liam said, rambling casually as they always do. Today, Louis was not up for the casual conversation though, so he just shrugged and went back to idly drawing tiny ink wings into the tabletop.
“Hey, stop that, Mrs Halloway will kill you if she sees you doing that.” Liam said, reaching out a hand to clasp Louis’ forearm. Louis stopped obediently, and stared out the window for the rest of the lesson.
As soon as the class finished, Louis was ready to practically bolt to the library. He beat Harry there, and for a moment Louis wondered if Harry would even come, if maybe his angel responsibilities would keep him occupied. But Harry said he would be there, and Louis wasn’t about to stand him up.
He picked a table right in the back of the library, out of earshot from practically anyone, and dropped his schoolbag onto it. Then, he wandered over to the non-fiction segment of the library, and began searching for any books he could find on mythology, or angels. When he made his way back to the table, with several books in his arms, Harry was sat there. He didn’t look like he had during Classical Studies, or even how he had looked in the trees. Instead, he looked sallow and exhausted, his usually effortless posture sagging at the shoulders.
When Louis approached the table and sat down, Harry lifted his head slightly, and Louis was shocked at the inky darkness of the bags under Harry’s eyes. They hadn’t been there before lunch time.
“Hey.” Louis said softly. How do you even speak to a boy who you think may be a literal angel? Should Louis just bring it up straight off the bat? How would he even do that? Simply proclaiming he thought Harry was an angel didn’t seem the best direction of approach.
“Hi.” Harry replied, and his voice was low and gravelly. He glanced at the books in Louis’ arms, catching sight of the titles. “Are we doing actual study today?”
Louis nodded. Now or never. “I was, erm, thinking of doing my end of semester Classics essay on the presence of angels within various cultures.” Louis said slowly. He studied Harry carefully, catalogued the slight purse of Harry’s lips, the barely visible lift of his eyebrows. And that was all the confirmation Louis needed.
“Oh. Okay. Why? I mean, angels aren’t really present in Greek myth. Or Roman. They’re more of a biblical origin.” Harry said, and his voice was reserved, guarded. He shifted slightly under Louis’ unwavering eye contact.
“But there’s mentions in mythology of messengers with wings right? Like Hermes, and his sandals. Isn’t that where the word angel has its origins? Messenger?” Louis was pressing it a little harder, and Harry didn’t look overly close to cracking. Instead, he looked vaguely angry.
“Angels aren’t real, Louis. And if they were, they wouldn’t have wings, and they wouldn’t fly round like Hermes to deliver messages.” Harry said, and his voice was sharp in a tone Louis had never heard him use before. “Plus, it’s a ridiculous essay topic because you won’t even find anything relative because even the Greeks didn’t believe in angels. Nor the Romans. So you’re going to be hard pressed to find any material on angels. The best you’ll get is information about Icarus and the bible.” Harry leant back in his seat, running an agitated hand through his curls. Louis surged on.
“How do you know they’re not real? What makes you so sure?”
“Science. Logic. The fact you never, ever just see an angel wandering round the fricking streets, Louis!” At this, Harry’s hushed voice was raised in volume. When Louis responded, his voice was deathly quiet.
“What if I have?” He uttered. Harry froze, his gaze locking on Louis.
There was a pause that was silent and lengthy, and Louis thought he might die of the suspense Harry was putting him through. Harry flicked his tongue out, licking over his lips. And then, in a voice that was measured and icy, he said “What do you mean by that?”
“I mean that I saw one. Or you, I guess. I saw you.” It was when Louis finished the sentence that he realised it could easily be taken as a dodgy pick up line, but that was definitely not how Harry was receiving it. Harry was stock-still, back ramrod straight. His face was pale, lips red.
“No. You didn’t.” Harry said, voice decisive.
“I did. There was… wings, and you, outside of the fence line this afternoon.” Louis shrugged, helpless to explain anymore. And with that, Harry deflated. The coldness poured right out of him like it was never there, and in place of it there was a scared boy looking at Louis with wide, pleading eyes. Somewhere in the back of Louis’ mind, he registered that rain had started drumming along the library roof. The storm was setting in.
“Lou. Lou please. You can’t speak a word to anyone. Please. I’m begging you. Just forget it ever happened. Go back to your friends and your world and let me stay here hidden in peace. Just please, please don’t tell anyone.” Harry begged, and Louis could see pure panic reflected in Harry’s face. Without thinking, Louis reached forward to grasp at Harry’s hand.
“I was never going to, Harry. I would never. I just… needed to know it was real. That I’m not going insane.” He said quietly, softly, like coaxing a scared animal back into the daylight. Harry came slowly, one tentative word at a time.
“You promise? If you tell anyone, I’ll have to move again. I can’t keep moving, it’s tearing my life to pieces.” Harry said, and the second part almost seemed to be words he was speaking to himself. Louis nodded anyway. He’d give anything for Harry to believe him, to trust him. Louis had no intention of telling anyone, the thought never even once crossed his mind since lunchtime. All he wanted was an explanation of who, or what, Harry really was.
“I won’t. Your secret’s safe with me. But, if you want to explain, I would love to listen.”
Harry paused, and Louis could see him thinking, considering. Louis wanted an explanation, god he did, but if Harry decided no right then, Louis wouldn’t bring it up again.
But Harry didn’t. Instead, he started talking, in soft hushed tones. And Louis couldn’t help staring at those red lips as he did, lulled by the low words.
“It’s really not what you’re thinking. It’s a family thing, generation to generation. We all have wings. They grew when I was ten. They were smaller then, hadn’t filled out as much until I… got older. One night I just got this really strong pain in between my shoulder blades, and the next day they were kind of just... there. Mum had to sit me down and explain what they were and how I had to hide them. I didn’t really understand then, what they meant. How much they meant. They were just fun and cute and fluffy.” Harry drew breath and looked up at Louis shyly. “It’s why I don’t have many friends, and mum and I don’t really leave home much. Because I have to hide it. Both of us do. We can’t really afford for people to start asking questions. Mum never wanted me to get close with anyone. And now I can see why.”
Louis frowned, and realised for the first time that he never actually let go of Harry’s hand. He squeezed it gently. “I mean it, you know. I’m not going to tell anyone. You can trust me.”
Harry nodded. “Thank you.”
Louis didn’t know what to say next, had never really been versed in how to handle this situation, so instead he went quiet. Moving his hand out of Harry’s grip, Louis opened the first book, and started scanning through it for information. When Louis first looked up a second time, Harry was frowning at him.
“Don’t. Just, don’t bother searching those books. There’s nothing in them. Don’t try to make a mythology out of me Louis. I’m not Icarus or Eros or the ferryman at the River Styx. I’m not one of Demeter’s searchers. I’m just a boy who got dealt a really shitty pack.” And then Harry was reaching for the few books, pulling them away from Louis. Louis wanted to protest, but the words died on his lips. “The books aren’t going to help you anyway. They don’t have answers.”
Louis felt a sadness hit him square in the chest at that. “So you’ve looked?” He asked softly.
Harry let out a bitter laugh at that. “Of course I have. I’ve searched every book in every library I’ve ever been in, this one included. I’ve spent nights searching on the internet, looking for some answer, some solution. I’ve taken every mythology class available, searched every literature text, every history book. There’s nothing. No trace of me. No one even knows I exist.”
“I do.” And Louis’s voice was so quiet it blended with the rain hammering on the roof. But Harry heard. “I know you exist.”
Harry’s eyes met his, big and green and tear filled, and Louis thought for one horrible second that Harry was going to cry. Instead, Harry just gazed at him for a couple of minutes.
Eventually he murmured “Let’s go.” And Louis nodded, tucking his chair in and grabbing his books. Together, they stepped out into the rain.
The humidity had eased outside the library, and the fat raindrops hit them heavily as they walked, but it was still too warm for the rain to really affect them. They walked, their pace slow, lazy almost, dragging out the trip home.
“What- what happened, earlier today? You were so… your mind wasn’t here.” Louis asked, nudging Harry’s hand with his own. Harry barely needed a reaction time before he was clasping Louis’ hand firmly in his own.
“I had a back pain. Happens sometimes. It means that- um, it means that my wings need to come out, for a little bit. Hurts sometimes.” The gates to leave the school appeared in front of them as the two boys rounded the corner.
“Does it happen often?”
“Not really. Depends, sometimes it happens each week, sometimes it gets really intense for like, three days. Sometimes I don’t have any pain for months. It’s usually once every month, though.”
“Do you wish you weren’t an angel, sometimes?” Louis asked, brushing his free hand though his fringe, rearranging the strands that were damp with rain.
“Stop calling me that. I’m not an angel any more than you’re a monster.” But he smiled at the end of the sentence, if only just a little. Louis wanted to kiss that smile, press it into Harry’s face so it could never disappear.
“What am I supposed to call you then?”
“Harry.” He stated bluntly. Louis laughed.
“Ah. I see how this works.”
“My mum calls us Grievers, but I hate the name. Apparently, one of our ancestors started the label, and it just stuck. It’s depressing as hell, makes me feel like death re-incarnate even on the good days. And I wish I wasn’t a Griever every day of my life.”
“There’s so much sadness, Lou.” Harry’s voice was threadbare, honest. “I can’t escape it. It’s everywhere. And I can’t have friends, can’t be normal. I have to stay quiet all the time, so no one thinks they might want to get to know me, because they never can know me, not really.”
“You messed up with me, then, didn’t you?” Louis said, and even he wasn't sure if he was attempting a joke or not as they turned onto the street that ran parallel to the school.
“I did.” Harry said, and something in his tone shifted the tension. It challenged the same tension that was in the sky, poised to send the first crack of thunder. All of a sudden, Louis felt breathless with the electric air around him.
“I really like you.” Louis said softly. “And I don’t know if you feel the same, or how you feel about boys in general. But I just thought, I just thought I should say that.” Harry stopped walking, and Louis felt a gentle tug on his arm as he was pulled to a stop by the motion.
Harry’s thumb was running over the back of Louis’ hand, and Harry looked beautiful, despite his damp hair and the way his shirt clung to him from the rain. Louis’ heart caught fire in his chest.
“I really like you too. I’m glad you said that.” Harry’s voice was as soft as Louis’, and Louis felt a thrill run through him at the words. He hadn’t been imagining any of this. Louis could really have this boy. This boy who was so beautiful, unearthly. This boy with wings and curls and green eyes and soft smiles. Louis could have him. It was in that moment, right as Louis was trying to come up with something eloquent to say that wasn’t him stuttering, when the first clap of thunder sounded and both Harry and Louis jumped.
“Jesus. They don’t give you much warning, do they?” Louis murmured, laughing softly. Harry grinned.
“Yeah, I hear Zeus isn’t much in the business of caring how many of us mortals he scares.” Harry said as he tugged on Louis’ hand and they started walking again. The streets were empty and the small houses on either side had just begun to switch their lights on. The sky was dark earlier than usual, the storm clouds having blocked out the sunset, and Louis couldn’t help but smile. He loved a good storm. Then he blinked, processing what Harry said.
“Wait, what? He’s not- Zeus isn’t like- a real thing, is it?” Louis asked, eyes wide. Harry nodded seriously for just a second, and then he let a smile crack and ducked his head as Louis pushed his free hand against his side, shoving him lightly.
“Don’t be rude, Harold! How am I supposed to know what’s real and what’s not? I just saw a freaking angel for god’s sake, Zeus being real doesn’t exactly seem too far behind!” He was aiming for exasperated, but he was laughing too, and as he was speaking he accidentally stepped directly into a puddle that had formed in one of the potholes on the empty road they were walking, which took away further from his attempt at being serious. Harry noticed and let out a loud cackle.
They walked the rest of the way home laughing and teasing, and Louis almost came to forget the moment of seriousness they had before the thunder clap. But there was a heat simmering in him, a happiness that kept bubbling up that reminded him of Harry’s words. Louis stepped in all the puddles the whole way home intentionally as his feet were already soaked from the first puddle so he had nothing to lose. Also, it made Harry laugh, so.
When they reached the ivy and brick house on the corner, Louis looked at Harry, regarding him softly. Before Harry could react, or do anything to stop him, Louis reached up on tiptoes and wrapped his arms around Harry, quickly and briefly. He caught Harry’s scent under the smell of rain, and it was fresh but soft, and Louis kind of wanted to live in it forever.
Harry tensed for the first second, but quickly relaxed, wrapping an arm securely round Louis’ waist until Louis pulled back.
“What was that for?” Harry said in a soft whispering tone. He was smiling, eyes green green green in the grey afternoon.
“That was a goodbye hug. People do it fairly often, Harold.” Louis said. He was attempting to play it off, make it causal, because he couldn’t not do it. He had actually wanted to kiss Harry, not just hug him. But baby steps. “Now fly home, angel.” Louis murmured, and Harry smiled, despite his telling Louis not to call him that.
“Goodbye, Louis.” Harry responded, and turned, and for a moment Louis thought he was going to do it, going to unfurl those wings in the middle of the street and glide up up up, away from this small town that Louis lived in, up up up, to where all angels homes were. In the clouds, among the wonders. But Harry’s feet stayed firmly on the ground, and instead he was just a boy, with clothes soaked to the bone, wandering along the street that would take him home.
Louis blinked once, twice. Reached up to brush a raindrop from where it was running along his eyebrow. And then Harry was gone, right in front of his eyes. For a fleeting moment, Louis didn’t think he was ever coming back. Surely angels didn’t return to the worlds they already knew.
He fell asleep at his desk that night, laptop open. He had thirteen search tabs open, and one of his classics textbooks spread out in front of him. There was an uncapped highlighter that had fallen from Louis’ lax grasp, and a small puddle of drool staining the left hand corner of the textbook. Every single search tab was asking something about wings, about angels, about boys who flew away with your own heart.
He started awake, head jerking back so quickly that his whole body jolted with the movement. For a moment, he didn’t know what woke him. It might have been his dog barking in the yard, or maybe his mum hadn’t gone to bed yet, and she’d just walked down the hallway.
Pondering this, he stood slowly from his desk, adjusting the slope of his t-shirt as he turned to climb into his bed, ready to drift back to sleep. As he was crossing to the bed, he caught it, felt the chill slam up his spine. Words grasped the air, and failed, their fingertips slipping.
Because displayed against the wall, was the perfect silhouette of a winged angel. He turned on his heel, and there Harry was, perched on his windowsill, feet dangling over the ledge into the room. The moon fell over his wings, causing them to shiver, and the breeze ruffled those pearly grey feathers as well as his curls.
“Harry.” Louis breathed, just barely, a hint of a word. Harry regarded him, soft and slow and comfortable. For the first time, Louis got the sense that he was seeing Harry in his true form, in the form Harry knew. Louis was seeing who Harry truly was, his shadow spilling into his room. “What are you doing here?” Louis said, slightly more audible. Harry pushed off the ledge, stepping into the room.
“I wanted to see you.” Harry murmured, and he reached a hand out, brushing a finger along Louis’ cheekbone, down to his collarbone. “There’s something I want to show you.”
“How long were you sitting there?” Louis asked, his brain stuck on rewind, replay, understand.
“About four minutes. You look so soft when you sleep.” That would be so creepy, it really would be. But Harry’s voice was soft and calm, like water finding its path over pebbles, sure and constant and gentle.
“What are you showing me?” Louis asked, and for the first time, Louis’ gaze wavered from Harry’s wings, and he realised Harry didn’t have a shirt on, simply had a pair of low slung trackies over his hips. Harry seemed to notice the glance.
“Can’t wear a shirt when I’ve got my wings out. They tear straight through it.” and then, “You have to come with me. It’s wonderful, I promise.” He held out a hand, a large palm spread open and out, waiting for Louis’ hand to clasp it. He did. Harry tugged him over to the window. “You have to trust me, okay?” He asked softly. Louis just nodded, because this boy had shown up in his house in the middle of the night and Louis had let him. He thought trust went without saying now. Harry let go of Louis’ hand, and climbed out the window. His hands released the sill, and Harry was hovering outside the window, his wings beating slow, languid quivers to suspend him there. “Step up onto the ledge, Lou. I won’t let you fall, I promise.”
Louis didn’t process this instruction right away, he was too busy staring in awe at how beautiful this boy was, all skin and feathers and bright eyes and soft curls. When Harry hummed softly, Louis shook himself out of it, and stepped up to the ledge. His fingers shook as he clung to the thin sill, fingernails searching for any purchase they could find. Eventually though, he was standing inside his window frame, hands clinging to the sides, the window opened inwards to give him as much space as he could afford to occupy. Harry was watching him, gaze steady. Then he raised slightly, till he was chest to chest with Louis, and Louis could feel Harry’s bare skin burning through Louis’ t-shirt. The air was still damp, and the electricity the storm had brought with it was still there, hanging in the air, but the humidity was gone, and the temperature cold, abrasive. Louis wondered how Harry felt as though he was radiating heat.
“I’m going to put my arms round you. I need you to loop your arms round my neck, and then your legs round my waist. I won’t let you fall.” Harry repeated. He didn’t know that Louis hadn’t even contemplated that he might fall, was too occupied with the way the moon caught Harry’s jaw line. Harry’s arm came up to curve around Louis’ waist, securing firmly around him. Louis could feel Harry’s heart thudding heavy and present. Louis’ was echoing it. Tentatively, Louis extended his arms, fingertips trailing over Harry’s bare collarbones until they settled behind Harry’s neck, gentle and light against the soft hair on the nape of his neck. Curls tickled Louis’ forearms, and he let out a light puff of air. “Last step.” Harry murmured, and Louis did it, raised one foot and then the other, slotted his hips just above Harry’s, wrapping his legs round his waist. And then they were both suspended outside Louis’ second story window, the stars flickering at them.
“I feel like a koala.” Louis said, letting out a huff. His joke was an attempt to distract himself from the way Harry enveloped him, it was too much skin and Harry fucking smelt like skin and freshness and electricity. And he was too hot against Louis, making Louis feel like he was burning out of his own heart.
“It’s a little undignified, but any other way’s not as safe. And it’s worth it, trust me.” Harry said, that same voice, unaffected, calm, like clouds running through the earth. That didn’t even make sense, but it did to Louis. It was Harry’s voice.
Louis was about to reiterate that he did trust Harry, that he didn’t climb out of second story windows just for anyone, but in that moment, Harry was rising, a beautiful swooping motion like the glide of an ice skater. The wind rushed through Louis’ hair, and he was moving with Harry. He had a view straight over Harry’s shoulder blades, hooking his chin over Harry’s shoulder so he could watch. His view was interrupted every few seconds, by Harry’s wings drawing back in a long, smooth beat, but Louis didn’t mind. He could admire the wings as much as he could admire this small town. The town was buried beneath a blackness that beckoned them, that drew them up.
“It’s… beautiful, Haz.” The nickname slipped out, and Louis wasn’t even sure Harry could hear him over the wind that was moving past them. The small town was just that. A small town. There were tiny lights that shimmered below them, a street lamp, or a front porch night light. But the world was soft and quiet below Louis, and no one was moving. And for a moment, Louis thought everyone had ceased to exist but he and Harry. He revelled in that feeling, for just a moment.
They continued along, graceful, steady. Harry shifted the balance every now and again, re-arranging his grasp on Louis, his fingertips burning into Louis’ sides whenever he did. and then Harry stopped abruptly, mid-air, and hovered, wings beating steadily to keep them in place.
“Look down, Lou.” Harry said, one hand giving a gentle tap to Louis’ spine. Louis shifted his head from where it had been watching the lights disappear to glance down, directly down. His stomach swooped.
The air around them was salt filled and the moon glinted off the ocean, a dark puddle of nothing spread out for miles below them. But somehow it was beautiful, somehow the way the moon took that endless blackness and picked it’s shimmers and undulations and highlighted them, bathed them in her own silver, made it beautiful, breathtakingly so.
Louis gripped once at Harry’s shoulder. “Oh.” He breathed. “Oh my. It’s so… it’s so mesmerising.” Louis uttered, his eyes unable to tear away from the way the moonlight played on the ocean. There they were, dangling in the middle of the ocean, and Louis could barely see the light of land, yet Louis had never felt safer.
“This is my favourite place to come.” Harry replied. He kept his voice quiet, despite there being no one to hear overhear them. “It reminds me that I’m okay. That sometimes, the pain’s worth it. It reminds me that there’s always a place that’s beautiful, no matter how often the world seems like there’s not.”
Louis couldn’t help the next sentence, it fell out of his mouth and the stars draped themselves round the words, magnifying them and illuminating them so that they sat there between he and Harry. “You’re beautiful.”
“I think that about you. Every day.” Harry murmured. The night had a funny way of commanding the truth. A shiver ran through Louis.
“How do you stay warm? You’re practically radiating heat right now.” The topic shift was all Louis could think of.
“I don’t know. Something I’ve always done. Helps when I’m out at night. I’m only warm when my wings are out. When they’re gone, I get really cold. I think it’s like, my body overcompensating or something.” Harry responded, and he gave a slight shrug that shifted Louis, and for a second Louis’ breath caught in his throat as he felt gravity touching his ankles.
“Careful, Haz. You’ll drop me right into the ocean in a minute.” He pressed his palm softly into Harry’s shoulder to show he was joking. Harry let out a soft laugh and cut himself off.
“Do you want to do something fun?” He asked.
“What? This isn’t it? There’s something more fun?” Louis asked, half joking, half serious. Harry laughed again, and then he was swooping upwards so violently Louis’ whole body jolted and he practically went into fight or flight mode as he rocketed through the air. Harry maintained the smoothness of his flight, but the tight twists and loops he took Louis on show Harry’d had practice, had spent hours learning this kind of control.
Louis let out a delighted shriek, his whole world flying past below him on fast forward. The stars blurred and the moon disappeared altogether, and all Louis could feel was adrenaline and Harry’s body pressed against his. And then it wasn’t. And Louis was falling, falling, down towards the dark ocean. For a moment, Louis didn’t register it, thought it was another loop, or twist. And then he realised Harry’s arms weren’t around him. He counted the seconds, wondered how long it would take him to hit the waves. But the moment never came, because there was an angel swooping low under him, giggling as he did, and catching Louis in his arms, sweeping him back up to the stars.
“That’s- so- not- funny.” Louis admonished, catching his breath. Harry still giggled though, gleeful.
“I thought it was. I was never going to let you touch the sea.” He assured. Louis let a small pout form on his face despite this.
“Still not funny.” Louis repeated, stubborn. But Harry brushed him off.
“Home time? We have school tomorrow.”
Louis huffed softly. “Oh sure, now you act responsible. First you kidnap me from my room, give me a near death experience, but now you’re concerned for my studies.” Louis started ranting. Harry let him mumble on, ranting in his ear for the rest of the seamless flight home. When they dipped down into Louis’ yard, Louis felt a yearning in his heart to carry on, to stay in the air with Harry where nothing mattered and they could both breathe.
Harry hovered outside his window again, a couple of feet from the ledge. “Thank you for coming. I wanted to share that with you.” His voice was soft and meaningful, and he enunciated slowly.
Louis tilted his head back dangerously so they could be eye to eye, Harry’s green eyes regarding him steadily. Louis couldn’t help it when he went to lean in, wanting nothing more than to press his lips against Harry’s.
Before he could, he felt the sensation of falling again. It was only a split second before Harry caught him again, but the moment was effectively broken.
“Sorry.” He muttered. “Lost my grip.”
Louis shrugged, tried to calm his beating heart as Harry gently placed him down on the window ledge. Louis ran a soft hand over Harry’s bicep, and Harry shivered slightly at the cool of Louis’ fingers on his warm skin.
“Goodnight, Haz.” Louis said softly.
“Goodnight, Louis.” Harry responded. Then he dipped below the window ledge, and disappeared. Louis stayed there for a few minutes, feeling the fatigue in his arms from clinging to Harry and the way the salt had coated his skin. Eventually, he reached his arms up, pulled himself inside his bedroom, and curled up under his doona.
Louis dreamt of oceans that swallowed the world’s cruelty and wings that kissed good morning.
"The woods and wild waves of ocean had been stilled. The stars were rolling on in mid-course." - Virgil, The Aeneid.
He slept through his first alarm that morning. And the next one. And the one after that. He only woke when his mum walked into his room, sat down on his bed and gave him a gentle shake. His vision was bleary as he tried to look up at her, and she reached out a hand to fiddle with his fringe that was falling soft across his forehead.
“You alright love? It’s almost seven-forty. You’re going to miss the first bell if you don’t get up soon.” She said, looking down at Louis with a concerned look on her face. It wasn’t really like Louis to sleep in. Usually he was staggering down to breakfast at twenty past seven, hair sticking up with tired eyes, but awake and functioning, vaguely. Louis had to blink for a few moments, wondering how to separate his dream from the events of the night. Maybe, perhaps, he’d dreamt the whole thing. But then he noticed he’d slept in his clothes, and his skin still felt tacky with salt. A smile spread over his face. So that had happened.
“Yeah, mum, I’m fine, just stayed up a bit late researching.” Louis said, gently pressing her off his bed so he could get up.
“Okay. Well, if you need a sick day you can take it. I’ve got to get to the hospital in the next twenty minutes. Do you need me to drop you at school, or will you walk?” She was moving towards the doorway as she spoke, whilst Louis rummaged through his clothes to find something wearable. He didn’t know why his appearance felt important today. It was just school. But it was also Harry.
“Nah mum, I’m fine, I’ll walk, it won’t take me long.” He said, shooting her a grateful smile as he tugged his sleep shirt over his head and pulled on a new clean shirt. He didn’t have time for a shower. He wished he did though, his hair was rough from how he’d slept on it, and there was only so much he could do to smooth it down without a shower.
In record time, Louis was giving his mum a hug goodbye and ducking out the front door down their front path. The whole neighbourhood was up and moving by this time, and as Louis took the footpath away from their small white house, he could see other families sending their kids out the door, or getting into cars. The world looked a little renewed today. A good storm always did that in Australia, wiped the roads and the world clean, took away that simmering heat that was omnipresent for the summer, gave them a brief relief if only for a while.
He walked slowly, despite being late. He had biology first and then classics, and whilst he couldn’t really afford to miss those classes, he had very little desire to rush to get to them. He was just rounding the side of that ivy covered corner house when he caught sight of curls and that classic angelic gait, a boy making his way to school with the same grace as a model on a catwalk. Louis felt the zip of excitement up his spine.
“Harry!” He called ahead of him. The figure stopped, turned slightly. Then he ambled back towards him, and Louis noticed that he wasn’t entirely sure if Harry’s feet actually ever touched the pavement. Did they? Probably not.
“Hi Lou.” Harry said, in a voice that was a little shy, a little tentative. Louis let out a slight laugh as he increased his stride to meet Harry halfway.
“What? You show up at my room in the middle of the night like some Romeo, and now you’re shy all of a sudden?” Louis figured the best approach was to just call him out on it. Harry blushed lightly.
“I wasn’t sure if last night was just…” Harry trailed off, raising a hand to twist through one of his curls.
“A one off?” Louis finished for him. Harry blinked slightly and then nodded. “Well it wasn’t. Not for me at least.” Louis said as he reached out and grasped firmly at Harry’s hand. Harry let out a dimpled smile, and the boy looked soft and sleepy and happy. Louis’ insides curled.
Harry squeezed Louis’ hand softly and they started walking. They stayed in silence until they were about to turn into the school’s road. A flicker of doubt hit him, curled into his mind so quickly Louis hardly could grasp it. But it was enough that Harry noticed the way Louis’ hand tensed for a moment. They both stopped walking.
“Um- You’re, alright with this, right? You’re not going to try to… hide me or anything?” Louis said, and all of a sudden he felt so insecure, thinking of all the boys he’d kissed when he was younger who’d told him never to say anything, who had pretended it never happened. He couldn’t bear it if that was what this became. A secret uttered in the silence of each other that never came out of the shadows. Harry frowned for a moment, pursed his lips in confusion at the question. Then the confusion slipped, and Harry understood.
“I’m burning in secrets. I don’t need anymore.” Harry said softly, a bittersweet edge to his mouth. “I’m not going to love you in silence.” As he said this, they both went rigid at the last minute, and Louis couldn’t help the shy look he turned Harry’s way at the word love. Because that’s what this could become. It wasn’t there yet, and Louis knew it. But it could be. One day.
So Louis gave Harry’s hand a soft smooth over with the back of his thumb and murmured, “You’ve got me now. No more secrets to burn in.”
Before Louis could catch the soft lilt of Harry’s mouth, that almost quirked into a smile but never quite made it, Louis was walking again, with Harry’s hand firmly clasped in his. They rounded the corner, and there was other kids wandering towards the school entrance. There were fewer than there would be if Harry or Louis had been on time today, but there were still enough. Enough for Louis to feel Harry’s hand solid in his own like an anchor. For him to need it there.
They made it to class only fifteen minutes late, and Louis slid into his biology seat with a smile on his face that he just couldn’t diminish.
“Someone’s happy it’s Friday.” Liam observed, and then glanced at the way Louis’ hair wasn’t styled. If he noticed the same quality to it that Louis got in the middle of summer when they declare it a beach day, Liam didn’t comment.
The biology room was hot and crowded as they went about forming their pracs. Niall burnt his thumb twice, the same thumb each time, as he attempted to light the Bunsen Burner. Louis couldn’t quite stifle his giggles, every little thing that happened sending him into hysterics. By the time the period finished, Louis’ skin was clammy with the early morning February heat, and he was honestly just glad his teacher hadn’t kicked him out of the class.
“What’d you get up to last night?” Niall asked, his tone casual as he picked at a stray thread on his t-shirt while they walked. He was one of those students who came to all his classes empty handed, with a pencil in his pocket on a good day, and somehow got away with it. Louis couldn’t fathom how he managed. In contrast, Louis had the entire biology textbook, his notes folder, his classical studies folder and his laptop. It really was too much, and far too heavy.
Niall’s question made Louis jerk his head up from where he was staring at the ground as he walked. He was in immediate defence, despite knowing there was no way Niall could know what Louis had done. He tried to force his voice into being casual.
“Nothing, just fell asleep studying, was pretty late so I slept through my alarm.” Louis was definitely over explaining, but he couldn’t help the panic that zipped through him as he thought Niall could find out. Because Harry had become his secret. It wasn’t just that Harry was trusting him with something so huge, so tremendously unreal. But it was also that, Harry and last night, had felt special. Had felt sacred. He couldn’t let go of that. Not yet.
“Mate. How on earth are you studying? I don’t think I’ve studied since the start of this year.” Niall said, as they rounded the corner towards the classics classroom.
Louis just rolled his eyes, fond but a little exasperated. He might be hypocritical, considering even though he claimed to be studying, he had spent the majority of last night in the arms of a very cute boy, but, well, it couldn’t be helped.
“Niall, we’ve got like, exams in less than two terms. It’s year twelve. How on earth are you getting away with not studying?” Louis said. Niall literally still had a b+ average. How was that even possible? Niall just shrugged in response.
“I think I’ll just get a degree in bullshitting.” He said, seriously, as though he’d thought it through thoroughly. Louis huffed a laugh.
“Yeah, you’d definitely get accepted into that course.” Then he paused. “Seriously though, what are you planning on? Uni or something else?” He realised that he’d never actually asked Niall. They weren’t big on important subjects, the two of them. They preferred to talk about footy and other things that didn’t have a huge impact on their lives.
“I reckon I’m just gonna, like, go and do a year of traveling. After that, I would kind of like to work with some relief charity, somewhere. I dunno, really. I just like helping people, so maybe I’ll work with a charity or something.” There was a mumbling to Niall’s response that he didn’t usually have, and Louis recognised it as insecurity. Perhaps Niall was worried Louis was going to tell him it was a bad idea, or not a real job, or something dumb like that.
But as soon as Niall said it, Louis could see it. There was an image in his mind of Niall in a third world country, playing with children, helping to build houses. The Niall he imagined looked so happy.
“That’s awesome. Like seriously.” Louis said, as they walked the corridor to their class. Niall shrugged, as though Louis couldn’t tell it was something important to him.
“Yeah, well. It’s no London art school.” He said quietly, in a cute little way, and he nudged his elbow against Louis. Louis was about to retaliate, shove him back, mutter something about “Yeah if I even get in” but Niall was opening the door to the classroom, and they were walking in. Louis’ eyes immediately went to Harry, in that same seat. The classroom felt sticky and suffocating, the heat that had broken for such a peaceful moment last night back in full force. But Harry was there, so this class didn’t seem quite so bad.
Except, Mrs Elingsworth was glaring at both Louis and Niall. When Louis glanced at the clock, sure enough they were three minutes late. They must have walked a little too slowly.
“I don’t know what class you’re here for boys, but my class starts at nine thirty-five.” She said it icily, and Niall, his completely nonplussed self, shrugged and sat down. Louis got to his seat pretty fast, too. As he sat down in a rush, his biology textbook slipped from his arms, making a loud bang as it hit the ground. He could feel Mrs Elingsworth’s glare sear him. Jesus, that woman had a cold look on her.
Harry bent in his chair, picking up Louis’ biology textbook before he had a chance to. He placed it back on Louis’ desk softly as Louis smiled at him, a gentle smile. “Thanks love.”
“You’re welcome.” He whispered back. Harry offered Louis a headphone, and despite Mrs Elingsworth having just started in on a new lecture, Louis accepted and pressed it into his ear. When Love Comes Back To Haunt You played softly through the headphones, gentle guitar segueing into a voice. Louis recognised it immediately and glanced at Harry.
“This is, um. Sad.” He whispered softly to Harry. Harry looked at him with a fond, lilting smile, and Louis couldn’t help himself from tugging gently on one of Harry’s curls.
“I think it’s beautiful.” He said back. Louis frowned, thinking of Harry finding this song sometime, and loving the lyrics, finding them beautiful. He felt a little ache in his chest. He still didn’t know this boy. Not entirely. But that was okay. They had time.
The class was ten pages into reading the Aeneid aloud when Louis caught onto a sentence Niall had just uttered, as it was his turn to read aloud. Louis turned to Harry with slightly wide eyes. “Did you know that? That Mercury flew?” He said it as softly as he could, not wanting to draw any attention to them. For a minute a little bit of hope soared in his chest. Maybe this was some form of information about Harry and who he was that they hadn’t yet come across. Maybe. But Harry smiled softly and nodded.
“I did. I’ve read this book cover to cover three times, trying to find something.”
“Maybe you’re a messenger? Maybe that’s what it’s all about.” Louis pressed, but before Harry could respond, their whispered conversation was interrupted by Mrs Elingsworth calling on Harry to read. Harry swallowed, and began to read aloud. His voice was quiet, lacking the confident boisterousness with which Niall had read. Louis loved listening to him anyway, the slow roll of his words.
When the class ended, effectively cutting off Harry’s reading, he breathed a shaky sigh of relief.
“You don’t like reading aloud?” Louis assumed as the scattered noises of students packing up and scraping their chairs back filled the room.
“Can’t stand it. Not used to having the attention on me, you know? Always hiding in the background.” Harry shrugged as he stood. Then he was reaching to clasp Louis’ hand in his own, and Louis felt a thrill run through him.
“Why are you hiding?” Louis asked, but before Harry could answer, Louis felt someone’s arm draping over his shoulders. He turned to see Niall’s cheerful face.
“Thought you said you didn’t get up to anything last night, Tomlinson? Seems like something to me.” He said and waggled his eyebrows. Louis laughed and shoved him off.
“I don’t owe you explanations, Horan.” He said good naturedly, and Niall just flipped him the finger as he ducked out of the classroom ahead of them. Louis addressed his next statement to Harry, shaking his head. “That kid, I swear.”
Harry responded with a grin. “I like him, he seems fun.” Louis nodded in agreement.
“Yeah, he’s definitely fun. Did you, um, wanna study in the library tonight?” Louis asked offhandedly, shifting the topic so quickly Harry blinked, catching up.
“I was actually thinking you could come to mine tonight, if you wanted to? I mean, Mum won’t mind, since you know. So, if you want to. You don’t have to, like. But if you want to.” Harry stumbled over his response. Louis giggled and poked Harry’s t-shirt clad side.
“Aw, you nervous?” He teased, but it was soft and fond and forced Harry’s smile to widen. “I’d love to come over. I can’t do lunch today because I’ve got to finish one of my art assessment pieces. But I’ll meet you by the gates when school finishes?”
Harry nodded and gave his hand a soft squeeze as they parted, Louis heading to English and Harry heading across the campus to drama.
Louis couldn’t help be slightly terrified. It was scary enough that he was going to meet Harry’s mum for the first time. But add to that she was an angel, it made his heart tremor a little more than the usual meet the parents situation would. Like, was there a different kind of courtesy for when you meet an angel? Louis didn’t know. Google was no help either, simply informing him that there were several fiction books he could purchase on the topic of Guardian Angels. Louis didn’t think that was quite going to help him right then. He closed his computer tab as soon as he felt Liam sit down in the chair next to him.
“Hi Li.” He said, smiling. Liam was smiling too.
“Hey Lou. I hear you’ve got yourself a boyfriend.” He said. The lack of preamble with Liam always surprised Louis, though it shouldn’t. Liam looked curious and was regarding Louis steadily. Louis blushed.
“I don’t think you could quite call it that, but yeah. I’ve got… something. I guess.” He said, far too eloquently.
“Niall said you were holding hands with Harry Styles this morning.” Liam said. Louis felt the way Liam said Harry’s whole name rub him the wrong way. There was something about it, as though he needed to identify exactly who they were talking about, as though Louis didn’t know the Harry’s hand he was holding this morning was actually in fact Harry Styles’, rather than just Harry’s. It made him feel odd. Louis’ not sure why. But he couldn’t help the brusque tone with which he responded.
“Yep.” His voice was clipped. Liam leant forward on his elbows towards Louis, and Louis really wished their drama teacher would show up so the lesson could start and Liam would stop talking to him. It was too much to hope for though, because as Louis looked out the window down the corridor, there was no teacher insight.
“So are you guys together now?” Liam pressed.
“I don’t know, Liam. I’m not sure yet. But when I am, you’ll be the first to know.” He said, slowly, steadily. Liam frowned, looking a little hurt, and Louis instantly regretted the acerbic tone. “Sorry. I didn’t mean it like that. It‘s just, this thing with Harry has barely begun. I’m not entirely sure where I stand with him yet, so.”
Liam nodded in understanding, and settled back in his own chair. “Yeah, no worries mate. Sorry I was asking.”
“All good.” Louis said, intentionally softening his voice. He didn’t want Liam to think he was mad at him, it was more just… how he could feel the questions from everyone around him, everyone was thinking the same question and Liam was the only one who had asked it. “What’s on for the weekend?’ Louis asked, in an attempt to move on.
Liam shrugged and ran a hand through his hair. “Nothing this weekend. But my auntie’s going to Melbourne next weekend, so I’ve got the house to myself. I was thinking I was just gonna chill at home, but Niall’s trying to pressure me into having a party.”
Louis snorted at that. “Niall would. That kid would go to the ends of the earth for the opportunity to drink too much.”
“That’s true.” Liam said as their drama teacher walked in. Liam lowered his voice as the teacher started talking at the front of the classroom. “I might have it though. Haven’t decided yet. If I do I’ll let you know. You could bring that not boyfriend of yours.” Liam had something daring in his tone, a little cheeky, like he knew he was pushing the limits. Louis chuckled.
“Yeah, alright mate. I might just consider it.” Louis said. “You should have the party, you know. It would be fun and no one would trash the house or anything, I don’t reckon.”
Liam nodded agreeably, and Louis thought he would end up having the party after all. Nothing like a little bit of peer pressure to get Liam to agree to something.
Louis leant against the school gates, the brick cool against his back. He watched student after student wander across the lawn to leave the school. The grass was yellow and dry from the heat of the summer, and Louis could practically hear it crunch under each student’s feet. Louis was contemplating whether they would be going into a drought again this year, considering how dry the summer was, or whether there would be new water restrictions placed, when Harry was suddenly by his side.
“Hi Lou!” He said, a bundle of happiness. Louis had a heart attack.
“Jesus Christ, Haz, you trying to kill me? You didn’t make a freaking sound just then.” He said, trying to calm his racing heartbeat. He’d like to pretend the increased speed of his heart was due to Harry appearing out of nowhere beside him, but it was also partially due to the nerves that were fluttering in his chest.
Harry looked sheepish, but it didn’t subdue the smile on his face. “Sorry. Angel thing.” He said. Louis laughed softly.
“What, your angel thing gives you the power to scare me half to death?”
“Something like that.” Harry said, and his dimple vanished for a moment and then returned. Louis was happy to see it back. “Now come on, mum’s expecting you.” He reached down and clasped Louis’ hand in his. Louis gave it a squeeze, brushing his thumb over Harry’s knuckles as they began walking.
The heat was beating down on them still, and Louis kind of hated February just a little bit. He could feel sweat beading on the nape of his neck, and he knew his hand was growing clammy in Harry’s, but Harry didn’t seem to be fazed. Except, he must have noticed the heat because he stopped them slowly, and glanced up and down the street, noting how empty it was. They’d long since passed the corner that Louis would turn at if he was going to his house, and the houses were growing few and far between, the blocks of land they were on growing larger and larger.
“Want to fly?” Harry asked. His smile was cheeky and sinful. Louis wanted to press his mouth to those lips. He didn’t though, just nodded eagerly. He knew it wasn’t something they should be doing, and was just dangerous enough to get Harry caught, but he couldn’t refuse. Couldn’t say no to seeing those wings envelop Harry’s figure, wide and strong and so, so beautiful. “Okay. Alright, I’m going to disappear in a minute. But I won’t move, so when I disappear, just walk straight towards where I’m standing right now. I’ll reach out to you, and as long as you’re touching me, you won’t be seen either. Okay?” Harry said, and Louis’ eyes widened. He hadn’t realised Harry could disappear. But then he thought of that silvery haze in the bush, that shimmer that had dropped over Harry, and how he had vanished afterwards.
“Okay.” Louis nodded. Harry smiled, glancing up and down the street once again and tugging his t-shirt over his head, handing it to Louis. Louis accepted it and watched, memorised, as the waterfall of silver wrapped itself around Harry. And then he was gone.
But he wasn’t. He was still there. Louis, slowly, stepped towards where Harry had been standing. There was a moment where he felt ridiculous, reaching out a hand to grasp at air, but then there was a firm, steady hand wrapping around his wrist and Harry came back into view. Except, this time, he had his wings out, just as full as they had been the night before. His eyes were a piercing green as he looked at Louis steadily. Louis tried to catch his breath.
“You’re beautiful.” He murmured, unthinkingly, as he reached out the hand that wasn’t clasped in Harry’s to run his palm over Harry’s shoulder, to his bare collarbones, down his chest. Harry’s skin pebbled under Louis’ touch, and Louis noticed how the temperature had changed. It was cooler now, the sheen of silver that was around them, that Louis could no longer see, must bring the coolness with it.
Harry smiled gently at Louis’ words, and Louis bit his own lip to stop him from saying something more ridiculous like “Can I kiss you?”
“Hi.” Harry murmured, and his voice was soft and smooth as Louis let his palm drift back up to rest on Harry’s shoulder.
“Hello.” Louis breathed out. And then he was taking Harry’s head tilt as an invitation, and wrapping his arms around Harry’s neck, feeling the soft warm skin burning against his own. At that, Harry lifted him slightly, and Louis wrapped his legs around Harry’s waist, the jut of Harry’s hips keeping him there.
“Ready?” Harry asked quietly. Louis glanced up and down the street, noting the way the mist of silver around them had faded, making Louis feel like he was revealed to the world again. “No one can see us. It’s just you and me.” Harry assured. Louis nodded at that.
“Fly us away, love.” He said quietly. Harry took the cue as his wings made one strong beat, and then another, and they were rising up, up, up. Louis could feel the beat of Harry’s heart against his own chest as they did. Or maybe it was the beat of his wings reverberating. Either way, Louis could feel him. And he felt like wonder and adventure and peace all at once.
“Don’t tell my mum I did this. She doesn’t like me to fly when it’s not necessary.” Harry said in a conspirator voice, over the rush of his own wings. Soon, Harry reached a height that skimmed above the houses roofs, and Louis could feel the tug of gravity heavy on his back as Harry’s angle became almost parallel to the ground. But Harry’s hands were secure around Louis’ back, keeping him there.
“Is it ever necessary for you to fly?” Louis asked, curiously. He let his head drop slightly, tilting it down into the wind, feeling the air card through his hair.
“Sometimes I have to, I get a… pulsing feeling, if I haven’t flown in a while. It’s like an instinct or something.” Harry replied, and juts up for a moment, sending a thrill down Louis’ spine. He let out a rather high pitched squeal, and Harry laughed, his eyes crinkling as he glanced down at Louis.
“Hey. Eyes on the road.” Louis admonished, giving the base of Harry’s neck a quick squeeze.
When they arrived at Harry’s, Louis let go of him once they were on the ground, and for a moment, Harry was gone, back into the figments of Louis’ imagination that he was sure the boy belonged to. But then, there was a brief shimmer, and Harry was back, grinning widely at Louis with ruffled curls and bare shoulders, his rippling silver wings gone again.
“Oh. Fuck.” Louis said as he noted Harry’s bare chest. As he handed Harry’s bag back to him, he explained. “I dropped your t-shirt. I’m so sorry. I’ll go look for it on my way home. I can’t believe I did that, I’m so sorry.” Louis rambled, eyes wide. Harry shrugged softly and laughed.
“That’s okay, I didn’t like that t-shirt that much anyway.”
Louis frowned, still partially put out, but then Harry was pulling Louis’ hand up the path of a large brick red house. From the outside, the house looked as though it had rooms curling off it in every direction, and the house sprawled out onto acres of land. There was not many surrounding houses, one or two that Louis could see in the distance. The road the house led onto was red with dust. Harry walked straight up to the heavy oak door that was set into the red brick, and pushed against it. Louis trailed behind, nerves returning with full force.
“Mum?” Harry called out as he walked in, tossing the backpack Louis had on his back down on the hardwood floors. From the outside, the house had looked cold and reserved. The inside, however, was anything but. Light poured in from windows that faced their back acre, and the walls were painted white with fluffy rugs on the wooden floors. Despite the fact the summer heat was still beating down outside, the house felt cool and homely. A voice called back from one of the rooms, muffled slightly. “She must be in the kitchen. Come on, Lou, she’s not as scary as you’re imagining.” Harry coaxed, catching sight of the stricken expression on Louis’s face. Louis tried to give him a smile and followed Harry down the hallway into another bright room.
Harry’s mum was standing behind a kitchen island, an array of chopping knives and food in front of her. She glanced up as they walked in. She had dark hair and eyes that seemed to smile, and Louis immediately felt slightly more relaxed about meeting her.
“Hello, boys!” She said happily, dropping one of the knives she’d had in hand and pressing her hands against her long white skirt to clean them. “You must be Louis. I’m Anne. I’ve heard a lot about you.” She said, and Harry groaned quietly. “Oh, nothing embarrassing, I swear. I’ve just heard you’re a very nice boy, and you’re a very talented artist.” Harry let out a second groan. Louis blushed.
“Hi Anne, it’s nice to meet you.” Then he shifted slightly to face Harry, a cheeky smile on his face. “When have you even seen my art?” Harry turned to his mum, shooting her a glare.
“I may have seen it in the art buildings once or twice, when I was there.”
“You don’t do art.”
“Okay, so I went in specifically to see your work.” Harry gave in. “See, Mum? This is why I shouldn’t tell you anything.” Anne just chuckled lightly before Louis spoke.
“It’s alright. I’m a little bit flattered.” It was as Louis said this that Anne seemed to notice the absence of Harry’s shirt, and tutted.
“Oh Harry, you didn’t fly home did you? For god’s sake, I’ve told you not to do that. The neighbours are going to start noticing if you two boys begin disappearing in front of their own eyes.” She admonished him, and Harry scuffed the tip of his shoe against the floor.
“No one saw us, I checked. There was no one around.” He defended. Anne shook her head at him anyway. Harry seemed to take that as their cue to leave, and reached out for Louis’ wrist to tug him out of the kitchen. “Bye mum!” He said, announcing their departure. Anne let out a soft laugh.
“It was nice to meet you, Anne.” Louis said as he shuffled backwards out of the kitchen due to Harry’s insistent grasp on his wrist. Anne returned the sentiment, and then they were out of the kitchen and Harry was leading Louis up the staircase. It was in that moment that Louis noticed Harry’s back. The muscles were strong and firm along his back, and he could see them shifting as they walked up. But what made Louis’ breath catch in his throat were the spidery thin lines that traced outwards from the centre of his upper back.
He didn’t say anything, not yet, just simply followed Harry along the hallway they were walking, until Harry shoved open a door at the end of the long corridor. His room was filled with light as well, exactly as Louis would expect an angel’s room to be. The late afternoon sun reached through Harry’s window, and painted the room in a soft orange glow.
“So this is my room.” Harry said, and he flopped on his stomach onto the bed, stretching his arms out.
“It’s nice.” Louis said as he stepped into the room and took a moment to look around, decidedly not staring at the way Harry’s body looked stretched taut. There was a book case stacked high in the corner by the window, and on one wall Harry had photograph after photograph stuck there, slowly spilling up the rest of the white wall. Louis crossed to the books first, ran his fingers over the spines, recognising some. “You really do have an obsession with classical literature, don’t you?” Louis observed as his finger brushed the Iliad, the Odyssey, The Histories, The Aeneid. Book after book on Ancient Rome, Ancient Greece and their mythology. Harry shuffled so he could turn his head to face Louis, resting his head in the palm of his hand.
“I’ve read almost every book on the topic, like I said.” Harry said. That was when it clicked for Louis.
“So… all of these? Looking for an angel?” Louis asked, slightly awed, slightly confused. That was a lot of books to read. That was a boy who wanted answers desperately. Harry sat up swiftly at that, just as Louis was crossing the room to look at the photos, faces of Harry, of Anne, and others he didn’t recognise. One he assumed was Harry’s sister, other friends or relatives. Louis turned at Harry’s sudden movement. Harry’s hands were clasped together tightly and was looking at his knees before he raised his head to meet Louis’ gaze.
“Stop calling me that. Please stop. I don’t deserve the name. I really don’t.” He said quietly, and Louis’ heart wrenched a little. “I just have wings, is all. Doesn’t make me an angel.” He paused, and then continued. “I read those books to try and find an explanation, to try to figure out why I’m like this. There’s some things that are familiar. In Virgil’s work, gods were often depicted as having a silver mist around them when they appeared, or silver mist was a sign of divine intervention, at least. Homer did that, too. But it still doesn’t explain me.”
Louis walked to Harry’s bed and sank down onto the mattress beside him, shoulder to shoulder. For a moment, he resisted the urge, but then he turned slightly, and pressed the softest of kisses into Harry’s shoulder. Harry shivered slightly, and then wrapped an arm around Louis’ shoulder, tugging him inwards.
“You’ve got scars on your back.” Louis murmured, his lips brushing Harry’s collarbones with every word. “Why?”
Harry didn’t say anything for a moment, but Louis could feel his fingers trailing up and down Louis’ arm, soft and light. “My wings left them. When they first came out, the pain in my shoulders was almost crippling, until they just… appeared. And when my wings went away after that first night, the scars stayed.” Harry said. His voice was gravelly and low as he spoke, and Louis glanced up, taking in his face. His skin was awash in the light of the sun setting outside his window, and his curls were tinged with gold. Louis thought he could believe that Harry was divine intervention, no questions asked.
Louis shifted out of Harry’s arm, sliding back slightly on the bed. “Do they still hurt? The scars?” He asked softly. Harry shook his head, his curls shifting in the suns glow, but he still tensed slightly as he felt Louis’ fingers brush the skin just below the scar.
“You can touch them. They don’t hurt me or anything, promise.” Harry said. He was barely moving. Louis wasn’t sure he was breathing. Prompted though, Louis let his hand run over the thin silver lines that expanded over Harry’s back. They fissured out from between his shoulder blades in unruly webbed patterns. He looked, thought Louis, like a boy who got hit with a thunderbolt. Harry’s skin was warm under Louis’ touch, and Louis couldn’t even come close to holding himself back as he dipped his head, pressed his lips to the lines, kissed over them softly, one by one. Harry was unmoving, but he didn’t feel tense, he seemed to be leaning into Louis' hands that were running up his sides, leaning back into Louis’ lips.
Then Harry was turning, shifting on the mattress to face Louis. He reached a hand up to catch against Louis’ cheek, a warm heat flooding into him from Harry’s touch. For a moment, in that breath and the next, Louis thought Harry was going to kiss him. Thought he was going to lean right in and kiss him there and then, and Louis would have everything he wanted under his own hands. But Harry took his hand away, leaned back enough that Louis could no longer feel his breath against his cheek. Enough that Louis was able to take in every feature of his face, rather than just the pink of his lips.
“Do you want to watch a film? Or we could listen to some music, or something.” Harry suggested, and he looked flustered, a pink tinge kissing the tops of his cheeks. Louis felt disappointment swoop low in his stomach, but he brushed it aside. There would be time for kissing soon, he was sure of it.
“Sure. A film sounds good.” Louis responded. Harry stood and before they left his room, grabbed a white t-shirt, tugging it on.
It was late by the time Louis pulled out his art folio. He’d spent another three hours at Harry’s, watching Crazy Stupid Love, which was Harry’s choice, and then chatting to Anne when she came into the living room to ask Louis if he wanted to stay for dinner. He’d politely declined, knowing his mum would be home tonight and they’d be having another proper family dinner.
When he’d left Harry’s house, it was just past dark. Harry had offered to walk him home, but Louis had told him not to be silly. Louis had grown up on these streets, had memorised them from five onwards. He would be just fine walking the fifteen minutes back to his house. Harry, however, Louis did not trust to make the half hour round trip, even if he could simply fly home.
He’d been working on the same piece for going on three weeks now, using pencil to create an intricate drawing of ribs and flowers that weaved together into one, until you couldn’t entirely separate them. He was drooping over his desk as he worked, letting out soft hums and the occasional yawn, the dull light of his desk lamp not doing much to help him see what he was doing.
As he rubbed at smudged lead with a rubber, his eyes growing heavy, there was a gentle knock on the door. He looked up to see his mum standing in the doorway, framed in the light spilling in from the hallway.
“Hi Mum.” He said quietly.
“Hi love.” She responded, crossing the room to where he was sitting. She let a hand fall softly on his shoulder as she glanced down at his piece. “You shouldn’t be doing this in such bad light, sweets. It’s no good for your eyes.” She said, briefly, but it was the same thing she always said, and she knew Louis was going to ignore it. He worked better surrounded by darkness. “It’s a beautiful drawing.” She murmured, and Louis examined his own work, taking in the parts where colour would need to be added, where the shading was too dark.
“It’s going to be one of my final pieces, I think.”
His mum hummed. “I think it should be.” She agreed. She went quiet for a minute or two, still staring at Louis’ piece. Then she said, almost hesitant. “So this Harry. Lottie tells me you’ve been spending quite a lot of time with him.”
Louis smiled, couldn’t help the slight raise of his lips at the thought of Harry. “Yeah. He’s lovely, mum. Really.”
“I’m sure he is. You’ll have to bring him here for me to meet soon.” Another pause, heavier. “Just, make sure you’re being a little bit careful, Lou. The people in this town talk, and from what I’ve heard, Harry’s moved around a lot, and he’s been to a lot of schools. No one really knows why he’s moved so much, but there’s been quite a bit of speculation. I just don’t want you to get involved in the wrong thing.”
Louis didn’t brush this advice aside, however, part of him wished he could simply explain to his mum why Harry’d been moving, that he’d had to keep moving, keep hiding. But instead, his curiosity piqued his interest, and he couldn’t help but ask.
“What kinds of speculating? What are people saying?” His voice was calm, unconcerned. Jay settled herself on the edge of Louis’ bed, and Louis turned his chair to face her.
“They’re saying he was drinking at his other schools, doing drugs. That sort of thing.” She said. Her voice was seemingly unconcerned as well, and Louis recognised it for what it was. His mum wasn’t condemning Harry, she was just reminding him not to fall too fast, to learn the boy before he loved him.
“Okay. I don’t think that’s quite him, mum. But I’ll check, I’ll be careful.”
“I’m sure he is a lovely boy. I just want you to make sure you know that for certain.” She said, and with that she rose again, pressed a soft kiss to Louis’ hair, tousled from his shower, and walked to the door. Glancing back, she said “Please get some sleep. You look tired. Your art will still be here tomorrow.” And with that, she closed the door.
Louis took his mum’s advice and soon packed up his work, curling up under his covers. His whole body groaned with exhaustion, but as he went to plug his phone into his charger, he noticed a message on the screen. It was Harry.
I had a lovely afternoon with you. Sleep tight, Lou. Xx
Louis’ heart fluttered slightly, ridiculously. It was only a text message. But he thought of Harry lying in his bedroom, thinking of Louis, maybe, hopefully, and he couldn’t help the warmth that spread through him.
Thank you for having me. I really like your cat. Good night Harry xx
Louis hit send and placed his phone on the bedside table, the moon casting in over his bedroom window, and then a cloud crossed it’s path, and Louis’ room fell dark.
The weekend passed with Louis working two shifts at the local café and spending his evenings with his sisters having movie nights. The regulars at the café kept him busy, always wanting to know how his mum was, most of them old ladies and gentlemen sitting and chatting over coffee for the morning and half the afternoon. He liked his job, but by the time Anita told him he could go home, his bones were always heavy with exhaustion and the smell of coffee stuck to his skin.
He tried not to think of Harry too much during his shifts, or when he was with his family. But every time when he finished work, there was a couple of texts from Harry, just silly little things.
The teabag I was using just fell off its string and this accurately describes my life right now.
I just watched mamma mia and I feel like it’s a severely underrated movie.
Louis read them, and smiled, and typed out a cheeky little reply to each.
On Monday though, when Louis texted him asking if he wanted to come over that afternoon, he still didn’t have a reply by the time he was walking out of biology. He had checked his phone about thirteen times, despite the watchful eye of Mr McRandal, and Niall had begun to tease him incessantly on their walk to classics.
But when Niall and he walked in, Louis on the brink of tossing Niall the middle finger, Louis stopped short. Harry’s chair was empty. He wasn’t there. Harry was always the first one there, because his English class was next door, so it always took him no time to get there. Louis furrowed his brow. Maybe he’d gone to the bathroom or was talking to his English teacher or something, Louis reasoned. He sat down at the desk next to Harry’s empty seat, and waited. He sent him one text message. And then another. And another. But there was still no response.
By the time classical studies finished, Louis had sat on his own for the whole lesson, and he had an uneasy stirring in the bottom of his stomach. Surely if Harry was unwell he would have texted him. He packed his books up quickly, and Niall came up behind him as he left.
“You coming to lunch, man?” Niall asked, and Louis didn’t have his normal lunch date, so he nodded.
“Alright! Haven’t had lunch with you in ages, Tommo. Let’s go!” Niall responded, and he talked the whole way to the cafeteria, ranting about their biology teacher, talking about the girl he wanted to take out, Emma someone. By the time they reached the cafeteria Louis’ mind had slipped from Harry completely.
“Louis! You coming to lunch with us?” Liam asked from where he was leant against the wall with the rest of the boys. The other boys turned to face Niall and Louis, most of them nodding their hellos.
“Yeah man, I’m coming.” Louis responded and Liam grinned.
They all wandered into the cafeteria, as they were the last of the people their group was waiting on, and Louis ended up sitting opposite Liam to eat. Niall was plastered to one of his sides, and James the other. The chatter of the dining hall surrounded him as Louis began eating. Then Liam started talking to them all, addressing the whole table.
“So my aunt and uncle are out for the whole of this weekend, heading up to Melbourne for something. Can’t remember what. But anyways, I was thinking we-”
“Party!!!” Niall cut him off before Liam could finish. Liam flicked his gaze to Niall, laughing.
“Well, yeah. Basically. This Saturday.”
Niall let out a whoop, because he was overly excitable and also loved to get his way, and the rest of the boys exchanged small grins. They started up conversations of who was going to supply, and who else Liam was going to invite.
“Bring whoever you want, I don’t mind as long as no one trashes the house.” Liam declared. It would sound like a dangerous thing to say, but their town was small, and the boys would be hard pressed to scrap together a hundred people to come. Let alone the fact that everyone knew everyone, so no one would get away with trashing the house and without having to take responsibility for it. Liam turned to Louis as the boys started talking about who to bring, and what girls they should ask. “Will you invite Harry?”
Louis looked at Liam, vaguely surprised. “Sure. I mean, if you want me to, I’ll let him know.”
Liam nodded eagerly. “You should bring him, I’d like you to.” Louis nodded. So that was that.
There was still no reply to Louis’ messages when he walked home, his bag heavy with books and his whole folio clutched in one hand. His mum was on night shift, and that meant the whole family knew it was get your own for dinner. Louis made himself instant noodles, and hid in his room, trying to ignore the empty responses from Harry.
He worked half the night, colouring and drawing, sketching and erasing. He had to put his glasses on at one point, eyes burning with exhaustion.
The moon cast shadows across his bedroom. Louis didn’t notice.
By Friday, Louis was despairing. He was probably just sick, Louis reasoned. Of you, his brain helpfully tacked on. Louis frowned at the thought. He had been clingy, and maybe Harry was hiding from him, avoiding him. Perhaps, what Louis thought he knew was wrong. Maybe Harry just wanted to be friends, or maybe he wanted to be nothing at all.
On his walk to school, his phone pinged. Louis’ entire stomach swooped as he pulled out his phone, and as he saw Harry’s name on his screen for the first time in almost a week, he let out a heavy sigh. Unlocking it, he read the message, pausing his gait to do so.
Hi, I’m so sorry I’ve been off grid for ages. I’ve been really unwell, and I know I should have texted you to let you know. Forgive me? Xx
Louis couldn’t help but relax at the message, because he wanted to believe Harry’s reasoning, he wanted to believe he had been sick. He wanted to believe it so badly.
That’s okay. I hope you’re feeling better. I’ll forgive you if you come to a party Saturday night? It’s at Liam Payne’s house. xx
Sounds fun. I’m down for it. see u in class xx
Louis smiled at the affirmation that Harry would be back in class, and he quickened his pace to school, even though it was ridiculous, because he wouldn’t see Harry till before lunch in Classics.
Louis couldn’t hold himself back when he walked into Classics. Harry was sitting there in his normal desk, and there were only two other kids in the room, so Louis wrapped an arm tightly around Harry’s chest from behind, just briefly. Harry tensed for a moment, realised it was Louis, and melted into it.
“Hello there.” Harry said, and Louis released him, sitting down in the chair beside him.
“Hi.” Louis returned, a bright smile across his face. He took in Harry’s appearance. He was in a sweater again, despite the fact this week had been a record one for the heat that was surrounding them. There was deep stains below his eyes, and Louis wanted to press his thumb against them, attempt to wipe away the inky blue. “You okay love?” Louis asked softly. Harry reached for Louis’ hand under the table as more kids walked into the room.
“I’m good now. Haven’t been well. “ Harry replied. Louis frowned slightly.
“You know, if you don’t feel up to it, you don’t have to come to Liam’s tomorrow night. I don’t want you to feel like you have to.”
Harry’s finger smoothed over the back of Louis’ hand. “I want to. Haven’t been to a party here yet.” Harry said, and he looked genuinely excited. Tired, but excited.
“I think they may be a bit of a let down for you. We don’t really get all that many people, because there’s only like seventy-five teenagers in this whole town.” Louis said quietly. “Well, seventy-five year twelves. I’m sure there’s more than seventy-five teenagers all up. It may have been a slight underestimate.” Louis amended, and Harry giggled softly.
“How’s your math class going?” He teased.
“Not well.” Louis responded immediately. Harry laughed. There was something about the way Harry laughed that made Louis feel at ease, soft and comfortable and happy. He loved that laugh.
Even when Mrs Elingsworth walked into the room and set her books down on the teacher’s desk, Harry still didn’t let go of Louis’ hand. Even when they had to get out the Aeneid to discuss a passage, and Louis sort of needed both his hands, Harry still didn’t let go. Louis was glad, and proceeded to do everything one handed. It was good to have Harry back, and it was good to know they still had whatever they’d had to begin with.
As they were packing up, Louis leant across to Harry. “I’m not going to lunch today. I have to work on my art folio, I’m sorry.” He regretted it as soon as he said it, wished he’d just decided to blow off his art work for the day, if only to spend an extra twenty minutes in Harry’s presence. But then Harry was looking back at him, face shy.
“Do you think I could come with you? To work on your folio? I’d like to see your work.” He looked at Louis, face hopeful, and Louis nodded without hesitation.
They made their way back across the campus, since the Art rooms and their Classics room were on opposite sides of the school. Louis was sticky with sweat by the time he arrived, the week’s heat still present, still trying to melt everyone. It wasn’t that Louis didn’t like the heat, he just, didn’t like the heat. Harry stayed in his sweater, and Louis couldn’t figure out how he looked so unaffected by the weather, or the fact it was thirty degrees out. They chatted as they went, little things about their days, and what time they’d head to Liam’s tomorrow.
When they arrived at the Art buildings, Louis opened the door for Harry and followed him inside, suddenly shy. He knew Harry had seen his folio before, but it felt different to be showing it to him.
“So this is where I live, basically.” He tried to joke. Harry, bless him, made sure it didn’t fall flat and let out a soft laugh as Louis busied himself picking up his folio and grabbing pencils and brushes from the cupboards. “It’s kind of boring to watch me work, like I just sit here with a pencil and stuff.” He said as he walked back over. As soon as he set his folio down, Harry was by his side.
“Can I?” Harry asked, and for a second Louis thought he was asking to- no. Harry gestured to the folio, and Louis nodded wordlessly. Harry started flipping through his folio, looking at each page in detail. Louis pulled out a stool and sat down on it, content to watch Harry as he looked. The boy had his curls falling over his forehead as he tilted his head forward to look at the small sketches and drawings. He had his teeth sunk into his bottom lip as he looked, and Louis felt partially like dying just looking at him. God, he was gorgeous. Louis might die if he didn’t get to kiss him soon.
“It’s not really much. There’s kids in our class way more talented. But it’s just what I love doing, so I spend a lot of time on it.” Louis started talking because if he stared at Harry any longer he may give in and just kiss him.
It was as he was speaking Harry turned the page and sucked in his breath. There, splayed across a double page spread, were wings. They were silver and shimmering, and Louis could recall every brush stroke he took, how he’d worked for hours into the night, trying to draw it so he could remember, remember the beauty of Harry and his wings.
“You… that’s, that’s my wings.” Harry said, voice in awe. Louis nodded. Harry didn’t even look to him for confirmation. Instead, he traced his hand softly over the paper, tracing each of Louis’ brushstrokes, the way the feathers fell soft at the edges of the wings, the gradient of whites and silvers and greys. “They’re… they’re really beautiful, Lou. You’re so talented.” Harry said, and finally he looked up, looked straight at Louis.
“I did one, where you were in it too. I’ve got it at home. But I thought it was better not to put it in my folio. People might start thinking you had wings.” Louis said, and then Harry was moving to stand right in front of him, and his knuckles were trailing over Louis’ jaw. Louis stopped breathing, terrified that if he moved at all, Harry might take a step back, take his hand back. He gazed steadily at Harry, taking in those green, green eyes, the slope of his nose, the red of his lips.
“You’re going to be the death of me.” Harry said, voice sharp but deep, steady, sure. But then he was taking a step back, letting his hand fall from Louis’ jaw, and Louis was left wanting. Harry turned back to the folio like it never happened, and kept flipping, admiring pages of sketches, drawings of plants and roses, ribs and bones. “Where do you get the inspiration for these from? They’re so beautiful.”
Louis shrugs. “I- well they just kind of, happen. I love the roses. They come from my mum’s garden. She’s got hundreds of them, red and pink and white and peach ones. But the bones, I don’t really know. I think I like the way life intertwines with death. You can’t really extricate the two, you know?”
Harry was looking at him now, gaze unwavering. “You make it seem beautiful.” He said. Louis was pretty sure that adjective had been overused at this point, but he wasn’t complaining. Instead he furrowed his eyebrows, and tugged slightly on his own t-shirt, re-adjusting.
“Make what seem beautiful?” He questioned.
“Death. Or life. Both. You make it seem like it doesn’t hurt. You make it seem like we’re not all crumbling.” Harry said, and his voice had grown soft, distant, like he was watching something else take place in his mind. Louis wondered if this was what he was signing up to with Harry. Always having a boy who was half a world away. Perhaps.
“I don’t think it’s beautiful. I’m not trying to romanticise any of it, life or death or anything in between. I think it all can suck pretty often, and it can all be great pretty often too. But I don’t think we should be scared of it. I think, maybe, that as long as you’re doing everything you want to do while you’re alive, death won’t matter when it shows up eventually. As long as you’ve lived the life you wanted.” Louis slid back to sit on one of the art stools as he spoke and his cheeks blushed as he realised he was rambling nonsense. But Harry was still looking at him unwaveringly.
“Yeah. Yeah, I guess you’re right.” Harry said, and then he was shaking himself out of his own mind and smiling widely at Louis. “So what are you working on today?”
Louis shifted, straightening up to shift topics. This boy, he swore, was like fucking whiplash. “Well, I have to annotate my folio. Which is possibly the most boring part of the entire subject, but it’s got to be done. And you, my dear Harold, are in charge of music choices.”
He gestured to where the small speaker was sat up on one of the shelves. It got played every time they had art, and some weeks their art teacher chose the playlist, other times one of the kids got to choose it off Spotify. Harry walked away from Louis’ folio to bring down the speaker, and started fiddling with it to connect his phone to it. Louis settled down with a couple of paint, brushes and black pens, taking out a page of his folio to begin.
Soft music started to fall out of the speaker, and Louis smiled. It was a soft day, he thought, as Stevie Nicks crooned Songbird through the speakers. Within a moment, Harry was leaning over his shoulder, watching as Louis left paint streaks on a rose.
“Thought you said you were annotating today.”
“I am. But, annotating’s no fun, so I have to motivate myself first.” He responded, and when he felt Harry’s chin come to rest on his shoulder, he placed a quick dab of paint straight over where Harry’s dimple lived. Harry giggled lightly.
They spent the rest of lunchtime there, with Harry singing softly to the music as he sat next to Louis, watching him work, even when it was just Louis carefully printing letters onto the paper. The time moved too fast, and soon Louis was glancing at the time on his phone only to realise they should have been in class five minutes ago.
“Fuck.” He muttered as he jumped up, taking the paints to the sink.
“What?” Harry said, looking up a little lost. He’d been away in his mind again, humming softly to the music playing.
“We’re late. Class started five minutes ago.” Louis said, and that got Harry moving, jumping up as well and starting to collect up the pens Louis had been using.
“Fuck. I’ve got a History test.” Harry responded as he crossed the room to put the pens away.
“Go, I’ve got this, I’ve only got English. Miss Johnson won’t mind that much.” Louis urged, reaching out to prise the pens out of Harry’s hand.
“Of course I’m sure. Now go, you’ll miss your test.” As Louis spoke, he leant up, quick as anything and pressed a soft kiss to Harry’s cheek. “Good luck.” Before Louis could catch sight of the pink tinge that laced Harry’s cheeks, Harry was leaving the room, letting the heavy door swing shut behind him. Louis was fifteen minutes late to class, and smiled the whole way there.
"You could have called me to share your fate and we would both have died in the same moment of the same grief." - Virgil, The Aeneid.
They arrived at Liam’s later than the majority, and by the time they were walking up the path to Liam’s house, they could hear the bass of a speaker and the chatter of people. Harry reached down to thread his fingers through Louis’. Louis grasped it back.
Harry looked immaculate. He was in a light linen shirt and tan shorts, finally dressed appropriately for the Australian February weather. It wasn't a particularly outstanding outfit, but Harry wore it so well, the shirt hanging so nicely, and Louis, well. Louis didn’t know whether there was something about angels that made people fall head over heels within minutes, or whether it was simply Harry. He thought it may be the latter.
He glanced at Louis quickly, and Louis caught sight of Harry’s tongue swiping out briefly at his bottom lip, his eyes bright. He was nervous.
“It’ll be fun, I promise. Everyone’s chill at these things, nothing ridiculous or anything. There’ll probably just be beers and maybe pot, but that’s it.” Louis said, doing his best to be encouraging as they stepped up onto the front entrance. Harry smiled and nodded.
“Yeah, alright. Let’s have some fun.” He said, and his dimple was out.
“That’s the spirit!” Louis declared, and gave Harry’s hand a squeeze as he opened the door to the house. The foyer was relatively empty, and Louis assumed the majority would be in the backyard. The night was warm, and there would be no reason to stay cooped up inside. “Also, I know I said there’d be nothing ridiculous here, but if Zayn Malik offers you anything, don’t take it. The kid’s wild. I went to a party with him a summer ago, and I still don’t remember a single thing after we walked in the door. He’s a nice kid, but you can’t trust his drugs.” Louis informed Harry as they wandered down the hall.
“Not a problem. I don’t really do drugs, at all. Don’t like ‘em.” Harry informed Louis, tone nonplussed.
Louis blinked, recalling his mum’s words about Harry. He didn’t seem to be living up to the towns expectations of him in the slightest. Louis was relieved about it, in a small part of himself.
“Yeah, fair enough.” Was all he responded with. Louis led them through Liam’s house, knowing his way from the multiple sleepovers and time he’d spent there from childhood onwards. They stopped off in the kitchen where they ran into the first group of people. Louis entered, and waited for Harry to drop his hand, to step away, to distance himself like every other boy he’d ever been involved with had done. But Harry didn’t. His step didn’t even falter, and there was not a moment’s hesitation as he took inventory of the people in the room and stepped in behind Louis.
Louis greeted the boys there, and the one girl who was standing there, texting on her phone. They all smiled and murmured a greeting, and Louis threaded his way round the kitchen island to the fridge, opening it up. “D’you want a drink, Haz?” He asked, letting go of Harry’s hand to reach for two beers.
“Nah, thanks. I don’t drink.” Harry said, and Louis’ eyebrows raised.
“Man, my mum is gonna love you.” He said, and Harry smiled, apprehensive but sweet.
“Always good news. I was hoping she’d like me for my wit and charm, but if I can get her sold on my lack of drinking habits, that’ll do too.” Harry said, easing into the banter. Louis grabbed one beer and a bottle of water, handing the water to Harry and uncapping the beer bottle for himself.
“I’m sure she’ll like you for all those things. I think the drinking will be a selling point though.” Louis responded. “Come on, let’s go find Liam and the lads. Have you met Liam?” Louis asked, suddenly realising he’d never actually introduced the two.
“Yeah, well, sorta.” Harry started as they made their way back to the hallway and out the back. “I’ve got History with him, but I haven’t really talked to him ever.” Harry said as Louis tossed the fly screen door open. There were at least fifty students clustered in the backyard, and someone had got a small fire going in the back corner of the yard where the fire pit was. Liam’s yard was big and open, stretching the expanse of what would equal another block, if they didn’t live in the most underpopulated area that had absolutely no need for housing developments.
Louis spotted Liam’s figure over by the fire, and he took a swig from his beer as they manoeuvred their way over to him, sharing friendly hellos with people as they went.
“Liam!” Louis called, walking up behind him. Liam turned to face him, a joint in hand. His face was shadowed by the flickers of the fire, so Louis wasn’t entirely sure how gone the boy was.
“Hey Lou.” Liam grinned back at him, smiling. “Come sit.” He said, gesturing to the grass he was sat on.
Louis obliged, settling down into the grass, and Harry did the same, his knee pressing against Louis’ as he crossed his legs. Louis felt heat blossom from the place.
“Liam, this is Harry. Harry, this is Liam. One of my best friends since primary school.” Louis introduced. Liam leant heavily on Louis as he held out a hand for Harry to shake.
“It’s nice to finally meet Louis’ boy. We have missed him these past coupla weeks, never coming to lunch with us, always sneaking off in the afternoons.” Liam said, and his smile was genuine and warm. Harry laughed lightly.
“It’s nice to meet you too. Awesome party.” Harry said politely, but he looked at ease. There was a loud voice that rang out over the chatter of the party.
“Tommo you motherfucker, why didn’t you come tell me you were here?”
Louis and Harry both shifted to look over their shoulders, and Louis took in a very intoxicated Niall.
“Christ Ni, how do you even manage that? It’s hardly ten o’clock, and you’re absolutely trashed.” Louis said, but he was fond anyway, used to Niall’s terrifying drinking antics. Niall dropped down onto the grass in between Harry and Louis, effectively cutting of their contact and forcing them both to wriggle over slightly to make room for him.
“The real question is, why the hell aren’t you both trashed? The night’s young, and we’re all young, and like, there’s alcohol.” Niall reasoned, extremely logically. Harry laughed lightly.
“You’ve got a point.” Harry said, and Niall turned to regard him.
“Hello Harry.” He said, voice extremely serious. Harry just grinned a dimpled smile.
They sat there for a while, discussing ridiculous topics like why the moon could only be seen at night, and whether they could collectively stage a school uprising against any and all forms of assessment, for an hour or two. Louis got up a couple of times to locate more alcohol, and by the time Harry got up, telling them all he was going to the bathroom, Louis was pleasantly buzzed, and Liam fairly stoned. He sat there, calm in the din of the night, taking in the smell of smoke from the fire and the underlying scent of weed, listening to the music wrapping itself around them all. They lost Niall earlier on, too shit faced to put up with the conversations that were entertaining when you were just the right amount of drunk and stoned. Louis was pretty sure he was now over in the group of people attempting to conduct several rounds of beer bong sculling. Liam was definitely going to have to let Niall sleep on his couch that night.
Louis sat another fifteen minutes, waiting for Harry to return. Soon though, he started to get concerned. He turned to Liam who was in the middle of a conversation with Jared.
“I’m gonna go find Hazza, don’t know where he’s gotten to.” He explained, and Liam nodded dismissively, returning to his conversation. Louis rose to his feet, and wove back through the throng of people into the house. The house was relatively empty still, and it was more peaceful there. Louis’ vaguely intoxicated mind could take a breather inside. He grabbed another beer from the fridge on his way through and wandered down to the bathroom. The door was locked when he tried it, so he knocked softly. “Harry?” He called through the door. The door opened a couple of seconds later, and out stepped a girl who was decidedly not Harry. She smiled brightly at him though, flicking a lock of auburn hair over her shoulder, and for a moment Louis’ mind was clouded over with perfume.
“Sorry, no Harry in there. Hope you find him though.” She said as she wandered off back down the hall. Louis frowned to himself. He can’t imagine Harry had gone upstairs, but he started to climb them anyway, and soon he was wandering through all the rooms in Liam’s house, glancing at the photo frames on the wall opposite the stairs, and dragging his eyes over each room, searching for Harry. He returned downstairs ten minutes later still having not found him. He was about to start systematically working his way through the crowd when he heard Harry’s laugh, loud and brash and… weird. Louis had never heard him laugh like that before. But he still knew it was Harry’s laugh. Tracing the origin of the voice, Louis found himself wandering over to where the beer bong was still taking place. Harry was there, eyes slightly dazed but grin manic.
“Hazzzzz.” Louis called, smiling to himself, and he reached out grabby hands as soon as Harry turned towards his voice. It was as he made eye contact with Harry that he realised the slightly manic smile was replicated by his eyes, that he looked unhindered and, for the first time, he looked dangerous to Louis. “You alright, Haz?” He asked softly, and the scent of weed brushed past him as Harry stepped over to him, pressing into Louis' space.
“I’m fine Lou, happy. Issa good party, don’t you think?” Harry asked. Louis nodded, and vaguely wondered what he had done with his last beer. Had he drank it? Was that five or six he’d had now? Maybe only four. He really couldn’t remember. But he certainly wasn’t drunk enough to not notice the tense flexing of Harry’s wrist where his hand was clasping Louis’, or the way his eyes flickered, and his mouth was somehow down turned even in the midst of a smile.
“You’ve been smoking.” Louis stated, quietly. Harry frowned, cocked his head in question. Louis repeated the sentence, slightly louder, before he was tugging Harry away from the group of people, pulling Harry around the side of the house, where the noise faded a little and there was no one else. “Why?”
“No reason. Just thought I may as well.” Harry shrugged it off, but Louis was not buying the reasoning. There was something wrong.
“You said you didn’t do drugs. Or drink. What would make you change your mind? Did Niall say something dumb? Because I swear to god, I will kick his ass if he’s pressuring you.” Louis said, voice low, half joking, but also not.
Harry let himself drop to the ground with a thump, leaning his back against the side of the house. “Niall didn’t say anything. I just felt like… floating away, for a bit.” Harry gestured vaguely, hands billowing with the night breeze. Louis settled down next to Harry, their shoulders lined up, pressing his side against Harry’s.
“What makes you want to float away?” Louis asked, voice soft and mixing with the night. Harry didn’t say anything. Louis let his head tip back against the wall, gazing up at the stars. He could still feel the alcohol in his veins as he sat there, but it was muted, lesser.
They sat in silence for maybe a minute, maybe ten. Louis didn’t know. He started trying to count the stars instead of counting the minutes. Louis thought Harry had forgotten his question. Then he felt the brush of Harry’s hand on Louis’ thigh, and felt one of his curls brush the side of his neck. Harry let out a barely audible sigh, and Louis felt him tense slightly, if only for a moment.
“Liam’s parents died,” was what Harry said. And that was not even close to what Louis had been expecting. Louis had been expecting Harry’s own tragedy, maybe, Harry’s own secrets, perhaps, but not Liam’s. Nevertheless, he nodded his assent.
“Yeah. Did Liam tell you or-” Louis began to ask, but Harry kept talking, words careful, cautious.
“They died in a car accident. It was three years ago. The twenty-third of October. They were on their way to Melbourne.” Harry said. His voice didn’t sound like his own.
“Yeah. But, how do you-”
“They hit a ute, that had crossed over the highway barrier. The ute’s driver was drunk. He didn’t die. But they both did, dead on arrival. There was a little girl, in the back seat. She was about nine.”
“His sister. She was ten.” Louis was grasping at straws. Because Harry, Harry was telling these facts like they were his own. Yet Liam didn’t talk about it much, or at all. He could hardly believe he would tell Harry these things upon first meeting him.
“Liam wasn’t with them. Liam didn’t get told until four or so hours later.”
At this, Louis was shifting fully to face Harry. He could feel an edge of panic building up in him, hysteria, or nausea, or grief maybe. “Who told you this? How do you know any of this?” Louis asked, near begging, something feeling not right, so so wrong about Harry knowing these things.
Because Louis was seeing the face of Liam’s sister, he was remembering walking to school with her and Liam back when they were in primary school. He was remembering the way his mum and Liam’s used to talk when Louis’ mum would come to pick him up from Liam’s. He was remembering the bi-weekly movie night the Paynes had, which Louis was always invited to. He remembered all these things, and they didn’t feel like Harry things, they didn’t feel like things Harry should get.
He was remembering the way Liam changed, the way his whole world stopped glowing. That tragedy wasn’t Harry’s to recount, Louis thought, in a flaring moment of anger.
“I saw the photos. Of them, on the wall of the stairs. I recognised them.” Harry said. His voice had grown more languid, but there was a tremor to it, somewhere deep. “I was there.” He whispered into the night, and if Louis hadn’t been looking right at him, watching Harry’s lips form the words, he would have sworn Harry had said nothing at all.
“What?” Louis asked, his heart stuttering.
“I was there. I watched them die- I helped them, die.” Harry said, and Louis caught the way a tear rolled over Harry’s bottom lashes, tipping onto his cheekbone. Louis begun to register the music vaguely, in and out, the whole night shifting in odd blurs around him.
“What- what do you mean, you helped them? How could you have-” Louis felt sick.
“I… It’s what I do, Louis. I’m a griever. I take them. I take the dying, and I help them shift. I bring them to death, or I bring death to them.”
Harry was just not making sense, and Louis said so. “Look Harry you’re high, and I don’t know if you even know what you’re saying right now, but I think we should just, have this conversation tomorrow, when you can actually explain whatever’s going on in that head of yours.” Louis moved to stand, turning from Harry, but Harry reached out both hands, suddenly frantic, grasping at the sides of Louis’ navy shirt and pulling him back, closer to Harry. So, so close. Then Harry was saying the one thing Louis had been asking himself for weeks.
“Why haven’t I kissed you yet?” He said, but his voice was urgent, pleading with Louis to listen. Louis opened his mouth to answer and then paused. Harry looked like he was on the verge of a mental break down.
“I- I don’t know. I assumed you just didn’t want to rush things.” Louis said, and his voice came out reedy in the air. There was a loud bang from the backyard, and both of them flinched inwards, closer. Harry let his head drop, till all Louis was looking at was the top of his curls. Then Harry raised his head, and looked Louis straight in the eye.
“If I kissed you, you’d die. I’m an angel of death. It’s what I do. I collect people, take them to their heavens. That’s why I have wings, it’s why I have my mist, it’s why I’ve moved to so many towns in so many places, because at some point I can no longer face the loved ones of everyone I’ve taken.”
Harry’s eyes were steady but filled with tears, and Louis could bet he was no longer feeling the sleepy softness of the weed. But Louis was up and moving, away from Harry. He couldn’t process this, and he wouldn’t, not right now. Fucking hell, the boy had killed Liam’s parents. How on earth was Louis even supposed to believe that, let alone accept it? Louis’ feet scuffed down the gravel to the backyard. He could hear Harry right behind him, so close on his heels, that same ridiculously unfaltering gate.
He didn’t let Harry catch him, weaving through people, some of them reaching out to him to say something, but Louis brushed them off, ducked in and around the crowd. In his peripheral, he caught sight of Niall walking towards him, but Louis kept going. Ignored Niall calling his name. He slammed through the fly wire door, and Harry was infuriatingly right behind him still. Louis walked the hallway with his head down. He just needed to go, needed to be alone, needed to think this through. But before he was out of the house, before he could reach air that wasn’t thick with weed and smoke and the sound of music, he glanced up, for the briefest of seconds, and caught sight of the photo in the hall.
It was Liam, and his sister, and his parents.
Louis stopped stock still, and Harry crashed straight into him from behind. All Louis could feel was solid warm skin against him, and the weight of grief pushing down on his chest.
He still remembered the day. Liam had been at Louis’, they’d just been watching movies all day, when there was a knock at Louis’ front door, and his mum had answered it. Joe had been standing there, one of the only police officers in their town.
Liam hadn’t said anything when he’d been told. He hadn’t screamed or kicked or cried like Louis would have. He just nodded, and Louis remembered having thought at the time whether Liam had even loved them, was even grieving. The thought now makes Louis feel sick.
Without thinking or processing, Louis shifted around into Harry, tucking his face into Harry’s shoulder, and Harry brought his arms up around him, holding him, letting Louis cry.
He didn’t say anything, just let his palms run solidly up and down Louis’ back as it shook, and Louis felt coolness envelop them, and he knew Harry was dropping a mist, shielding them both from anyone around them, damn the consequences of someone seeing both of them disappear mid-air.
Louis couldn’t be brought to care, was too overwhelmed with memories of his best friend withdrawing, pulling into himself until there was nothing Louis could do but keep showing up to his house, keep watching films with him in silence, keep trying to ensure Liam was some form of alive.
He was crying still, but they weren’t wracking sobs of a fresh grief. They were soft tears, slow and consistent, tears you cried for a hurt that you’ve learnt to live with. A hurt for Liam that he’d learnt to live with, too.
Soon, Harry was guiding him gently out Liam’s front door, and down the road. They walked slowly, Harry easing Louis along, and by the time they reached the road on the corner of that ivy house, Louis’ tears had stopped. He was still not fully paying attention, kind of just, walking blindly where Harry guided him.
“Lou, you need to tell me where you live, love. Is it left here?” Harry said softly, rubbing a hand over Louis’ arm. Louis blinked in response, and glanced up at Harry, catching the way the moonlight turned his hair to a halo.
“Right.” Louis corrected, and Harry nodded. They turned that way, and Louis gave him vague, short directions as they walked, until Harry was leading Louis up to his own front door. Louis, for one horrible moment, thought Harry was going to turn around now, leave Louis to walk upstairs and figure out what the fuck was going on all alone. “You can- you can come in, if you want. Please.”
Harry didn’t say anything, but nodded and waited for Louis to open the door. They walked into the dark house, and Louis knew everyone must be asleep, as it was well past midnight. He slipped his own shoes off quietly, but motioned to Harry not to bother, knowing Harry’s footfall never made any noise in the slightest. They walked slowly through the darkened hallway, Louis’ mind hardly processing the actions until they were in Louis’ room, and they were both dropping down to sit on Louis’ bed. It was then Harry started to talk, and he’d lost the edge of detachment he’d had earlier.
“When it’s time, I feel an ache. It starts in my shoulders, right where my wings begin. I call it the pulse. It starts up, and it gets stronger and stronger, until I find it unbearable. When it’s unbearable, it means I have to go, and I have to find the person who needs me.” Harry’s voice was steady, and Louis flinched slightly when he realised that he’d inadvertently slipped his hand into Harry’s as he spoke, grasping tight. “It doesn’t happen often. Once a month, usually. I’ve tried everything not to go, but I can’t help it, can’t avoid it. Something guides me, my wings come out and I show up, wherever there’s a person dying. I’ve seen everything, Lou. And I hate it. I hate it so much. I’ve taken mums from their children, picked up a toddler drowning in a pool, I’ve taken a newborn baby out of a hospital, I’ve picked up drunk teenagers on the sides of roads. I have never, ever wanted to do it, you have to know that. There’s a part of me that won’t allow me not to.” Harry’s voice twisted at the end of that, as though he was reacting to the bile that was burning at the back of Louis’ throat. “Once I’m there, I kiss them. It takes their pain away, guides them upwards, somewhere. It’s like I breathe in their own life force, and they go limp in my arms.”
Louis felt a tear drop onto his hair, and he realised he’d leant into Harry, head bent to rest against Harry’s chest.
“My mum used to tell me it was magic, what I was doing for people. Taking their pain away, taking their silver away and giving them gold, she’d say. But I knew, I know what I’m doing, what it does to people. Because I feel it. As soon as one of their loved ones gets told they’re dead, their grief hits me. It envelops me and I can’t get away from it. Sometimes it’s short and sharp, and I can’t even fly home. Other times, it’s slow and constant and weeping, and I can’t feel anything else for days.”
Louis couldn’t help himself, he had to ask. “With Liam’s..?” Harry tightened an arm round Louis.
“I didn’t feel anything, for hours. It devastated me. I thought I’d just taken three people, and no one was mourning them. And then it came, and it didn’t come in waves like some people’s grief does. It was thick and omniscient, and I couldn’t see past it. I didn’t leave my room for months. I couldn’t... grapple with it. Most griefs I could tuck away, and they slowly just meld with the rest of my feelings, and I grow accustomed to the grief being a part of me. But Liam’s… I didn’t realise it was one person, at the time. I thought it must have been a whole community, a whole town mourning that family. It took me a while to realise that the grief felt different to collective grief. It felt so personal, Lou. Sometimes I would wake up, and it would be there in my throat, in my bones, and I would have to remind myself that it wasn’t me grieving, that this wasn’t my tragedy to possess.”
Louis didn’t have the words. There was nothing in his chest except grief. Harry seemed to know. Harry understood, and that terrified Louis as much as the rest of it. Because, the thing was, Louis believed him. He knew Harry was telling the truth. There was an angel of death in Louis’ bedroom, and Louis’ only response to this fact was to cry into the angel’s chest.
Harry must have slipped out some time in the early morning, because when Louis woke, he was alone, and his window was unlatched and swung wide. There was hardly sunlight coming through his window, and Louis judged it must be just before seven. That boy… Louis could feel the sadness welling inside him again, or perhaps it never left him. He couldn’t fathom what made Harry deserve the job, what made Liam deserve to lose his family. It was too early, and Louis’ eyes felt bleary and swollen with tears, and his jeans and shirt were sticking to him from where he hadn’t changed out of them before he fell asleep last night. He must have fell asleep against Harry’s chest.
Louis wasn’t really sure what to do with himself after he’d climbed out of bed and shucked off his clothes from last night, the smell of weed and smoke clinging to them. He had the whole day ahead of him, and he didn’t even have work or any siblings to babysit.
The last thing Louis wanted to do was stew in his room thinking about Harry, and Liam, and mourning the decisions that had already been carried out. He couldn’t change it, couldn’t fix either of their pain.
There was a moment, when Louis was making his way down the hall to the bathroom for a shower, when Louis considered whether Harry was worth this kind of insanity. Because that was what this was, it was precisely what all of this was ensuring. Louis was going to go insane. Harry’s being invited too many questions, questions about gods and fate and death and afterlives that Louis wasn’t ever going to be able to properly answer, but which would eventually drive him completely insane. How Harry had done it for so long, had been alone in his secret for this many years, kept his mourning, his questions to himself, Louis didn’t know.
But this thought process didn’t last long, because every time Louis considered moving on, pretending this was a fever dream invoked by alcohol and humidity and weed, he kept coming back to Harry’s eyes, the desperate grasp of his hand on Louis' when they had stood at the side of Liam’s house. That was a boy Louis needed, for god knows what reason. He wasn’t going to be able to let him go, and he knew that. Whatever insanity it brought, it was something Louis would deal with. For now, though, Louis was going to have a long shower, and maybe hide from the world for a little bit.
Louis was huddled on his bed, with a veritable fort of pillows and doonas piled up around him, his laptop playing the tenth (or was it the eleventh?) episode of Friends in a row. Louis had kind of zoned out after the first three, and was now idly dragging his pencil against his notebook page, bringing flowers and faces to life on the page before scribbling over them. He was edgy and couldn’t concentrate, but not edgy enough that he wanted to get up and actually do something about it. His mum had knocked on his door around lunch time, and Louis had pleaded exhaustion, which his mum seemed to take as a thinly veiled excuse for a hangover. Which wasn’t entirely incorrect, but his physical hangover symptoms were mercifully minimal.
His phone had pinged three minutes ago, and Louis was yet to pick it up, half terrified it would be Harry, and half terrified it wouldn’t be. But when the sound came again, Louis reached for it, shifting his doona to find it under the fabric.
Sorry I left this morning, figured it would be best for me to get going before your mum came in or something. Was going to wake you to tell you I was going, but you looked pretty exhausted, so.
Also, if you want to talk or anything, I’m around all day. But if you don’t want this to continue, I get that as well. No hard feelings.
There was no security in the messages. Louis could feel that Harry was completely prepared for Louis to tell him to forget about it, to leave him alone. His messages spoke of a boy who was unused to ever being wanted. And god, this was Harry offering Louis an out, giving him the chance to run, and decide this angel business, this death and sadness and everything else, could just disappear, Louis could pretend it was some kind of fever dream, and just bolt. But he couldn’t. Because that would leave Harry, friendless and alone once again, that would leave Harry to deal with all of this on his own again. Louis couldn’t do that.
Instead, Louis placed his notebook on his bedside table and began to type out a response. He didn’t know what to say, really, whether he should tell Harry he was not going anywhere, or start asking questions, or what. So instead, he simplified all his thoughts into one simple sentence.
Can you come over?
He watched the message send, and almost immediately, the little grey dots popped up at the bottom of his screen.
Sure. Leave your window open?
Louis smiled at that, and glanced over to where Harry had left it unlatched from this morning. Louis hadn’t bothered to close it.
It’s open x
Louis was suddenly very glad he’d dragged himself out of bed earlier to shower, and he surveyed his room quickly, debating whether he should tidy it up a little. Then again, Harry had seen his bedroom in the exact same state when he’d left this morning, so really, what would the point be? Instead, Louis settled back comfortably in his bed and continued to watch Netflix.
Louis just about jumped out of his damn skin when Harry’s voice echoed through his room.
“Jesus fuck, Harry,” Louis exclaimed as he turned to face the boy who was settled on his window sill. His gaze caught on Harry immediately, the curve of his wings bowed in to accommodate to the thin space of the window. No matter how many times Louis saw him like this, he couldn’t help but take a moment. The piercing green of Harry’s eyes, the way the soft wavering of his wings ruffled the curls round his ears, the way his bare skin looked soft and smooth and so, so touchable. Death never looked so lovely.
“Sorry. I didn’t mean to…” Harry said sheepishly, and he looked a little unsure, like perhaps Louis had asked him all the way here to break up with him.
“Nah, it’s okay. You’re just silent as anything, gave me a fright. That and I’m still getting used to the whole entering through the window thing.” Louis briefly spared a thought for just how much his mum would kill him if she came in here to find a shirtless boy sitting on Louis’ window ledge, a boy she definitely didn’t see coming in the front door. Man, Louis’ mum would kill him. On that thought, Louis shoved the doona off himself and headed to his door, dragging his desk chair to press against it, so if his mum did come in, they’d at least have a five second warning for Harry to throw himself out the window. There’s a thought process I never thought I’d have.
“Should I – um, come in? Or do you just wanna, like, say what you needed to?” Harry said, and Louis thought he could pick a slight tremor in his voice. Louis smiled softly, trying to calm Harry a little, and walked back over to his bed, settling down on it so he was pressed up against the wall. He gestured to the spot available next to him, and Harry wandered over. His feet were bare as well, and he padded across the room so tentatively, his wings drawing in and disappearing as he did.
Louis waited for Harry to settle down on the bed next to him before he started talking, and he could feel the heat of Harry’s arm pressed against his.
“I was scared last night. Scared and shocked, and really, really sad. For you and for Liam. I didn’t really know what to do with it all. So much of me just wanted to be able to take your pain away from you. And I get that that is impossible. For whatever reason, this is who you are. I get that.” Louis took a couple of breaths as he glanced up. Harry was staring intently at his own knees, and Louis could see he’d snagged his bottom lip between his teeth. “But I’m not willing to walk away, to be honest. I know it would be easier for me to just call it a day. But I don’t want to. I really, really like you Harry. I like your humour and your music taste, and I like how you talk and the way you walk, and I really don’t want to give any of that up. So if you’re going to let me, I’d like to stay dating you, please.” Louis proposed it gently, and Harry slowly raised his head, looking Louis in the eyes for the first time since he’d arrived in Louis’ room. His eyes are big and wide and so, so green.
Then Harry was leaning forward, and pressing a soft kiss to Louis' jaw, far enough from Louis’ lips for Harry to deem it safe. Louis felt heat bloom under Harry’s lips and he shifted his body as soon as Harry pulled away, turning to face Harry so he could bring his arms up to encircle Harry’s shoulders, the pads of his fingers digging into the skin just below his shoulder blades.
“Is that a yes?” Louis asked, letting a soft giggle out on a breath of air.
“That’s a yes. That’s so many yes’s.” Harry stated decidedly, and then he was tilting his head to press kisses up Louis’ neck and along his collarbones. They were soft and feather light and Louis threaded a hand through Harry’s hair, letting the soft strands run over Louis’ fingertips. He smelled fresh and sweet, and like everything Louis had ever wanted.
Harry kissed him for a while, and Louis just let him, happy to give himself over to Harry, whilst simultaneously letting his hands trace every piece of Harry’s exposed skin, letting his fingertips catch on his dimples and freckles, and the soft little scar on the inner corner of his elbow. Because finally, finally, Louis felt like Harry was his, and there was no chance this boy was just going to float away.
Eventually, when Louis had soft patches of red blooming on his neck, and Harry had one or two marks to match, they relaxed back into the pillows, content to just gaze at each other for a little bit.
“I didn’t think you’d still want me.” Harry confessed quietly, and he murmured it into Louis’ shoulder, ducking his head as he did. Louis’ heart contracted slightly, before he was dropping a hand to Harry’s hair, carding his fingers through it.
“I’ve wanted you since the day you walked into my Classics class.” Louis responded, voice steady and sure. “Don’t want anyone else.” Maybe this was too early, too blunt. But this was more than a casual romance. Louis knew it. Casual romances didn’t usually involve angels of death. Harry picked his head up at that, just slightly.
“Have you- like, before me, have you like dated anyone?” Harry glanced up at Louis, face curious and relaxed.
“Never been out about it, no. I dated one of the boys on our footy team, at like, the end of year ten. But he’s not out, was in quite a bit of denial at the time, I think. So it wasn’t the best experience. I’ve kissed a couple of people here and there as well, but that’s about it.” Louis was downplaying the relationship he had, how forced into a closet he’d been, the way James had told him he couldn’t talk about it, couldn’t tell anyone ever. How he and James would snog in the dark of James bedroom, and as soon as James had got off he’d kick him out, tell Louis to go home and not say a single word to anyone. Louis had been a dirty secret, and he’d hated it, but he’d been young and hadn’t realised he had any other option than to date boys who would never love him out loud. Louis tensed a little at the memory, and then realised Harry was speaking.
“I haven’t dated anyone. Never had anyone who knew about me, and it’s a little difficult to hook up with someone without having them try to kiss you. Didn’t want any unnecessary casualties.” Harry’s voice lightened at the end, and Louis chuckled lightly. Then a thought came to him, and he furrowed his eyebrows.
“You can still like- do stuff though, right? As in, I know you can’t kiss me. But like, other stuff?” Louis cheeks were heating up as he spoke, and Harry looked at him with a smirk forming on his face.
“I can, yes.” He said, and the bastard sounded almost smug, watching Louis squirm.
“Okay. Um. Good.” Louis said, and then, because it looked like Harry was going to say something that was going to make Louis blush even more, he quickly added “Do you want to watch Friends? I’m like halfway through the first season, but we can re-start, if you want.”
Harry blinked and then nodded. “I’ve seen it before, so we can just keep going from where you’re at.” He said smiling. Louis smiled in return and they both re-arranged slightly, twisting to sit up and position Louis’ laptop so they could both see it. Just after Louis hit play he turned to Harry briefly.
“If we hear my mum coming up those stairs, I’m going to need you to throw yourself out the window. Or turn invisible, the choice is yours.”
Harry let out a short sharp laugh in response, and the edges of Louis’ mouth twitched. He was alright with this. He was happy.
The afternoon disappeared all too quickly, as both Louis and Harry had kept up a running commentary on the stupidity of Ross and the entertaining actions of the rest of the friends. Before Louis knew it, it was dinner time and Harry was pressing a kiss to Louis’ cheek and making his way back to the window. Louis was quiet through dinner, and his mum kept glancing at him oddly, but she must have placed it down to a hangover, which Louis was oddly thankful for.
"The heavens gave back the sound of mourning." - Virgil, The Aeneid.
On Monday morning, Louis walked out of his house only to be met by a familiar face. It wasn’t Harry, like Louis had almost been expecting, but Niall, a cheery smile on his face despite the fact it wasn’t even eight o’clock.
“Hey man.” Niall called, adjusting the straps of the school bag he had slung over one shoulder.
“Horan.” He said, voice matching Niall’s tone.
“What happened to ya Saturday night? You just disappeared on me. Nothing bad happened, did it?” Niall asked as they began their walk. For the first time in a week, the forecast had a max of twenty five degrees, which for Louis felt positively self-indulgent. No humid air or sweaty classrooms. The sun was up, but the clouds were still present, always a good sign of removing the chances of the scorching sun heating up the day.
“I went home with Harry. Or like, Harry came home with me.” Louis amended, a small smile forming on his lips at the thought of the boy. Niall caught the smile, and, because he’s Niall, misinterpreted it.
“No way! You’ve finally got into Styles’ pants?!” Niall exclaimed, vaguely ecstatic on Louis’ behalf. Louis huffed a laugh as Niall gave his shoulder a congratulatory shove.
“No, actually. Harry’s pants remained on for the entire night. We actually got in a bit of a fight, like? At the party. But then he walked me home and we sorted it out. With absolute zero sexual connotations.” Louis laid it out clearly for Niall so there could be no confusion. Niall’s face fell. “But, the good news is Harry and I are like, more than officially together. I mean, first fight and first make up, I’d say that’s like, a solidly established relationship almost.” Louis hurried to bring the smile back to Niall’s face as they turned the corner at the ivory brick house. Louis was sufficiently successful in eliciting a grin from Niall.
“Fuck yes!” Niall exclaimed, with almost as much fervour as he had when he thought Louis had slept with Harry. “Seriously mate, that’s brilliant. I’m glad. You and Harry have this kind of, vibe, I reckon. You both just seem so comfortable with each other. Very complimentary.” Niall assessed seriously, and Louis couldn’t help letting out a small giggle.
“That your professional opinion, Niall?” He teased, and Niall gave Louis another light shove, causing Louis to falter in his steps slightly.
“Wanker.” Niall murmured under his breath, throwing Louis a playful glare. He continued on, not even waiting for Louis to regain his footing and pace, and Niall shifted subjects. “Liam’s was a good party though, wasn’t it? The clean up was an effort and a half though. Everything fuckin’ reeked of weed.”
Louis quickly engaged Niall on this topic, and they soon started to banter lightly back and forth as they walked the last couple of streets to school.
For the rest of the morning, Louis couldn’t help feeling the residues of the warmth that had filled his chest at Niall’s kind words about him and Harry. He wouldn’t say it to Niall, but his support meant a lot. Niall really was too good for this world.
Louis spent most of the day in the art department, ditching out on English and Biology to try and finish off his folio, which the first part of was due the next week. He kept coming back to the image of those silver wings, and how they didn’t, could never, do justice to how Harry’s looked, beating in the moonlight. He texted Harry after second period, to try to convince him to skip Classics with him and come to the art department, but to no avail. Harry was set on attending classes, like a good student. Louis was dating a total nerd.
So, he attended Classics, because, hell, if Harry was going to be there, Louis would be too. It was a fairly quiet lesson, as they were working on an individual analysis of specific passages from The Aeneid, which meant no excessive lectures from Mrs Elingsworth. It also meant Harry could give Louis one earphone, and they could listen to Little Big Town’s latest album, despite Louis’ aversion to country music. Harry justified it by claiming that it wasn’t technically country music and yet Louis vehemently disagreed. Any album that mentioned god on more than three separate tracks was classified as country to Louis. Harry attempted to also change Louis’ opinion on that, and failed miserably.
During the discussion, Louis thought of the silver crucifix Harry wore round his neck, trying to puzzle out how Harry could be religious. A boy who had been condemned by whatever fates existed to a life of sadness, of grief that was not his own, believed in a god, in a being greater than themselves. In some sense, Louis understood it, but in others… Louis couldn’t believe anyone or anything could justify the suffering they had brought on Harry. It simply wasn’t fair.
However, for the moment, Louis remained silent, content to let the question circle his mind as he dropped his head to Harry’s t-shirt clad shoulder, and watched as Harry typed his analysis of the passage up.
“You know, at some point you’re going to have to do this work.” Harry said, tone playful. Louis shook his head defiantly.
“I don’t think simply saying no is how it works. I mean, you could try it, but…”
“You could do it for me.” Louis said, expression cheeky as he nuzzled his face further into Harry’s neck in an attempt to coerce him. Harry swatted good naturedly at Louis’ soft hair, batting it away from where it was brushing against the juncture of Harry’s neck and shoulders.
“Is that how you think it works? You get yourself a boyfriend to do your schoolwork for you? I feel used.” Harry declared in jest.
“Pleaseeeeeee?” Louis simpered.
“Not a chance.” Harry responded, and Louis pouted, staring Harry down. Harry barely even spared him a glance.
“We need to break up.” Louis deadpanned, straightening his features out to be serious. Harry let out a laugh and continued writing his essay. Louis tried to stay his ground, but he soon got bored of scuffing his feet against the carpet under the desk, and dropped his head back to Harry’s shoulder.
They went to the art rooms again for lunch, and Louis settled into one of the stools, going right back to his painting from where he had left it before Classics, not bothered to pack it up. Harry had picked up some paints and paper, and was currently painting a vaguely lopsided rainbow that looked like it had been painted by a four-year-old. That was how they both were when the art room door opened and Liam walked in.
Louis looked up, mildly surprised. The art rooms weren’t all that frequented at lunch, but when he saw it was Liam he smiled.
“Hey Liam.” Harry greeted, beating Louis to it. Liam shot Harry a grin.
“Hey man. Good to see you again.” And then he turned his smile to Louis. “Hey Lou.”
“Hey Payno. What are ya doing here?” Louis asked, voice curious. Liam was crossing the room to the sinks as he shrugged off the denim jacket he had on.
“Gotta finish up my final piece. Miss Frampton said she wanted it early if I could, so she could mark it and let me fix any problems.” Then Liam paused, midway through filling a water jar, and glanced back and forth between Louis and Harry, brow creasing. “You guys don’t mind if I’m here, right? I’m not like, interrupting something am I?” He suddenly looked ready to back out of the room very, very quickly. Harry, bless him, was quick to reassure Liam.
“No, no. We’re just painting, it’s all good. Come sit.” Harry began to clear a place across from him on the table, shuffling the loose paper sheets and his stack of class books to the side of the table. Liam gave Louis a quick glance, but when Louis smiled and gave an affirming nod, Liam brought his paints, brushes and water over and, after retrieving his final piece, sat down.
“Thanks for having us the other night, Liam. It was an awesome night.” Harry said politely, and Louis hoped Liam didn’t notice how Harry couldn’t seem to look him in the eye.
Liam’s face lit up though, so Louis thought they might be in the clear. “It was fucking good, wasn’t it? You guys must have slipped out fairly early though, I tried to find you around two or something, couldn’t see either of you.”
Louis paused his brush on the page, picking it up and off quickly before the inky blue left a large blot on the paper. “Yeah, we headed home early on. It was a really good party though, man. Should do it again some time.”
Liam had begun to delicately fill in a section of the paper with his brush, and Harry looked fairly fixated on the movements. “Yeah. I don’t know if Niall’s liver could handle another one, but we totally should.” Liam joked, and Louis let out a light snort.
“He was absolutely plastered, wasn’t he? Did he end up staying at yours? Can’t imagine he would have had the guts to go back to his mum.” Louis speculated. Niall was always entertaining, even when not present.
“Yeah, he ended up passed out in the backyard, arms spread wide like he was Jesus or something. I tried to get him to move inside, but he was seriously out for the count. The next morning though, he just jumped right up and started cleaning up the backyard. His rebound abilities at least are impeccable.”
“Oh yeah! I forgot to say, I’m really sorry I didn’t come around to help clean up. I kinda had stuff to deal with at home, and it didn’t even cross my mind. Sorry.” Louis said apologetically, but Liam brushed it off with a flick of his hand.
“No worries. Nialler did most of it before I even woke up, it really wasn’t that messy. The inside was absolutely fine, and all we had to do was pick up the cans from the backyard.” Liam said, nonplussed. Louis recalled what a mess Niall had claimed the place was, and felt like Liam was probably lying just a little to make him feel better. Instead of calling Liam on it, Louis just nodded. Harry had stopped paying attention, and gone back to painting, the edge of his tongue peeking out of the side of his mouth in concentration. Louis spared him a fond glance, which Liam caught. Liam was being particularly observant today, a rarity for him.
“So you guys are... um, like officially together now?” Liam said carefully, almost stumbling on his words. Harry’s head popped up, a smile spread across his lips.
“Yep.” He declared happily and Louis smiled, nodding his own confirmation.
“Yeah, we were kinda officially together the week before last. But we’re like, really together now.” Louis attempted to explain, kind of butchering it. Liam nodded anyway.
“That’s good. I like you two together. You just kind of, suit each other, I reckon.” Liam said, smiling softly. Louis hid a smile behind a cough, but Harry just blatantly grinned.
“Thanks Liam!” He said brightly, although Louis had realised instead of looking Liam in the eye, Harry made most of his addresses to Liam’s hair.
They stayed and worked for another half hour, Harry leaning his head on Louis’ shoulder every now and again to examine Louis’ work, and Liam slowly, diligently working away. As they packed up, clearing away the paint from their palettes and placing their works on the drying racks in the back of the room, Liam reached out a hand to the side of Harry’s neck, attempting to wipe away a line of red paint that had somehow found its way there. Imperceptibly, to anyone but Louis, Harry flinched as Liam reached, and within a split second, Louis was stepping in between them, blocking Liam’s attempt carelessly, as though he hadn’t even realised Liam was reaching out.
“Education time, yes?” Louis declared brightly to cover the movement, and he slid his free hand that wasn’t clutching his laptop around Harry’s waist, running his fingers gently up his side. Harry looked at him briefly with a grateful smile.
Liam responded with a light chuckle, the deflect going unnoticed as he retracted his hand. “Gotta love that education.” The sarcasm rang in his tone.
“Don’t lie to me, Payno, you’re secretly a nerd.” Louis ribbed as they walked, his arm around Harry.
“It’s like staring a ghost in the eye and having it talk back, every time I look at him. I’ve felt his every grief, and it keeps coming back to me. I feel like I’m trespassing, taking what should have been his, what should be his.” Harry said quietly. His words blended with the night air, which coddled them, wrapping them up in the inky darkness, taking them away from the darkness of Harry’s own heart.
They were laid on their backs on the roof of Harry’s house, Harry’s wings splayed out underneath Louis, where his head was resting against Harry’s bare shoulder. He’d been so tentative to lie down on Harry’s wings, terrified to break them or ruin them, but they were surprisingly sturdy beneath them, and Louis could feel the warmth that radiated from them where he was tucked against Harry’s side.
“He wouldn’t- he wouldn’t hold it against you, Harry. If he knew. Not that you should tell him. That’s not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is, you don’t need to feel so much guilt. It’s not your burden, and it’s not a burden Liam would give to you if he knew.” Louis said, and suddenly his speech felt garbled. He couldn’t convey to Harry that the sadness within him wasn’t justified, because it was. In every sense, it was completely justified. But Louis didn’t want him to hurt, either, he wanted the sadness to be a package Harry could roll up, could tuck away and never have to bring out again. Louis shivered as Harry ran a hand over his shoulder, along his neck.
“I know that. Sometimes it feels like I’m going insane. And sometimes it feels like I could die, right here, and that would be the best thing for me. I know Liam wouldn’t want me to feel this guilt, or this sadness. Because he knows the guilt and the sadness, I inherited it from him. He knows it as intimately as I know it myself, and we both could never wish it on anyone else in the world. But that doesn’t stop me from inflicting the grief on others. Everyone I have ever crossed paths with has felt a grief I have created, I have orchestrated. It’s like I’m the conductor, but all the songs are empty, and all the soloists are dead. I destroy everything. Myself included.” Louis felt the breath reverberate through Harry as he spoke, and he felt the pangs in his own chest. He felt the sadness bloom in the palms of his hands, the corners of his lips.
“It’s okay, you know. That you want to die. I can’t forgive you for it. I could never forgive you for that. But, I understand, I think. I think I would want to get rid of all that grief too. And I think, sometimes, I would trap myself into thinking that’s the only way to do it.” Louis watched the stars, couldn’t turn to look at Harry’s face, half bathing in the glow of the moon. So he stared at the sky, at the burning stars, and he wondered how long they would have to wait for the rise of the dawn.
Harry shifted though, reaching his hand out to tilt Louis’ chin up, to look in his eyes, to take his whole face in, despite the darkness. “How else would I do it?” and for the first moment since Harry had shown up at his window that night, and reached out his arms for Louis, Louis could hear a hope, there, in his voice. As if Louis had the answer.
“I think…” Louis began, turning over so he was on his stomach, elbows resting on the span of Harry’s silver wings, his eyes looking straight at Harry, “that you can take the grief a different way. I think you can see it as how much people are loved, how deeply and truly everyone is loved. Have you ever taken someone, and not felt that grief? Ever?” Louis’ question was intent, determined. Harry looked him directly in the eye, and never faltered.
“No. I’ve always felt the grief.”
“Then you know, you know better than anyone, how loved people are. How there is no one on this earth who is not mourned, who wouldn’t be mourned. That’s why you can’t die. Because it wouldn’t stop anything, a different Griever would just take your role. The grief wouldn’t stop, the hurts wouldn’t stop. You’d just pass your pain to others, H.” Louis said, and it was wonderful, how the words came when he needed, how he could look at this boy, in his moonlit beauty, and tell him that he would be loved, no matter what. That he would be missed, no matter what. “I think, instead, you just have to remember that grief is love. And then you have to live your life. You’ve got to go flying, and learn new things, and read new books and do whatever you want to do. Because at the end of the day, at least you’re still alive. You know better than anyone that not everyone has that privilege, Harry. You’ve got to value it.” When Louis finished, he paused gazing at Harry to gauge his reaction. Harry barely breathed for a moment.
Then he took a breath and murmured, “I’ve never before had the desire to kiss someone, in my entire life.” He paused, face soft. “But right now, I want to take you to pieces.”
Louis’ heart stuttered, and for a second, the air in his lungs stopped working. Because he wanted to yell, with all his heart, What’s stopping you? But then his own mind answered the question. Death.
So instead, Louis ran his hands over Harry’s chest, pressing kisses to every undulation, every freckle, wishing, with all his heart, that it was Harry’s lips below his instead.
“I wish I could kiss you,” was what Louis murmured as he did so, and he felt a gentle hand card through his hair, soft touches that were feather light against his scalp.
They lay there till the sun came up, and the whole world was turning soft and pink around them, the clouds drenched in the colour. Louis couldn’t remember if he dozed off at some point, or if he’d been blankly staring at the sky for hours. All he knew was Harry’s chest below his head, the soft way it rose and fell. The boy underneath him, with his outstretched wings, and every pain he had ever borne etched into them.
When the sun was high enough, Harry would fly him home, so Louis could get his clothes and books for school. But for now, Harry intertwined his hand with Louis’ and they stayed there, their hearts fluttering soft in their chests.
“Love, you need to stop. Take a break or something. Just, try and get eight hours sleep tonight. You look dead on your feet.” Louis’ mum said as he walked into the kitchen at the end of the week after school. He felt shattered, felt a little like death reincarnate. He made a mental note to check with Harry if his comparison was correct. “Have you been doing your folio all night this week?” His mum’s voice was stern, that serious tone where Louis was half expecting her to tell him to take a seat so she could talk to him.
“Yeah.” He murmured, only partially processing her words. “Been working on it most nights.” He lied easily, setting his bag down next to the kitchen bench and crossing to the fridge. The heat had finally begun to ease in the last week, and Louis could almost see how close they were to summer giving way to autumn.
His mum crossed the room behind him, placing a hand on his shoulder to gently turn him around. She flicked his fringe out of his eyes softly. “Lou. You have to start sleeping more. You can’t keep working like this. I know you love your folio, but you’re not going to be doing your best work if you’re exhausted.”
Louis thought guiltily of the discarded folio, where he’d left it in the art room this afternoon, and every other afternoon this week. He hadn’t even considered bringing it home. His mum didn’t need to know that.
“I know, mum.” Louis sighed in admission. Because he did know, he knew he was on the brink of a physical break down if he didn’t get some sleep, but there was also Harry. Harry who came every night to pick him up, Harry who whisked him away to the rooftops, or the ocean, or the top of the forest trees. Louis couldn’t bring himself to give that up just to get some sleep.
Jay sighed, staring him down a little, but Louis slipped out of the question. He was too tired for lectures. Instead, he went upstairs and sank down on his bed, soon falling asleep in the afternoon light that spilled through his window.
He woke with a jolt at what must have been close to midnight. He felt pliant and soft, tendrils of his mind still wrapped in sleep as he shifted in his bed, looking for what had woken him. A shadow dropped across the room, and Louis turned to the window, a gentle smile on his face.
“Hi love.” He murmured, his voice scratchy with sleep. He wasn’t up for flying tonight, couldn’t even consider dragging himself out of bed to greet Harry at the window. Harry shifted where he sat, his head raising to look to where Louis was. Louis could just barely make out the expression on Harry’s face, but it didn’t look like his usual smile. He leant over, flicked the bedside lamp on, throwing a soft glow across Harry’s wings and skin.
“Love. You alright?” Louis’ voice was soft as he took in Harry’s face. He looked bewildered, and sad. Really, really sad. Harry still didn’t respond, just blinked owlishly at Louis from his perch. Louis pushed his doona cover aside and stood up, crossing to the window. He took Harry’s face in his hands, upturning his chin, letting his palms smooth across his jawline, over his cheeks. His fingertip caught the edge of a stray tear. “Oh Haz.” Louis whispered, letting his hands shift to card through Harry’s hair. “Come on. You can just lie with me. Or you can talk. I don’t mind which.” He took Harry’s hands gently in his palms, urging the boy up off the window sill into the room. Harry came easily, still yet to really acknowledge Louis’ presence, but when Louis slid into the bed, Harry followed, his wings curling in around his shoulders to allow the movement. Louis took a moment to memorise the image: Harry shrouded in silver feathers, slipping into Louis’ bed.
Louis wrapped his arms gently round Harry, as Harry tucked his face into the space between Louis’ neck and the pillow. He could feel him breathing heavily. The feathers under Louis’ fingertips pulsed heavily, and Louis had an inkling that Harry could feel that throbbing. This was a grieving boy. Harry barely moved as he lay there, the heat of him pressed against Louis’ own body. Louis was content to just stay there, to barely move as Harry found his way back to himself. But then Louis felt warm tears on his shoulder, and he couldn’t take it anymore. He wanted to speak, to ask Harry what had happened, to beg him to speak with him. So instead, he started to press kisses to whatever parts of Harry his mouth could reach, dropping kisses against soft warm skin and plush feathers, leaving trails of kisses through Harry’s curls.
Slowly, Harry began to shift, moving over onto his back, so he was staring at the glow-in-the-dark stars on Louis’ roof. He’d had them since the third grade, and he was pretty sure they didn’t actually glow anymore. But they were still there.
“Could we- can I turn off the light? Is that okay?” Harry asked, voice shaky. Louis nodded compliance immediately, and leant carefully over Harry to flip the switch. The room was encased in blackness once more, the window letting in sharp slivers of moonlight. Harry took in a shaky breath, as though the darkness gave him courage. It probably does.
“It was a little girl. She must have been seven. Maybe six. I’m not sure. She was in the hospital tonight. She was sick with something, I don’t know what- didn’t have time to read her card. But Louis- oh god. She was so small. And she just, she wanted to live. I know she wanted to live. She looked so sad when she saw me, like she knew she’d lost. She didn’t have anyone there though. There was a nurse in the other room. But that was all. She was all alone when she died.” Harry let the words tumble out, uncensored with small, hiccupping gasps in between. Louis’ palm tightened into a fist. He just so badly wanted to take his pain away.
“She wasn’t alone, Harry. She had you. You were right there to help her through it.” Louis’ words were slightly more forceful than he intended them to be, but he needed Harry to understand. Understand that he wasn’t a bad person. That he was helping, doing everything he could to make it better for others. “I can’t think of anyone else who would do a better job of guiding than you.” Louis continued, but it must have been the wrong thing to say, because he felt Harry’s sharp intake of breath.
“I didn’t- I wasn’t always very good at it.” Harry whispered back, and Louis wondered if perhaps, Harry had finally found someone to let his secrets out to, and now they were coming too hard and fast for Harry to cope. This boy had kept words for his entire life inside his chest. And here they were, showing up aching and pulsing in the middle of Louis’ bedroom. “When I was fourteen, or fifteen maybe. All I wanted was for it to stop. So I’d- I’d get blind drunk, or I’d do drugs. I tried everything. I would take too many sleeping pills, or smoke pot as soon as I felt the pulse. I wanted it to stop, and I didn’t really care how.”
Louis thought of a younger Harry, a Harry with a bright smile and rosy cheeks and those same curls, knocking back sleeping pills, trying to drink himself away. Louis’ stomach practically convulsed at the thought. He could feel Harry draw breath, ready to continue. But Louis couldn’t do it. Not just yet. He couldn’t bring himself to hear any more, he couldn’t think of how deeply the boy he loved had been hurt, and how deeply he had tried to hurt himself. Because that’s what this was. This aching, this warmth, the sadness and the light in his chest whenever he thought of Harry. It was a love.
Louis reached out a hand, pressed it down gently against Harry’s solar plexus.
“Don’t. Please. Don’t. Just, give me a second? You’re killing me here.” Louis said quietly, his eyes meeting Harry’s in the dark, pleading. Give me a rest. Let me hurt for you. Harry nodded.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t think- I know it’s probably too much for you. I didn’t think about-” Harry said, immediately on the apology, and Louis felt him retracting, pulling back. Louis couldn’t let that happen. He clasped at Harry’s wrist, brought it too his mouth, pressed kisses against the blue traces of veins, against the soft, unmarred skin.
“No. No. No,” he punctuated with kisses. “I don’t want you to stop. I just, need a minute to process. I want all your feelings, Harry. Don’t ever not tell me. It’s just, it’s a lot of hurt I feel for you. You’ve just got to give me time to cope.” Louis said quietly, and Harry nodded, went pliant under his grasp, relaxing back into Louis.
“We don’t need to talk about any of this tonight.” Harry said, and suddenly there was a smile on his face, surprising Louis. But it was definitely not an unwelcome surprise. “We could talk about happy things instead.” Harry said, tentative but secure in his words. It was like he had flipped a switch, and Louis almost physically saw the grief leave Harry’s face, the mouth go lax and sweet, the jaw loosen. He was free, for now. The sadness had left him, for just a moment, by some miracle.
“Yeah.” Louis said, a little breathless from watching the transition. “Yeah. Let’s do that. Tell me something happy.” Louis propped his head up on his elbow to gaze directly at Harry. Harry shivered for a moment, and Louis watched as his wings slowly disappeared, until there was only one silver feather that had come loose, and was resting on the cover of his doona.
He was back to just Harry, a shirtless boy in Louis’ bed. Harry reached an arm out, pulling Louis closer to him now that his wings weren’t creating a barrier. Louis came with a soft “oof” as his head dropped from where it was resting on his elbow down to the pillow. Harry smiled at him, and tilted his head till his lips were against Louis’ ear.
“It makes me happy that I met you.” Harry said against his ear, and Louis groaned lightly.
“Don’t be a fucking sap, Harold. We’re doing actual happy things, like rainbows and shit.” Louis scolded, and Harry bit back a smile. The moon seemed to glint off the boys entire being.
“Okay. Okay. Ice cream makes me happy.” Harry said, punctuating his sentence with a kiss to Louis’ neck.
“Mm. Music makes me happy.” Louis returned, and ran a light finger over Harry’s rib cage.
“The ocean.” Fingers over Harry’s bicep.
“Lazy Sundays.” Kiss against Louis’ collarbone. A shift of the fabric as Harry moved onto his side.
“Bike rides.” Hands over Harry’s wrist.
“Books.” A mouth on Louis’ shoulder.
“Visits from you.” Louis sighed into the air, his fingers slipping from Harry’s wrist to the dip of his hips. Louis felt Harry’s lips stretch into a smile against his skin.
“Thought we weren’t being sappy?” Harry complained, despite his smile. And then Harry matched Louis. “Watching you draw.”
“Listening to your voice.” Louis said, not about to be outdone. The sentence came with his hand trailing to Harry’s lower back, skin warm and smooth under his palm.
“Seeing you smile.” It was in that moment that Harry’s lips brushed over Louis’ chest that the world seemed to turn static. There was a harsh intake of breath from Louis, and Harry seemed to pause, left his lips pressed to Louis’ burning skin as he waited for Louis to say the thing he’d sucked a breath in for.
“I don’t ever want to see you sad, Harry.” Louis said. And he knew it was a pipe dream, a world where this boy wasn’t carrying the weight of everyone else’s griefs, but he wished it with all his heart anyway. Harry’s lips raised from Louis’ skin, and in the darkness Louis could make out the melancholy expression on Harry’s face.
“You don’t make me sad, Lou. You make me happy.” He said, and he raised a hand to Louis’ face, tracing Louis’ jaw with his fingers. “You just stay right here, and I’ll be just fine.”
Louis didn’t say anything for a few moments, and Harry continued his slow assault on Louis as his lips continued to press love into Louis’ skin.
“I’ll stay.” He murmured eventually when he found the words. “I’ll stay.”
Louis woke to a sleep warm Harry wrapped in his arms, pliant and soft. He was letting out puffs of air against the side of Louis’ neck, and Louis almost shut his eyes again, ready to drift back to sleep in the warm morning sun that was falling through the window. Except, he didn’t. Because his mum was standing a metre from the edge of his bed and she didn’t look like she approved, in the slightest.
Louis nearly fell out of his bed, he started so quickly. His mum had one eyebrow raised, and Louis knew that didn’t bode well for him. Or the sleeping boy next to him who had just begun to stir at Louis’ sudden movement.
“Hi Mum.” Louis said awkwardly, and when his voice came out gravely and hoarse he nearly combusted on the spot. Jesus, that voice was not gonna help his case. Harry, blinking slowly at Louis, caught Louis’ words and opened his eyes wide in alarm, instantly flipping over to make eye contact with Louis' mother, who still hadn’t said a word.
“Um. Hi Mrs Tomlinson.” Harry said tentatively, as Louis felt Harry’s fingers close around Louis’ hand under the doona in panic.
“Hello. Can I assume you’re Harry? I didn’t realise we had a visitor or I would have made enough breakfast for both of you.” Louis could tell she was angry, and he was going to hear about this later, but there was also an almost amused tone to his mum’s voice that made Louis think she might not be going to kill them both.
“Um, yes. I’m Harry. It’s nice to meet you. Sorry I erm, for..” Harry trailed off, gesturing to the bed and himself and Louis. Honestly, the boy wasn’t helping their case either. Jay brushed off the apology anyway.
“You boys have slept in, you’ve both got about ten minutes until school starts. Harry, if you’d like me to drive you home to get some fresh clothes for school, I have time before I’ve got to go to work.” She said, briskly but kind. Louis buried his face in the pillow.
“That’s okay, Mrs Tomlinson, I can just wear what I’ve got on.” Harry said, seemingly not realising for the moment that his current outfit did not entail a shirt of any kind. Something Louis was sure his mum was acutely aware of, considering she’d just quite literally found Harry in bed with her son. She didn’t comment on that, however, and just gave them both a smile.
“You both better hurry, boys.” She called over her shoulder as she left the room. Louis pressed his face further into the pillow.
“Stop trying to suffocate yourself.” Harry said, voice vaguely entertained. Louis harrumphed into the pillow indignantly.
“My mum. Thinks you somehow. Snuck up through the whole of our house. And then had sex with me. Why would I not attempt to suffocate myself?” Louis asked, popping his head up from the pillow. He knew his hair was going in every direction, but for some reason Harry was looking at him very fondly.
“Good point. Suffocate away.” Harry dead panned. Louis snorted, but then leant forward to press some kisses to Harry’s bare torso.
“You’re very pretty in the morning.” Louis murmured, taking in the softness of Harry’s unruly curls, and the way his eyes still blinked slowly, shrugging off sleep.
“You’re not so bad yourself.” Harry murmured, and then reached a hand over Louis’ hip, giving a playful squeeze to Louis’ arse that had him yelping.
“Stop that. We have an education to get to.” Louis admonished, and Harry nodded obediently, swinging his legs out of the bed and standing up. Honestly, Louis needed to start factoring in time to stare at Harry into his everyday schedule, because Louis was practically forced into taking the time to watch Harry stretch, reaching up for the ceiling as his long torso spanned out in front of Louis’ own eyes.
“Oh for god’s sake, Harry. How am I ever going to get anywhere with you doing that?” Louis accused, pulling himself out of bed and running a hand through his hair, giving Harry a light shove as he crossed the room to his closet. “Now. What clothes do you need?”
Harry’s green eyes looked quizzically at Louis. “What do you mean? I was just going to fly home to grab some.” Harry explained.
“Then you’ll miss first period, and there’s no way I am walking to school on my own, let alone fielding Mrs Elingsworth’s questions about why I’m late without you. Nice try.” Louis said as he scanned his closet for clothes that would fit Harry. He wasn’t too much taller than Louis, but he definitely had much wider shoulders, so most of his t-shirts would be a bit small on him. Louis pulled out one of his white t-shirts that was old and stretched out from Louis tucking his knees up under it one too many times. It had a black rose design in the centre of it, and it was one of Louis’ favourite lazy day wear. He tossed it at Harry, and Harry caught it effortlessly, tugging it over his head immediately.
“Thanks, Lou.” He said. Louis gave him a soft smile and tossed a hoodie at him in response.
“I’ll be right back. The bathroom’s down the hall to the left, third door on the right. I’ve gotta… go face Mum for a moment.” Louis said regretfully as he began backing out the room. Harry smiled nervously at him.
“Good luck?” Harry tried.
“Louis William Tomlinson.” Came his mum’s voice from the kitchen. She was leaning against the bench, looking stern. Louis glanced round the kitchen quickly only to find it was empty. They must be really late if even Lottie had gone to school already. Louis didn’t answer to the name, just made steady eye contact, ready for whatever she had to say. “Where do I begin? A boy in your bed? A shirtless boy in your bed? A boy I have never met in your bed?”
“Mum, I swear, nothing happened. He was sad last night, so he came to speak to me, and then we must have fallen asleep. I swear we weren’t like- doing anything.” Louis’ cheeks coloured as he defended himself, and he kinda wished he could melt into the floor.
“How’d he even get in? The front door was locked.” His mum continued, and Louis could almost see her checking the questions off in her mind as she ran through them. Louis faltered, because that, he couldn’t explain. Jay stared at him for a moment, pursing her lips. “From now on, all boys come through the front door, and will say hello to me and Dan and anyone else who’s home before they go to your room. And said boys will not be staying over without me knowing.” Jay said decisively. Louis nodded slowly, reaching a hand up to rub gently at his eyes, trying to dislodge the sleep there. “Is that clear, Lou?”
“Yeah, Mum. Got it.” Louis answered, a sheepish smile on his face.
“Good. Now make sure you both get breakfast and get to school. And let Harry know we’d love to have him for dinner tonight, okay?” Jay said, and her voice was fond as she gave Louis’ hair a ruffle and a kiss on the cheek. “I’m off to work.”
“Bye, Mum.” Louis said, turning to head back upstairs, back to his boy.
"May the gods bring you the reward you deserve, if there are any gods who have regard for goodness, if there is any justice in the world, if their minds have any sense of right. " - Virgil, The Aeneid.
That night, Harry returned to Louis’ house, freshly showered and in his own clothes, looking fresh and bright eyed. He was lovely and charming, saying all the right things to Jay and Dan, teasing the twins lightly and asking them about school and their friends. He even got Lottie to engage in conversation for a solid fifteen minutes, and Louis thought by the end of it Lottie may have had a small affliction for Harry. Louis couldn’t really hold it against her.
At some point after dinner, they all ended up on the couch, the twins picking out a movie, The Vow, to put on. Harry sat down on the couch tentatively, ensuring there were at least thirty centimetres between him and Louis. Louis rolled his eyes at this, tugging on Harry’s waist till Harry was leg to leg with Louis, hip to hip, side to side.
“They don’t mind.” Louis whispered to him when Harry threw him a slightly panicked glance. To prove his point, Louis pressed a soft kiss to the side of Harry’s head. Lottie barely even glanced their way, and the twins were completely wrapped up in the movie. A soft smile fell over Harry’s lips.
The movie was almost halfway through and Louis’ eyes were growing heavy, he had to keep blinking them awake, when his phone vibrated in his pocket. He wiggled a hand into his pocket, careful not to dislodge Harry, whose head was resting on his shoulder. He wasn’t sure if Harry was asleep or not, his face angled so Louis couldn’t see it. There was a text from Niall on his screen.
Having some of the gang round tomorrow night. You down for it?
Louis considered for a moment, and then messaged back.
Sure. What time?
Bout eight. Bring Harry too, yeah?
Louis smiled at the response from Niall, it made him happy to see how quickly his friends wanted to include Harry.
Yeah, I’ll ask him. See you then.
He placed his phone back in his pocket and pressed his face into Harry’s curls, just for a moment. Lottie caught the movement, and gave him a soft smile, something knowing in her eyes. Louis just returned the smile.
It was moments like this when it was so easy to forget what a life spent with Harry would entail. It was these moments, when Louis was able to trick himself into believing that it would all be okay, that they would be able to have a life that perfectly consisted of this, of movie nights and family dinners and cuddles on the couch. It was so easy to pretend that Harry’s grief would be a thing of the past, in a future with Louis. That they would be the barriers between each other’s sadness. But that wasn’t how life worked. Neither of them could keep the other safe.
With these sobering thoughts, Louis let his eyes fall shut just slightly, and he was soon dozing lightly as the movie continued to play.
When the movie finished, Louis woke to Phoebe shaking Louis’ shoulder. “Mum told me to wake you. She says Harry has to go home.”
Louis nodded blearily, glancing down to Harry, who had shifted as they slept till his face was buried against Louis’ chest.
“Okay. Thanks Phoebs.” Louis said slowly, voice sleepy. He carded a hand softly through Harry’s hair. “Haz. Hazza love, wake up. Mum wants you to go home.”
Harry shifted and smiled up at him, happy even in his waking. “Okay.” He stood up from the couch, and Louis went to follow him, stumbling slightly when he realised his left leg had gone a little numb from how they’d been sitting.
Louis lead Harry out of the tv room and through the living room, where Jay and Dan were both sat, each with a book in hand.
“Thank you for having me.” Harry said politely when Louis’ parents looked up at them entering.
“Anytime, Harry, lovely to meet you.” Jay answered, and Dan nodded his agreement.
“You too. Goodnight.” Harry said, and Louis’ parents echoed it back as Harry and Louis left the room to reach the front door. It was a very brief goodbye on the front step of their house, Louis pulling Harry into a soft hug, and Harry gave him a smile before Louis turned and shut the door, making his way quickly back into the house. His mum and Dan wanted to speak to him, and he must have spent twenty minutes in the front room, bouncing his knee, eager to get up to his room. When he could finally plead exhaustion and leave, he booked it up the staircase.
When Louis reached his room there was a winged Harry sitting in the centre of Louis’ bed, a cheeky smile across his face.
“We both have a death wish.” Louis uttered, but he didn’t tell Harry to go, said nothing else except to pull Harry forward and up from the bed, against him, wrapping his arms over Harry’s shoulders. There was a moment of warmth, of safety, as they held each other. “Bed?”
Harry nodded, shuffled them backwards until Harry dropped back down onto Louis’ mattress and Louis followed. Not wanting to get up again, Louis wiggled out of his jeans on the bed, and tossed his shirt across the room, before pulling the covers up over him in just his jocks. Harry didn’t do the same, was too busy staring at Louis.
“What?” Louis asked, tone curious “Why are you looking at me like that?”
Harry shook his head lightly, letting out a soft puff of air. He reached out a hand, tentative and gentle, as though Louis hadn’t spent most of last night running his hands over Harry’s skin, and pressed his palm to Louis’ side. “I just. I haven’t seen you like this before. I mean, without a shirt.” Harry cleared up. His voice sounded reverent, as though he was looking at a sculpture or an art piece, and not a soft Louis lying flat on a single bed, in blue and white striped jocks. “You’re like, really beautiful.” He murmured. Louis shivered underneath Harry’s touch. It seemed like this was all they ever did, run their hands over each other, too scared to take it a step further, too desperate for contact to keep their hands to themselves.
“You can-” Louis began, felt breathless in his eagerness. “You can do- whatever you want, you can do it.” Louis said, his words confused, pressed together in how overwhelmed he was by Harry, how overwhelmed he always was by Harry. He knew what he was saying though, god, did he know what he was saying. It was a lot, to hand something like that over to Harry. But Louis couldn’t help it, he wanted to. Wanted everything with Harry.
Harry levelled him with an uncertain look though, halfway between disbelief and eagerness. “Are you- you’re sure? What about your parents?” He murmured. Harry wet his lips as he spoke, a pink tongue peeking out from between red lips. Louis nearly died on the spot. The question faltered him slightly.
But Louis knew his mum wouldn’t come up after having said goodnight to him, not after they’d seen Harry walk out the front door. She wouldn’t expect that Harry had somehow got back into the room. The twins would be fast asleep by now, and if Lottie was still awake, she would have headphones in, would be watching something or other on her laptop. His parents’ room was downstairs. If anyone even heard anything at all, they would probably just assume it was Louis getting off on his own. Which, okay, that was going to be very, very embarrassing. But it would be nowhere near as bad as his parents figuring out it was actually Harry here with him.
“We’ll be quiet. They won’t come up.” Louis said, voice a lot surer now he had worked out the likelihood of any interruptions. On a whim though, Louis stood up and clambered over Harry, extremely ungracefully, to drag his desk chair up against the door. It wasn’t really a fool proof option, but it made Louis feel slightly better. When Louis turned around to check Harry’s approval though, he realised Harry wasn’t really paying attention to what Louis had just done.
“Please stop staring at my bum.” Louis said as he turned back round. Harry blushed a delightful shade of pink, but he didn’t deny it.
“Please hurry up and come back here, right this second. I would like to get my hands on said bum.” Harry instructed, and, well. Who was Louis to deny a request like that? He threw himself onto the bed, landing with a thump on top of Harry. Harry let out a heavy huff at the added weight, but when Louis shifted to straddle Harry, Harry’s face went from fond to extremely serious in a split second. His hands went to grip Louis’ hips automatically. “Jesus, Lou.” He breathed out, the end catching on a light moan. Louis wiggled his hips slightly, knowing his bum was positioned directly over Harry’s crotch.
“We doing this with the lights on or off?” Louis asked, trailing his hands down Harry’s chest. “Actually, scratch that. My first question is why the hell are you still clothed?” He pinched at the fabric of Harry’s t-shirt, tugging at the offending item. “Get it off!” He instructed. Harry shifted up slightly on the bed so he could wiggle out of the t-shirt, which in turn uprooted Louis’ position straddled across Harry, sending him tipping backwards. Before he could fall at all though, Harry’s hands were catching him at the base of his spine, hands just low enough they’re brushing Louis’ bum.
Louis giggled, laughing lightly as he pressed his palms into Harry’s now bare chest to right himself. “Got a good grip there, Styles.” He murmured. Harry grinned cheekily at him, letting his hands drop lower.
“Oh, I know I do.” Harry said, wiggling his eyebrows. Louis could tell by the set of his mouth Harry was about to make another cheeky comment, and Louis couldn’t have that. Wasn’t about to let Harry de-rail him. As Harry opened his mouth to finish his next sentence, Louis circled his hips, grinding down against Harry. “I- sweet Jesus, Lou. God, do that again.” Harry said, as his head dropped back against the pillows. Louis circled his hips again, and then he tipped himself forward, reaching for the switch on the wall to turn the light off. The action brought him closer to Harry, and inadvertently led to Louis grinding down on Harry with some degree of purpose. Harry let out a soft sigh that was on the brink of a moan.
Louis could feel Harry was interested, felt the hard press of him against his bum. Louis was extremely interested himself. From his new position parallel to Harry’s chest, Louis continued to grind slowly, the friction now crotch to crotch.
“You’re um- really pretty.” Louis murmured, voice breathy and high as he worked his hips in lazy, slow circles. Harry had begun to press kisses to Louis’ shoulders when he said that, and Harry let out a quiet laugh.
“You can hardly see me. It’s dark.” Harry teased. Louis thought, briefly, about how wonderful Harry was, that he could be hard and grinding against Louis, and still take the opportunity to tease him.
“Shut up. I was being romantic, and you’re fucking it up.” Louis responded, hissing quietly in a faux threatening tone. “Plus, there’s some things I just know.” He ground his hips down with more purpose this time, and watched, delighted, as Harry’s jaw dropped a little, taking in a harsh intake of breath.
“Wanna know something I just know?”
“What’s that?” Louis said, trailing his fingers over Harry’s biceps, the soft skin barely visible in the dark.
“I need these jeans off, now.” Harry said, and Louis giggled at that, rolling straight off Harry and shifting so he could reach for the zip on Harry’s pants, all too happy to oblige.
It was a joint effort to wriggle them off, and possibly one of the least sexy actions ever, but on Harry, for some reason, it worked. If anything, the shifting of Harry’s hips as he tried to get his jeans off without standing up turned Louis on more. His dorky, beautiful boy. All his.
As soon as the jeans were off, Harry was shifting so he was on top of Louis, biting harshly at Louis’ neck, marking it up. Louis should probably care, would definitely care in the morning. But there was something possessive about it, and it made Louis feel all kinds of things, so he let Harry do it. He trailed his hands down over Harry’s spine, skimming over the dark blue fabric of his jocks. He smoothed his hands over Harry’s bum, soft and perfect, and he squeezed lightly, causing Harry to let out a puff of air against Louis’ collarbone.
Louis was throbbing in his underwear by this point, needing friction or Harry or both. Harry had slotted one leg in between Louis’, and Louis could feel him pressed against his hip. He wanted to touch so badly.
“H, can I- wanna feel you.” Louis murmured, trying to be eloquent and failing miserably. Harry pulled his mouth away with a wet suck, the air of his breath brushing over Louis’ saliva-slicked skin.
“Yeah, yeah Lou. Whatever you want.” Harry murmured, and Louis took the invitation, sneaking a hand between the two of them, brushing against the waistband of Harry’s jocks before dipping his hand inside. Harry was hot and heavy in his hand, and Louis gave the base of his cock a gentle squeeze, revelling in the feel of it.
“Jesus, H. You’ve been holding out on me.” He said, as he tried to shift under Harry to get a better angle for his hand. Harry let out a heavy sigh at the touch, his body going rigid over Louis’ before he rolled sideways, shifting away from Louis’ touch to lay on his side next to Louis, facing him. For a moment, Louis assumed that was Harry calling it quits, and that they were simply going to curl up and go to sleep now. But then Harry was catching his fingertips against the waistband of that blue material and tugging it down, down. The darkness may have impaired his vision a little, but Louis could still see the heavy line of Harry’s cock as it rested against his tummy, and Louis had to palm himself slightly at the sight, digging the heel of his hand against his own crotch. “Fuck, Haz.” He murmured, making eye contact with Harry as he slipped his tongue out to wet his pink lips.
As if on autopilot, Louis reached out, wrapping a hand round Harry’s cock, not even trying to resist the urge. He stroked him twice, slow and steady, glad that he could mask the shaking of his hand. Harry was fully hard, and Louis could feel beads of pre-come at his tip. Harry blinked up at him as he did, eyes glassy and mouth dropped open slightly.
“Have you- um. Have you got lube or something?” Harry asked, voice rough and uneven as Louis continued to stroke him slowly. He paused his movements as soon as Harry said that, realising how rough the touch of his hand would feel on Harry’s skin.
“Fuck. Sorry- I don’t- I haven’t got any. Fuck.” Louis said, and Harry reached a hand up to Louis’ mouth quickly to hush his words.
“Quiet, remember?” Harry said. He seemed nonplussed Louis didn’t have anything, and Louis was confused for a moment until Harry reached down and tugged at Louis’ hand, bringing it up to his lips. The motion clicked, and Louis understood as he felt the drag of Harry’s spit-slicked tongue against Louis’ palm. The sensation made his cock twitch, and Louis’ jaw dropped slightly as he watched Harry lick over his hand. When Harry pulled away, he gave Louis a cheeky smile. Louis could hardly process it.
Instead, he brought his hand back down to Harry’s cock, stroking faster now, the ease of his slick hand drawing quiet moans from Harry as his head lulled against the pillow.
“Lou- let me- I need to-“ Harry murmured, one of his hands drifting to stroke across Louis’ hips. Louis shifted closer, so they were almost chest to chest, leaving just enough room for both their hands to slot in between them. When Harry’s hand tugged down on Louis’ jocks and wrapped around his cock, Louis’ movements faltered, a moan that was definitely too loud escaping him. “Shh. Don’t wanna get caught.” Harry murmured. Louis was leaking enough that his pre-come helped the slide of Harry’s hand, no need for anything else, and Harry tugged at Louis with short, sharp movements.
Louis had his teeth biting harshly into the pink of his lip as Harry did so, his hips bucking involuntarily every few strokes. He soon realised he’d let his own hand go lax on Harry’s cock, and he started stroking him again, trying to time his movements with Harry’s.
The movements were a lot, and Louis could feel the tug in his stomach, the heat collecting there. “Haz- I’m not gonna. Oh, fuck, yes. I’m not gonna last much longer, baby.” He warned, feeling his stomach coil tighter and tighter. The pet name happened to just slip out, but Harry seemed to like it, if the violent jerk of his hips was any indication.
“Neither, Lou. Don’t worry.” Harry panted out, his face tucked in against Louis’ neck, damp breathes of air hitting Louis’ skin. Harry started to twist his movements slightly, his thumb pressing into the head of Louis’ cock every second stroke, and Louis felt his balls draw up tight, unable to hold it off any longer
“Oh fuck, Haz. Yeah, that’s it, baby. Jesus, fuck.” Louis kept murmuring as he felt his orgasm approaching, closer and closer. He fisted Harry’s cock, attempting to get Harry right there with him. He misjudged it though, as Harry let out a short, sharp cry and bit down heavily on the juncture of Louis’ neck as he came. The sensation of Harry’s mouth against his neck, and his hand on his cock was too much for Louis, and he came straight after Harry, cock pulsing.
He loosened his grip on Harry straight away, knowing his cock would be sensitive. Instead, he dragged his hands up to Harry’s shoulders, caressing the smooth skin, feeling that it was slightly damp with sweat. Harry slowly drew his face away from Louis shoulder, making eye contact with him in the darkness of the room.
“D’you reckon you could call me baby more often?” Harry asked, voice light and airy, but still cheeky. He looked breathless, eyes wide, curls sticking slightly to his forehead, cheeks flushed dark. Louis let out a light laugh.
“I’ll call you whatever you want me to, baby.” He responded, and Harry smiled.
“That was something else. You’re pretty damn good with your hands.” Harry informed him, voice shifting to slightly serious. Louis bit his lip, settling in closer to Harry’s body heat. His stomach felt sticky with cum, and Louis wasn’t sure if it was Harry’s or his own, but he didn’t really care at this point. He just wanted to be close to Harry.
“Mm. You’re telling me. Your hands are like, something they write epic poetry about.”
Harry giggled, and shook his head in denial. “What an interesting poem that would be. Not sure if you could write a Homeric poem about that though, think the Greeks or Romans probably would have thrown you out.”
“Try homo-erotic, and we’d have no troubles.” Louis responded, a grin breaking out over his face. Harry laughed too, and they descended into silence for a moment, Louis arms round Harry’s shoulders, Harry’s hands resting on his hips. “Do you have to go home? I don’t want your mum to worry or something.”
Harry shook his head in response, taking his hand up to card through Louis’ sweat damp hair. “Nah. Mum doesn’t really worry. Me disappearing is a fairly regular occurrence in our household, as is her disappearing. She’ll just assume I’m off grieving. Plus, considering I can’t die, she doesn’t worry much about me full stop.”
“Wait- what? You can’t die?”
“Nah. Not like, really. Like I will eventually die, but a car can’t just, hit me out of the blue or anything. It’s pretty much guaranteed I die of old age. The wings, we’re not really sure how it works exactly, but they give you like, not immortality. But like, death immunity, for a little while at least. No one in my family has ever died before the age of eighty.” Harry said quietly. His voice was slow, trying to foil out his own mind in the post haze of sex. “Except my grandma’s sister. She died when she was thirty.”
Louis shifted on the bed, pulling the sheets up as a makeshift face washer, wiping at his own tummy and then Harry’s to clean them up. “What happened to her?” He was morbidly curious, but Harry seemed happy enough to humour him, giving him a soft smile.
“She cut her wings off. It killed her. Mum says she bled out in the back of their garden. She had three kids, and a husband. No one really knows why she did it.” Harry looked steadily at Louis as he spoke, the darkness of the room cutting angles into his cheeks. Louis sucked in a breath.
“Jesus, H.” Was all he said, running his thumb along Harry’s exposed side, feeling the warmth of Harry.
“Yeah. So like, we know that’s one way to die. Mum didn’t tell me any of that for quite a while. I think she was scared I would try it. She knew I wasn’t happy.”
For a second, Louis thought of how he would be right now if there wasn’t a boy in his bed, if Harry’s skin wasn’t warm under his touch, if there hadn’t been a boy sat in his Classical Studies class so many weeks ago.
“Would you- would you have done it? Back then, I mean, if you knew.” And Louis wasn’t really sure how they ended up back here, how they kept coming back to these topics that filled him with sadness.
Harry considered that for a moment, looking at Louis steadily. There didn’t seem to be a moment where Harry was considering whether to tell him the truth or not, but more so, a moment where Harry was truly considering what Louis was asking him.
“I think that I would have wanted to. But I don’t think I could have actually done it. That would have been a lot of grief I was leaving for everyone else.” Harry said slowly, voice careful. Louis smiled, and the urge to kiss Harry then and there shocked and saddened him. How easy it would be to press his lips to Harry’s, to kiss him like he loved him. Because he did. In every capacity he could.
“I’m glad. I think,” Louis paused, considering how to phrase it. “You were meant to be right here. With me. No one’s ever supposed to be in a grave.” Louis said, and it sounded so morbid, so distressingly dismal, that Harry let out a snort of laughter. Louis’ lipped quirked at that, and soon they were spluttering, shaking with laughter as they tried to keep their voices down, tried not to wake the whole house.
“Oh my god, what is this? The new Twilight movie or something? God, how depressing.” Harry had tears of laughter in his eyes, and he’d pulled Louis close, was laughing like a manic into Louis' neck.
“Fuck, it was not meant to sound so fucking dark. Fuck- I just meant… I don’t know what I meant. Stop laughing at me.” Louis scolded, in the midst of his own laughter. It felt ridiculous to both of them, and it was probably a product of it being almost midnight and the fact they’d both barely slept that week, but god, it was suddenly hilarious.
Eventually, their laughter faded, and both of them were lying there with soft smiles, their cheeks aching. Harry’s curls were even more mussed than they were when they began laughing, and Louis could feel heat radiating off his own cheeks.
He leant forward, pressed a kiss soft and gentle to the dip of Harry’s collarbone. “We need to set an alarm. If Mum finds you in here tomorrow morning again, we’re both going to be dead, no questions asked. I don’t care if you’re immortal or not.” Louis teased. Harry’s eyes grew wide with seriousness. He shoved the doona cover aside, searching the ground for his discarded jeans. Louis let out a low whistle. Harry blushed, grabbing his jeans quickly and diving back onto the bed.
“If that’s the thing that wakes your parents, you’re going to be very sorry.” Harry responded seriously, and Louis chuckled.
“I can’t help it if you’ve got a nice body. Technically, it’ll be your fault.” Harry just rolled his eyes at Louis’ response, fishing his phone out of the pocket of his retrieved jeans to set an alarm for six the next morning. Louis wrapped his arms around Harry’s waist as soon as Harry placed his phone on the bedside table, and pulled him down, snug against Louis. He took slow breaths, catching the scent of Harry, revelling in the way his curls brushed Louis’ cheeks, in the way he could feel every slight shift of Harry under his own palms. I love you. He thought. I have always loved you.
He considered it, considered saying it right then and there. He didn’t want it to be a suspenseful thing, something full of unfulfilled connotations and deeper meanings. He just wanted to be able to say it, wanted to be able to let the words fall into the quiet of the night, let them drift against Harry’s curls, over Harry’s skin. He wanted it to be simple, to be easy. Because that’s what loving Harry was. Simple. Easy. Even when it was the hardest thing in the whole damn world, it was so, so easy. Maybe he’d tell him tomorrow, early in the morning. Or the next day. It didn’t really matter, just yet. The words weren’t burning in his heart, but rather humming there, pleasant and happy and content to just exist for now.
Louis had forgotten. Louis had fucking forgotten to invite Harry to Niall’s. He didn’t know how it had happened, but somewhere between Harry falling asleep against him on the couch, and Harry leaving his room in the soft morning light, Louis had forgot to ask Harry about coming to Niall’s. And he’d only just realised that now, as he’d rung the bell to Harry’s front door, ready to pick him up for it.
“Fuck fuck fuck fuck fu-“
“Louis!” Anne was standing there in front of him, having just opened the front door. Louis shut his mouth immediately, and put on a smile, filing his plan to bolt away in his mind for later reference.
“Hi Mrs Styles. Erm, is Harry here?”
“He is. He’s up in his room. You can go on up. You remember the way.” She said, and she was smiling gently, looking as warm and friendly as Harry always did.
“Thanks.” He said, returning the warm smile and slipping inside when Anne gestured, taking off his shoes before he made his way up the stairs. He knocked softly on the wooden frame of Harry’s bedroom door, which was swung wide. He could see Harry on the bed, lying with his back facing the door. He shifted when Louis rapped on the wood, turning towards him.
“Louis! What are you doing here?” Harry was across the room in one of his freakishly graceful steps, and he wrapped an arm round Louis. Louis returned the hug, smiling into Harry’s collar. He was in a soft white button up with short sleeves. Louis took him in as he stepped back,
“You been somewhere curly?”
“Nah. Went to lunch with Mum, that’s all.” Harry said, but then he took in Louis’ similar get up, the black button down, the dark jeans. “Have you been somewhere is the better question?”
Louis looked sheepish and shifted onto his toes and back again. “Actually, I’m going to a get together at Niall’s. And I kind of thought I’d already asked you, for some reason. I didn’t even think about it. And then I got here and realised I actually hadn’t asked you at all, and now I feel stupid. Your mum opened the door before I could run away.” Louis admitted. Harry, bless his soul, looked delighted.
“You’re an idiot.” He responded, but he did it with a fond smile and a gentle squeeze of Louis’ cheek. Louis batted his hand away. “However, lucky for you, I have nowhere else to be tonight. So I may be able to be persuaded to join you.” Harry had his hand secured low on Louis’ waist, and his expression looked far too mischievous.
Two rushed hand jobs and two wrinkled shirts later, Louis and Harry were both walking down the street to Niall’s. Harry’s cheeks were still flushed as they walked, and Louis couldn’t help glancing at him repeatedly. He was just so damn attractive like this.
“So um, I don’t really know who’s coming tonight. But, like, Niall asked me to bring you, so. It might be fun?” Louis said, suddenly nervous to bring Harry. Last time they’d gone to a social gathering, Louis had ended up receiving some fairly life altering news from Harry. He wasn’t really feeling like a repeat.
“I’m sure it will be fun, I’m not stressed.” Harry said, and he linked his hand with Louis’, giving it a squeeze to put him at ease. Louis smiled to himself as they walked the next few streets in silence, the trip interspersed with the dark of the night and soft pools of lamplight.
“Tomlinson! Good to see ya. And Harry, how you doing mate?” Niall said, bright and boisterous as soon as the pair of them stepped into the living room of Niall’s house.
“Hi Niall. I’m good, mate, what’s happening?” Harry said, and it was almost scary, how Harry slipped into this laddy kid who said mate. His voice was louder than normal, and he had an odd infliction on the words. Louis smiled, knowing Harry was putting on a little bit of a pretence that Niall would have gone in no time. He had a habit of putting everyone in the universe at ease.
“Horan.” Louis stated, pulling the blonde in for a quick hug. Niall clapped him on the back in response.
“Beers are in the fridge, boys, everyone’s in the kitchen. There’s pizza.”
Louis caught Harry’s eye. He knew he was nervous, because he dropped Louis’ hand as soon as they walked in the door, and if the fake voice didn’t tip him off, the rigid posture he had going right then certainly did. “Well, if there’s pizza, we’re coming, aren’t we Haz?” Louis offered him a smile, encouraging him. Harry smiled back and nodded, following Louis right into the kitchen, where they were met with at least fifteen people, all talking and laughing to each other. Louis recognised all of them, boys from their footy team and girls from their year level and the one below. There was a chorus of greetings to both of them, and Harry smiled back at them all, as did Louis.
Zayn Malik approached them then, one of the art students who Louis knew well, but hadn’t spoken to in a while. He’d somehow become the school dealer, and Louis had distanced himself pretty quickly.
“Hey Louis, Harry.” Zayn said, smiling confidently. He was always confident, a boy who practically oozed security, a brooding force in a leather jacket, which was probably what made him such a good dealer. He took no shit from anyone, and despite the fact he dealt drugs, he never did them, so he kept a clear head for it. Louis supposed that was important. Harry seemed to perk up at his presence though.
“Hey Zayn! How you been?” Harry was eager, and Zayn knocked his hip against the kitchen bench, leaning against it.
“I’m good. How have you been? Got yourself a boyfriend, I hear?” Zayn’s eyebrows raised teasingly. Harry flushed.
“Yeah. Um, Louis and I are-” Harry began, seeming to see no other option but to explain. Zayn cut him off politely.
“Yeah, me and Louis go way back, don’t we?” He said, addressing Louis. Louis nodded agreeably. “What are you two drinking? I’ll grab you some beers.” Zayn offered. Harry shook his head immediately.
“Nothing for me tonight, thanks. I don’t really drink.” Harry said quickly, shaking his head. Louis shook his head in decline as well. If Harry wasn’t drinking, Louis could very well stay sober as well.
The whole staying sober thing was beginning to take a toll on Louis and Harry. They had at some point moved into the living room, the lot of them. The noise level had risen, everyone getting raucously loud with alcohol, and almost everyone was most definitely drunk. Harry and Louis were the only sober ones in the house. They were both suffering for it, too, having had one too many conversations with Perrie, one of the other year twelves who kept insisting she had the perfect girl for Harry, despite the presence of Louis’ arm securely round Harry’s waist for the whole conversation. It was okay though, because Louis knew she’d be mortified the next morning, and he was looking forward to it, just a little.
They were sprawled out on one of the couches now, Harry half in Louis’ lap to make room for the other kids on the couch. Others had taken up residence on the floor, and they were all chatting amiably amongst each other. Louis had just tipped his head to press a kiss to Harry’s hair when Niall let out a raucous yell.
“Spin the bottle! That’s what we’re gonna do. We’ve got enough of a ratio here to do it.” Niall declared. Harry went stiff in Louis’ arms, and Louis couldn’t deny the sinking feeling that came over him. This was not going to end well. This could actually quite possibly have a rather high casualty count.
“Yeah, good plan, Niall. Just because you wanna get with Emma, don’t drag the rest of us into it!” Louis called over everyone else’s chatter. He knew he was throwing Niall under the bus, but he was doing it for all of their own safety. Call him a hero. Niall let out a loud laugh, never one to be easily embarrassed. Harry still hadn’t relaxed.
“Like I need spin the bottle to get a girl, Tomlinson. I’m just trying to help everyone else out.” He was always good-humoured, and he didn’t falter in his smile as he pushed a hand through his hair, despite the fact Louis had essentially just announced one of Niall’s many infatuations to the room at large.
Possibly in spite of Louis’ attempts, everyone began to move into a makeshift circle, dragging armchairs and seats in and around, some people perched on the arms of couches and some on the floor to complete the circle. One of the boys, Sam, chugged a beer to the chants of everyone around him, only to finish the bottle off and place it in the middle of the room. Louis could feel the panic rising in his throat, and when Harry turned his green eyes to Louis, he could see it mirrored there.
“’Salright Haz. It won’t land on you, it’ll be fine.” Louis said, as steadily as he could. Assessing the situation though, Louis did feel at least a little comfortable. Harry was taking up such a small space on the couch, and it was hard to tell where Harry ended and Louis began, so Louis felt almost certain that even if it did land on Harry, Louis could claim it had landed on him. He brushed aside thoughts of how much he didn’t want to kiss someone who wasn’t Harry, despite having never actually kissed Harry.
“If someone dies, it’s completely on you.” Harry said in a low teasing voice, looking almost comfortable as he burrowed closer into Louis’ side, insisting on taking up the smallest space he possibly could. Louis laughed wryly.
“Sure. Make it my fault.”
Niall started the spinning, sending the bottle round in a dizzying circle until it rested on one of the other boys from the footy team. For a moment, Louis was curious as to how Niall was going to play this out, considering it had landed on another guy. But Niall, ever the reliable, simply leant over to the boy and kissed him square on the lips with a light smack. He pulled back as a couple of the other kids around them let out sarcastic wolf whistles. The other boy, vaguely red faced, continued on with the game, flipping the bottle round again. It landed on the girl to Louis’ left, Jade, and Louis let out a shaky sigh of relief that it had managed to make it past both him and Harry. The boy and Jade kissed across the centre of the circle, Jade allowing a shy smile to fall on her lips when she retreated to her spot.
Louis and Harry both watched on, anxious to begin with, and then becoming increasingly amused as the kisses either became vaguely unsafe to observe, or downright ridiculous to watch. They were lulled into a sense of security, as the clink of the glass bottle whirled round and round, never settling on either of them. It was after everyone else in the room had refreshed their drinks at least twice, and the kisses were becoming sloppy, drunk displays of affection rather than anything else, that the bottle fell on them. Or more specifically, clearly fell on Harry. It was straight towards him, and even with a room full of drunk people, Louis could not justify claiming that bottle was pointing to him rather than Harry.
“Fuck.” Harry murmured under his breath. He glanced up to the boy across the room who had been responsible for the spinning, and the boy looked back at Harry. Louis couldn’t tell whether the boys eyes were wide with shock, desire or alcohol. It was one of them though, that was certain. He was a small kid, and Louis thought he might be in the year below them. He’d seen his face around, but didn’t know his name. The boy licked his lip, a pink tongue brushing along the red of his bottom lip. Louis’ stomach curled. His jaw set. And for the first time, he realised he was hardly even against this because Harry may end up killing the boy, he was against this, because Harry was his, and he was Harry’s, and he’d be damned if he ever had to even watch someone else come close to kissing his boy.
For one horrible, selfish second, Louis thought how glad he was that no one would ever be able to kiss his boy. Not unless they were in the throes of death, at least.
He regretted the thought instantly, and Harry must have felt the jerk of Louis’ arm as his mind threw the thought away, because Harry turned to him, eyes shocked and panicked. Louis barely had to think about what to do, felt himself acting on instinct instead. He made eye contact with the boy and shook his head slowly.
“Sorry, mate. This one’s mine.” He said. There was a touch of possession to his tone, but also a heavy sense of authority. Louis saw the boy consider arguing, but ultimately, the boy sagged backward. “May as well spin again.”
However, of course, it wasn’t going to be that easy. Because then, James had to go right ahead and open his mouth. “If he’s yours then Tommo, I guess you’ve gotta do it.”
Louis’ blood ran a little cold. Because there was no escape he could see, nothing. The whole room fell a little quiet. Niall turned to Louis, trying to gauge his facial expression. Harry let a heavy hand drop to Louis’ thigh, warm and grounding. However, the tremor Louis could feel in it undermined the effect.
“Do what?” His voice was ice cold as he spoke, and Niall’s eyebrows rose in surprise at his tone. James was splayed out across one of the couches, one of the girls across his lap, but his face was almost… challenging, Louis thought. His posture said relaxed, the limp way he held his beer can, the way he was slouched in his seat. But his face said serious, and Louis swallowed.
“Kiss him. If Brent can’t, because he’s yours, you should.” His voice was even, paced out. Louis wanted to punch him.
“What?” Came James' shocked response. He genuinely looked surprised too, like he’d expected his forceful command to work. Louis was unmoved, even as he threaded his fingers through Harry’s.
“I said, no. I’m not going to kiss Harry in front of you just because you want some sort of spectacle.” The tension was rising thick in the air, and the girl in James’ lap seemed to notice, shifting off him, tucking back her brunette hair as she dropped to the floor, out of James’ reach. James hardly seemed to notice.
“Oh come on, Louis. Just do it, it won’t do you guys any harm.” Came Zayn’s voice, cutting into the odd little standoff he and James seemed to be having. Louis thought he heard Harry snort at the last part of Zayn’s sentence. At least the boy still had his sense of humour. It didn’t help that James was drunk, eyes bleary. Zayn always knew when a situation was going to escalate; probably a part of being a dealer, Louis wasn’t really sure. Either way, he didn’t care what Zayn had to say.
“Fuck off, Zayn.” Louis said, turning his own expression to Zayn. Zayn looked calm, collected. He probably hadn’t had more than two drinks. The boy recoiled, facial expressions arranging themselves into some form of hurt, or confusion. Louis didn’t really wait to figure out what form of emotion Zayn was feeling, as he gently patted Harry’s thigh with his free hand, gesturing for him to stand up. Harry did, instantly, and Louis followed, “Thanks for having us, Niall. I think we’ll be off now.” Louis said, and his tone was clipped.
Niall looked back at him with wide eyes, but nodded. In his same cheery voice, he responded. “No worries, fellas, see you Monday.”
“See you, Niall.” Harry muttered.
The room was dead silent as Louis guided Harry outside of the circle, finding their way down the hallway and out the door. They could both feel everyone’s confusion at Louis’ actions, but Louis wasn’t about to bother explaining it to any of them. He might apologise to Niall and Zayn, but that was about it.
They stepped out into the cool night air and Harry immediately pulled Louis close, wrapping his arms tight around him, holding him there. Louis felt the familiar coolness as Harry dropped his mist, effectively cutting them off from the world around them.
“Let’s go. Come on, let’s go somewhere. Anywhere you want.” Harry said quietly. His voice had a habit of falling into this measured, angelical tone whenever the mist dropped. Louis didn’t like to think about it, but he knew it was the voice Harry used for the dying, as well. Sometimes it sent shivers down his back.
“Take me to the ocean.”
"Sometimes valour came back even to the hearts of the defeated." - Virgil, The Aeneid.
It was his favourite place to be with Harry, high above the blackness of water, the only guide the moon and the faint glow of a town preparing for sleep in the distance. Louis had stayed clinging to Harry’s front this time, arms wrapped tightly round Harry’s neck, cheek resting in the curve of Harry’s shoulder as they flew. It was colder that night than it had been when they first had come to the ocean, and the wind was whipping up an icy breeze as they flew. Harry had let the mist drop away as soon as they were out of town, out of sight, so they could both feel the wind carding through their hair and pressing against their clothes as went. Harry flew slowly tonight and it was nothing like the rush of wings and air it had been the first time. Louis knew what he was doing. He was trying to stay right there next to Louis for as long as he could.
They hovered over the inky black of the ocean for a little while, not speaking, just listening to the unimposing rush of the waters movements. Louis could smell the salt in the air, and when he turned to press a kiss to Harry’s neck, he could taste it, too. The stars were overhead, and Louis wanted to pick out a constellation, name it after themselves. Louis, and the boy who flew.
“Harry.” Louis whispered.
“Pick us a constellation.”
Harry rotated slowly, casting an eye over the whole sky. The stars weren’t particularly bright tonight, some of them hard to pick out in the blackness, but they were still there. “There. See that super bright star?” Louis nodded slowly as he craned his neck to look. “And then there’s two next to it, that sort of swoop downwards? They’re ours now.” His breath ghosted on the nape of Louis’ neck, and Louis tightened his legs around Harry’s hips slightly.
“Okay. They’re ours.” Louis watched the stars for a few more minutes, until his neck ached and he had to tip it forward again. “Do you think we’re even talking about the same three stars? There’s a lot in the sky, and they all kind of look the same.” Louis questioned, curious.
“I think so. I think we both know. And if they’re not the same ones, then we have six stars instead of three.” Harry said, and Louis let out a soft laugh at that. As Louis drew his breath in again, to say something else, he felt Harry’s wings begin to beat again, raising them up from where they had been drifting down, dangerously close to the waves.
“Careful, Icarus. Not too close to the sea mist.”
“That’s a myth.”
“You’re a myth.” Louis shot back, and Harry let out a delighted laugh. It hardly carried, was swallowed up by the empty space surrounding them all too quickly, but Louis had still heard it. “You’re the best myth I’ve ever known.” Louis continued, his tone shifting to something gentle and reverent. Harry moved then, his wings picking up pace and lifting them higher and higher, until Louis could see the pin prick glow of a lighthouse, far to their left. Harry had noticed the light too, and they began to fly in that direction.
They came to rest finally in the dunes next to the lighthouse, the sand shifting and turning under their feet as they dropped to the ground. They were soft dunes, and Louis imagined it had hardly been walked on, too high up for any human to have bothered trekking to it. It meant the sand was soft and uncompacted. Harry let himself drop down into the sand, his wings disappearing as he did so.
“Why did you want a constellation?” Harry said slowly, and Louis settled down next to Harry. Harry was staring up at the sky, one hand in the air, tracing lazy patterns in the stars.
“Because. If we write ourselves in the stars, no one can take it from us.” Louis said it so softly, into the breeze of the night.
“That boy. James. He was the one you dated, wasn’t he?” Harry said, out of nowhere, his hand dropping to rest against his chest as he took steady breaths.
Louis nodded, and then let his head fall against the sand, feeling the grains tickle the nape of his neck. “Yeah. Although, dating would be a bit of a stretch. We had a thing, but we never, he never let us be out in the open. He hated even if I glanced at him for too long during a class. We were only really together when we were alone.”
Harry shifted on the sand, turning on his side to face Louis. “So why…?” Harry looked like he was searching for the words, but Louis didn’t need him to finish the sentence.
“Not sure, really, why he would’ve tried to pressure us tonight. That’s what you’re asking, isn’t it?” Louis checked, and Harry gave a quick nod. “Yeah. I don’t know. Probably some kind of weird justification for how he treated me. Maybe he was trying to take it out on us for being brave enough to be publically together. I don’t know.”
Harry was quiet for a few moments, and then he spoke in a meek voice. “Do you think that we sort of, justified how he treated you when you were together? Like, I wouldn’t kiss you in public tonight, either. Just like he wouldn’t.” Harry looked distraught, a frown creasing his brow. Louis shook his head adamantly, reaching out a hand to brush away Harry’s frown.
“No, don’t do that. You’re so much more than him, and you know that. Truly, Harry. Don’t even consider comparing yourself to James. He was nothing like you are. He was an asshole, and I just didn’t realise it at the time. I was too excited to have a boy I could be with, that I didn’t realise what he was like. You? You’re nothing like that. And you are with me, publicly. You hold my hand and sit next to me, and put your arm round my waist. Just because you can’t kiss me, doesn’t matter. I know you’re here with me, anyway.” Louis words were vaguely muddled, but Harry seemed to understand, relaxed back into the sand.
“Okay. I am sorry though, you know that, right? I wish I could kiss you. I really do.” His voice grew wistful by the end of the sentence. Louis felt his heart ache.
“Don’t kill me just yet, H.” He said. His attempt at wry humour was met with a soft chuckle from Harry.
“Maybe next Monday.” Harry responded, a smile pulling at his lips. Louis pulled at his hair, a soft ringlet curling between his forefingers.
“Yeah alright. Pencil me in for Monday afternoon, after class.”
By the time they both left the dunes and that tiny white lighthouse, the sun was on the verge of rising.
“There’s that damned Apollo again.” Harry said as they flew over the top of the outskirts of the town, houses few and far between. Louis assumed he was talking about the sunrise. Louis couldn’t see it, as he was wrapped round Harry’s front again. He could of craned his neck if he wanted to, but he was too busy watching how the sun’s rising light cast Harry’s hair gold, flecks of light flickering in amongst the curls, his green eyes bright and almost wild.
The deathless god echoed through his mind, and Louis could see it, that intangible beauty that cast Harry out, that drew him up as the otherworldly being he was. It was in the curl of his hair, the line of his jaw. It was in the way the light played with him, the way it licked at his cheeks and his wings, was so, so happy to just surround him, to be with him. He was a god. And he was beautiful. Beauty! Terrible beauty!
Louis’ head didn’t hit the pillow until six that Sunday morning, and when his alarm went off at seven for work, he was forced to drag himself out of bed and make his way to the café’. He prepared himself to spend eight hours on his feet, running coffees and cakes to every elderly person in their town. When his shift ended, Louis headed straight home to his room, curling up straight away in his bed, the sheets rumpled. There were grains of sand scattered over the pillow and under the doona, remnants of the night before. He slept from the moment he laid down through to his alarm for school. He was bone tired, but he was happy.
When Harry rapped on the window Monday morning, Louis wasn’t even surprised. Louis was fresh out of the shower with a towel slung round his hips when he glanced up at the noise, seeing Harry perched outside the window, wings extended but looking half-asleep. When Louis pulled the window open, Harry stumbled into the room in a rare moment of gracelessness. Louis chuckled lightly, reaching out a hand to steady the boy as he took in his appearance. Harry had a white shirt clasped in his hand, and was standing there in black jeans. His hair was rumpled, and his eyes looked tired.
“Woah there, angel. Y’alright?” Louis muttered as he watched the silver glint of Harry’s wings disappear. Harry nodded quickly.
“Mum dragged me to the city about three hours after I got home. We spent all of Sunday there, didn’t get back till about ten. I’m struggling to function.” Harry explained but his tone was light, and he seemed happy.
“No more late night adventures for us then. Gotta catch up on that sleep.” Louis said, turning to grab his clothes from his draw. He dropped his towel and changed quickly, raking his hand through his damp hair a couple of times to try and give it at least some form of style. He could feel Harry’s eyes on him, but they certainly didn’t have time to start anything, not when Louis had art first and a folio to make some progress on. “Stop looking at me with those eyes.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Harry said, effectively cutting of his stare by tugging his t-shirt over his head in a slow movement. “I can’t even see you.” He continued, voice muffled by the cotton. Louis laughed.
“Uhuh. Sure you can’t.”
They made their way downstairs quickly after Louis had grabbed his bag. Harry had taken to leaving all of his books at school, so he didn’t have to carry anything when he flew. Louis could not understand how Harry managed to get his homework done. The boy was magic.
Louis could hear the clatter coming from the kitchen even as they made their way downstairs, and he braced himself to explain to his mum that no, Harry hadn’t stayed the night, he’d only walked up to his room this morning to pick him up for school after having politely used the front door like a normal person. However, on entering the kitchen, he realised there wasn’t going to be any questions at all directed at him or Harry, mainly because the whole room was in absolute chaos. Phoebe was doing Daisy’s hair, but Daisy was yelling at her and looked on the verge of using one of the hairbrushes as a bat. Phoebe had her face scrunched angrily even as she plaited Daisy’s hair into place. Fizzy was across the counter, attempting to cook something that vaguely resembled eggs, and Lottie was on the other side of the kitchen counter, face set in concentration as she was furiously writing what Louis could only assume was an essay due today.
“What the hell….” Louis murmured, in the exact same moment that the toaster popped, and the smoke alarm started going off. This triggered a delightful chain of events in which Fizzy swore, Phoebe started at the noise and pulled a little too harshly on Daisy’s hair, Daisy brandished her hair brush and hit Pheobe across the arm, Phoebe’s face screwed up and tears started to form, and Lottie, hardly even blinking at what was going on, pressed one of her fingers in her ear and continued writing. “Where’s mum? Or Dan?” Louis asked, raising his voice to be heard over the crying and the alarm.
“Don’t know. I think they’re still in bed!” Fizzy yelled back, furiously flapping a tea towel to try to get the smoke from the toast to disperse.
“Oh for fucks sake.” Louis muttered, glancing at Harry. Harry was stood there, watching the whole scene unfold, eyes wide. Louis quickly made his way across to the counter, grabbing a broom and pulling a chair up underneath the fire alarm, poking at it to try to get the shrill noise to just stop. As soon as the noise stopped, he pulled the eggs off the hotplates, grabbing out some plates to dish them out. “Phoebs, stop crying. You’ll be fine. Daisy, don’t hit her. Get Fizzy to finish your hair while you eat.” Louis turned to face Fizzy. “Fiz?” he asked, gesturing to Daisy’s hair, and she nodded. Louis pushed plates across to all four of them, letting out a sigh of relief as the tension in the room dissipated.
Harry had taken it upon himself to throw out the smouldering toast and start washing up the fry pan used for the eggs. It was this, almost picture perfect, family scene that Jay walked into about two minutes later. She looked surprised, which made sense, as Louis was certain she had heard the previous noise, and had definitely heard the fire alarm. She scanned the room quickly, eyes landing on Louis, who had just grabbed the cloth to wipe down the bench.
“You, my boy, are wonderful.” She pressed a kiss to the side of his head. “Hello Harry.”
“Hi Jay.” He responded, continuing to scrub at the pan. God, he was winning so many brownie points, Louis thought.
“How long have we got till school? I need you all out the door in ten minutes.” Jay instructed, effectively taking charge of the room. Louis breathed a sigh of relief as he shared a quick smile with Harry.
Miraculously, they made it to school on time, for what felt like the first time in weeks. The craziness of the morning had caused Louis to forget the events of Saturday night, but as soon as he parted ways with Harry, Louis bumped straight into Zayn. Zayn was in his art class, so they were both headed in the same direction. Louis figured then was as good a time as any.
“Hey Louis.” Zayn said, and he looked friendly enough, if a little wary.
“Hey Zayn. Listen, I just wanted to say that I’m sorry for snapping at you on Saturday night, I really didn’t mean to... I wasn’t trying to have a go at you. I was just pissed off because of James and…” Louis trailed off, realising he wasn’t entirely sure where he was going with his point. “I’m sorry.” Was his conclusion.
Zayn glanced at him for a moment as he walked, considering him. “Nah, it’s alright, Tommo. I was just trying to get rid of the tension, and I wasn’t really thinking about how the pressure was effecting you. Obviously if you didn’t want to kiss Harry, none of us should have pushed it.”
Louis nodded along to his words as they rounded the corner to meet the red brick art room. He opened the door, holding it for Zayn. There were only a few people already in the room, and Liam was one of them, set up at the table by the window, paints already splayed out around him. Louis made his way over to him, and, surprisingly, Zayn followed.
They worked in silence for the majority of the lesson, Liam mentioning random little things every now and again. Zayn was game to respond to all of Liam’s comments, and by the end of it, their table had a relaxed, easy vibe to it. Louis even managed to get some productive work done, a bonus, as it meant he wouldn’t have to work too late that night.
Louis caught up with Niall in the lunch line, a text from Harry having informed him earlier that Harry would be absent for lunch as he’d felt the pulse during English, and had to go to take care of it. It was a lightly phrased text, but Louis was able to gather the ramifications of it, knowing Harry would be in a dark place when he returned. He had already mentally checked out of his last two classes of the day, knowing being there for Harry was much more important than any of the things he would learn in English or Biology.
“Tomlinson.” Niall said in greeting, voice serious but still containing that lightness too it, the lightness Niall always possessed. Louis grinned in return.
“Hello there, Horan. How did the party finish up the other night?” Louis asked, aiming to address the topic head on, to allow him to segue nicely into an apology. He moved to lean against the brick wall next to Niall as they waited for the lunch line to start moving.
“Yeah, it was good. Couple of kids passed out there, I think Sam was on the verge of blackout drunk, but other than that it was good. No one puked on anything, and no one died. Successful party.” Niall detailed. A smile crept onto Louis’ face as he thought about how close they had come to having someone die at the party without Niall even realising it. Irony.
“Good! It’s always a bonus when no one dies.” Louis said, and he brushed back a piece of his hair, nervous to continue. Not so much nervous to apologise, as he was nervous about the questions Niall would follow up Louis’ apology with. “So um, sorry about leaving so suddenly, me and Harry. I didn’t mean to be rude, though I know it was.” He wrapped one of his fingers around the belt loop on his shorts, twisting.
Niall shrugged at him. “Doesn’t matter. James was being a prick, as per usual. You and Harry had every right to leave.” He met Louis’ brief glance up with a steady expression, assuring him. “Seriously. It doesn’t matter. I’m just sorry he was such a dick.”
Louis let out a light breath, just as the line started moving. They wandered inside the cafeteria, the large hall amplifying the noise of the student body. Louis assumed that meant the end of that topic, and that they would start a new one as they sat down. He was wrong.
“I was wondering, though,” Niall began, expression carefully arranged to be neutral, “why you were so adamant about not kissing him? Like, it wasn’t really a big deal, and I get that James had no right, but still, you could have just like… kissed him and saved yourself the drama.”
It was exactly in Niall’s character, to see the path of least resistance as the best path, always. He didn’t like conflict or unnecessary drama, never liked to argue or pick fights. He preferred to simply get on with everyone. Bless him.
Louis fidgeted, arranging the order of food on his tray, shifting his salad to the left of his main meal, and then moving it back.
“I guess because it felt so, unnatural. Like, it made me feel like Harry and I were zoo animals, and I wasn’t about to do that to Harry. He doesn’t deserve to be kissed because some idiot decided he wanted to see the two boyfriends make out. I didn’t want to do that to Harry. He deserves more.” Louis could hardly tell his truths from fiction anymore, the feelings he was really feeling blending with false words. Because he had felt Harry deserved better, and if the whole death by angel thing hadn’t been a factor at the time Louis still would have said no, because Harry was too good to be treated like some display. But at the same time, Louis was still lying to Niall, and he knew it. Was acutely aware of it, in fact.
Niall nodded at his answer, seeming to accept it. He took a bite of his lasagne, and then paused again, opening his mouth to begin another question. “So have you and Harry not kissed yet?”
That gave Louis pause. He wasn’t sure whether to lie about that or not. Surely, it wouldn’t give Harry away to simply admit they hadn’t kissed yet. But at the same time, enough odd things accumulated to answers, Louis knew.
“Not exactly, no.” He settled on, evading the question slightly. Niall’s brow creased as he chewed more lasagne. Louis had barely began his food. It looked far too unappealing.
“What do ya mean not exactly?” Niall queried.
“Well like, we’ve um done… stuff. But we haven’t fully kissed on the mouth yet.” Louis kept his voice lowered, and he could feel a slight blush beginning to rise on his cheeks. Niall gave him an incredulous look.
“Are you telling me you’ve had sex with the boy but you haven’t kissed him?” Niall exclaimed. Louis shushed him viciously.
“Shut up you wanker, no need to tell the whole fucking room. And no, we haven’t had sex. We’ve gotten off together, but we haven’t had sex.” Louis said in a level, if a good three tones quieter than usual, voice.
“Getting off together is close enough to sex. I can’t believe you haven’t kissed him yet. What the hell is stopping you?” Niall was disbelieving, and Louis understood it. Because if Louis was looking at anyone else’s relationship, and had just been informed the couple had never kissed but had slept together in some sense of the term, he’d be pretty confused too.
“We just… haven’t. I don’t know.” Louis said, stumbling for some reason to grasp at, and coming up with nothing. “We just don’t. Like not like, we don’t want to or anything, it’s just not…” Louis let out a huffy sigh in the end, frustrated and concerned his weird rambling was giving too much away. Things Harry and he couldn’t afford to give.
“Look, I’m going to leave you to sort that out on your own. Because that does not feel like something I am equipped to help you with.” Niall said, his tone light and breezy. And of course Niall could do that, could navigate the insanity that had become Louis’ life so flippantly, simply shelf the concerns that no one could fix. It was a nice approach and Louis was tempted to trial it some time.
Louis was curled up under Harry’s doona cover when the window to Harry’s room opened of its own accord. He was half way through the Odyssey, having picked it up from Harry’s bookshelf and started at a random page. That was the beauty of the classics. If you knew the mythology and stories well enough, you could start at any of the books.
He didn’t even notice the window swing open, or the thud of a jacket hitting the floor as it appeared from thin air. When he felt the warm weight of someone settling onto the bed, he barely even shifted, leaning towards the presence without glancing up. When he did eventually look up, he nearly screamed. Because despite being able to feel the warmth of Harry, there was no one sitting there. It took him a few seconds for his mind to catch up with his eyes, and when he did he reached out a hand, groping at the air until his hand met smooth skin and Harry came into view, the haze of silver appearing and parting as Louis reached through.
Harry looked soft and less hurt than he usually did. There was still the tell-tale smudges under his eyes, and the way his shoulders peaked forward as though attempting to evade the weight of his wings. But his mouth didn’t have that same sad tilt it usually did after he returned from his grieving, and his eyes were brighter, that light green Louis loved.
“Hi love.” Louis murmured, running a hand over Harry’s arm and down to his waist, squeezing gently. Harry smiled softly.
“Hello. What are you doing here?” He asked, voice slow and syrupy, like he was still adjusting out of his grieving.
“Your mum let me in. I kind of skipped the last two periods to come wait for you. And I borrowed your book.” It was as Louis stated this he realised it was almost dark outside, and that Harry had been grieving for a lot longer than Louis had expected or noticed.
“So you skipped class for nothing then.” Harry observed wryly, and Louis tilted his chin up in a cheeky grin.
“Not for nothing. I came back and continued to learn, see?” Louis demanded, holding up the Odyssey extremely close to Harry’s face. “Now, are you coming out of that mist sometime soon, or am I going to have to keep a tight hold on you all night so you don’t disappear before my eyes again?” His voice got soft at the end and he couldn’t help the fond way he glanced at Harry.
Harry returned the look with a smile of his own, and Louis couldn’t help but think if they were a normal couple this would be the moment he would lean forward and press a chaste kiss to Harry’s lips. Instead, he leaned forward and kissed Harry’s bare shoulder gently and watched steadily as Harry’s mist dropped and his wings folded in and disappeared, steadily becoming more human as he did so.
“Are you here to stay?” Harry said quietly, shifting on the bed until he could wiggle in under the covers with Louis. “Please say yes.” He tugged Louis into him, and despite the fact it was hardly nine o’clock, Louis could feel his eyes growing heavy in the warm hold of Harry.
“No. I can stay for a little. But Mum’s going to expect me home. School night, and all that.” Louis said quietly into Harry’s neck. Harry let out an exaggerated sigh.
“You’ve gotta make sure you go home then. I can’t handle another stare down from your mother. She’s terrifying.” Harry fake shuddered.
“Oh shush. You say that like you haven’t charmed her to pieces.” Louis returned, and he felt Harry’s smile against the top of his head. “You’re lovely, you know?” It was out of the blue and kind of pointless, because it was obvious. Obvious that Louis thought Harry was lovely, and more blatantly, obvious that Harry was lovely. But the words had bubbled up in him, so he had said it.
“Why’s that?” Harry asked quietly. His voice was quiet and slow, too. Louis knew he must be half asleep as well.
“Don’t know. You’re just… really lovely. No wonder they made works of art around you.” Louis' eyes had shut at some point, and speaking to the darkness made him feel calm.
“No one’s made works of art around me.” Harry denied. “Well, except you.”
Louis thought of the wings he’d drawn, silver and glowing and soft, hovering on the crisp whiteness of that folio page. He thought of the references he’d used. The sculpture of Nike, the winged victory. Giacinto Gimigani’s An angel and a devil fighting for the soul of a child. The endless fresco paintings from Italy. He thought of all these references, and then he thought of the boy pressed against him.
“The world’s been painting you long before you began existing, Harry. You were born of works of art. But you’re more, somehow. You’re so much more.” Louis could see colours behind his eyelids. He could feel Harry’s hand brushing over his waist.
“You’ve been reading too much epic poetry.” Harry responded. Louis laughed lightly. “Do you mind if I sleep? It’s been a long day.” Louis realised Harry must have had his eyes shut too, unable to see that Louis was on the verge of sleep as much as he was.
“Sleep love.” He pressed the words into Harry’s hair, and he pressed closer, feeling the skin of Harry’s chest against his t-shirt. His chest rose and fell, steady, and Louis’ chest matched it. The world was steady on its feet.
Louis woke to light across his face, and he turned to see the way the sun had love affairs with Harry. It was something else, the way it pressed in against him, licked glows across his cheekbones, dropped rays into his hair. The light loved him. Louis wanted to take a photo of him, to keep the moment. So he did. He reached for his phone, where he’d left it on Harry’s bedside table, capturing his sleeping face before he leant in and pressed several kisses to Harry’s neck.
Harry stirred slowly, eyes crinkling, nose snuffling lightly. He took a couple of moments to blink his eyes open, to look at Louis with a lopsided grin and curls that were mussed in every direction.
“Good morning.” He whispered voice low and gravelly. It was a voice Louis had come to love. Or actually, it was a voice Louis had loved form the first time he’d heard it. “How’d you sleep?”
“Good. You drooled. But other than that, it was very peaceful.” Louis was teasing and grinned cheekily at Harry, who simply reacted by pulling Louis closer to him, and nuzzling his face into Louis’ hair.
“You fell asleep here.” Murmured Harry. Louis nodded. “I’ll fly you home.”
“There comes a point when us accidentally falling asleep at each other’s houses no longer becomes accidental.” Louis informed Harry, mock seriously.
“You’re telling me.”
It became repetitive in the loveliest of ways. Louis spent his days at school with Harry and a sadly neglected folio, spent the afternoons at the library with him, or in Harry’s room. They spent the evenings flying, or talking, or reading side by side when the storms began to come more regularly, preparing Australia for autumn, and soon winter. Louis would wake up in Harry’s bed, or Harry would wake up in Louis’ bed, and they’d sneak home to their respective mothers and pretend nothing was amiss.
Both became suspicious that their mothers knew of their absences; however, they never said anything to stop them, so they kept going. It was a world in which everything was right until it wasn’t, and when it wasn’t Louis would wait for Harry to come back from grieving, and they would talk it through. Or they wouldn’t. Sometimes they would spend hours laid out on the grass at the top of their nearby woods, talking about life, and death, and Harry’s role in it all. Other times, Harry would have those eyes that hurt Louis to look at, and Louis would make tea, and they would hide under a doona cover, and watch bad sitcoms until the world felt right again.
The grieving began to happen with more and more intensity, until the end of May came around, and Louis realised Harry had grieved at least once every week for the past month.
“Why do you think it’s happening?” He asked him at lunch that day. Harry was mid bite of a pasta bake that had nowhere near enough cheese, and he looked at Louis quizzically. “So often, that is. The grieving.”
Harry chewed slowly, looking like he was thinking his answer through thoroughly. His hair had grown out more over the past month or so, and he looked older almost, Louis thought suddenly, startled by how he hadn’t already noticed. There was something to him, perhaps the set of his shoulders, or the curve of his mouth. Something that looked older.
“I don’t know. I thought perhaps it was because I’m getting older. I mean, I’m almost eighteen. It would make sense I’m getting more and more. I spoke to mum the other night, and she says she’s been grieving less than usual. I think I might be taking over her jobs.” His face twisted into a bittersweet expression as he finished, and instead of looking at Louis he began twisting his fork into the pasta bake. “Have you noticed my wings are way fuller than they were a month ago? I get more feathers every time someone… needs me.” Louis almost had to tilt his head forward to hear Harry over the sound of the dining hall, far too many people speaking all at once.
“Are you… how do you feel about that? About more jobs?” Louis was tentative as he asked, and he let his ankle come to rest against the inside of Harry’s underneath the table.
Harry still didn’t make eye contact. “I think. I think I should be happy. Because it means less sadness for mum. It’s always worn on her, like it does me. But these past few years... it gets heavy, I guess, in a way you couldn’t imagine unless you’d seen the way it develops. That grief, it’s a part of me now, already. But Mum’s. Mum’s takes over her sometimes. In a way that mine doesn’t yet do. So if I can ease that, then I want to. It would be selfish to not want to.” The conversation felt too much for the dining hall.
“You’re allowed to be selfish, you know. You already give so much of your life to others; you don’t need to ever think you’re selfish.” Louis smiled gently at Harry, and Harry finally met his eyes.
“I guess. But I’ll deal with it. It doesn’t really matter anyway, whether I want to be selfish or not. I have no say in the matter. I’m going to keep grieving whether I want to or not.” He seemed to shake himself out of it then, and let his fork drop to his tray. “I’m not going to finish this meal. Are you done? Do you want to get out of here?”
It hadn’t occurred to Louis that when Harry had said “Do you want to get out of here?” he had meant the school as a whole, not just the dining room. Nevertheless, Harry took Louis’ hand and lead him down to the front gates of the school, and as soon as they stepped onto the sidewalk that ran parallel to the school, Louis felt that coolness of the mist lick over him, a feeling he had become so accustomed to. It was a different kind of coolness now though, no longer juxtaposed against the heat of a summers day but rather the cool breeze of late autumn. It felt more like an extra barrier than it did a welcome respite these days.
“Where are we going, love?” Louis asked, voice calm but curious as they wandered along the footpath, hand in hand.
“Gemma’s going to be home early this afternoon. I thought we might go meet her at the house. You could finally meet her.” Harry said, and when he glanced over to Louis he had a bright smile on. “Is that okay?”
Louis was quick to reassure. “Of course. But like, isn’t your mum going to skin us alive for skipping?” Louis had sat through enough of Anne’s lectures about education when Louis and Harry had been steadfastly ignoring theirs to know that Anne did not take lightly to skipping class.
“She’s not home. Won’t be home till six.” Harry looked positively gleeful as he said it. “Plus, Gems won’t tell. She’s a good secret keeper.” Louis nodded in response, listening to the soft beat of both their feet against the bitumen as they walked. He started to try to prepare himself to meet another angel, not only another angel, but someone Harry loved so much, and spoke about so reverently. God, he really couldn’t fuck this one up.
They walked in absolute silence, neither concerned about the quiet that had fallen between them. A tiny blue car was parked in the dusty driveway when Louis and Harry slowly made their way up the garden path. When they reached Harry’s door and Harry pushed against it though, Louis let out a shaky breath that gave Harry pause.
“You nervous?” He asked, and there was a hint of surprise in his voice. Louis nodded honestly anyway. “Babe, it’s been like, four months or something. You need to stop being scared around my family.”
Louis let out an exasperated huff. “Well I can’t bloody help it. I haven’t met Gemma yet. And I need her to like me.”
“You’re right. It’s deathly important she likes you. And she’s probably not going to, so you better like, best behaviour.” Harry said, and Louis could sense the teasing tone. He shoved Harry, effectively pushing him into the front hallway.
“Don’t be a dick.” He muttered, a little louder than either of them had been speaking. And, of course, because Louis never had very good luck, it was as he said this he looked up and saw a girl with ash grey hair standing at the end of the hallway, watching the exchange. Louis immediately went still whilst Harry glanced up and let out an excited noise, moving forward in that same graceful step to wrap Gemma in a hug. Louis looked on as Gemma returned the hug, stumbling a little at the force of Harry’s embrace. She soon pulled back though, fixing an icy glance at Louis.
“Now. Who are you and why are you calling my baby brother a dick?” She said, tone serious. Louis swallowed and wished Harry would come stand directly in front of him, so he could use him as a human shield.
“Hi, I’m Louis. I’m Harry’s um- Harry’s my-”
“We’re dating! And he’s a dick too, if it helps.” Harry cut in, giving Louis the helping hand he totally didn’t need, thank you very much.
“Ah. You’re that Louis. It’s nice to finally meet you.” Said Gemma, and Louis saw her harshness melt away instantly as she laughed a little. “I actually totally knew that. You just seemed like an easy scare opportunity. Sorry.” She didn’t seem to be showing a single sign of remorse. She had the same dimple as Harry, and it was out, her eyes crinkling as she smiled.
She made her way down the hall into the kitchen, and Harry followed. Louis stuck close behind Harry. “So are you two playing hooky? Thought it would be a free house?” She joked. Louis felt himself blush at the implication they’d been looking for some privacy, but Harry just pulled a face as he settled on one of the stools in the kitchen, parallel to where Gemma was leaning back against the white cupboards.
“No, we came to see my favourite sister!” He said, in a fake nauseating tone. Gemma rolled her eyes.
“I’m your only sister.” She deadpanned.
“So that’s how you know I really mean it.” Harry returned, his eyes going big and innocent. Louis snorted, could hardly help himself. Gemma looked satisfied with Louis’ reaction, flicking a strand of hair out of her eyes and looking him up and down briefly, then nodding her approval.
“I think I’m going to like you, Louis.” She assessed, and Louis smiled tentatively. Gemma was, apparently, an easy person to please, if an accurately timed snort had her on his side.
“That’s good news. It seems like a good idea to have as many of you angels liking me as possible.” Louis responded, and Gemma frowned at that.
“Oh no, I’m not- I’m not a Griever. Harry’s the Griever out of the two of us.” She said, looking quizzically at Harry. Harry had turned to Louis, understanding appearing in his eyes.
“Sorry, I didn’t realise-” Louis said, quickly trying to make up for his mistake. Harry gestured into the air, brushing the apology away.
“Don’t bother, Lou.” He turned to Gemma. “I never told him how it was only one of us per generation, must have just forgotten to mention it.” Gemma nodded her head in understanding, and then swiftly changed the topic.
“So have you boys had lunch?”
“If you call shitty pasta bake lunch, yes. If you don’t, then no, we haven’t, and we’re hungry.” Harry answered. Louis pulled up the stool next to Harry at the bench, and leant against him.
They ended up all making up sandwiches and then settling down in the tv room to watch a film. Gemma insisted they watch Speed when she found out Louis had never seen it, and that was how Louis came to be splayed out across the couch, back against Harry’s chest as Sandra Bullock drove a bus around at top speed. Gemma was similarly relaxed in her position, leant back in one of the cream chairs, blanket draped over her knees.
They were a quarter of the way through when they could hear rain beginning to fall outside. Harry took a couple of moments to register it, and then he was shifting Louis off him, standing up quickly.
“I forgot to shut my window!” He called out as his figure retreated out of the living room quickly. Gemma straightened up slightly from where her head had been tilting forward slowly. She had looked on the verge of taking a nap.
“Can you check all the other upstairs ones? I opened them up when I got here!” She yelled to him as the sound of feet on the stairs carried into the room. She then reached for the remote, hitting the pause button. “So. Louis.” Her voice was serious, and she was regarding him with a sombre expression. Louis straightened up on the couch too.
“Yes?” He asked, and thankfully his voice didn’t portray how nervous her one address had made him.
“My brother. You know about him, obviously. You know about his grieving.” She said it straight forward, eyebrows arched and making dead-on eye contact with Louis. Louis nodded stiffly.
“Yeah. Yeah I do.”
“So I hope you realise what that means. You’re a barrier for him now, you know? You’re a safe space. I hope you realise that. I hope you recognise that you’re a part of his life now, and he’s going to need you. I don’t know if I’m preaching to a choir here and you already know all this, but he’s going to need you whenever he comes back from grieving. He’s going to need you a lot. He’s got so much love, Harry does. But he also has so much grief. And if you’re going to be here, if you’re going to know and be a part of his life, you need to be able to deal with that.”
Louis nodded immediately. “I do. I know that. Really, I do.” He began to assure her, but Gemma wasn’t quite finished.
“He used to hate it, you know? Some days for him, god. Some days for all of us, they used to just fucking bleed. You could see his sadness on him, all the time. You couldn’t touch it, or take it away, but it was always there. When I was eighteen, he got really bad. I think he began to realise the weight his life was going to press on him. He began to drink, he began to do drugs. He began to do everything he could to not have to grieve.” She told it like it didn’t pain her, like it had been years ago, and she’d thought about it so many times, that the loss of the child Harry had been was no longer something she felt emotion over. It wasn’t in a cold way, but more in a hollow way. As though Harry’s grief had carved out the emotions of the ones who loved him.
Louis nodded to her words, recognising threads of them as things Harry had already told him, about drinking and other methods. “There was one point where he took far too many sleeping pills. He had already figured out he couldn’t die. So he took them, passed out right after the pulse had come on. But he’d still been pulled up, out of his sleep, and he still had to do the grieving. That night, after he’d somehow made his way home and collapsed in the kitchen, and mum had taken him to hospital to have his stomach pumped, he came to my room. He told me he wasn’t going to do any of it anymore. He wasn’t going to drink or try to evade it anymore. Because there were so many people dying, and they all deserved a gentle death. And he couldn’t give that to them if his mind was too addled with drugs or alcohol to do the grieving well, to do it how it was supposed to be. That’s the person he is, Louis. He’s the person who will stop trying to numb his own pain, if it means others don’t hurt as much.”
Louis could feel a lump in his throat as the sound of swiftly shut sills sounded from upstairs. He blinked harshly, had to stop looking at Gemma and instead pull at a loose thread on his t-shirt. “Why are you- what are you saying this for?” He couldn’t figure it out. Couldn’t figure out why one earth Gemma felt this was something worth sharing, something Louis needed to hear. All this story was doing was ripping Louis’ heart in two.
“Because,” Gemma tilted forward, closer to Louis, earnest, “I need you to understand him. I need you to understand that he’s a boy who’s trying his damnedest to keep living, and if you can help him do that, I want you around. We all do. But if you can’t, if some day you’re going to wake up and decide his grief is too much, decide you can’t keep loving him, then we need you gone now. There’s no room for vacancies in Harry’s heart. He needs love that’s going to stay.”
For a brief moment, Louis considered the fact that this was far too serious a conversation for two teenagers who had only been dating for four months, but at the same time, he recognised what Gemma was saying. Harry wasn’t an ordinary boy. They were going to have a love that was different for the rest of their lives.
Harry’s footsteps sounded on the stairs again, and Gemma leant back, calmly re-arranging the blanket. Louis swallowed harshly, willing the tears away. “I’m staying. I’m going to stay. I swear it. He’s more than everything to me.” Louis said, voice level enough it wasn’t going to carry out to the hallway, but with enough volume Gemma would hear. Gemma nodded short and sharp as Harry came back into the room. He immediately settled himself back down next to Louis on the couch, and Louis took the opportunity to bury his face in the nape of Harry’s neck, breathing in the warmth of his skin as he tried to stop his eyes from watering. Harry didn’t seem to notice how heavy the room’s silence was.
“All windows are shut! Hit play, Gems!” He declared, voice bright. Gemma nodded, reaching for the remote and continuing the film.
Harry took another five minutes until he realised Louis had barely moved from his position, could barely see the screen from where his face was buried in the small curls at the base of Harry’s neck. “You okay?” He asked softly, squeezing a hand on Louis’ thigh gently. Louis nodded, glancing briefly at Gemma, who was once again fixated on the film.
“I’m fine.” Louis murmured. “I just- I love you, Harry.” He said it so softly, he wasn’t sure if Harry would hear, but Harry’s face broke into a smile, and he turned his head to the side, looking down at Louis’ face.
“I love you, too.” He responded without hesitance. His face was open and bright, and Louis thought he would tell Harry that every day if it kept him looking like that. Hearing the words in return made a similar expression break out over his face and Louis had to smother his smile in the sleeve of his t-shirt for a moment, suddenly overwhelmed. He hadn’t even planned to say it to Harry just then, but it had seemed right. He’d needed to say it for a long time, but at the same time, it felt like both of them already knew. They hardly needed the verbal confirmation, both of them knowing beyond reasonable doubt that there was so much love between them.
He pressed a kiss to the dip of Harry’s shoulder, gentle, and then settled back against him, turning his gaze back to the movie. He could feel Harry’s heart beating a little faster than expected.
"We shall die unavenged. But let us die." - Virgil, The Aeneid.
That night, after Louis walked home from Harry’s and was finally curled up in bed after having worked on his folio for an hour, Harry appeared at his window sill, looking flushed and alive. He looked so, so alive that Louis couldn’t help but get straight up out of bed and drag Harry into his room, pulling him straight over to the bed.
”Hi.” Harry murmured into his ear as Louis attached his mouth to Harry’s neck, suddenly overwhelmed by his need to be as close to Harry as humanly possible.
“Hello.” He responded, quiet as he dropped onto the bed, and Harry followed. As he dropped, his wings disappeared and he fell onto Louis, a pile of boy and endless skin and curls. “I love you.”
Harry tugged on the t-shirt Louis had on, pulling it up harshly. It caught around Louis’ ears, and he let out a quiet giggle as Harry tried to disentangle him, eventually managing and tossing the t-shirt to the ground.
“I love you too.” Harry replied, a little late, but Louis wasn’t about to complain. “What are the chances of someone walking in?” He looked at Louis seriously, but his hands didn’t stop, still running up and over Louis’ shoulders, down over the tan skin of his back. Louis shook his head.
“Minimal. Everyone’s asleep.” Louis immediately pulled Harry closer, until Harry was lying on top of Louis, hands braced either side of Louis’ head. The pressure on Louis’ crotch was suddenly intense, and Harry let out a smirk as he caught sight of Louis’ face, mouth dropped open slightly.
“Good.” Harry whispered, starting a slow grind against Louis. Louis let his head drop flat against the pillow, a gentle moan leaving his mouth. He let his hands drift over Harry’s back, feeling the shiny smooth skin of his scar, letting his hands find purchase on the soft curve of his hips. Using his grip as leverage, Louis ground up against Harry a little harsher, desperate. “Fuck Lou, you’re trying to kill me.” Harry muttered. There were still three layers of clothing between the both of them, Harry’s jeans and jocks, and then Louis’ jocks, but Louis couldn’t be brought to care. He was tired and wanting and he had no time to be concerned about finesse, or not coming in his pants like a teenager. Mainly because he was a teenager, god damn it, and he had this boy right in front of him, right here, and he loved him so much.
Perhaps these revelations should of caused Louis to want to slow down, to make it like it happened in the movies, soft and slow and sweet and romantic. However, they didn’t. They simply made the press of Harry’s crotch feel even better, every brush of Harry’s chest against his own heated skin was just this side of so good. Harry picked up his rhythm, falling into a pace that was fast enough that Louis had to loosen his grip on Harry’s waist, content to let Harry set the pace as Louis let out wet breathy pants, moving his hands to settle on the curve of Harry’s ass instead.
“That’s it baby. Right there, Jesus. So good, baby. So good.” Louis encouraged, as Harry’s hips moved in figure eights that felt a little too close to magic. Louis could feel the pressure building in the pit of his stomach, could feel how wound up he was, how close to the brink. Harry seemed to be as well, if the way his rhythm was slowly becoming erratic was any indication.
“Loved you for so long Lou.” Harry said, voice gruff and heavy, punctuated by a gasp at the end. As he spoke, Harry brought a hand up to caress Louis’ jaw, fingertips brushing at the vulnerable spot on Louis’ neck, and Louis was done, crying out too loudly for a house filled with sleeping people. He felt the bliss surge through him, his body going taut and loosening again. Harry quickly slapped a hand over Louis’ mouth, still pressing friction against Louis’ crotch, continuing to search for the release Louis just had. In defiance possibly, or retaliation, Louis wasn’t really sure, he lightly sunk his teeth into Harry’s palm that was over his mouth, letting his tongue come out and smooth over it. That was it for Harry, apparently, his body shuddering slightly as he dropped fully down onto Louis, his whole body weight resting there.
He felt overly sensitive as Harry finished off, still grinding lightly as he rode out his orgasm, and Louis couldn’t help the light hisses that escaped him as Harry did so. Quickly though, Harry’s body went lax against Louis’ and Louis was able to shift slightly, moving till he was facing Harry on his side, catching his breath.
“Well that was embarrassingly fast. For both of us.” Harry muttered, a touch of a smile in his voice. His cheeks were flushed, and his curls were sticking slightly to his forehead. Louis pressed his lips to his temple.
“Speak for yourself, Harold, that was one of my longest records ever.” Louis joked. Harry snorted.
“If that’s what I’m in for for the rest of my life, count me out.” Harry teased, squeezing softly at Louis’ hip, tugging him closer despite his words.
“Okay, first of all, you clearly knew I was kidding. Because you have firsthand seen me last longer, so screw you for purposefully not taking that as a joke. And second of all, if you want out, the window’s that way.” The laugh that reverberated from Harry at Louis’ words was warm and honey like as he held his hands up in a gesture of surrender. Louis sunk a pointer finger into the warm skin of Harry’s cheek, searching for that dimple. His skin was warm and smooth, and Louis wanted to press his face against it.
“Okay, okay, I’m sorry! I knew you were joking! I was just teasing!” Harry whisper exclaimed, and he immediately pulled Louis back into him, aligning him with his own long limbed self, despite the uncomfortable dried come in both of their pants. They would clean that up, in just a minute. For now, he was going to enjoy Harry’s warmth, and the way he was still catching his breath, little puffs of air ruffling Louis’ hair.
It was nothing like the first time they’d done that, and it was nothing like all the times in between. The urgency, the desperation, was something new. Something that made Louis want to never let Harry sleep alone again. Something that made Louis want everything Harry had to offer.
When Louis walked into Art the following day he was only ten minutes late. He grabbed his brushes, and pens, and settled down next to Liam, content to work on another art piece for the class. However, his art teacher seemed to have different ideas. As soon as he’d settled down she stepped to the front of the class, brushing off her hands on an ink stained smock.
“Folios are all due next Monday. I hope you’re all aware, the date is written on the term planner I gave out at the start of this year. No extensions will be given unless there’s extenuating circumstances, in which case you will need several forms signed and will require a conversation with me and the head of academics. You all have a rubric of what your folios must contain.” She finished speaking and immediately returned to her art table at the front, shuffling papers around and proceeding to spread more ink on her hands as she dragged a pen across one of the papers.
Liam turned to Louis with a stricken face. “Oh fuck. I’m so bloody fucked. Like, massively fucked. Jesus.” Liam stated. Louis rolled his eyes briefly. Mainly because he could see the almost fully ticked rubric in the front plastic pocket of Liam’s folio.
“You’ll be fine, Li, your folio’s amazing already.” Louis encouraged, glancing at Liam briefly before flicking through his own folio. Louis, on the other hand, had a lot of work to do. He hated to admit it, but a lot of his schoolwork had begun to get rather neglected, even his folio. It wasn’t that he didn’t still love to do it, it was just that, spending time with Harry was even better. He knew it was problematic, to put his boyfriend above his studies, possibly compromising his future career in art and design, but at the same time, Louis couldn’t quite bring himself to do anything about it.
Until now, that was. He went through his folio page by page, checking off each rubric component present as he went. He wasn’t surprised to see less than half the rubric was fulfilled by the end of his flip through, but he was a little concerned. Pulling out his phone, he pulled up Harry’s texts and sent a message.
Can’t do lunch today, folios due next Monday and I’m more than a little behind. Sorry x
After that was done, he got down to work.
He had missed third period and fourth, worked through lunch time, and it was now going into fifth period, and he’d only managed to tick off two more rubric requirements. Jesus fuck these folios were a lot of work. A text had come in from Harry just before lunch, telling him not to stress missing lunch and wishing him good luck for his folio work. He’d forgotten to mention to Harry that he wouldn’t be at Classics either, his mind skipping over small details like that in favour of continuing working.
He was three layers deep into a wire frame casting of a set of wings when the door of the art room flung open and Louis looked up abruptly. Harry was stood there, curls rippling lightly with the cool breeze coming in through the doorway. He was dressed in jeans and a long sweater, with sleeves that covered his hands completely and a hem that fell mid-thigh. He looked cosy, but also reclusive, like he was huddling away from the world today. Louis figured he could understand, judging by outside. It looked like rain was about to start falling, and the world didn’t look too enjoyable as of yet.
“What are you-?” Louis barely got his question out before Harry was crossing to him and wrapping his arms around him. Louis didn’t hug him back, busy trying to keep his clay covered hands away from Harry’s sweater. When Harry pulled back after a long couple of seconds, Louis realised his eyes were darker than usual, and there were half-moons under them that hadn’t been there early that morning. “You okay, love? You been grieving?” His tone came out concerned as he pulled a stool out for Harry to sit on.
Harry sat, pulling one knee up and resting his chin on it, watching Louis steadily, and then blinking as he seemed to process the question. “What? No. No, I haven’t. I was just, you weren’t in Classics and I got worried so I figured I’d come find you.”
“Oh, yeah sorry about that. I forgot to tell you I was skipping. You shouldn’t have come found me, though. One of these days we’re both going to get in some serious trouble for the amount of classes we’ve missed.” Louis dusted his hands off on his own jeans, the denim already stiff with clay remnants.
“I wanted to. I’d rather watch you work then sit in Classics on my own.” Harry murmured, but he seemed far away as he watched Louis’ hands begin to mould the fourth layer of the casting. This was not the Harry who’d slipped out his bedroom window early this morning. This Harry was palpably different. It wasn’t quite a grieving Harry, though. There was no blatant grief, but there were remnants of it. Small signs of grief in the sweater Harry was wearing, the ink stains below his eyes, the way his shoulders fell forward slightly where he sat. But then again, there wasn’t the clarity in Harry’s eyes that usually came with his grief. Instead, there was confusion on his face as he sat there, watching Louis. He looked like he was trying to work out a complicated problem. Louis wanted to ask, wanted to pry the clues from Harry so he could help solve the problem. But he didn’t. He knew better than to force the issue out of Harry.
He worked steadily for the next few hours on the clay and then left it to set, perched on the rack of other clay pieces the rest of his class had made earlier that day. The dark wings were earthy prior to being fired, and they looked muddied, as though they’d been dragged down and down, and had never been allowed to resurface. Louis thought how, after they were fired, the wings would be pristine, a beautiful ceramic.
Harry was still quiet when Louis picked up his folio, continuing to annotate a research page he’d done a few weeks ago. He was so quiet that Louis had nearly completely forgotten he was there, until he felt Harry’s breath on his neck and the warmth of his torso pressed against Louis’ back as he peered over his shoulder.
“What’s that?” Harry murmured, tracing one long finger over a photo on the page.
“That’s the Winged Victory of Samothrace. It’s Nike, the goddess, supposedly. Isn’t it beautiful?”
Harry continued looking at it for a few minutes before whispering a response. “It’s not real though. She’s not real.”
Louis frowned, pausing his pen as it hovered over the page. “Seriously? You’re going to stand next to me, and tell me that angels aren’t real, that people don’t have wings?” He capped his pen, swivelling on the stool till he was facing Harry, and then he tugged Harry forward, bringing him to rest in between the v of his legs.
“Yeah. Because, obviously, artists didn’t know about me. They didn’t know about any of us.” Harry said, lip upturned as he spoke, stubborn.
“Maybe they did. How else do you explain the sculptures, the paintings, and how goddamn similar they look to you?” Louis’ words seemed harsh, but his voice was soft, probing. It barely registered above the way the wind rushed against the art room windows.
“I don’t- I don’t know. But they can’t have… I can’t imagine they could have known.”
“Why couldn’t they have known? Perhaps, Harry, you’re all throughout history, and you never even knew it. Maybe they’ve written you in time and time again, and you just refuse to see it.”
Harry took a few moments to answer, looking steadily at Louis. “Because. If they had known. We’d be dead. They would have killed us all.”
That gave Louis pause for some time, so he turned and went back to slowly annotating his folio page again. Harry was right, he realised, as he worked. They would have killed them all, every last one of them, if they knew what they did. What their job was. It would have turned into humans thinking they could become immortal, escape the throes of death if only they killed the pathway to death that was Grievers. If they removed the pathway, they wouldn’t be able to reach the realm. He thought of The Crucible, the way those witch hunts had gone. He thought of Harry, being the one hunted. His stomach turned.
“I can’t imagine anyone could kill something so beautiful.” Louis offered. It sounded stretched, a little fake to his ears, but he had to say it, had to attempt to remove the image of a Harry stripped of his wings from his mind.
Harry pulled his head up at Louis’ words from where it had drifted down to rest on the benchtop. “People care more for life than they do for beauty, Lou.”
By the time the clock ticked past four, and Louis knew his art teacher would be back to lock up soon, he’d completed a sizeable chunk of his folio, and he had begun to pack up, steadily and methodically washing paint down the sink, drying the brushes and placing them back in their holders. Harry watched on, not bothering to help Louis, but content to listen as Louis did it, catching each sound of the water running and the soft tap of brushes against the side of the sink. Soon the place was clean and Louis was herding Harry back out into the windy afternoon.
Harry was still wordless, and Louis wasn’t really sure how to bring back the chatty, laughing boy from yesterday.
“Are you okay Haz? You seem distracted today.” He knew he’d asked earlier, but he felt the need to ask again as they turned onto the road, a couple of other students walking along it, leaving school late also. Louis had his folio tucked under one arm, intending to continue work once he got home. He slipped his free hand into Harry’s, finding his fingers beneath the length of the sweaters sleeves.
“I am, yeah. I’m just, really tired. That’s why I’m a little off.” Harry spoke with a measured tone that made Louis inclined to not believe him, almost. But his words made sense, so Louis let it go.
He was expecting Harry to continue on to his own house when they reached the ivy house, due to how tired he claimed to be, but Harry turned with him down the smaller street towards Louis’ house.
“You coming home with me?” Louis asked, voice light but curious.
“Um, yeah. ‘Sthat okay?” Harry wasn’t looking at him as he walked, his head tilted down to glance at the pavement. Probably to shield his face from the wind that was whipping up the small street.
“Course. I just assumed you’d want to get home and get some rest. I’m just going to be doing my folio tonight anyway; I don’t think I’ll have time to go flying.” It wasn’t that he was trying to get Harry to go home, he really did love having him with him whenever, no matter what he was doing. But Harry didn’t look good. He looked tired and there was something sad in his eyes again. Harry shook his head determinedly.
“I don’t mind. I just wanna stay with you for a bit. Didn’t get to see you that much today because of lunch.”
Louis nodded agreeably, despite the fact they had spent at least two and a half solid hours that afternoon together. He let go of his grasp on Harry’s hand and instead wound it around Harry’s waist, tugging him closer till their hips knocked together as they walked.
They walked in silence the last couple of streets, which was oddly mirrored when he opened the front door of his house, Harry following close on his tail. In a house with four girls that was never quiet before ten at night, silence didn’t bode well. It either meant that everyone was angry, or the girls were up to no good. Louis shot Harry a glance as they walked in the direction of the kitchen.
“Mum?” He called, setting his folio down on the kitchen bench.
“In the living room.” Came the response, his mum sounding cool and measured. Louis frowned. He headed towards her voice straight away. Harry hovered in the kitchen for a moment but soon joined him.
“Hey mum.” Louis’ tone was tentative, glancing at the way Jay was sat upright in the lounge chair, her mobile phone laid in her lap. “Everything alright?”
His mum looked up at him, and then registered Harry was in the room as well. “Oh, hello Harry. How are you?” She pressed her lips together as she finished speaking, and Louis could feel the tension in the room.
“Good thank you.” Harry answered meekly. Jay nodded her head in acknowledgement.
“Good. Now Harry, do you mind if I have a word with my son for just a moment?” Louis swallowed heavily. This was not good. Not good in the slightest. Harry nodded quickly and left the room, a little too eagerly. Lucky bastard, Louis thought bitterly.
“What’s up mum?” He figured facing her straight off the bat was the best approach to whatever she was angry about.
Jay folded her hands together and waited, until Louis got the message and sat down in the chair across from her. “Louis. School called this afternoon. They wanted to inform me that you have been absent from upwards of fifteen classes in the past month.” His mum’s voice was quiet, lacking any anger or aggression, which made Louis feel even worse. His stomach sank.
“Oh.” Was all he managed.
“Yes. Oh.” She echoed in a tone that was almost mocking but not quite. “So I have been paying school fees, for you to not even be turning up to class. Not only that, Louis, but it is your final year. This is your last chance, to get the score you need, to get to the uni’s you want to go to. To have an actual life, Louis. And you’re not even trying.”
“I’m sorry- it’s not that… it’s not that I’m-“ Louis stuttered his way, trying to explain to his mum that the missed classes had been accidents, that there hadn’t been a malicious intent, but simply better things to do, more important things to do at the time than go to class.
“It’s not what Louis? It’s not that big of a deal? It’s not because Harry keeps you so distracted you can’t keep your priorities straight anymore? It’s not that many classes to miss?” Jay began to fill in the blanks, and Louis felt himself sinking further and further back into the armchair as she spoke. “It’s not happening any more Louis. School is not a choice. You’ll show up, you’ll do the work. If you have time to see Harry, you will. But so help me, I am not going to watch you lose an education.”
“You know I think Harry’s a wonderful boy. You know I know you’re a wonderful boy. But you’re both young. You need to remember that you’re both going to need a life after school, and if you throw your time away now, you’re not going to get where you want to go.” Jay’s voice had returned to being gentle, and she stood, crossing the room to Louis and carding a hand through his hair briefly.
“I know. I’m sorry.” Was all Louis could think to say. He was sorry, truly. He knew what he’d done, and he knew it was the wrong thing, and that he couldn’t keep it up. But at this point, he still couldn’t bring himself to regret all the classes he’d missed in order to fly with Harry, or watch a film with him, or simply sit in the art room with him. He couldn’t bring himself to regret any of the time he had ever spent with Harry. Still though, his mum was right. He had to stop it.
“Dinner will be ready at six. Harry’s welcome to stay, but after that he needs to go home.” Were Jay’s parting words. She left the room after that, and Louis heard her footfall on the stairs as he stood up and wandered into the kitchen, finding Harry perched on one of the stools there, typing something out on his phone. He looked up when Louis walked in, concern on his features, and tucked his phone into his pocket.
“School called Mum, about us missing so many classes. Well, about me missing so many classes. She’s not happy.” Louis explained, crossing to where Harry was and wrapping an arm over his shoulder, feeling the solid warmth beneath his fingertips.
“Shit.” Harry murmured under his breath, and then he looked up, fixing his green eyes directly on Louis. “So what’s that mean then?”
“It means, curly, that I have to start going to class. To all of them, in fact.” Louis concluded his sentence by tugging on a stray strand of Harry’s hair.
“Well that’s depressing.” Harry deadpanned, and Louis laughed lightly.
“Yes. Very. It also means that you have to leave after dinner. Because Mum has evaluated that you are a distraction to my schoolwork.”
“Well she’s not really wrong about that.” Harry allowed, poking Louis lightly above his hip.
When Louis let Harry out the front door after dinner, he was not expecting to return to his room to begin work on his folio and find Harry already there, sat cross-legged on the carpet, shirtless, with his back against the wall. And yet, there he was.
“What are you- why are you here?” Louis began, voice low but still conveying his confusion. Harry smiled up at him innocently. He still had that subdued look to his eyes, but Louis looked past it.
“I just thought I’d stop by.” Harry responded, not even deigning to move from his spot on the floor as Louis dropped his folio onto his desk, and flipped the lamp on.
“I literally just saw you. Fifteen minutes ago. I let you out the front door.” Louis dead panned, looking at Harry with an eyebrow arched.
“What is your point?”
“Never mind.” Louis said, rolling his eyes and settling down into his desk chair. “Are you staying all night Haz?” He asked as he felt Harry arrive behind him, pressing a kiss to his collarbone. It wasn’t a kiss like Harry was trying to start something, but a comfort kiss. A kiss that felt like Harry was simply indulging his own whims.
“Yeah, think I might.” Harry replied. Louis nodded his head slowly, reaching for his fine liners as Harry ran a hand along Louis’ left arm.
“Okay. But if Mum comes in, you’ve gotta drop that mist as fast as you fucking can, because otherwise there’s a solid chance we may both end up dead.” Louis informed Harry, beginning to steadily annotate yet another folio page.
“That I can do.” Harry agreed.
He must have stood there, one arm resting over Louis’ shoulder, his chin perched on his other shoulder, for close on a half hour, until Louis could see Harry’s eyes beginning to drift shut slowly, his chin growing heavier on Louis’ shoulder.
After a couple minutes of this, and Harry recurringly blinking his eyes open again, Harry seeked refuge in Louis’ bed, tucked under the covers. Louis glanced over every few minutes, and despite how tired Harry looked, his eyes never strayed from Louis’ working form.
“Go to sleep, H.” Louis murmured, when he glanced over for the fifth time and Harry still hadn’t taken his eyes off him. “You look beat.”
“No. Just wanna watch you, for a little bit longer.” Harry murmured it so softly, that what should have been ridiculously creepy sounded sweet. Louis sighed, placed the cap on his pen and flipped his desk light. He stood up, and tugged his shirt off over his head, removing his jeans and switching off the main light as well before he lifted the cover up off Harry’s body and slid in next to him.
Harry immediately welcomed his presence, slipping an arm under Louis’ waist and fitting the other to Louis’ hip, pulling him closer than usual. He was face to face with Harry then, and he tucked his head into Harry’s shoulder. “You feeling possessive tonight?” Louis asked gently, running a hand over Harry’s back, feeling it ripple beneath his touch.
“A little.” Harry whispered, and if his grasp was a slightly too tight, Louis didn’t mind.
He fell asleep quickly, there in Harry’s arms, dreaming of responsibilities gone stale and sculptures that made their own art.
Soon, Louis realised the clinginess from that night had never eased, that Harry had become a boy who was always at Louis’ side, or never far from it. He didn’t feel smothered, or anything close to that, but instead concerned. Harry didn’t look so well anymore. On the nights when he showed up at Louis’ window, shirtless and feathered, his ribs stood out more than usual, and Louis could see his skin was pale, a yellow filter over it.
He was still Harry, but there was something less. Or something more. Louis wasn’t sure whether it was an absence of, or a thing itself. All he knew was that Harry hadn’t grieved in over three weeks, and yet the boy looked like he was in the depths of grieving. In fact, he looked worse than he usually did when he grieved.
He wasn’t behaving that differently. Aside from rarely leaving Louis’ side, he was still happy and bubbly, still spoke to him and joked with Niall. There was nothing Louis could really put his finger on, no clues he could see to gather for answers, except to ask Harry. He hadn’t resorted to that though, not yet. He wanted Harry to speak to him when he felt ready.
Louis walked into art class the following week, ready to set his folio down on the teacher’s desk. It was finally complete, and he could feel the relief ready to seep into his bones as soon as he handed it in. The folio was pages and pages full of Louis’ carefully constructed handwriting and image after image of wings, in every capacity. Sculptures, drawings, embroidery’s, paintings, every medium imaginable. It was his pride and joy, and he felt finally ready to hand it in, after an entire weekend of being holed up in his room, with Harry perched on his bed, having a Netflix marathon as Louis worked.
He sat down on the stool at his usual table, glancing up to smile at Liam. Liam smiled in return. “You ready to hand it in?” Liam asked, and the boy would have been practically bouncing on his toes if he wasn’t sitting, judging from the amount of enthusiasm in his tone. Right. Sometimes Louis forgot how desperate Liam was. How everything handed in felt like one step closer to freedom for him.
“Yeah. I’m just so fucking glad it’s done. That folio was gonna be the death of me.” Louis grinned wryly at Liam, patting his folio lightly.
“I was thinking we should celebrate, head up to Melbourne for the night this weekend with Ni, and maybe Zayn? My aunt says we can stay at our city apartment, if you want to come?” Liam asked tentatively, and Louis nodded enthusiastically.
“Yeah, that sounds mint. Let’s do it. Which night?”
“Probably Friday night, that way we can just leave from here straight after school. I reckon it should be fun.” Liam looked excited, too, as he spoke. Their art teacher wandered in just then, setting her laptop and several sheets down on her desk.
“Today’s the day, everyone. Bring forth and conquer!” She exclaimed to the room. Liam and Louis both rolled their eyes simultaneously. It was the same words she said every time they had to hand something in, and never, ever did Louis feel he was conquering anything. She needed a new catch phrase. Nevertheless, both he and Liam made their way up to the front, setting their folios down on the growing stack.
As soon as they handed theirs in, Louis held his hand up for a high five and Liam slapped his hand, letting out a quiet “whoop” of happiness. Their art teacher smiled at them both as they returned to their seats.
“Genuinely can’t believe I achieved that. I thought I was gonna have to hand in a half complete folio.” Louis said as he settled back on the stool, opening up his laptop and pulling up his imessages tab.
Folio in. I’m a free man!!!!!!!
Harry responded almost instantly.
Yayyyyyyyyyyyyyyy! You’re a free man! But also in a committed relationship!!! Don’t get too wild!!
Louis snorted at the response, and closed his laptop, standing up and grabbing some paint and paper. He was content to waste the rest of this lesson painting ridiculous portraits of stick figures in celebration of handing in his folio.
He met Harry at the school gate, a rhythm they had fallen into over the past week. It had gotten to the point where neither of them just went to their own home. One of them always tagged along with the other.
“Mine or yours?” Louis asked when Harry walked up to him, that same gait smooth and flawless. He still had every appearance of an angel, despite the sallow edge to him.
“Yours. My mum’s home tonight, so she’ll want to talk to you if we go to mine.” Harry answered easily, threading an arm around Louis’ waist and pulling lightly until Louis began to walk. He felt lighter now, no longer lugging his folio to home and back to school every day. The natural extension of himself was gone, and Louis felt liberated. So liberated, that when Harry offered for them to fly home, something they hadn’t done in weeks due to it being too risky for getting caught, Louis just nodded happily.
Harry kept a smooth flight for the way home, the haze dropping that same cool, heavy feeling onto both of them as Louis had his arms wrapped tight around Harry’s neck. There was no flight undulation, none of the swooping or soaring that was usually a part of their flying, but Louis was alright with it. It was nice to just watch the world rush by underneath him for once.
Harry pulled up short at Louis’ window, and he loosened his grip from where it had been holding tight to Louis’ hip in order to press the latch up. The moment always made Louis’ stomach go funny, the option of falling so close when all that was stopping him was his grasp round Harry’s neck. But quickly, Harry had swung them both inside, until Louis dropped and sprawled out on his own carpet, face up to the ceiling.
“I forget how lovely flying is. Makes me feel alive.” Louis sighed out, spreading his arms wide across the carpet. Harry hadn’t dropped to the floor like some graceless being like Louis had, and instead had settled on Louis’ desk chair, from which he was now regarding him, quite seriously.
“It’s good to feel alive. I think it’s the most important feeling.” His tone was sombre as he spoke, and it made Louis frown.
“What’s gotten into you, love, why so serious?” Louis peered up at him, curiously concerned. Harry shrugged, and seemed to shake the mood off, as though the light movement of his shoulders would rid him of the look he had in his eyes.
“Nothing. So I was thinking” Harry began, swiftly changing the topic, “what if we celebrate you finishing your folio? This Friday, we can go and do whatever you want to do. We could go to the movies in town, or we could go out to dinner, or just have a movie marathon at home. Whatever. Just thought we should celebrate, because, you know, it’s kinda exciting you finished your folio.”
Louis had been sufficiently distracted from his original concern, and Harry knew it. He couldn’t help the little grin that fell over his face at the reminder his folio was finished, for now at least. He would still have to hand it in once more, but that due date wasn’t for two or three months.
“I’d love to. But Liam and I were gonna go to Melbourne on Friday. He wants to celebrate too and thought the two of us should go and get smashed with Niall.” Louis was sad to turn Harry down. “But we could do something Saturday evening? Or Sunday evening? I have work on Sunday morning but that’s all.” Louis was overly eager to suggest another time they could do it.
Harry stood from the desk chair, the squeak of the chair ringing out in the room, and settled down onto the ground right by Louis’ head, legs crossed. “Yeah, okay. Let’s do Sunday evening. I’m pretty sure my mum’s on nightshift then, so we’d even have my house to ourselves if we wanted it.”
“What, you thinking you’re gonna get lucky, Styles? Think you can charm me, wine and dine me?” Louis teased, smirking up at him. Harry dragged the tips of his fingers over Louis’ face.
“Stop smirking Tomlinson, you know you’re whipped.” He dug his fingers in gently to the grooves at the edge of Louis’ smile. It didn’t help Louis’ smirk to disappear.
“Don’t get too confident. Olympians fall even in their race for gold, you know.”
Harry let out a groan at this, and Louis pulled himself up until he was cross-legged as well, facing Harry. “You know, it’s gotten to the point where Classics takes up so much of my brain, that when you say Olympians I immediately think you’re talking about ancient Greece. It’s a problem.”
As Harry was talking, Louis had reached out a hand, spanning it over Harry’s bare chest, feeling the warmth there. “Mhm.” He hummed, non-committedly. “You know what else is gonna be a problem? If my mother comes through that door and finds you here shirtless.”
Harry’s brow creased at the subject change for a moment, and then one of his dimples popped out. “Wouldn’t be the first time.” He quipped.
“No, but it would be the last.” Louis made a slicing motion with his finger across his throat. “Death. Slow and painful. For both of us.”
Harry nodded in agreeance despite his smirk, and he stretched towards the window, picking his t-shirt up from where Louis had dropped it when he’d first entered the room. He pulled it over his head, and Louis had to admit, he was a little sad to see Harry’s bare chest go.
“So this thing with Liam, in Melbourne. How long are you going to be up there for?” Harry had a crease between his eyebrows when his head popped through the neckline of his t-shirt. He smoothed the material down as he spoke. “Like, are you staying the night up there, or are you going to drive home Friday night afterwards?”
“I think we’re gonna stay the night. You can probably come, if you want. I’ll ask Liam, but I’m sure he’d say yes. He likes you, so I can’t imagine he’d say no.” Louis was genuine in his offer, already digging through his pocket to fish his phone out and message Liam. Harry reached over, wrapping a hand round Louis’ wrist, stilling it. Louis smiled at the gesture, the way Harry’s large hand encircled his small wrist. Nevertheless, he looked at Harry, cocking an eyebrow, curious.
“Don’t. I don’t really… I can’t spend that much time with Liam. I’m sorry, it’s just… I feel too much guilt around him. And his grief is stronger, the closer I am to him. I don’t think I could manage it again, not for a whole night.” The I already did it once went without saying, and Louis nodded his understanding.
“That’s okay. I only wanted you to come if you wanted to come. I’ll try and get back early Saturday, though, if that helps. We can hang out then too.” Louis smiled reassuringly, and the tense appearance of fear that had been on Harry’s face mere seconds ago faded as he leant forward, elbows on his knees, resting his head in his hands with a small smile.
“Yeah. Yeah okay.”
Louis was completely aware that they had barely parted in the past week, had hardly taken a moment to breathe away from the other. They would part for classes at school, and every now and again when Harry went home to get fresh clothes or see his mum, but other than that, they spent all their moments together. He knew it wasn’t healthy, knew it was a textbook version of toxic infatuation. But it didn’t feel that way. It didn’t feel like he was going to die without Harry next to him. It was just that, when Harry was next to him, everything felt softer and nicer. Everything felt easier, and Louis felt comfortable. There was no desperate infatuation. No, it was a slow burning comfort that filled Louis up whenever Harry was around. It was moments upon moments of gentle happiness.
This is a mandatory rest stop. Go grab a glass of water, have a snack. This next chapter may be a little hard on the heart.
If you had any hopes that there would be an end for this fic that is just, let it die now.
Hold tight to those things you love. Take care of yourselves.
"Calling before she died to gods and stars to be witnesses to her fate and praying to whatever just and mindful power there is that watches over lovers who have been betrayed." - Virgil, The Aeneid.
Harry fell asleep with Louis that night, once again, after they’d both made an appearance downstairs for dinner. Jay had approved Harry’s staying with a smile and a light shake of her head. Louis knew she was doing it because Louis had just finished his folio, and she didn’t want to ruin the little high of happiness Louis was in the midst of, but he hadn’t questioned her approval, had simply shepparded Harry straight back upstairs. He hadn’t wanted to give his mum any time to rethink her decision.
They’d had to be extra quiet that evening, when Harry had dragged Louis down onto his bed, proclaiming in a hushed voice that he deserved “celebration sex”. Louis had no desire to disagree with him. They’d been quiet and slow, taking their time, pressing their mouths to skin, to hair, to every piece of the other they could reach. Louis couldn’t ever consider coming up for air. When they had finished, Harry had simply curled into Louis’ side, settling a heavy arm across Louis’ stomach, and fell asleep. Louis had watched the rise and fall of Harry’s breath for only a few moments before his own eyes had grown heavy, and slipped shut.
It was the middle of the night when Louis woke to the rapid shift of sheets next to him. He opened his eyes, vision blurry, unable to make out his room in the dim light of the moon. He felt the brush of Harry’s leg against his, the movement swift. It took Louis a moment to realise that it was Harry that had woken him, the boy next to him moving restlessly. Louis could feel where the sheets had tangled around his own calves, pushed down from Harry’s movement. He watched Harry for a moment, until he recognised the anguish on his face as Harry moved into the soft light of the moon. It was odd. Harry wasn’t usually a mover in his sleep, and regularly Louis would fall asleep and wake up the next morning to Harry in almost the exact same position.
Not tonight though. Tonight, Harry was shifting repeatedly, a crease in between his eyebrows, face contorted, light noises of distress leaving his throat. Louis couldn’t remember if you were supposed to wake people up during nightmares. He remembered vaguely reading somewhere that you were supposed to let them come out of it on their own. But perhaps that was sleepwalking, not nightmares. Louis dithered, brushing the sleep from his eyes as he tried to decide. In the end, what made his decision for him was Harry’s flailing leg that caught Louis’ kneecap, making Louis flinch in pain.
He reached out for Harry, gently running his palm over Harry’s cheek, smoothing out his frown and shaking him gently. “Haz. Hazza babe. Wake up love. You’re dreaming.” He murmured gently, over and over until Harry’s form eased back against the bed, movements ceasing. He hadn’t woken, but the nightmare had seemed to pass, and Louis let it be, shutting his eyes and falling back to sleep next to Harry.
Louis didn’t dream that night.
Louis was drunk. Louis was drunk, and Liam was at his side, a beer in hand, steadily singing to Rich Girl as it played through the bar. Chapel Street was packed with people that night, and Louis supposed it was Melbourne on a Friday night, but still. There was a lot a lot of people.
Niall had led them on a brilliant bar crawl, with the help of their fake I.D’s, up Chapel Street, and they were at their fifth bar. They’d started off with a one drink per bar rule, but as the night had progressed their rules had become lax. Niall had stuck to the rule for the longest, despite the fact he could handle almost twice as many drinks as Louis, and could drink Liam under a table, too, if challenged. However, Niall had definitely caught up at this bar, and was now in a corner, chatting up a person Louis could only half see, as they were blocked by a group of girls standing to order drinks.
“Another drink?” Liam asked as the song finished, and Louis shook his head, cheerfully holding up the half full pint in his hand as an explanation. Liam nodded, murmuring something about being right back, and headed off. Louis leaned back on the stool he’d been sitting on, letting his head hit the exposed brick wall behind him. The wall doesn’t have ivy on it, Louis thought briefly. Upon that thought, he reached into his pocket, wanting to text Harry. Harry had apparently beat him to it, Louis realised, as he pulled his phone out and clicked the home button.
Several messages were displayed their, at least six and Louis for a moment felt guilty for not having checked his phone earlier. It was half midnight, and Harry’s first text had come in at ten.
Louuu, have fun tonight! Tell the boys hi. Text me when you’re all back at the apartment and safe. Love you xxx
I’m going to assume by your lack of reply you’re having a very fun time
How many bars are you up to now?
Has Liam tried karaoke yet??
Sorry. I know I’ve sent a lot of messages. Can you just let me know you’re alive still?
Which hospital should I be coming to collect you from once they’re done pumping your stomach??
Then the messages grew more serious.
Lou. Seriously. Please just text me back. I’m worried.
Niall and Liam aren’t answering their phones either please just message me back. I need to know you’re alright.
The first lot of texts had been sent in quick succession, but the last few had been sent almost twenty minutes apart each. Louis felt bad for making Harry worry, and set his drink down on the table to type out a reply. It took a little more effort than usual to send off a message, but Louis persevered.
H. I’m sorry, I didn’t see your messages. I’m okay. Been a good night. I’ll tell you when I’m home. Love you.
The reply came through almost instantly.
Thank god. Stay safe.
The statement struck Louis as funny, and he exhaled a laugh through his mouth.
You don’t believe in the gods. He sent back and then tucked his phone back in his pocket as he saw Liam coming back, fresh drink in one hand and the other wrapped around Niall’s wrist, tugging him along.
“We’re not here to pick people up Niall, we’re here to celebrate.” Liam admonished as he reached the table, a serious look on his face despite the fact he was swaying slightly on his feet. Niall nodded sagely.
“To folios!” Niall proclaimed, lifting his glass. Louis and Liam groaned in response, but lifted their glasses anyway, and the night went on.
Louis and Harry ended up spending the Saturday binge watching Netflix, because Louis wasn’t exactly hungover but was also not feeling any genuine activities that required effort, and Harry seemed content to just get in to bed next to him and watch. It was a lovely day to recuperate, and Louis finished the day feeling perfectly fine about having to get up at seven the next day to go to work, especially since Harry was taking him to dinner once he finished.
“Ange, table nine’s claiming they never got their latte, and want to know if their food order is still coming through!” Louis called over his shoulder as he dumped dishes onto the sink bench, immediately turning around to go back to the register to serve the next stream of customers.
Ange, the café’s Sunday barista, swore loudly. “Fucking precious people can wait their fucking time!” She yelled back to Louis, raising several eyebrows from the three people waiting to be served. Louis gave them a sheepish smile.
“Who was next?” He asked, hoping his tone conveyed his apologies to them.
For a small woman, who was greying slightly at the roots of her hair, Ange sure could and did let out a barrage of anger throughout the day. She was a quick worker, and Louis supposed that was why his boss kept her on, but goodness could the woman holler when she wanted to. The regulars barely blinked at her anymore, used to hearing her bark orders and regularly shout profanities; however Louis was certain it turned more than a few new customers away.
He didn’t mind that much though, it was regularly entertaining and he enjoyed the character it brought to the working atmosphere. The only time it was really a problem was when Louis had made a mistake and she was shouting the profanities at him. Louis didn’t care for it that much when that took place.
Louis worked swiftly, and the hours ticked by quickly as he handed out coffees, took orders, and was essentially run off his feet. Sundays were often busy, but this one was especially so, and before he knew it, it was twelve o’clock.
There was a steady stream of customers coming through the door at this point, and Louis didn’t leave the register for twenty minutes, systematically taking each of their orders and charging the customers. When he glanced up to ask the next customer what their order was, he was surprised to see green eyes and Harry’s curls.
“H. What are you doing here?” Louis asked, confused. In all of Louis’ time knowing Harry, he had never come to the café, and he couldn’t help look at him curiously.
“Just wanted a coffee.” Harry said. He smiled, but his eyes were dark, and he looked tired. Which was odd, considering he’d stayed the night again the night before, without Jay’s permission, and Louis knew for a fact he had slept through from ten pm onwards.
“You don’t drink coffee.” Louis stated, raising an eyebrow at him.
“Sorry, I meant tea.” Harry corrected quickly, as though Louis was going to buy it.
“Harry.” Louis said, voice serious. Harry made eye contact with him then, and again the smile he gave Louis didn’t reach his eyes.
“I just wanted to see you. Is that alright?” He sounded so soft, and almost sleepy, and Louis couldn’t reject him.
“Of course that’s okay, you should have just said that in the first place.” Louis caved. “Now, what would you like?”
“Can I have an English breakfast tea please?” Harry asked, reaching into his pocket to pull out a five-dollar note. Louis nodded and wrote his order down on a docket, handwriting scrawled, a complete contrast to his folio annotations. When Harry went to hand over the cash Louis noticed his hand was shaking, just slightly. Louis shook his head.
“Don’t worry about it, Haz. It’s just a tea bag and hot water.” He knew it usually cost four dollars, but he was willing to let his boyfriend off the hook. “Go find a table, I’ll bring it out to you. Are we still on for tonight?”
Harry nodded distractedly and smiled at him, his dimple showing up for the first time. “Of course. Thanks Lou.” He shifted out of the way quickly so the next customer could step up to the register, and Louis handed the docket off to Ange before he turned to the next customer. He served that customer on autopilot, but his mind was pre-occupied, worrying about Harry. There was something not right with him, and Louis knew it. Harry simply wasn’t telling him what it was.
He thought about the build up of things in the past weeks, how Harry hadn’t wanted to leave Louis’ side, how he’d texted Louis so many times on Friday night, how possessive he’d been. Maybe it was insecurities, Louis thought, but somehow that didn’t sit right with him. It was more than that, he somehow knew.
As soon as he had served the last of the customers in line, Louis grabbed Harry’s tea from Ange. He also pulled a muffin from the display cabinet, and placed it on a plate, carrying both things out to him. Harry was sat at the table in the back corner of the outside area, at a table for two. He had a book in his hand, and Louis smiled as he recognised the title. The Aeneid. He wondered how many times it was now that Harry had read it.
“Here, Hazza.” Louis said, setting both the tea and the muffin down.
“Lou. I didn’t order a muffin.” Harry said, voice fake disapproving.
“Call it a present.” Louis said. He pulled out the other chair next to Harry and sat down. They were out of sight from Ange in this back corner, and Louis could get away with disappearing for five minutes, even if it did make him a bad employee. “Listen, Harry. We need to talk.” Harry’s eyes shot wide, and he looked at Louis, a hint of panic beginning in his features. “Wait. Fuck, no, no not that kind of talk. I’m not breaking up with you, Jesus.” Louis amended immediately. Harry relaxed slightly, but he still had a tense line to his back.
“Okay. So what is it then? You can’t bloody well just start a sentence like that if you’re not trying to terrify me.” Harry said, attempting to make light of the moment. The attempt fell a little flat, but Louis smiled anyway, if only briefly. He clasped his hands together and regarded Harry for a brief moment.
“I don’t understand this, Harry, I don’t know what’s going on. I know you’re not okay, I know something’s wrong but you’re not fucking talking to me. I need you to talk to me. You look like you’re fading away, and I can’t just watch it happen and act like I don’t think my boyfriend’s in serious trouble. You don’t leave my side. And I’m not saying that like, I wish you would leave my side. It’s just like, this isn’t you, Harry?” Louis’ voice ended the sentence in a question. He realised he’d leant forward over the table, and tried to pull himself back, look less desperately concerned for the boy he loved. “Haz, I can see your ribs when you fly. You’re having nightmares. Have you even grieved in weeks?” He couldn’t help the heart broken tone at the end of his sentence, as all the realisations came to him at once.
All the odd things had seemed so small, so insignificant, until Louis had put them all together, and realised Harry was destructing in front of Louis’ own eyes. He felt the breath leave him as he finished his words and he dropped back against the chair, eyes still staring Harry down, despite the way they were watering slightly. How could he not have fucking realised? He was his boyfriend, and he simply hadn’t understood.
“Louis, I can’t do this here. Not right now.” Harry said, and his voice was low, the kind of low it was right after he grieved, when he came back to Louis.
“Harry, I need you to. I need you to explain. I need to know why the boy I love looks like he’s dying in front of me.” He knew Ange was about to realise he was missing, that he was about to hear her holler, but damn it, he needed answers.
“No dying for me.” Harry said. His voice was wry as he spoke, and his mouth tilted into a sad smile, as though he thought it was funny. It turned Louis’ stomach. It seemed as though Harry was acknowledging some kind of irony, as though he was telling Louis he wanted to be someone who could die. Louis was going to be sick.
“You, need to, talk to me.” Louis ground out, his hands clasping white in his lap. Harry looked at Louis sadly.
“I will. Okay Lou? I will. But not here. I can’t tell you here.” Harry was basically pleading with Louis. Louis nodded finally, standing up.
“I’m finishing at three. Don’t move from this spot. I mean it Harry, you move and I swear to god…” Louis trailed off, losing his threat, but Harry nodded anyway.
“I’m not moving.” He looked pale, and Louis wanted to know the shade of blue that the gods used to paint the colour under Harry’s eyes. Despite this, Louis nodded finally and stood up, heading back into his job. He was met with several swear words from Ange.
By the time Louis finished, his mind was no longer even close to on task. He’d dropped two coffees, burnt a croissant in the microwave, and had charged people the wrong amount so many times he’d lost count. His regulars had given him several concerned looks, but he couldn’t bring himself to care. Usually, he finished at about five minutes past three, by the time he finished whatever job he was on and clocked out. This time, however, he was out the door of the café the second the clock hit three, shouting a brief goodbye to Ange and heading straight for Harry’s table.
“Up. Come on.” Louis said briskly, and he would almost feel bad for how harsh he sounded if he wasn’t so desperate to find out if Harry was okay, if Harry was going to be okay. “Where are we going?” He demanded of Harry and Harry just shrugged as he stood up, making his way to Louis’ side immediately. “Where are you going to be able to tell me?” Louis pressed. He should have been gentler, spoken slower, given Harry time, but right now, he couldn’t. He was too damn terrified.
“Um, my house.” Harry said slowly, cautiously, almost like a question. Louis nodded once and they began walking.
“Can we fly?” Louis asked, more of a query than a request. Harry shook his head.
“I can’t… can’t bring my wings out at the moment.” He said cryptically, and Louis just about cried. He needed Harry’s words. He just needed Harry to look him in the eye and tell him he was going to be okay.
“Okay.” Was all Louis said though, and they both walked the fifteen minutes in silence. Louis did wind his hand into Harry’s when they were about halfway though, and Harry took it, his palm warm in Louis’. It was grounding, despite Louis being able to feel how fast Harry’s pulse in his wrist was fluttering.
When Louis was settled on Harry’s bed, and Harry was leaning against his window, Harry finally began to speak. “I love you Louis. So much. You don’t even understand how much I love you. You’re… everything, absolutely everything.” His voice was sombre and slow, and Louis felt something sink inside of him.
“I love you too.” He whispered.
“I’m so sorry, Lou. I’m so fucking sorry.” Harry said all of a sudden, his words speeding up, and Louis looked up, alarmed to see Harry with his hands over his eyes, shoulders shaking. Louis was about to get up off the bed, but he didn’t, was too rigid with fear to move.
“Harry. You’re scaring me.” Louis whispered. Harry only seemed to vaguely register that as Louis twisted the bed sheet underneath him, clutching it in his fist. “Harry, please.”
“It wasn’t supposed too... it was never supposed to be you, Lou. I knew it was going to be a lot of people, but never you, Lou. I love you too much.” Harry had dropped his hands, letting them clutch at the window sill and Louis could see the tears on his cheeks. “I thought I’d get to keep you.”
With that, Louis found his feet, made himself move towards Harry. He wrapped his arms round Harry, holding tight. “You can keep me, Harry. You can have me, I promise. Whatever this is, we can work it out. You’re going to be okay.” Louis murmured into Harry’s neck. Harry shook his head, sobs breaking harder. Louis could feel the way they reverberated in his own chest.
“Louis.” Was all Harry managed before another sob wracked his body. “Louis.” He tried again. “Lou, you’re going to die. I can feel it.” Harry said, and his voice sounded like death. Somehow, in that last sentence, Harry’s voice had gained every ounce of control it had ever possessed. Louis felt his body go rigid.
“I’m-” He began, confused, wanting so desperately to understand.
“I should have known better. No one’s immune to it. I let myself believe you were, because I wanted to believe it was true. I wanted to keep you.” Harry took a deep breath, and Louis let him go, released his arms from around him and sank down onto the floor. “But I’ve seen death everywhere. I’ve taken two year olds and mothers, teenagers in drunk driving accidents, babies who got too close to the pool. I’ve seen death everywhere. How did I not recognise it was going to come for you, too?” His voice was heartbroken, and Louis slowly realised Harry wasn’t even really speaking to him anymore. He was speaking to himself, voicing his own torments.
“How- how long?” Louis said, struggling to find his words in air that felt unbreathable.
“I should have known. I should be able to stop it. Goddamn it, I should fucking be able to save the boy I love!” Harry said, his voice rising. Louis tried again, voice more forceful.
“Harry. How. Long.” He said steadily, as though he couldn’t feel his hands going numb. Harry looked over at him then, his eyes softening as he looked at Louis. He settled down next to him, wrapping an arm around Louis. He was still crying, and Louis could feel the tear drops falling on his shoulder, the side of his face, his hair.
“The pulse started like two weeks ago. I thought- I didn’t know. It was so weak; I thought it was some sort of weird aftershock or something. I couldn’t figure it out. But it kept getting stronger. It took me a little while to realise it was you. And even then, I thought it was warning me for something that was going to be ages away. But today- Louis.” He said, letting out another cry that shook Louis’ heart. “Today it’s strong. It’s so strong Louis.”
“How long do I have?” Louis whispered, afraid to ask, afraid to do anything but dig his hands into Harry’s side, to hold him there.
“I don’t know. I’ve never had it like this before- but I think, I think you have a few days. Maybe more. I don’t- I don’t know.” Harry’s voice trailed off, and Louis felt his head sink down to rest on top of Louis’. Louis was startled when he realised his own face had tears running slowly over it as he attempted to process.
It was no surprise he was dying, It was something everyone knew, that they were dying. Only, Louis hadn’t expected it quite so soon. Louis had expected a life first. He’d expected to graduate, to do another folio, to get into an art school. He’d expected traveling, and getting a job. He’d expected to have a family, to marry. He’d expected even the most mundane of things, like turning eighteen or working a job he hated, he’d expected things like watching his sisters walk down the aisle, he’d expected so many things. But most of all, he’d expected Harry, for at least a little longer than he was apparently going to get. He’d expected to graduate with Harry, to have to figure out how they were going to live their lives, what their plans would be after school. He’d expected more movie marathons, more days flying, more night skies with Harry under them.
He’d expected Harry endlessly. That, at least, was the one thing he’d been promised. Harry wasn’t mortal. Harry was going to keep living, Louis had been promised. He’d never realised that perhaps he wouldn’t get to keep living with Harry.
“I can’t- Harry. I’m not- it’s not supposed to- I’m supposed to live.” Louis said, voice choked, like he was begging. Begging an angel of death to give him life.
Harry tightened his grip on Louis. “I know. I’m so so sorry, Lou. I’m so sorry.”
“I can’t. I just can’t. You can’t let me. Harry, you can’t let me.” Louis said, and he knew it was ridiculous, he knew what he was saying was impossible. He couldn’t beg Harry to not kill him. It was out of their hands now. But it still wasn’t fair. He should be alive.
“I won’t Louis. I won’t.” Harry said, and Louis could feel the shake of his hand. He knew it was a lie, they both knew it was a lie. But neither of them cared. If, for a moment, they could pretend that Louis’ ending wasn’t decided, they would.
They sat in silence for hours, Harry’s sobs occasionally shaking Louis out of his thoughts. It was too much, to feel death so close. He began to wonder how he wanted it. How did he want this death? Was it going to be a car accident? Was he going to fall from Harry’s arms whilst flying? Was he simply going to go to bed one night and never wake up? He didn’t know, and he couldn’t decide which option he would rather. At the end of the day, it didn’t matter. Death was death, in all its finality. It didn’t matter how Louis got there. Then, a thought came to him that brought him out of the shock he’d fallen into.
“I’m sorry, Harry.” He whispered, turning towards him, pressing his lips against Harry’s collarbone.
“Why- don’t be sorry, Lou, you’ve got no reason to be sorry.” Harry murmured back. Harry shifted slightly, the first movement he’d made in the hours that had passed.
“I do. I’m so sorry, Harry, that this falls on you. This shouldn’t be your grief to bear. You shouldn’t have to grieve me, on top of everyone else. You’ve been grieving your whole life, and I never wanted to add to that. I’m so sorry.” Louis’ voice finished on a whisper, his throat tight. His head had started to throb from the tears he had shed.
“You’re wrong, Lou.” Harry said, voice just as soft. “This is the only grief that should truly be mine to bear.”
They didn’t go out for dinner.
It was hard to know what to do with himself, after that. It was a borrowed time feeling. Louis knew every moment, every minute that went past was one less he was going to have. He could feel his time going, and he could see it too, in the way Harry began to withdraw more and more, the pulse growing in strength for him.
He did his best to keep living, and on Monday he went to school just like everyone else. Facing Liam in English and Art was almost too much for Louis, though. Liam was sat opposite him, in a hoodie and jeans. He looked withdrawn and tired, and Louis was afraid to ask him what was wrong. It was halfway through the lesson when he briefly glanced at his lock screen to check for messages that he read the date, and his stomach fell.
“What?” Liam asked, voice hushed, keeping his voice down due to their art teacher being in the midst of a monologue. “You’re face- you look like something’s wrong. What is it?” and Louis couldn’t believe this boy, not in the slightest. He was so kind, so unbearably kind. Even when Liam was in the midst of his own darkness he took the time to check on Louis.
“Nothing, I just- um. It’s the anniversary. For your parents.” Louis said quietly, feeling the words settle heavy on his skin. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realise earlier.”
Liam’s face fell slightly, revealing an expression that matched the hoodie and the bags beneath his eyes. “Yeah. Yeah, it is.” Was what he said, his voice a little gruffer.
“I’m really- god. I’m really sorry, Li. I’m still so, so sorry.” And then Louis was up and moving, straight out of the art classroom, headed for the school gates. He could feel bile rising in his throat, could feel his whole world narrowing into a pinprick of light. Because how, how the fuck do you prepare yourself to say goodbye to your best friend? How the fuck do you prepare them to grieve for you as well, on top of the family they’ve already lost? How the fuck could Louis look Liam in the eye, knowing he was about to cause him so much pain? So much more pain than Liam had ever, ever deserved? He was crouched on the pavement outside the school gate before he knew it, retching. Nothing came up, but the rawness felt better, made Louis feel a little more alive, a little less like he was spinning outside of his own world.
When he was done, he called Harry.
“Louis?” Harry’s voice came through on the fifth ring, sounding breathless and a little frantic. “Are you okay? You’re alright, right?”
“H. Yeah, yeah, I’m okay. I just. Do you think you could meet me at the entrance to the school? Let’s skip, let’s go home.” Louis felt almost bad asking, knowing just how much school Harry had missed, but at the same time, he needed to be selfish. He only had so long to be selfish.
“Yeah, Lou. I’ll be there. I’ve just gotta duck back into class, grab my books, okay? Then I’ll come.”
“Yeah, I gotta grab my books too.” Louis answered; suddenly realising he’d left everything in the art school. He turned on his heel, hanging the phone up on Harry to head back.
When he entered the art room again, Liam looked up, giving him a quizzical look. “What was that?” He asked. Louis shook his head, brushing it off.
“Nah, nothing. I’m just, not feeling too well. Dunno why. But I’m gonna go home, I think. Think I might have a stomach bug, or something.” Louis lied, and he walked to his side of the art bench, picking up his laptop and books. Then, he turned to Liam. He didn’t know if this was going to be the last time, or if he would get more time. He didn’t know at all, but he was going to take it as though it was a last.
He reached out an arm, pulling Liam’s solid shape against him, wrapping his arm tightly around him in a hug. “I’m so sorry. About your parents. I love you a tonne, and I’m always here for you. I’m really sorry, for everything.” He said quietly, against Liam’s ear. He ignored the few curious looks from other kids in the class. He pulled away and met Liam’s surprised expression, that quickly morphed into a soft expression.
“Thanks, Lou. You’re a great friend, you know that?” He said, and Louis reached up his free hand to ruffle Liam’s hair.
“Of course. But seriously, you’re my best friend. Just like, take care of yourself. Anniversaries are tough.”
Liam met his words with a grateful smile and a nod. “I will. Now get home, and feel better.” Liam instructed, and Louis nodded. He left, and he hoped, and prayed, that that was enough, that that was going to be enough for Liam. He knew it wasn’t anywhere near as much as Liam deserved, but he hoped, when the news came to Liam about him, there would be enough closure there for him.
He met Harry at the gates a few minutes later. When he got there, he wrapped his arms around Harry immediately, and they just held each other, steady on the pavement, visible to everyone.
The lovely thing, Louis thought, perhaps the only lovely thing about all of this, was that he didn’t have to worry about when his last time with Harry was going to be. He knew he was going to have Harry in the last moments no matter what, and whilst he was counting his seconds with everyone else, he never questioned Harry. Harry, at least, was his until the final throes of death.
“What’s the plan, love?” Harry asked quietly, face still pressed into Louis’ neck as they held each other.
“I want to go home. I want to set up a movie night as soon as the girls get home from school. I want to have dinner with Mum, and Dan. I just, I want to have tonight.” Louis answered, voice growing thick with the thought of all these lasts stacking up in piles around him until he was suffocating. “Is that okay?”
Harry nodded. “Of course.”
When Louis pulled back, he took in Harry. The circles under his eyes had turned to the darkest bruises, and they look almost painful. He looked sallow, exhausted, and Louis, not for the first time, thought about how much this was already hurting Harry.
Knowing he was going to have to take the boy he loved, knowing there was nothing he could do to not take him, had to be killing Harry. Louis took Harry’s hand, squeezing it tightly.
“I love you, Harry. You remember that, okay? I love you.” He said it as they began walking, and he glanced at Harry briefly, taking in his sombre face.
“I love you too, Lou. More than anything. If I could keep you forever, I would.” Louis saw the way Harry’s tooth sunk into his lip, the painful way it seemed to draw blood to the surface.
“Oh, my love. I’m so sorry.” Louis said. So many apologies to give. They were going stale on his lips.
They arrived home with only a half hour till school properly finished, since they’d both left towards the end of fifth period, and Louis went into the kitchen, going about making movie snacks and organising dinner.
When the girls walked in the door, Louis hugged each of them for longer than usual. The only person who seemed to notice something odd about the hugs was Fizzy, but she simply furrowed her brow, and held Louis a little longer, even after he went to pull away. Quietly, when the twins had started talking enthusiastically to Harry about their day, Fizzy leant towards him.
“You okay, Lou?” She said it softly, but her eyes were searching. Louis nodded stiffly, willing himself not to cry.
“Yeah, Fiz. I’m fine. All good.” He affirmed, definitely overcompensating. Fizzy stared him down for a few more seconds, but ultimately, she left it, moving back over to speak to the twins.
Jay came home earlier than usual, informing them all that they’d let her have a shorter shift that evening. Louis couldn’t help smiling at that. By the time his whole family were curled up in various spots in the living room, a Nicholas Sparks movie playing on the tv, Louis could feel it in his heart. It was this gut wrenching refusal, a completely animalistic repulse to the thought of going. The gods were going to have to tear his family from his cold, dead hands. Oh, they will. Louis tightened his grip on where Lottie and Daisy were curled up on either side of him. Usually, it was Harry’s spot, on the couch next to him, but tonight, Harry had given him one understanding glance and settled down on a pillow on the floor, back pressed against the side of the couch.
When the movie finished, Louis could hardly bring himself to rise from the couch. He couldn’t bring himself to kiss each of the girls goodnight, to wrap his arms tight around Jay, to give Dan a hug goodnight. He couldn’t bear to do any of it, not one piece. But he had to. So he pushed himself up, pressing sloppy kisses to Daisy’s hair, making her laugh lightly, and then Lottie’s. Crossing to Phoebe, who was curled up against Jay. He gave Fizzy a kiss as well, and she gave him that same look, some sort of sadness and confusion in it. Louis couldn’t bring himself to deconstruct it.
Jay shepherded the girls out then, calling out, “Alright, it’s a school night! Everyone to bed!”
Even Harry had heeded Jay’s words, walking up the stairs with the rest of the girls. For some reason, Jay didn’t even mention Harry staying the night, as though his presence here had finally just been expected. Louis however stayed where he was, hovering close to the exit of the living room until it was just Jay in the room, putting cushions back on the couch and refolding the blanket. Dan had left to the kitchen, to finish tidying up from dinner.
“Lou. What’s up with you tonight?” Jay asked, always insightful. Louis frowned lightly, sinking his teeth into his bottom lip at the softness of Jay’s voice. She saw the look, and seemed to take in the way Louis’ eyes were watering, despite the darkness of the tv room. “Oh, sweetheart.” She murmured, crossing to him. “What’s going on love?” her voice was so gentle, too gentle.
Louis said nothing, simply wrapping his arms as tightly as he could around his mum. He took in the smell of her perfume, the feel of her sweatshirt underneath his fingers, the way her hair felt where it tickled his cheek. “Love you, mum.” He murmured. Jay hummed, running a hand up and down his back in smooth movements.
“I love you too, sweetheart. What’s this about?” She asked, yet again. Louis shook his head though, pulling back.
“Nothing. I’m just- I’m going to go to bed.” He said, dodging the question. Jay frowned, but let it go, just like Fizzy had.
“Alright. But Lou, you know I’m always awake and ready whenever you need a chat.” She said, and she gave him a soft smile, a smile that Louis had seen through the ages, that same smile of care and kindness and unconditional love. It made his stomach turn. It made him want to return to her arms, to let her protect him.
Instead, he turned for the stairs, heading up to find his boyfriend.
Harry wasn’t in Louis’ room. He wasn’t there, sat on Louis bed like he was expecting. But he also wasn’t with any of the girls. Louis had checked in on each of their rooms as he’d went to his, and Harry hadn’t been in any of them, all the girls having gotten into bed quickly after the movie, their eyes all tired.
Louis couldn’t figure out where he would be, until he heard a noise coming from down the hall near the bathroom. Or actually, it was in the bathroom. Louis paced the hallway, feeling the carpet under his bare feet, until he was stood outside the bathroom door. He waited for another noise, and it came. It was harry, for certain. He rapped lightly on the door. “Hazza, love.” He said quietly, voice gentle. “Can I come in?”
There was no lock on their bathroom door, they had more of a “if the door’s shut don’t come in” policy in their house, but Louis still waited for a response. When Harry didn’t reply Louis knocked again. “Harry.”
His voice was met with more silence, so Louis reached for the handle, turning the cool metal underneath his palm. The door opened, and Louis was met with the sight of feathers and green eyes and blood. There was drops of it on the floor, and staining the soft grey of Harry’s wings. Louis gasped, feeling the image strike him in the chest.
“Harry, what are you- oh god, Harry what have you done?” Louis begged, dropping to his knees next to the boy. He had Louis’ folio scissors in his grasp, and had been steadily hacking at his feathers, contorted in a way to reach the base of them by his shoulder blades. “Harry, stop. Stop!” Louis said, reaching out, wrapping a hand round Harry’s wrist, pulling it back slowly but firmly. He could feel tears in his eyes, and could feel them on his cheeks. “God, why are you doing this to yourself? Why would you do this?” He felt desperate, almost hysterical with the hurt he was feeling, “You can’t just- you can’t do that, Harry! It’ll kill you. You can’t die.” He managed to take the scissors from Harry’s grasp and flung them across the room, hearing them hit the wall. Then, compulsively, he began to run his hands over every part of Harry’s body, as though he could assure himself his boy was okay, was going to be okay, simply through touch.
“I can’t do it, Louis. I can’t kill you. I was- I was watching you with your family tonight, and I- I can’t be the one who takes you away from them, Louis. I can’t be that one. I can’t be a monster.” Harry cried, looking up at Louis desperately. “Please don’t make me be that monster.” He begged. Louis pulled him towards him, pressing Harry against his chest. He could feel the slickness of blood on him from where his hands touched Harry’s skin.
“I’m sorry, H. I’m so sorry. But you can’t die. You can’t die, too. I won’t let it. It’s not, it’s not happening. I love you too much. It’s too much grief in the world. We can’t give them all so much grief.” Louis whispered into Harry’s hair, rocking him gently. “We can’t do that.”
He held Harry for a few minutes, and then pulled him up, easing him off the floor. “How much damage have you done? Do you need bandages?” He asked softly, trying to look at Harry’s wings. All he could see was the slick fall of blood.
“No. No, I’ll be okay. I’ll be fine, they heal fast.” Harry explained, his grip on Louis’ waist tight. Louis nodded, understanding.
“Come on. Let’s get you to my room.” He pulled Harry forward slowly, into the hallway.
“I’ve left such a mess in there, though, Lou.” Harry said, glancing back at the room. Louis couldn’t look at it, couldn’t take in the blood soaked tiles without wanting to be sick.
“It’s okay, I’ll clean it up in a minute. Let’s just get you to bed first.” Louis reasoned, and they made their way to his room, both unsteady on their feet. Louis settled Harry down on his bed, helping him to get his jeans off until Harry was half tucked under the covers, his damaged wings preventing him from going all the way. Louis knew it was going to ruin the bed sheets, but he didn’t really mind. There were other things at stake right then. “Just wait here, I’ll be right back. I’m just going to clean it up before one of the girls walks in there.” Louis gave Harry a soft smile, letting his hand run over the bare skin of Harry’s shoulder for just a moment before he stepped back out of his bedroom, headed for the bathroom.
The moon was coming in from the window. The covers of the boy’s bed were stained with blood, a few feathers strewn across the white pillow case. Everything was quiet, and still, and the pulse began to take the boy over completely. He went at first, unwitting of just how strong it was becoming, of how much this pulse was the pinnacle of grieving.
He realised soon though, and the boy sat up, his back ramrod straight in the bed that was not his. There was a resistance in him, a personal resistance that had never been there before, a resistance that spoke of love, of yearning, of a desire to protect at all costs. And yet, not even the strong could resist the urge inside, the urge that spoke to him now so regularly he could no longer differentiate between himself and it.
The moon watched, and the boy wondered if it could feel his sorrow when the door opened. In came the other boy, the boy whose bed it was, whose house it was, whose life it was. He came in and he looked soft and tired but he looked alive. He looked alive, and the angel could not understand how the boy could become anything other than alive.
In that moment, his confusion was taken from him, as the boy fell to the ground. The angel almost felt it, as the quiet of the night gave way to the boy’s connection with death. He simply fell, a clot on the brain, a body that could not support him anymore.
The angel felt sadness grow in him, deep and welling as his wings, damaged as they were, rose him from the bed. They took him next to the boy, and he felt it then too, felt the warmth of the boy’s skin under his fingertips, felt that same vitality. This was a boy who should remain alive. And yet, the living and the dead are unable to request their places, something the angel knew all too well.
He saw it, for just a moment, the way the boys eyes opened as the angel touched him. The way they greeted him, with a familiarity that spoke of nights under bed sheets, moments below the stars, sunsets and sunrises that had come to the two of them, when they were blissful and hadn’t left in their times of grief. Those blue eyes, for just a moment, looked back at him with such trust, and the angel knew his role. He knew the history he was about to create when he bent his head, and let his words wash over the boy.
“You and me, Lou. We’re going to fly away from here. I’m going to love you until the end of time. I’m going to love you, until it doesn’t hurt anymore.”
The words became one with the night and the angel gathered the boy into his arms. The boy seemed to fade with the angels words, as though his voice had been enough, had taken the pieces of pain away from the boy.
The angel leaned forward, when he knew this moment could remain no longer, and he pressed his lips against the boy’s, tasting the salt of tears, the warmth of the boy’s mouth. It was the first time the angel had ever had a kiss that didn’t feel like death.
Death, however, can never be held off long. It may wait in the wings, but it will return. It will always return. And there it was, as the angel pulled back, his own heart aching. He felt the death come, the boy going lax in his arms, the last puff of air that left the boys lips.
For the first time, the angel did not attempt to put any space between himself and death. He was not attempting to escape the grief of others, not this time. Instead, he remained, the boy in his arms, salt dripping on the boys skin as the angel cried.
For the first time, this grief was the angel’s own.
They were found by a mother, brought by the sound of crying, and a mothering instinct that somehow pulses in the same way as angels’ so often do.
There she found one angel, the stain of blood on his skin, and another boy, with the stain of tears. The angel had him cradled, had him pressed to his chest like the boy was not the angel’s to lose.
When the angel felt the weight of the mothers grief join his own, when he felt the sinking emptiness that came with the loss of another, he turned to face the grief, the whitened face of a mother who had lost a part of her own heart, the boy still clasped in his arms.
“I am so sorry. I have never loved anything more. I tried so hard to not be a monster.”
He had grieved before, and yet, he would grieve again.