“Ok, dear. Will you drink this please?”
Harry hates this juice. It’s some tart, store brand apple shite in a paper cup. He doesn’t want to drink it, but considering he hasn't eaten anything since lunchtime yesterday, reintroducing sugar to his system now is probably a good idea.
A shaking hand reaches out for the petite paper cup and gently takes it from the nurse’s hand. He gulps down the liquid in one big swig before giving her a nod, and she takes back the empty cup to promptly refill it.
“In case you want some more,” she smiles softly. “Biscuits are right here,” she points at the clear cellophane pack of shortbreads sitting on the narrow metal table beside Harry's oversize chair. She then places the paper cup next to the biscuits, and adjusts the chair for her patient.
“Thank you,” Harry mumbles even slower than normal, his head still swimming from the sedative he requested before undergoing the invasive procedure. He's been zoning out staring down at two long legs dangling precariously off the side of the chair. Oh yeah, shit, he's suddenly aware that those are his legs, so he cautiously turns around and scoots backwards so his back is flush with the chair.
There's a painful deep ache in his abdomen, and his limbs feel like jelly. His head of messy chocolate brown curls rests comfortably on the cushioned headrest but the pleather seat is now making him sweat. He can feel the dampness seeping through the fabric of his thin t-shirt, and his pants are swampy thanks to the padded underwear he needs to wear for the rest of the day. Needless to say the boy is a certified hot mess.
He's lost in his thoughts again, absentmindedly rubbing figure eight patterns over the inside of his elbow where an IV needle was not 10 minutes ago. He watches as the nurse's head turns in his peripheral vision. He looks up at her, green eyes wide in anticipation. What is she going to say next? That he shouldn't be picking at the band aid? He’s not a child, he can do what he wants. She better not say a word because he could literally cry at the drop of a hat, which is exactly why he needs to be away from people right now.
Her mouth opens and closes several times, but nothing comes out. She looks a bit embarrassed now, having admitted earlier that she likes the young man, but never wants to see him in here again. Twice in six months is enough.
He looks passed her at the blank beige wall, trying to blink back tears. "It’s alright,” he sighs quietly, managing a smile that doesn't reach his eyes. “I’m alright.”
She doesn’t look convinced, so Harry picks up the packet of biscuits. ““I’ll eat ‘em this time, I promise.” She finally smiles back when he tears open the packet and pops a biscuit in his mouth. They taste good, but he's not at all hungry.
He's beyond relieved when the nurse gets back to her duties by tending to the young woman sitting three chairs away. He can hear her light sobs, but tries his best to ignore them, and there's another even younger looking girl across the room sleeping peacefully in her chair.
Oh how much Harry would love to sleep right now. A few minutes later, more people shuffle into the room from behind the row of chairs, but soon the light commotion dissipates, and he's back in Holmes Chapel...
It's a Sunday afternoon and his mum is cooking a roast. His childhood home smells delicious. His sister, Gemma, is home for the weekend, and everyone is enjoying their time together. There's snow outside, but it's warm inside. Harry has on his favorite oversized sweater- the one that only Anne can get snuggly soft in the wash, every time without fail. He looks out the window at the falling snow, he wants to go play in it. After convincing Gemma to join him in the garden, they stare up at the sky, catching snowflakes on their tongues until their noses turn pink and go numb, and all Harry can see around him is a calming whirlwind of white.
~ ● ~
Twenty minutes have passed, and the nurse comes back over to tell Harry he can leave if he's feeling ready. After all the emotional and physical stress of today, his body must have given in to sleep. The last time he was here, he couldn't stop crying long enough to eat or sleep.
Rubbing the tiredness from his eyes, he thanks the kind nurse once more on the way out of the recovery room. Still a bit off-balance, and feeling like his insides are falling out, the boy takes tiny, careful steps towards a familiar set of large wooden double doors with no windows. One step closer to home.
The cool air of the waiting area hits Harry’s skin like ice water, instantly making him shiver. Great, now he has to pee! He’s not looking forward to it.
The burgundy velvet rope separating all incoming and outgoing traffic makes the place look more like a tacky nightclub than a clinic, yet he runs several trembling fingers over the fuzzy fabric anyway just to keep grounded. There may be tears on his face, he really can't tell anymore.
“Over here, love,” a bubbly middle-aged woman waves Harry over cheerfully from behind the desk.
“Hi,” Harry mumbles into the fingertips nervously picking at his bottom lip. He steps up to the desk and leans over a display of STD pamphlets so he can whisper.
“Did…” he scans the room with narrowed eyes. There are no windows in the room, and only four other people are in seats either waiting to be called in to the exam rooms or waiting for someone to come out. Harry doesn’t see his boyfriend anywhere.
“Did my boyfriend step out do you know?” He still hasn’t made eye contact with the woman whose name he remembers now is Beth; she made exiting here a couple months ago a little less depressing. He'll never forget that day. Casually, he pretends to scratch his nose while brushing an index finger across both cheeks. Thank god they are dry, because he has been told he cries too much, and if his boyfriend saw him crying again...
“I’m not sure, love,” genuine sadness comes through in her voice, which Harry feels bad for causing. “I just got here about twenty minutes ago. Could he be outside?”
Harry thinks for a moment. Yes, his boyfriend could be right outside.
“I’ll wait.” He shrugs at her before taking a seat in the nearly empty waiting area. His boyfriend will be back. After all, he knows Harry cannot drive right now and he can't take public transport by himself. His boyfriend knows this. He will be right back.
Maybe he went to the convenience store across the street, or had to go outside to take a phone call? Or maybe, just maybe, he went to get Harry something special to cheer him up; to remind him that he is loved and safe. Sure, that could happen. He will be right back.
Any minute now, Harry can feel it. He can also feel his bladder about to burst, but doesn’t want to miss his boyfriend when he returns. No, he should stay put and wait. He's also afraid of sitting down again. He has been so looking forward to reclining comfortably in the passenger seat of his boyfriend's car on the ride home.
Harry sends him a text every ten minutes, asking where he is, reminding him that it's time to go home. After an hour and fifteen minutes, Harry is desperate to pee, he's cold, and should really lay down. He's also starving yet nauseated at the same time. His boyfriend has yet to respond to any of his texts or calls. If he tries hard enough, Harry can forget anything; he can make himself forget about today, about the past six months, about how good life used to be. He can't do any of that, though if he's still in the damn waiting room.
“Sam…!” Harry whines quietly, staring at the black screen in desperation.
“Dear, would you like to call someone? You can use our phone if your mobile doesn’t work in here.”
The woman’s words gives Harry an idea. He stands up slowly, feeling the hard press of a full bladder on his swollen insides. He should really piss before he does what he's about to do, but what’s a few more minutes?
“My boyfriend is outside,” he approaches the desk and looks the kind woman square in the eyes, “apparently his phone is dead, but he is here.”
He watches Beth's face intently, waiting for her to twitch. “May I please go out and get him? You can hold on to my phone until we come back.”
She looks skeptical, but after a few seconds she resigns and puts out a hand to take Harry’s cell phone.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” he whisper-yells gratefully heading for the exit. It’s another set of double doors leading out into an even bigger lobby area. It's colder than the waiting room and the scuffing noise of Harry's shoes echoes loudly off the marble walls.
There is a security guard standing at a metal detector, who gives the young man a polite nod as he power walks through the lobby and out the front door.
Harry stops immediately when the fresh air hits him. He’s feeling dizzy again, but he can't stop now. He tries hard to ignore the cramps in his pelvis, spinning around on the sidewalk frantically searching for someone, anyone, who can help him get out of here.
He quickly decides that if he can't find anyone within five minutes, he'll run. He doesn't need his phone anyway. It's not even his phone, and he can only to use it to communicate with his boyfriend and occasionally his mum.
“Woah, you ‘right there, mate?” A cheery Irish accent hits his ears, “you’re falling over!” Suddenly Harry is being held up by two strong hands. His knees are weak and this kind stranger is keeping him upright.
Harry's wide green eyes follow a pale hand up a denim-clad arm attached to the shoulder of a clean-shaven young man with bleach-blonde hair, and deep cerulean eyes. He looks to be around Harry’s age, give or take a couple years. For the moment, he dubs the boy Blondie.
“Sorry,” Harry says while sucking in a shaky breath. He’s so nervous and embarrassed, but he has to do this, he has to try.
“S’alright, no harm done.”
Harry observes Blondie before continuing with his request; the boy has a brightness in his eyes which tells Harry that he may be someone he can trust for a while.
“Can you help me? Please!?” Harry gasps. He didn't mean to sound so vague and needy, he’s probably scared the guy now.
“I’ll try,” the Irish boy says with a smile, politely squeezing Harry’s right shoulder as they both stand up straight. Harry accidentally stretches too much, and instantly doubles over in pain. “Ow!”
“Holy shit, you OK?” The blonde boy asks with great concern in his voice. All he gets is a nod from Harry, who tries straightening up once more with extreme caution. “Are you hurt? What happened?”
Ignoring the boy’s questions, Harry points over his shoulder at the building but the other boy's gaze doesn't leave his paling face.
“Can you please sign me out of here so I can go home? They won't let me leave without someone’s help. S’dangerous.” He makes air quotes around the word “dangerous”, silently praying Blondie understands so he won't have to elaborate.
Blondie’s face scrunched in confusion. “Where? What?”
All of this movement and stress is making Harry panic; he's short of breath and really should have brought his inhaler today.
“Just walk in there with me, tell ‘em you’ll be taking me home, and then that’s it really. If the nurse says anything about you being my boyfriend, just go with it, please? They're closing soon, so there's like no one in there…if you're worried about...being seen…” His sentence fades out as he can tell the gears are working double-time in Blondie’s brain; smoke might as well be coming out his ears. He's obviously trying to figure out why this random sweaty stranger really needs help. Is he trying to escape a mental institution?
When Harry's shoulders slump, Blondie finally looks passed his windswept curls to read the large sign hanging above the front entrance of the brick building. He squints up at the sign and blinks twice. “Oh,” then looks Harry in the eye, “Oh!”
When his wide eyes dart to the pavement, Harry instantly feels rejected. He wants to apologize for even asking but if he opens his mouth, he'll surely vomit; hormones causing his stomach juices to gurgle angrily. Then suddenly Blondie’s head pops up, making Harry flinch, eyes closed tight.
“Yeah, uh yes, of course.” Blondie nods a few times, ”Yeah! Let’s do it,” his voice becoming more encouraging with every word. “I’m Niall,” he sticks his hand out for Harry to take.
Harry can't believe this is happening! He peels open his eyes and takes Niall’s hand anyway. “Harry. I'm Harry.” His vision is blurring with tears for how grateful he is in this moment, for this angel.
“Hi, Harry. Let’s get you home.”
~ ● ~
“I can’t thank you enough, Niall. I really can’t. It’s probably no big deal to you, but this is huge. Thank you.” Harry walks out of the convenience store bathroom and meets Niall who has been waiting for him patiently by the cash machine. After two hours, the poor boy finally got to pee and empty his churning stomach.
“You’re very welcome, Harry. Seriously though, this was important. I couldn’t not help. Ya know, I should be thanking you really.” He catches Harry’s confused look, “considering if you never came outside when you did, I would still be out there wandering ‘round like a nutter with a napkin.” He holds up a worn white paper napkin Harry sees for a half a second. It has dark blue ink scribbles on it and what looks to be arrows.
“Yeah, why were you-? Oh no!” Harry scrubs his face with an open palm, “did I make you miss an appointment or something? M’so sorry, Niall.”
Niall is slightly alarmed by how quickly and easily Harry frets, everything seems to be a trigger. The poor boy nearly had a panic attack when he accidentally knocked Niall off the curb before crossing the road. You would have thought he shot Niall in the chest, it was intense to say the least. Afterwards, Harry apologized profusely (again) and insisted he leave Niall alone before he does anymore damage. Niall shot that idea down faster than a pint of Guinness, and now they are perusing the snacks and candies together.
When Niall tried asking about what happened today, Harry said very little. Just that his boyfriend hasn't been very nice lately, and his disappearance was probably his way of breaking things off. Harry is probably never going to hear from him again. Niall didn't press his new friend any more as he could tell Harry didn't even know what really happened today.
“Oh no no, Curly, nothing like that, don’t worry.” Niall picks up a bag of crisps, holding them out for Harry to take.
The curly boy shakes his head no, he can't stomach any food right now, he's passed it. He grins at the nickname Niall has given him, it's kind of nice.
“You're going to be hungry later,” Niall insists, pushing more bags of assorted snacks into Harry's arms.
Niall pays for everything despite Harry's verbal protest, and they exit the store with a bottled water each and two large bags of snacks for later.
“I was actually trying to find a flat,” Niall resumes their conversation out in front if the shop. “Well, one that's for rent. Been thinking about moving off campus and maybe sharing with a roommate or two. I’ve never liked student housing honestly. Everyone gets to know your business real quick and shit, and only got one year left. One of me good mates told me a decent place downtown that's gonna be available soon, but his napkin map is absolute shite.
He sees Harry looking down the road, eyes squinting as if searching the horizon for someone or something. “I think it was meant to be that we met today, Harry.”
The boy checks his phone quickly then turns it off and slides it back into his pocket, not saying a word.
Niall taps his fingers on the smooth stone building and tries again. “Hey, do you live on campus? If so, we can take the bus back together. I've got a few pounds change on me.”
Harry is staring off in the distance again, arms snaking their way around his slender frame. He clears his throat quietly while tucking a loose curl behind his ear. He's been listening, but he is really confused, and needs to lay down. He'll need a bathroom again soon as well.
“No, I….I don’t live in the dorms.”
Niall looks up from his phone on which he was checking the current time.
“Oh?” He takes a few steps toward the opposite direction. They have literally three minutes to get to the station if they want to catch the next bus. He motions for Harry to come with, so the taller boy hugs himself a bit tighter and walks in sync with Niall down to the station. They get there just as the bus rolls to a stop with a second left to toss their empty bottles in the bin.
“So no dorm then?” Niall restates his question in hopes of getting a better response. He tries to stay close so neither of them have to yell, and keeps a hand on Harry at all times as the boy leads the way to the back of the bus.
These protective instincts are different, Niall thinks he kind of likes it, now he has a sense of purpose. Whether it's just tonight or more, if he can help Harry in any way, he will.
“I bold-faced lied to my mum, she still thinks I'm at school.” Harry answers but doesn’t really feel like talking about it, especially in public. At least he has someone making sure he doesn’t black out, fall, and hit his head.
“Oh, so you're living off-campus now. Fancy!”
“No, Niall,” Harry huffs quite agitated, “I don't go there anymore.” His head falls, eyes squeezed shut to prevent whatever tears are left from overflowing. He’s cried too much today and is hating himself for it. He’s mentally scolding himself for being too emotional when all of a sudden a passenger’s perfume causes him to have a sneezing fit.
When he opens his eyes, thick teardrops race down his cherub cheeks. He’s attempting to hide his face behind Niall’s shoulder, praying the green hood of the boy’s jacket will keep his wet and snotty face hidden from everyone on the overcrowded bus.
“You gonna be OK, Curly?”
No one batted an eyelid during the sneezing but he really should have held it in, because his entire body had contracted causing his muscles to involuntarily push. Now his bum is completely soaked.
“Yeah,” Harry whines, squeezing his eyes shut tight. He shifts his weight from foot to foot, feeling more wetness seep out into the padded underwear. “I dunno.”
“Well that’s not very convincing. What’s up?” Niall looks his new friend over, concerned. Harry’s not looking so well.
“I need to sit down,” Harry whispers as close to Niall’s ear as possible. They’ve been standing up, holding onto the metal handrails during the ride across the city. “It hurts.”
Niall’s head whips around so fast his neck nearly snaps. He isn't sure what it is, but Harry shouldn't be hurting anywhere!
He is about to cry because this boy apparently needs help in more ways than one. All the seats are occupied, and no one looks approachable enough to beg for their spot. It's times like these Niall wishes he had a car. He hopes he can at least keep Harry safe and offer some comfort until they get to wherever they're going.
Harry’s hand is gripping and twisting the bottom hem of his jacket, so he wraps one arm around Harry's waist to hold the boy steady. Niall feels his body shaking, a sign the curly-haired boy is legit crying. He is trying to make himself smaller in the space he occupies, clutching the shopping bags and Niall's jacket, and it breaks Niall’s heart. He's decided they will get off at the next stop, the one closest to campus. From there they can go to his dorm or he can make some calls to get Harry whenever he needs to go.
“Sorry, we're almost there.” He presses Harry tight against his side, “just a bit longer, babe. It's gonna be OK.”
By the time they get to their stop, Harry’s crying has subsided, and he is actually laughing at the ridiculous rap Niall made up last night to remember the bus schedule.
Harry’s bum is definitely wet and cold but he doesn't dare tell Niall he's bleeding, because his friend will surely think he is a disgusting freak. Not everyone is accepting of men having babies, never mind carriers’ right to choose, even in this day and age. Its sad, but true.
Harry got a pamphlet to the face and some nasty words shouted at him on the way into the clinic this morning, so he definitely knows how certain people feel about what he is and what he's done. Even though Niall has helped him thus far, he's still not entirely sure the Irishman knows or understands what he just went through. He can't ignore how nice Niall has been though, and totally non-judgmental, even when Harry is trailing behind like a zombie with a load in its pants.
“So, Harry, where to?” Niall asks as they walk away from a thick plume of bus exhaust. The sun is setting and he notes that Harry is only wearing a t-shirt and thin joggers. The boy must be freezing!
“Please,” He quickly takes off his denim jacket and plops it atop Harry's hunched shoulders. “I got me hoodie,” the points to the green hood Harry accidentally snotted all over on the bus.
“Thanks, Ni,” Harry smiles again, looking up at his new friend with glossy eyes. In the dim street lights they look darker than before, but that could just be his pupils adjusting as the sun sets.
“So your place?” Niall asks, nonchalantly kicking a stone down the pavement a good twenty feet. “Or you can stay at mine, if you'd like. I don't have any girls coming over,” he chuckles, nudging Harry's arm playfully.
Harry's ears perk up. This guy will actually let him sleep in his room? Seriously?
Harry doesn't deserve this good fortune, but he knows he can't go back home to his boyfriend, or ex-boyfriend, he isn't even sure what they are, if they were ever in a real relationship. He hasn't been sure for a long time. He wraps the denim jacket tighter around his stomach, chewing furiously on his bottom lip.
“Why can't you go home?”
Oh shit. He's been talking out loud.
“Well, it's...it's a long story,” Harry admits sadly. “I mean I could go there, but I'm probably not welcome. Otherwise I would have been there already...like three hours ago.” He sighs heavily when Niall just stares at him confused. Does he really have to explain everything?
“He walked out while I was getting an abortion. If he couldn't stick around for that, he's obviously done. He's not...he's not good for me. At all. I just don't get why he let me go...I mean, he's never left me alone anywhere.”
Niall, so overwhelmed by all the recent information has taken seat on a nearby bench, listening intently to every word Harry is saying. He’s admittedly a bit uneasy hearing such personal information from a stranger, however, this is the most the boy has talked so far. Niall urges Harry to sit with him and continue talking.
“Well....Ugh, I've never told anyone this. S’not good,” Harry rambles while lowering himself down on the metal bench awkwardly. “And if he found out I told....” he stops talking when his underwear squishes and makes him cringe. This is so gross.
On one hand Niall wants to tell Harry that he doesn't have to share anything if he's not comfortable, but on the other he wants to know everything so he can better help the boy. He nods again, reassuring Harry that he's here to listen and not judge.
“OK, so, a few months into...well, us being together, he found out I am a carrier, and he...he, I mean, he was always a dickhead but I was too naive and stubborn to admit it.”
“Did he force you to...?” Niall grimaces and points at Harry's stomach, his own intestines churning at the thought.
“No!” Harry shakes his head profusely, “the decision was 100% mutual. There's absolutely no way I could've had that thing. No.fucking.way.” The thing was a mistake of the highest degree. Harry sighs, remembering that he and his boyfriend had actually agreed on something.
Niall’s eyes meet Harry’s for the first time since they sat down and they look sad, which Harry feels bad for since he's not explaining himself very well. He decides to elaborate despite the fear surging through his body.
“Things got weird really fast. M’not proud of doing this twice. He got me into some really sick stuff…” He shutters and chuckles darkly at the memory. “It got way out of control, and I don't remember much, and been freaking out ever since.” He's breathing heavily, anger rising. “I, I don't even....I'm only eighteen...God they are all so fucking stupid!”
Harry flails his arms, exasperated. He jams his hands back into the jacket pockets of Niall's jacket with a helpless groan. “And now I'm here.”
“How ‘bout this!” Niall interjects, shaking Harry out of his dark thoughts, “we swing by, see if he’s in. You have a key on ya, right?”
Harry nods slowly even though he does not have a key to the flat, curious as to what Niall is suggesting.
“OK good. So if he’s not home, we run inside, grab your stuff, and bolt. Cool?”
Harry is conflicted, but quickly warming up to the idea of running away. “Y-yeah, I guess, but, but then what? What if he's home?” His bottom lip is red raw from biting it so much.
“You come back to mine either way.” He can tell Harry is not convinced, so he continues. “I don't have a roommate at the moment, he transferred out mid-semester, so it would just be the two of us.”
“Please? It’s safe, and warm, and there aren’t any creeps around. Mostly upperclassman who are unusually quiet now that I think about it.” He eyes Harry's posture and can tell the boy is slowly weakening. “And I can help you, like bring you food and fluff your pillows, and whatever else you need. I want to, Harry.”
After pleading his case, and pulling some goofy faces, Niall wins. He is walking Harry around the block to his ex-boyfriend’s flat to collect as many of his personal items as possible. Then he is coming back to Niall’s dorm. Neither are sure for how long, but at least Harry has a friend and a safe place to stay for the night.
“You're sure you won’t run away?” Harry asks Niall for the twelfth time since they got to the building. The bench was just around the corner from Harry’s current residence, so on the walk they agreed that Niall will keep watch outside while Harry gathers his belongings.
Niall can see the fear in his new friend’s eyes. He’s kind of hurt that Harry would ever expect him to just run away and leave him like that, but after learning everything that has happened to the boy recently, Niall can understand the skepticism.
Without thinking, he stops dead in his tracks and grabs hold of Harry’s hand, bringing it close to his own chest.
“I promise you, Harry, I will not leave. I will be right here. Just holler if you need help carrying anything. You shouldn't be lifting heavy shit.” He searches the boy’s eyes for any doubt, but sees none. “I'll come a runnin’ for you if anyone pulls up.”
“OK, I can do this. His car isn't here...lights are off...” Harry mutters while reaching deep into a shrub outside the front entrance while Niall keeps his head on a swivel, just in case someone appears. Harry finds the spare key to the flat under a small rock at the base of the plant. Thank god it is still there considering it's been nearly a year since he hid it. Sure he got in trouble with his boyfriend for “losing” his key, but a small voice in the back of his mind told Harry to hide it, because his right to have one may be taken away someday.
“OK, I’m going in...I’ll be right back, I hope. We’ll see. I’ll just be few mi-”
“Seriously, less talkin’, more packin’. Go go go,” Niall shoos Harry off in the direction of the heavy locked door.
The building is not far from campus, they could walk to Niall's if they wanted to, but the older lad determines that a vehicle will be needed since they can't carry all of Harry’s belongings quite that far. By the time Harry returns less than ten minutes later, Niall has slid his phone back into his pocket and asks Harry where he left the rest of his stuff.
“This it? I thought there’d be loads more. Just taking what you can carry? I told you I can get the rest, I really don’t mind. You can bring whatever you want, Curly, bring everything!”
“No need, Ni, this is everything.”
Niall is about to laugh because Harry’s life cannot be this sad.
“Seriously? Two duffel bags and a lunchbox?”
Harry nods, eyes cast down at the pavement. “Two duffel bags and a lunchbox.”
~ ● ~
A car door slamming startles Harry out of his thoughts. He had his back to the road and didn't see the black car pull up without its headlights on.
“Hey, lads! Headed back to campus?”
Only his eyes move to look at Niall, who has a huge smile plastered on his face. Phew, it's someone Niall knows, and not Sam or one of his dealer friends here to kidnap them.
“Payno! Good to see ya, mate. Thanks again.”
Harry watches out of the corner of his eye as Niall greets Payno with a tight hug.
“No problem, Nialler, I was passing by this way anyway. Good timing.” The brunette pats Niall on the shoulder with a grin before turning his attention to Harry. “And who's this?”
It takes the nervous lad a few seconds to realize Niall’s friend is talking to him. With eyebrows raised, Harry turns fully to look at the newcomer.
By god, he's gorgeous! He has the softest, biggest brown eyes Harry has ever seen, and his whole demeanor is warm and inviting. If Payno is a friend of Niall's, then he must be a good guy... Niall doesn't seem the type to associate with pricks.
For the second time today, Harry clears his throat and introduces himself. “I'm, I'm Harry. Niall and I just met.” He glances over at Niall to see if that was an acceptable answer.
Niall smiles back and nods in agreement. “Harry, this is my good mate, Liam.”
“Hi, Harry, nice to meet you.” Liam’s big eyes sparkle with his words, making Harry’s heart flutter. If he weren't so miserable right now, he'd probably tell him so. It's as if Liam knows Harry does not want to be touched, he gives Harry a small wave from where he stands on the other side of Niall and just keeps on smiling.
When Niall catches Harry shifting from foot to foot, he speaks very quickly, “Harry's been through some right shit today, Li, so let's get back to mine.”
Liam loads Harry's bags into the boot of Liam’s car; Niall giving him a don't ask look after raising an eyebrow at the minimal cargo.
“Sit up here with me,” Liam tells Harry while pushing the passenger seat back as far as it goes.
Niall purposely sits behind Liam so Harry can recline comfortably. He gives the weary boy a firm squeeze on the shoulder, reassuring Harry he's still there.
“Thank you,” Harry whispers as he settles into the seat with his lunchbox held close. It's nice and warm in Liam's car, and Harry could easily fall asleep like this.
They ride in comfortable silence, save for Liam occasionally asking Harry if he's too warm or cold, and a barely audible radio station playing songs Harry doesn't recognize.
Before long, they pull up outside of Niall’s building. The two boys help Harry once more with his bags, taking them up to Niall’s room, and making sure Harry doesn't need anything from anywhere before settling for the night. While Niall made up the empty bed in his room with fresh linens, Liam guided Harry to the shared bathrooms down the hall. He patiently waited while Harry took his time doing what he needed to do, and gave the boy an extra 10 minutes to himself.
“Thanks again, Liam,” Harry says quietly. They're standing in the hall just outside Niall’s door. “Sorry you had to meet me like this.”
His head hangs shamefully as he's painfully aware Niall may have told Liam why they are all here tonight.
“Harry,” Liam sighs, reaching out to touch Harry’s shaking hand. The younger boy flinches away, confusing him even more.
He's met with glassy, green eyes; they're stunning, but so incredibly sad. He wants to stay with Harry, but it's not his place. He is still a stranger, and so is this distraught young man.
“I hope we can be friends.”
Harry finally blinks and a tear rolls down his cheek. “Really?”
Liam musters a sad chuckle, “well yeah, mate.”
The boy in front of him is like a lost kitten with a broken paw. It pains him to leave Harry right now, and the need to be with the boy from this moment on frightens Liam more than it confuses him.
“Thanks,” Harry's voice is a little louder. He's looking Liam in the eyes this time and says with bit more confidence, “I'd like that.”
Harry's smiling now, and it makes Liam’s heart swell. He is drawn to this boy more and more by the minute; he's an intriguing mystery, and obviously there's something more hiding behind that tight-lipped smile. Before he can say anything more, Liam is engulfed in a pair of lanky arms. He leans into the touch, arms trapped. He slowly ducks his head down to rest his stubbled chin delicately on Harry's shoulder.
Harry can feel Liam’s hot breath on his neck, it feels so nice. Liam is warm, quiet, and solid, and so incredibly kind. Just as he thinks he could stay like this for a long while, a soothing voice wishing him a goodnight brings him hurtling back into reality.
“Goodnight, Harry. Get some sleep, for me, yeah?”
Liam isn't his. No one will ever want to give him what he needs. He has to let go, but he can't move.
~ ● ~
“There you are, Curly!” Niall shouts as Harry slips into the room. The Irishman gives Liam a wave goodnight before closing and locking the door behind Harry.
“Thought you two might have gotten lost.”
“No, Liam was just making sure I'm OK.”
Remember, Harry had only stayed in a dorm for a few months, so when he entered Niall’s room, he was expecting another small cubicle with crappy beds and a tiny window like his original room.
Needless to say he is pleasantly surprised to find that Niall’s room is quite large, and there is even a small kitchenette. A flame-less vanilla candle flickers on the desk against the wall, and there are two beds made up with matching comforter sets. Harry assumes the bed on the furnished side of the room is Niall’s, and he's confirmed to be correct when his host offers him the bed on the undecorated wall.
Harry watched as Niall bounced about the room rearranging this and that to make more space. All the while he reminds Harry he can help himself to anything in the mini fridge and their bags of snacks from earlier.
“Oh yeah, hey, here ya go,” Niall passes Harry a small white plastic bag.
“What's this?” Harry asks, grabbing the bag by the handle. It's not a bag from the convenience store, and he doesn't remember buying anything else today.
Inside is a bottle of painkillers, a bottle of vanilla shampoo, and a magnet of an adorable grey kitty tangled up in a mess of pink yarn with the caption “Grrr, Mondays.”
“Liam went down to the store quick. Said he wanted you to smile before you fell asleep.." he smirks at Harry who is staring awestruck at the thoughtful gifts. "I’ll have to let him know your face nearly split in half.”
A rush of red spread across Harry's cheeks at Niall’s comment. Is he that obvious?
“He got the candle too,” Niall added on his way back to the kitchen.
Harry is stunned by the nice gesture. After all, Liam barely knows him and he's already buying him things just to make him feel good? It's sweet to think about, and Harry can't help but well up again. He wants Liam back...he felt so good, almost taking all the pain away.
Luckily Niall was busy pulling together the ingredients for cheese toasties, so he doesn't see Harry swiping the tears off his face with a corner of the blanket.
“You can take take a shower if you want. Liam showed you where they are?”
“Yeah, he did,” Harry nods, pulling one of his bags up onto the bed. “Do you, you don't mind if I go alone?”
Niall, who has been trying his best not to baby Harry too much this evening, simply turns to his friend and grins. “Course not, Curly. Go on, I'll be right here.”
Niall let Harry go to the showers by himself while he finishes preparing their hot snack. The younger boy returns in a fresh set of clothes, and he's walking a lot more comfortably.
He waits for Harry to take a bite of food and swallow two painkillers with water before he will do anything else.
Harry crawls into bed with the last bites of his cheese toastie, his hair is still damp from showering, but he enjoys the delicious clean smell as it air dries. Niall went off to shower and get ready for bed, leaving Harry alone with his thoughts.
It took him a few minutes to muster the courage to turn on his phone on again. Part of him isn't surprised to see no missed calls or new texts yet it's still disconcerting; where is Sam and why did he let him go?
Suddenly he thinks of his mum and then it hits him that without Sam, this phone won't be in service for much longer.
With haste, he texts his mum a quick hello and goodnight. He tells her that he will be getting a new phone soon, and he will visit as soon as he can. He turns the phone off for the final time, and stuffs it into the open duffel bag by his feet.
He takes in a shaky breath, all the emotions of the day settling heavily on his aching heart. He wills himself not to cry as he curls into a ball around one of the spare pillows. His body hurts so much, and he knows it's going to be like this for a few days at least.
Luckily, he falls asleep before Niall returns. And if he talks, and cries on and off in his sleep, his new friend doesn't need to say anything. Not yet.
~ ● ~
Liam arrives home sometime later, he hasn't been paying attention to the time. Before he can even breathe in a sigh of relief, an angry and familiar voice bellows across the flat.
“Oi! Your fookin’ phone broken!?”
Liam groans as he drags himself and his heavy backpack toward the lit-up living room. On his way, he drops two pizza boxes down on the kitchen counter. They were sitting in the backseat of his car for hours, now cold and not all that appetizing.
The living room is filled with smoke, making it hard to see more than a few feet in front of himself. His eyes are still stinging from all the oncoming headlights, and maybe there was some crying. Needless to say his tired eyes are having difficulty adjusting to the hazy brightness. His best friend is sat in their prized leather recliner. It is the one and only new piece of furniture in their modest two-bedroom flat. It's not that neither of them can afford nice things, they just prefer to save their money for things like clothes, holiday gifts and traveling expenses, concerts, video games, good food, and weed. So much fucking weed.
Louis accidentally broke their last chair when he thought it was a good idea to jump off the back of the sofa onto the raised footrest. Why did he do it? Oh, just to see what happens. So now when Louis is about to do something impulsive and stupid (hilarious or not), Liam is right there to mock and remind Louis about the teeth marks he made in the hardwood floor.
Louis’ arms are crossed tightly over his chest, cell phone sitting on his thigh, the screen lit. Liam can see their text thread is open, and there are a mix of at least a dozen snubbed out joints and cigarettes on the glass coffee table. Louis looked exhausted, eyes swollen, however, they widen quickly once Liam appears in full view.
Liam offers the Doncaster lad a sympathetic look as he plops down on the sofa across from him. “We have ashtrays."
“What is your problem!?” Louis snaps back at full volume.
“Ugh, I am right here,” Liam groans, rubbing at his temples with trembling fingers. It may be his best friend yelling at him that's making him want to cry, or a combination of that and worrying about Harry. Either way, he has to pull his shit together and push aside any feelings he has for the boy.
“Yeah! Four hours late! No text, no phone call. Seriously, mate, it better be broken or stolen.”
Liam takes takes a deep breath and clears his throat before speaking so his voice doesn’t crack. “I was already late leaving work, then I had to pick up dinner, which, thanks for ordering it's in the kitchen…” Louis rolls his eyes as Liam continues, “and then I had to take- I had to drive someone back to campus.”
“Alright, look,” Liam interrupts, “I know we had plans, and I'm sorry.” Liam's eyes were closed, so he totally missed Louis flailing his arms in the air.
“You ditched me to hook up with student!? Probably a fucking freshman...”
Liam sighed again, a hand trailing through his gelled quiff, “No!” memories of the emotional evening on tortuous repeat in his mind. “I mean, I picked him up, and walked him to his room, but I couldn't just leave him…”
Louis just stares at him like he's a complete tit, shaking his head not wanting to accept a single word Liam is saying.
“Nevermind, it's all good now.” Liam ends his rambling with a lie, fearing Harry’s problems, which had somehow become his problems, were far from over.
Louis nods as he gets up from his spot on the recliner, lips pressed tightly as he chews the inside of one cheek. He can't ignore the pain evident on Liam's face; sure he is angry, but not cruel.
Either his friend really is upset about something, or he is lying. After three years of being best friends, and living together for two, they had gotten to know each other very well. Sometimes it was scary just how well they knew each other. It was apparent something went down tonight, and Liam is definitely affected by it.
He joins Liam on the couch, pulling his legs up underneath his bum, giving his friend his undivided attention.
“So,” Louis smiles warmly, “is this guy a new friend? You gonna see him again?” His calm voice brings Liam out of his thoughts, he sounds sincere.
“Yes,” Liam blurts a little too hastily. He is eager to be see Harry again, sure. He wants to know how he is getting on, like any concerned friend would. He is Harry's friend now, right? Louis catches him in deep in thought once again, looking rather upset.
“Geeze, if you're this anxious...” Louis gets Liam's attention with a snort, “I mean, you picked him up. Don't need to be doing me any favors.”
“We're just friends, Lou!” He says a bit too loud. “I think we're friends.” He looks at Louis for the first time in several minutes and he has to smile; everyone loves Louis. “He'd like you too.”
“Who doesn't?” Louis snickers with a wink before sweeping the overgrown fringe from his eyes. “So, does he have a name?”
Liam wants to savor the moment as his mouth gets familiar with the word. “Harry.” He likes how it feels on his tongue. Louis doesn't notice the small smile grow bigger on Liam’s face as he says the boy's name. Nope, not at all.
“Hmm,” Louis hums nonchalantly, nodding to himself as he stands to return to the comfort of the recliner. It has been his command central all night; everything he could need is within reach, and if it's not, well he has that As Seen on TV extendo-arm grabber thing his mum gave him last Christmas because oh hey Lou would love this...whatever it is.. Thanks, mum!
Either Liam likes this Harry guy, or his best friend was thinking of setting them up. He had told Liam countless times that he wants to do this on his own, and he doesn't need help getting dates. He just hasn't found the right guy to ask out yet, and work is always so busy and there is just no time for dating anyone right now.
Also, how exactly is he supposed to tell if a stranger is gay or not without asking them? He doesn't want to waste time online searching for love, nor can he afford another epic public failure. He almost got beaten to a pulp for flirting with a guy he could have sworn was giving off a all sorts of gay signals , but apparently not. Just another reason why Louis never tries...life is too short and he wants to live!
Soon enough they both agree their brains are officially done for the evening. It is time to collapse in bed and start over again in the morning. Liam apologizes again for not responding all evening before wishing Louis a goodnight. Louis assures him all is forgiven, giving him a toothy smile from his spot in the chair.
Liam gets to the doorway before realizing he still has something of Louis’ to return to him. “Lou,” he gets his friend's attention, and tosses him the expensive jacket. He needed something nice to wear to his job interview before work this morning. “Thanks again, mate.”
“Cheers.” Louis catches the jacket and settles back down in the recliner. He drapes the jacket over himself as the sound of Liam’s footsteps on the wood floor slowly fades. He wiggles into the warmth and sighs, it's one of his favorite articles of clothing.
The TV is switched on to one of the local news channels, but Louis isn't paying attention to the breaking news drug scandal story as he is far too distracted. There is an unfamiliar, yet pleasant scent filling his nostrils. His nose is buried in the soft fabric of his jacket, eyes squeezed shut in concentration. It isn't him, and isn't Liam. He can't figure out exactly what it is, but he likes it. He can't stop huffing the jacket, the scent diminishing by the second as if he is inhaling it all. Louis' head is a bit woozy from so much oxygen after filling his lungs with smoke for hours, yet he still chases the mysterious sweet scent. If this is what Harry smells like, he most definitely wants to meet him.
~ ● ~
“C’mon, don't fall asleep now, babe, you're being so good. You like them watching, yeah? Like having your boypussy filled with their hot jizz? You gotta see it dripping out. Hey wait, don't pull out yet, mate. Where's a mirror? Someone get a mirror!"
“Jesus...how is he always this tight?”
“Harry, Harry? HARRY, it's time to get up.”
When Harry’s eyes peel open, he's greeted with a mass of blonde hair mere inches from his face. It takes him a few seconds to remember where he is and who this crazy person is bouncing on his bed.
It's only Niall, thank god.
“Uugh. Is it Saturday?”
“Yes, actually. You've got me for the whole day.”
“Niall...” Harry whines, burying himself deeper under the covers. It can't be later than 9am, and he's only slept for six or so hours within the past two days.
“Oh what fun times you and I will have!”
“If I get up now will you be quiet?”
“Not making any promises, but sure.”
Harry shoves off the blanket and swings his legs around to sit up slowly. He rubs at his lower abdomen, his muscles are still tender and sore, but thankfully his underwear is dry.
“Are you always so...so?”
“Amazing? Hungry? Irish? Oh c'mon, better get used to it,” he waves a finger between them, “Narry is forever.”
He grins madly with steepled fingers. Niall’s young face and quirked eyebrows make him look like a mischievous toddler, which causes Harry to shake with laughter.
“I don't even…” Harry’s cackling so much he can barely speak, “want to ask what a Narry is." Harry hasn't laughed this hard in months and it feels phenomenal.
“Never mind,” Niall is laughing too, “just know that we're like best mates now. “
Harry rubs his eyes with the back if his hand and shakes his head with a fond smile. He could carry on laughing till he cries, but he's done with tears of any kind for a while.
“Dunno who's crazier...you, or me for agreeing to such a life sentence.”
“You, Curly, definitely you.” Niall deadpans, patting his new best friend on the knee, ignoring the boy swatting at him playfully. “You're welcome.”