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Jumping in Harder Than Ten Thousand Rocks on the Lake

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PART FIVE: Wind

 

It takes Harry a week to work up his courage to ask Louis about the journal of lyrics.

It’s been a lovely week, one spent largely with Louis. He wakes up in Louis’ bed more times than he doesn’t, which is always a win. He cooks Louis dinner nearly every night. He hasn’t risked taking Louis out in such a publicly romantic way again. He feels like they dodged a bullet that the girl who took the photo of them at dinner hadn’t posted it publically. And he probably needs to stop buying Louis so many flowers because his house is beginning to look a bit like a florist’s shop. It’s just that he loves the sweet smile Louis gives him every time he shows up with a new bouquet. Never mind, he’s not going to stop with the flowers. But he hasn’t forgotten the journal of lyrics he’d come across while helping Louis unpack his boxes of belongings from Manchester after their one and only surfing experience with Niall.

In all the in between times that they’re apart, Harry has worked relentlessly on playing his guitar again. It’s not quite like riding a bicycle, but he hasn’t forgotten everything either. He even thinks he found a bit of a tune he’d like to play for Niall sometime. Niall could play it properly, he’s sure. He even has a few lyrics floating around his head to go with it. It needs a lot of work, but it’s the first time in a long time that he’s felt--joy with something he’s working on creatively.

Even Annie mentions that he seems happier, more like himself. He tries to forget the second part of her statement though.

“I love seeing you happy like this, H, but you can’t block out the rest of the world forever. At some point you’re going to have to unblock some phone numbers.”

He hates the reminder that he’s got an agent out there who’s probably spitting mad at him as well as a whole load of people he’s blocked for now; basically anyone who has anything to do with his career is blocked. In some ways, he’s amazed no one has found him at Annie’s yet, and in other ways, he’s not surprised that no one has ever cared enough to know anything about his best friend who has nothing to do with the entertainment industry.

He returns back to Annie’s from the florists’ shop, humming the song he’s been attempting to write as he walks into the kitchen and deposits his keys and the flower arrangement on the counter. He starts checking the refrigerator to make sure he’s got everything he needs to make dinner for he and Louis tonight when he hears a car pull into Annie’s garage.

He checks the time. It’s odd she’s home so early from work.

“Harry?” Annie shouts out before the door from the garage even completely opens.

“Yeah? Why are you home so early?” Harry asks curiously. “Is everything okay?”

“Um--that’s sort of a matter of opinion. I mean--everything is fine, just--if you’re asking me that, I assume you haven’t been online much today.”

Harry’s heart sinks into his stomach. “Why?”

Annie chews on her bottom lip for a moment and tucks a strand of hair behind her ear. These are her nervous tells, and it’s making him even more anxious by the second.

“Your relationship with Louis is all over the tabloid news.”

Harry’s glad he’s standing next to one of Annie’s bar stools because he definitely needs to sit down. “What do they have?”

Annie sighs and sits down next to him. “Photos mostly. One in that restaurant you took him to weeks ago, and then they have quite a few of you at Sea Lily buying flowers. They’ve also got some shots of you and Louis coming out of Wildflour together. There’s one of you answering Louis’ front door in just a towel.”

“Pizza?”

“Uh, yeah, looked like you two were having pizza delivered.”

“Right.”

“Harry? Are you okay?”

“Mmmm.” To be honest, he feels a bit numb inside just like he always does when this happens, when his personal life gets exposed to the world, but he knows there’s panic just below the surface.

“I came home as soon as I saw it, and you probably haven’t really had time to process but--they’re all going to know you’re in Malibu now.”

Harry closes his eyes briefly at this. “Yep.”

“Maybe you should--warn Louis.”

Fuck, what if he already knows? He stands up on slightly wobbly legs, and then, he hears the sound of a guitar on Annie’s deck. She rolls her eyes at the sound.

“You’d think he could play on his own deck,” she mutters.

Harry slides open the door, and Niall stops to greet them. “Hiya, mate! Annie, you look lovely as always. Stunning in that shade of blue.”

“They’re scrubs, Niall.”

“Still look great in them,” Niall declares.

“Is there something wrong with your deck that you can’t sit out on it to play the guitar?” Annie asks.

“Yes, ma’am. The problem with my deck is that my cousins have access to it. They’ve taken to trying to record me when they can. Don’t really need my new songs leaked all over the internet like Harry’s love life.”

This jolts Harry back into reality. He’s got to go warn Louis, although maybe Niall already has.

“Have you seen Louis today?” Harry asks him.

“Nope.”

Harry nods and heads quickly back inside the house to slip on some shoes and head to Louis.’ He really hopes he has the chance to tell him in person rather than for him to see it on TMZ or something. As he’s knocking at the door, he realizes that Louis probably never looks at TMZ, a small blessing.

It feels like it takes forever for Louis to open the door even though it’s probably only a minute of time that has gone by. He’s just terrified to see the look on Louis’ face right now. If he already knows, he probably doesn’t even want to speak to him. What if he’s getting endless phone calls? What if photogs have been stalking him all morning at the grocery store? What if cameras have been shoved in his face while he went for a morning jog?

None of these things even make that much sense, since Harry has been doing most of Louis’ grocery shopping and Louis has promised him not to jog and hurt his knee any further, but Harry isn’t in the mood to make sense right now.

He’s works himself up into an absurdly large panic by the time Louis actually opens the door with a lovely smile on his face. The blue of his eyes disappears into slits as smiles so widely that his eyes crinkle at the corners in the way he loves best. He’s momentarily dazed by the smile, but then reality intrudes again.

The look on his face must change because the look on Louis’ changes as well into one of concern. “Harry? All right?”

“No,” Harry answers, his voice small.

Now, Louis looks really concerned. “Come in, Harry.”

Harry walks into Louis’ now familiar house just about as miserable as he’s ever felt. What if this is the end? Or the beginning of the end? Louis is going to be exasperated by all the nonsense that surrounds dating someone like him. Why did he ever think this could work?

Louis sits on his couch and motions for Harry to sit next to him, so he does. He’s careful not to touch him in case this is really it. He wishes he’d kissed him at the door before he finds anything out. One last kiss to remember him by.

“You’re starting to scare me,” Louis says. “What is it? What’s wrong?”

“I’m going to quit acting! I swear it! I’ll stop and go into hiding until no one remembers who I am!”

“Oh, I knew you were feeling like maybe--”

“Please just don’t break up with me!”

“What?” Louis looks thoroughly confused. “Why would I--”

This was already a disaster, and now Harry knows he’s just making it worse. He puts his face in his hands. “They know about us.”

“Who knows about us?”

He uncovers his face so he can fling his arms out properly. “Everyone! The entire world!”

Louis still looks confused. “Well, it’s not a secret, I hope, because I’ve told my mum and my siblings and friends, so was I not supposed to or--”

“Oh god, no! It’s fine that you told them. I mean, I didn’t know you had. That would actually make me really happy if you weren’t about to dump me. Oh my god, you told your mom? Your mom is going to hate me. Fuck!”

“Harry! Calm down, love. Why do you keep saying I’m breaking up with you? I’m not following at all. Are you breaking up with me?”

“No! Of course not! But what if you start getting endless phone calls from everyone you know? And people are shoving cameras in your face and you can’t even go to the grocery store anymore?”

“Oh, love.” The soft look on Louis’ face is nearly his undoing. “I’m not breaking up with you even if a hundred people follow me around the shops. I haven’t even been buying much lately because you’ve been doing it all for me. But I understand the concern.”

Louis gives him a small smile. “If it makes you feel better, no one really has my phone number except my close friends and family and my teammates. Don’t even have a manager anymore because I haven’t been doing anything with football lately. Although Niall says I need to hire someone if I’m gonna keep helping him write songs to protect myself, especially if I someday work with someone other than Niall.”

“Okay,” Harry says as Louis clasps one of his hands in his and gives him a bit of a watery smile. “It’s just--I’m in love with you, Louis. I guess that’s pretty obvious at this point. And I guess, it’s also clear I’m terrified of losing you.”

Louis pulls him into a kiss that feels different somehow now that he knows he’s in love with Louis. He honestly hadn’t thought he was ready to feel this way until he thought there was a chance he might lose him. Louis’s hands cup his face as he kisses him over and over, and Harry’s fairly certain this kiss at the very least means Louis isn’t leaving him or running away from his declaration.

Louis releases him from the kiss and presses their foreheads together. It’s hard to see him at this close distance, but he seems to be smiling.

“I’m in love with you, Harry. I hope you didn’t spend too much of your day thinking the worst.”

“Um--not really. I pretty much just found out and flipped the fuck out and ran over here panicking.”

“Oh, love, I’m sorry this has you so upset, but I just want you to know that it doesn’t upset me. I understand why you are though. Your privacy has been violated for years like this, and I realise that this might be different this time since it’s me and not a woman.”

Harry shakes his head. “No, I just want to be clear that I don’t give a flying fuck what anyone says about me being with a man. It’s just that when this happens--when my significant other starts getting followed around--that’s when people usually decide it’s just not worth it to be with me.”

God, he hates sounding this pathetic about the whole thing.

“Harry, look at me.”

Harry obeys, looking into the deep blue fire that Louis’ gaze holds for him. “I’m not leaving you, and I’m especially never leaving you over something like this.”

Harry nods and finds that he believes him. He glances over Louis’ shoulder and spots his guitar next to the very journal of lyrics that’s been on his mind so much lately.

“Louis? Can I ask you something?”

“Yeah?”

“Can I read some of your lyrics sometime?”

///

Harry has caught him at a very vulnerable moment. He’s just told someone he’s in love with them for the first time. His life has been football, and all his relationships thus far have taken a very far backseat to his career. Harry doesn’t know this of course, but it’s left him feeling a little off balance. Before he knows it, he’s handing the journal over to Harry’s outstretched hand.

He feels like he’s handing over the physical embodiment of his heart after he’s just handed over the emotional equivalent. “Some of those are really old and just--there’s nothing there really. Just to warn you.”

Harry doesn’t open the journal. He just clutches it in his long fingers and looks back at him fiercely. Maybe he does understand what it means to him. “Choose one for me.”

Louis takes it back and opens to some of the final pages until he reaches one and stares at it for a few moments. “This is the one I’m writing with Niall, so my latest one I suppose. I know you’ve heard most of it, but--”

Harry takes it back and reads it over, seemingly taking his time to read the words carefully. His cheeks flush the loveliest pink colour, and it makes Louis squirm a bit. He must know the song is about him even if he didn’t say it explicitly. It’s fairly obvious, and he’s sure they’ve both thought it before now. Harry’s reaction to it now is making him nervous all over again.

“You already know this, but I love the song,” Harry says simply.

There’s a curious look on his face though that makes Louis press further. “But?”

Harry frowns. “No, ‘but’ Louis. I think it’s amazing.”

“I can tell you want to say something else though.”

Harry looks surprised, and to be honest Louis feels surprise that he knows Harry well enough to realise what he’s saying is true.

“Oh--um--nothing--just--” Harry stumbles.

“Yes?”

“It’s not finished?” Harry asks quietly.

“Oh. Ehm, no it’s not completely finished. You can see where we left out a few lines here or there. We’re still working on it. There’s something not quite right lyrically.”

“Mmmm,” Harry nods, fidgeting a bit. Louis’ eyes follow the way Harry’s foot taps at the floor.

Something about the look on Harry’s face gives him a clue. “Do you--have any ideas for it?”

Harry looks up at him with the hint of a shy smile. “I’ve just been thinking about it a lot.”

“The song?” Louis’ heart skips a beat or two.

Harry shrugs. “It’s a great song. Pretty sure I like what it’s about, too.”

He snorts. “Niall told me I need a thirst jar if I’m going to keep writing songs like this about you.”

Harry lets out a huge bark of a laugh that he tries to smother with his hands. “Me too. Niall says I need a thirst jar, too.”

“Niall says his thirst jar is so full that when Annie agrees to go out with him, he’s gonna be able to take her to their date in a helicopter.”

Harry laughs, but then turns thoughtful for a moment. “You know, I think Annie would probably love to go on a helicopter ride. And between you and me, I think she’d go out with Niall if he ever asked her like a normal person.”

“Do you mean to tell me he’s never properly asked her out?”

Harry shakes his head. “Nope. He just says stupid things about how she rejects him, and she blows them off as being a joke. I mean, let’s be honest here. I don’t think Niall generally has to try this hard to get someone’s attention, but Annie’s not used to guys like Niall. She’s never wanted any place in my public life.”

Louis lets out a large puff of breath. “Yeah, I can see that. It’s quite a hardship to date someone so famous, getting your photos published and followed at the supermarket--”

Harry makes a sad face at him.

“Too soon?”

“Too soon?! Yeah, it’s too soon! Half an hour ago I was convinced you were going to break up with me!”

“Aw, I’m sorry then, love.”

Harry sets the journal of lyrics on the ottoman in front of them, and it reminds him that they’d been talking about the song. He hesitates, but then decides to go ahead and ask. “Harry, do you happen to have any ideas for the song?”

Harry looks up at him with an almost guilty expression on his face.

“I just thought about it so much, and I couldn’t get it out of my head.” Harry runs a hand through his hair. “I kept playing the song on my guitar, and I sort of--wrote a verse.”

“You did? Can I hear it?” He asks, excited at the prospect of lyrics that might work.

Harry’s blush returns to his cheeks, but he says, “Sure, if you want.”

Louis opens the journal to the right page and grabs his guitar and begins playing the song. He and Harry sing it in harmony until reach the end of the chorus, and Harry sings, “There’s a future in my life I can’t foresee. Unless of course, I stay on course and keep you next to me. There will always be the kind to criticise. But I know, yes I know, we’ll be alright.”

Louis continues back into the chorus, and he can feel how well it all fits. He can’t help the stupid grin on his face as he beams up at Harry.

“Christ, Harry. I think it fits perfectly with the song. Feels like a natural part of it.”

“Yeah? I mean, I tried to keep the theme going just with a little further development.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Definitely.” He pauses. “Should we show it to Niall?”

He stands up and tugs Harry to his feet. As they stand at Niall’s door, knocking, he suddenly realises he’s never been in Niall’s house. “You know, I’ve never been in here before.”

“Yeah, me neither.”

“You haven’t either?”

“Nope, he’s just always at Annie’s house and now yours as well, so why bother trying to see him more?”

“Fair,” Louis says with a laugh.

Niall answers the door with true delight on his face. “Mates! Can’t believe you’ve finally come to visit La Casa Horan. You’ll be pleased to know that my cousins left yesterday morning, very unhappily. I did however manage to hang on to the last shred of my dignity when I made them empty their pockets before leaving, otherwise they’d be selling my knickers to the highest bidder right now.”

Harry shudders next to him.

“Well, glad you made it out with something, lad,” Louis says.

“Now what is it I can do for you two--” Niall’s voice trails off when he notices the guitar strapped to Louis’ back. “Are we writing?”

He glances over at Harry who is chewing on his bottom lip. “Harry wrote a new verse for the song we’ve been working on.”

“Oh, he has, has he?” Niall’s eyes narrow in disapproval. “Why is this the first I’ve heard about it? Why would you hold out on me this way, H?”

“It’s nothing really. Just like a few lines that I thought might fit.”

“Well, let’s try it out then, lads!” Niall looks down at his hands. “Is that what I think it is?”

“Ehm--” Louis begins.

“DO YOU HAVE MORE LYRICS IN THERE, LOU?”

“I do, but--”

“No, buts. Get your arses in here. We’ve got a solo album to write!”

“An album?” Harry asks.

“Did I not tell you then?” Now, it’s Niall’s turn to look a bit nervous.

“Tell us what?”

“The band’s on hiatus and I’m writing a solo album and I fired everyone who was writing songs with me ‘cause I hated them and I’ve been stuck for weeks with nothing to show for myself and I was thinking about becoming a surfing instructor,” Niall says in one long stream of words. He takes a breath.

“Um, okay. Didn’t know that was going on,” Harry says with a grimace.

“Yeah, well. Don’t want Annie thinking I’m a loser now do I?”

Harry snorts as they walk further into Niall’s house. “Yeah, multi-millionaire pop stars. What losers.”

Louis turns in a circle to look around the open rooms of Niall’s beachfront home, and he’s a little surprised by what he sees. He hasn’t given a lot of thought to what it might look like in here, but it’s very modern with white gleaming surfaces and black leather furniture. A black baby grand piano stands in place of pride in the living room. He ends his visual tour on Niall’s smiling face. He’s never met anyone quite like Niall.

“Let’s get started,” he says with a smile.

Harry sits on the couch, his leg bouncing with nerves, until Louis sits down next to him and places his hand on his thigh. Harry instantly stills and gives him a half smile. “Here, you take my guitar, Harry.”

Harry looks grateful for the opportunity to do something with his hands. They play ‘Ready to Run’ multiple times, including Harry’s new verse, until they think they have something solid that Niall records a few rough takes of using his laptop and microphone.

Niall’s glee at what they’re doing is quite infectious, and Louis feels the spark he talked about with Harry. It’s here, right in this room, with the three of them together.

Harry’s face begins to show signs he’s thinking of something, and Louis wonders if there’s more Harry has been working on. Louis heads into the kitchen to grab water, and Niall wanders over to phone for pizza. They both still when they hear the sounds of a guitar across the room. Louis can tell Harry’s trying to pass it off as just messing around, but he knows this must be something.

He hears the faintest sounds of Harry humming quietly and then the sounds of murmured words. He and Niall look at each other in silence, straining to hear. Niall grins and then with a shrug runs back over to the sofa and dives over the back of it and onto the cushions.

“Whatcha workin’ on, mate?”

Louis just shakes his head and wanders in to hand Harry a bottle of water. Harry takes it with a quiet thank you as Louis settles in next to him.

“Um--I sort of have an--idea?” Harry clears his throat. “For a song?”

“Let’s hear it!” Niall shouts.

“What’s it about, love,” Louis says with what he hopes is an encouraging smile.

“We already know it’s about you, Lou,” Niall snorts.

“Sod off, Nialler, and let the man speak.”

“Well, I was thinking about that feeling when you first find someone and you’re scared of diving right into something.” Harry steals a nervous glance at him. “You’re sort of worried what the other person is thinking, but you can’t help how you feel.”

Niall lets out an audible sigh and flings himself back on the sofa. “Yeah, mate. I know how that feels.”

“I don’t have a lot of the words yet,” Harry admits. “Just some of the melody and the idea.”

“It’s a start,” Niall declares as he picks up his guitar.

It doesn’t take long for Niall to take Harry’s simple melody and make it into something more, and  Louis really likes the throwback feel of it. Niall makes a quick recording of it that they can play back and work on lyrics.

The spark of magic in the room grows into a flame as the song burns through them.

“Maybe I came on too strong, maybe I waited too long, maybe I played my cards wrong” Niall starts.

Louis scribbles down the words Niall sings into his journal. They throw out a few more lyrics, some that work and some that don’t.

“I could fall or I could fly, here in your aeroplane,” Louis sings. “And I could live, I could die, hanging on the words you say.”

Harry smiles at him, a dimple creasing his cheek.

“I’ve been known to give my all, and jumping in harder than ten thousand rocks on the lake,” Harry adds as he watches Louis’ reaction to his words.

“Let me know the truth, before I dive right into you,” Niall finishes.

The words just seem to click into place before their eyes and ears and soon there’s a few scribbled down pages in Louis’ journal that they all look at in wonder.

“Well,” Niall says finally. “Let’s practice this one a bit, yeah?”

Harry sits back, cupping his chin, and takes a long look at Niall. “Are you ever going to ask her out?”

Niall grunts, plucking at his guitar. “Don’t know what you mean. I ask her out ten times a week. You’d think I’d give up, but I’m a little on the stubborn side, if you couldn’t tell.”

Louis snorts.

“You don’t though,” Harry says. “You make jokes and talk about it, but you don’t ever say the words.”

“Well, don’t need to hear her actually say no to my face, now do I? Then, I couldn’t come hang about, if I do that.”

“I think she’d say yes,” Harry responds. “If you really asked.”

Niall looks mutinous but doesn’t say anything rude. “Maybe she’d like to hear our song.”

“Maybe she would,” Harry agrees. He exchanges a look with Louis, and Louis nods.

Louis turns to eye the large canister of money that sits atop Niall’s kitchen counter. “Maybe put all that thirst jar money to use soon if she likes it.”

“Shut it,” Niall says, but he rises from the sofa, guitar still in hand, and heads towards his front door. “You wankers coming, or what?”

They both scramble to their feet and follow him out the front door and trail behind him towards Annie’s. When they reach the door, Niall steps aside so that Harry can enter first.

“Annie?” Harry calls out as soon as they walk in.

Annie walks in the glass doors from the deck and looks at them all curiously. She sets her tea cup on the table as she passes by it, and Louis acknowledges that she really is a very pretty woman. Her curls with streaks of sun kissed strands flow over her shoulders, and she impatiently smoothes a few wayward tresses behind her ear. Her wardrobe seems to consist of either medical scrubs or flowing sundresses, and Louis’ glad she’s in something more romantic right now than bland scrubs to hear their song.

“Would you like to hear our song?” Harry asks, his tone hopeful in a way that Annie immediately responds to.

Her large brown eyes brighten with her smile. “Sure, H!”

The three of them nervously gather around as she sits down in an armchair with an amused expression on her face. They play her the song, Niall singing the lyrics, and the two of them providing back up.

Louis finds himself surprised by the look on her face. She’d started with such a happy, carefree look on her face, and now, she’s staring at the floor. When the song ends, she looks up, startled, and pastes a fake smile on her face.

“I love it!” She claims, but the three of them exchange worried looks. She clearly doesn’t love it.

Niall looks fairly devastated by her reaction, but Louis plows on forward. They need opinions right now, critique is probably something they really need at this point. “You can tell us the truth, Annie. We could use the feedback.”

Annie schools her face carefully. “Louis, really, it’s a beautiful song.”

Louis doesn’t dare look at anyone else’s reaction right now. He definitely doesn’t want to see what Harry thinks right now.

Then, her face breaks out into a much more real smile. “You two are so damn cute together. I can’t believe you both have musical talent, too. Doesn’t seem fair really.”

She pauses and takes a breath. She even manages a real smile. “So who is the song about for you, Niall? Whoever she is, she’s very lucky, you know?”

Niall looks incredulous. “Who do you take me for, Annie? It’s about you, of course. You think there’s thousands of dollars in my thirst jar for me to be writing songs about other girls?”

“Thirst jar?”

“Never mind about that,” Harry interrupts hastily.

“Annie, pretend these two aren’t here for this, okay? But yes, when I helped write this song today, I was thinking about you. Do you think you’d want to go out with me some time?”

“Oh.” Annie looks stunned in a way that Louis thinks is silly. How has she gone this long thinking Niall wasn’t serious? “I--okay.”

Niall grins. “You guys mind leaving now that you know Annie’s not breaking my heart?”

He and Harry leap to their feet.

“Yep, gotta go--”

“I think we’ve got to--”

They both practically run to the door and out into the darkness of a summer night. They walk hand in hand to Louis’ house and enter silently. Louis begins leading Harry to the bedroom, but Harry has stopped to peer out the large windows.

“I’m going to unblock some phone numbers,” Harry says quietly, almost to himself.

“Okay, I don’t think I understand--”

“My agent--and everyone else.” Harry turns towards him now and wraps himself around Louis tightly. “They won’t want to hear what I have to say, but I’m so happy now, Louis. And I want to keep this. I want to keep you. The life I used to have didn’t allow room for someone like you, Louis. And I don’t want it back. I want this life. One where I wind up with you and music and whatever that entails.”

“If that’s what you want, love,” Louis says. “I want to keep you as well, you know? So ehm--I think maybe I should call that physiotherapist? Probably need to find out what to do about my knee. Gotta figure out how to keep myself right for my young, fit, songwriter boyfriend.”

Harry presses a soft kiss to his lips. “I’m glad we decided to dive in.”

Louis kisses him back, letting Harry crash over him like the waves of the sea.