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I can't believe we got this far

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Harry plays with the ring on his left middle finger, rubbing it and pushing it around, staring down at the duvet with vision crossed, unfocused. A million little things are flitting through his head – the fucking song he’s been working on that’s pressing harshly on his mind trying to get it out, the meetings he has tomorrow, deciding on what he’s gonna wear to that awards show he’s gotta go to in a couple weeks – but mostly on the man that’s sitting beside him, scrolling through his phone.

“You alright?” Louis asks, and Harry blinks, looking over at him. The man in question’s eyebrows are pressed together, watching Harry worriedly, sitting there shirtless in those joggers. Harry gulps past the little lump in his throat, nods.

“Fine.”

Louis doesn’t look like he fully believes him, but his expression clears and he takes a deep breath, opening his mouth to say something and –

Nothing comes out. He shuts his mouth again after a moment, a pinched look overtaking his face, and looks back down at his phone with a curt nod. And Harry – fucking hell, he’s got nothing to say either. His gaze slides back down to the bedspread as he licks his lips, the pain in his chest growing.

‘Cause maybe falling out of love hurts so much more than straight rejection. Maybe knowing that this – whatever this is, anymore, because it’s nothing like what it once was and Harry’s past the point of knowing who exactly is to blame for that – can’t last forever, like he thought it could when he was sixteen and falling in love for the first time in his life, is worse than never having happened.

Maybe that fucking phrase everyone always says – about how it’s better to have loved and lost than to not have loved at all – maybe that’s not true. Not when it feels like this, like any moment now it could just be gone and he’d never have realized it was even going. It’s not a rapid descent, been happening for years now and after 2015 it’s just gotten so much harder to keep it up.

There hasn’t been a time in Harry’s adult life that Louis wasn’t a part, and a big part at that, of his very existence. But lately, every time he goes to think about that or even about the man at large it feels…less. And damn but it’s been eight years, and maybe that’s longer than they ever should have expected, but Harry can’t help but feel the sharp edge of anxiety at that thought because he’s never been able to imagine a good life without Louis. Because even at their worst, even in those times when being with him hurt more than being without, even then it’s always been something so deep inside that Harry knows he’s not the same without Louis.

Fuck, he’s not. Everything about the man, all his ups and downs, all his self-doubts, all his happy memories and in the worst parts of his life – Harry knows them. Is a part of them, and vice versa. And in the past year, the realizations that nothing will ever be the same and that includes them and the fact that they’ve basically been holding onto themselves by a strand – the pressure in his chest grows, the knot in his stomach tightens.

Louis notices. Reaches over like it’s the most natural thing in the world even though they haven’t seen each other in near three months before today, takes Harry’s hand in his own. Doesn’t squeeze, just holds it there. Doesn’t say anything for long moments, and him just being there – damn if that doesn’t almost hurt worse than the three months apart.

Even though three months is far less than the longest stretch they’ve gone. Even in the past year.

And they sit like that for some time – Louis not looking up, still on his mobile, free hand grasped in Harry’s loosely and –

And –

And Harry can almost see the thin string holding them together, delicate and fragile and when eventually Louis drops his hand and asks, “You want food?” he sees the thread snap a little thinner, glimmering in pale sunlight filtering its way through the curtains of the room in the massive house that never feels quite full.

“Sounds good,” he replies, taking his hand back to himself and leaning over slightly to watch Louis ordering, and then he’s back to playing with his ring, that tinge of nervous energy running through him because this will last a few days, maybe, if they’re lucky, and then Louis’ off again and who knows the next time they’ll see each other and eight years, he keeps thinking. A full third of his life is completely entwined within the very fabric of Louis as a person.

The hill they’ve been steadily rolling down for years is coming up upon a sudden cliff soon, he can feel it. These are things he can’t put into words, can’t rush, can’t do anything but watch their approach and he leans over further, presses a small kiss into Louis’ shoulder, and picks out some food from the Thai place a few blocks over.