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Forgive Me This Lie Bigger Than Us

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Everything started with the rain.  

To be fair it is probably just Louis, but if he has to think of the first time it happened then all he can think of is the rain. Or it might have been his mother’s tears.

He might have been young but he vividly remembers the look of fear and recognition in his mother’s eyes.  

How much she had cried that day and the tears never truly stopped after that, really. They went on and on through the years, mixed with his own ones, muffled and quiet, until the moment they accepted there was no solution for it, no cure, no magic trick, no genie coming out of a lamp to grant him one wish. Just one.  

He had to embrace it.  

 

 

The first time they meet, it's a complete disaster.

It's raining and it's cold despite being mid May and Louis has been impatiently waiting for his coffee for the last ten minutes.

The clock on the wall unforgivably reminds him that it's already eight o'clock and Louis mentally curses in every language he knows the damn alarm that didn't go off and that made him woke up five minute after the time he was supposed to be already out of the flat and on his way to work. And now as a result, the reason why he's growing more and more irritated, he's late for work. Like really, really late.

But also, thanks to that, he just had the time to put on some clothes, which he's sure are not clean ones, brush his teeth, and literally fly out of the door without even being fully awake.

Hence the need of a damn coffee and why he's now in this awfully crowded Starbucks, been pushed left and right by the sea of customers floating around.

He’s wondering why his life can’t be like one of the books he reads. One where a disaster of a morning, just like this one, that would see him sighing, feeling sad for his poor excuse of a life would turn into the beginning of an extraordinary adventu-

Stop, Louis thinks. Wake the fuck up. This day hasn’t even started yet and it’s already fucking big time with his mind.

He taps his foot rhythmically on the floor while he waits and with another glance at the clock on the wall he knows he's in a sea of troubles. 8:05 AM. Fuck . He's supposed to be at work in exactly ten minutes. That’s what you get when you’re lost in your head 90% of the time , you idiot , Louis scolds himself.  

He's about to turn around, ready to leave even if he already paid for his order, when he hears his name being called. Thank God , he thinks.

He quickly pushes his way to the counter, carelessly elbowing someone in the process, grabs the coffee and has just a moment, just one, while he starts walking toward the glass door on his way out, where he thinks that maybe, maybe , this morning won't be a complete failure.

And that's when his phone obviously starts ringing.

Perfect , he thinks ironically after seeing who's calling. It's Paul, his boss, and that can only mean troubles.

“Paul, Hi, I'm-” he starts before being promptly interrupted.

“Where are you?” Paul demands on the other side of the line.

“I'm... I'm here” Lie , “I'm about to get in.” Also a lie, maybe it'll be true in fifteen minutes if he starts running really fast. “Five minutes and I'll-”

“No, no, Louis listen to me. Sarah, the new assistant, screwed up again. I always tell Mark to choose wisely but he thinks that a kind face is a good enough quality to hire someone!” Paul finishes with a grunt, before he starts talking again, “It's Mark's birthday today, and not only she forgot about ordering the cake, which I had to do last night and thank God it wasn't too late, but she was also supposed to pick up the cake before coming in today and she called in sick!” Paul says in a rush.  

“Ok”, Louis slowly replies, confused, “What am I supposed to-”

“Go back - turn around, wherever you are. I need you to go to the bakery up the hill from the office, if you move fast enough you should be able to take a bus. Don't walk, for God's sake do not walk, Louis! It'll take too long...” He sounds desperate, and Louis is afraid that he's about to have a stroke, “Collect the cake, it's under my name and it’s already been paid for, and then go buy some birthdays candles, I’ll reimburse you. I don't care which ones you find, pick up the glittery ones, the plain white ones, the kid's ones, I don't care...” Paul almost screams and this time and Louis is definitely sure that he's not gonna make it alive, but then he continues, more calm “but, please, please , for the love of God, come back here before Mark gets in. You have an hour.”  

He's about to reply when he hears the sound of the line being interrupted. Frowning, he looks at his now black screen, clear sign that Paul did hang up on him, and, for what it feels like the first time since he woke up, he slows down and takes a big breath.

An hour. An hour, ok, breathe , he can do it.  

He’s familiar with the area enough to know already which direction to take so he looks around to find the nearest bus stop and he's pleased to find that it's just across the street, and while he's crossing the road he thinks that maybe if he's lucky enough, it'll also be where the bus he needs will stop.  

It is, but that’s where his luck ends because it looks like he just missed it, so he looks at the display and, okay , there's another one coming in five minutes. Ok, it's ok, he can still make it. Breathe in , breathe out .

Thing is, he can't screw this up. This is the first job he managed to keep, granting him to work from home when it happens without people asking him too much questions. And Paul is lovely, maybe the best employer you could ever wish for. He is calm, understanding, flexible, always keen to have a chat just to ensure that everyone is content and happy, and has a high level of patience that Louis doesn't really understand.

But if there's one thing that makes Paul lose all his composure, it's Mark.  

From all the stories gathered around the office, Louis knows that Paul and Mark had been dating for approximately eight years before Paul had found the courage to ask Mark to be his husband and then, after a two years engagement, they've been married for almost five years now.  

But despite having spent fifteen years together, Paul still loses his mind whenever Mark is in the picture.  

It's endearing, Louis thinks, loving someone so much that even after so many years nothing has changed. It doesn't matter how long you've been together or how deeply you know each other. How bad the your breath is in the morning or how awfully your feet smell after a long day at work. If the crinkle by your eyes have done nothing but increase or if those old trousers don’t fit you like they used to.   

It's beautiful and the thought of it brings a sad smile on Louis' lips. Even if it's the only thing he can think about, even if he can’t do nothing but dream of it all the time, love is not in the picture for him. Something permanent it's not in the picture for him. The mere idea that someone could know, could see...   

He shivers at the thought and takes a sip of his coffee, flinching from how cold is it now. He sighs and throws it away, hoping to buy a new one once he gets to the bakery.

He gets there about twenty minutes later and there's an old lady with kind eyes behind the counter that greets him with a wide smile once she sees him.

“Hello love, what can I do for you?”

“Hi, uhm... I'd like a coffee please.” He says while looking at all the pastries and then he remembers, “Oh, and, I'm here to collect a cake? On behalf of Paul Smith?”

“Of course! Let's see...” She's still smiling while she looks in a little book put on the counter, Louis looks at her thinks it’s too early for anyone to be this cheerful, “Oh yes, here you are. A birthday cake, right?”

“Yes.”

“Give me a moment, I’ll be back soon.” She says before heading for what Louis supposes is the kitchen.  

He's still looking at all those gorgeous pastries, thinking of buying one for himself since he didn't have any breakfast this morning, when the lady comes back. A concerned frown on her face instead of her worn out smile.

“I'm deeply sorry, love. We had some issues this morning and your cake unfortunately isn't ready.” Louis' eyes grow the size of the moon and he's just about to scream all his frustration about this awful day when she says “but the chef’s assured me that they'll be working only on your cake now and that it shouldn't take more than twenty minutes to finish it. It’s all just about the decorations, really.”

Louis nods and does the math in his head, if everything goes well from now on he can still make it. He'll use this time to go buy the candles. Yes , it's a good plan. Yes .

“Thank you.” Louis nods, bowing his head.

“You're welcome, darling. We're truly sorry. I'll work on your coffee now.” She says while already turning toward the coffee machine and Louis is craving it so much that as soon as she gives it to him he tries to take a sip despite it being very hot.

“Thank you,” he says smiling for the first time, his tongue is burnt but his mind finally seems to be waking up, “How much is it?”

“Oh no, darling, don't worry about it, it's on the house. It's the least we can do for delaying your order.”

He smiles again, “I'll see you in twenty minutes then. Thank you again.”

And with that he's out of the door, hoping he'll find a shop that sells candles nearby.

He finds a little supermarket not far from the bakery and they do have birthday candles, but the choice is between some little, plain white candles and some numerical candles which, in Louis’ opinion, are a little bit too big so he opts for the little ones. Paul did say that it didn't matter how they were. Honestly, he's put already so much effort into this.

He turns around, his mind is going through all the things he still needs to do: pay for the candles, return to the bakery and sit there with the coffee, which fucking hell it’s his second one and he still hasn't drank it properly, maybe buy one of those amazing pastries and hopefully close his eyes for a bit until the cake is ready.

So obviously, what happens is that when he actually turns around, he bumps into someone instead. Seems like it's not really his day after all. And now, cherry on top, he has coffee all over his jumper.

Great . Someone must be having a big laugh somewhere. Someone. Certainly, not Louis.

He looks up, and yep, there's fresh spilled coffee all over the person shirt as well. And for goodness' sake, who wears a white, almost see through t-shirt in this horrible weather.

“Oh, I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I wasn't- I don't- Christ , this is really not my day...” He's still rambling, and his hand burns like hell from the spilled coffee, when the other person speaks.

“Hey it's ok. It happens.”

And Louis eyes shoot up with a fierce movement because he wants to argue that no, it doesn’t but the first thing he registers is the deep, rumbling timber of his voice.  

There are sounds, in the world, that are able to take you far away. Sounds that, all of a sudden, have the ability of throwing you in a different universe, a different life. One you have always dreamed of. A life you have not lived but, damn , you wish you had.

Sometimes, however, the life you have not lived it’s not that far away, after all. And it hits you, on a cold May morning, with a wide, kind smile plastered on its face. It's all teeth, and honestly there should be nothing endearing about two big bunny teeth staring directly at you, except there is . And there are dimples as well. And big, green, green eyes looking at him like there's nothing wrong in the whole world, like Louis didn't just completely ruined his t-shirt with coffee, and, god , is it really possible for eyes to be that green?

“Are you ok?”

Louis' head jerks like he's been slapped. Right. Words.  

“I- Uhm... No- I mean, yes!” He shakes his head furiously. Words , Louis. Right. You can use words, can’t you? He gives himself a mental slap and goes on “Yes. I’m fine. This is just not my day and I’m sorry I just ruined your t-shirt. I really am.”

“Told you it's ok. And don't worry about it, it's my working shirt anyway.” The stranger says with a shrug and his smile is back on full force, dimples included. And they're really deep, alright? No one can blame Louis' clouded, sleepy brain for getting a little bit lost in them. “Really, I was just getting some icing because we messed up big time with a cake order at the bakery, then I can go home and I can chang-” now that catches Louis’ attention.

“Hold on. A cake? A birthday cake? For someone named Mark, by any chance?”

The smile on the stranger face falters only a bit, confusion creeping its way inside “Yes? How do you-”

“That's my cake! Well not mine, it's for my boss' husband, I wasn't even supposed to be the one picking it up, really. It's just that the new assistant screwed everything up by calling in sick today, and Paul called me freaking out because of this damn cake and...” the other man is chuckling now, and Louis realises that maybe he's been rambling. Just a bit. “I'm sorry.” He says more calmly, head hung low and suddenly very much interested in the tiled floor, “I'm all over the place this morning.”

“It's alright. It's quite amusing, really.” Louis blushes and it’s more from embarrassment than anything else as he keeps his eyes on the white clogs the man is wearing. “Are those the candles for the cake?”

Louis clears his throat, eyes still not leaving the floor. “Yeah.”

"Nice choice. Tell you what, uhm...” Louis raises his eyes at the uncertainty in the other man's voice.

“Oh, Louis. I'm- I’m Louis. Yeah...”

“Louis.” And he says it like he's tasting it on tip of his tongue, like you would do with a great wine, and Louis, once again, is not endeared. Nope. Not one bit, really. “Tell you what, Louis. Let me buy the icing, you take your candles, then we go back to the bakery, I give the icing to the chef and we get you a new coffee, so you can tell me more about this awful day of yours. How's that sound?”

It sounds awful , to be honest. Louis learned ages ago to not let anyone in, to not elicit the interest of anyone, to keep his guard up all the time, to blend in, to keep his head low and be grateful for the few people he already has in his life that accept him for who or, well, what he is.

And that's exactly why it comes such as a huge surprise to him when automatically, as if it were the easiest decision to make ever , he says “Sounds good”, instead.

And yeah, no doubt about it, in this fine May morning, Louis has definitely lost his mind.

 

 

A few awkward smiles and even fewer shared words later, Louis is sitting in one of the wobbly chairs back in the bakery with a hot coffee in front of him, his hands curled securely around the steaming cup, and a very concerned boy sat at the other end of the table.

“I hope I haven't made you uncomfortable.”

“Oh, no. No, really. It's just... this morning has been really weird. That's all.”

And if that it's not the understatement of the century, Louis doesn't know what could be.

He's still not even fully awake yet, sleep still poking at the corner of his eyes. That annoying sensation you get when you get woken up by a nightmare and even if you want to and your body is screaming at you to just go back to sleep you can’t .

He’s already on his third coffee of the day and he hasn't even drank half of them. He's still wearing dirty clothes, now even more dirty thanks to the spilled coffee accident, and if all that wasn’t enough, he's sitting in this old bakery with a stranger, whose name he doesn't even know, casually talking about this shitty day.

His eyes grow the size of the moon when he realises.  

“I'm sorry, I-” he clears his throat, “I didn't even ask for your name.”

The boy smiles and there's so much fondness in it that Louis really is starting to feel a little on the edge. “Harry. My name is Harry.”

Right. Harry .

Harry with the kind eyes. Harry . Harry who’s got the dimples, which are very confusing to be honest and every time they appear Louis swears something in his brain pops like a balloon. Harry . Harry who’s still wearing that ridiculous see through t-shirt with a giant stain of coffee right in the middle and he does it with the most confidence Louis has ever seen on anyone. Harry . The same Harry who wears a smile like a weapon loaded with wild flowers.

And this is, this is all… and this is all wrong , this is all so wrong and it’s everything Louis tried to avoid his whole life and he really needs to fly out of here as soon as possible.

A fake apology is already on the tip of his tongue, when a pretty brown and pink box is placed near his arm on the table.

“There you go, my dear,” says the old lady from before; Amelia, as it shows on the name tag that Louis only now bothers to read, and he has never been more grateful for something in his life, really. “And that’s all for you, I believe. Oh-” she says, lightly snapping the tip of her fingers in the air, “The cake has been already paid for but we want to apologise for messing up this morning, so we’re gonna send a discount back into the payer account. Or, well, Harry here’s gonna do it, I’m too old to even pretend to understand how that works.”  

“Heeeey,” it’s the sort of whine that comes out of Harry’s mouth, “You’re not old.” He says and Louis doesn’t understand why he seems so personally offended.

Amelia smiles, one hand tenderly reaching out to caress gently Harry’s cheek, “Maybe not on the inside, love. I’m quite sure my brain stopped developing after my nineteenth birthday, but this idiot here,” she says vaguely gesturing at her body, “this idiot here definitely didn’t get the message, and kept ageing as time went on.”

She goes away with a playful smile on her face, lightly petting her left thigh, like an old friend who failed you miserably, but years of friendship kinda let you forget if everything bad ever happened.  

Harry is still following her with his gaze, and the familiarity and the warmth that this little conversation has brought to the surface makes a big wave of sadness crash into Louis.

He’s never going to have something like this. Apart from his mother and Niall, there’s no one else in his life and never will be. Of course, he has his coworkers, a couple of Niall’s mates, but it’s all a façade. He’s always pretending, always on edge, always staying near the closest fire exit in case it comes back. And when it does happen, then all he can do is disappear, keep himself locked in his flat, hoping, hoping that this time it will go away quicker than last time, even if it never happens. If anything, it only got worse with the years, taking longer and longer to bring things back to normal. He can’t even imagine the day he’ll-

Louis shakes his head. There was a time he used to cry. He used to cry so much, not understanding what was happening and why it was happening and why it was happening to him and Mom why do I have to stay inside? Can I go out and play? Please, mom. Please. Please.

See? This is the reason why he never goes out. This is the reason why he keeps his head low while he goes to work and rushes home as soon as he’s done. He doesn’t need to see all the things he has to pretend he doesn’t need in his life, he doesn’t need to be constantly reminded of the loneliness in his heart, heavy and growing with each passing year. He’s completely happy not having anyone checking up on him in those days, if anything he doesn’t have to lie. He doesn’t have to hide more than he already does.

In a moment he’s standing on his feet, cake already safely tucked under his left arm, “I need to go. Thank- thanks for the coffee. I- I need to go.”  

He pretends he doesn’t hear Harry calling after him, he just needs to go . So he flies out of the bakery and never stops running until he hops on the first bus available, not giving a care in the world if it’s going to take miles away from this city. He just wishes that going away would solve anything.

His heart is still pounding loudly in his ears when he sits down, his ears are ringing so loud that he squeezes his eye hoping to make it stop then he takes big breaths trying hard to forget everything that just happened. The damn alarm this morning, the damn cake, and his damn coffee. And Harry. Fucking Harry.

And Fuck . His coffee.

 

 

The day goes on in a frenzy mix of work, birthday songs sang over and over again, people rushing in and out of the office, spilled champagne, gift paper and ribbons all over the place that make him trip more often than not and Louis has never been happier.

Cause he can't think.

He can't think about anything , and he's tired enough that when he's finally out of the office, heading home an hour earlier than usual, courtesy of Mark's birthday, the only feeling he has is the want to crash on his wonky, old sofa in hope that Niall ordered both of them some pizza, without having eaten his part as well.  

That's it. Nothing else.  

So obviously, when he slips through the door, and he hears an indistinct chatter coming from the kitchen, the first thing he does is to release a low groan. Leave it to Niall to invite people over, today of all days. He's overtired, physically and emotionally, and he's just considering of walking quietly towards his room without making his presence known when the light in the hallway is switched on, making him furiously blink as he tries to adjust to the harsh light.

His eyes are still closed when he registers two things happening at once: there's Niall loud shriek of fear followed by a loud “For fuck's sake, Lou, I thought you were a ghost” in thick Irish accent and then there's another sound, a quiet gasp, feeble and weak, but it's there and Louis’ curiosity forces him to open his eyes.  

That’s the moment he realises that the universe must hate him, severely and passionately, and that all fate’s incomprehensible forces are combined together to revolt against him with the only purpose of annihilating him.

Because there, across from him, holding on Niall’s arm for dear life, is Harry staring at him like he's seen a ghost for real, eyes wide open and mouth opening and closing without a sound coming out. One hand is strongly clutching his jumper, right on his chest.

“Louis...” it’s the only thing that Harry manages to whisper with his mouth is still opening and closing making him look like a fish out of the water.

“Harry.” Louis sighs. He closes his eyes again and he feels defeated as he sounds. Maybe if he tries hard enough everything will disappear. Maybe this is just one of those weird and scary dreams that hunt him since he was a little kid and he'll wake up soon.

“Niall.” Niall says waving his hand in the air, smiling like a little boy introducing himself on the first school day. Then the smile turns into a smirk, “You two know each other?”

Harry seems still frozen in place, he still looks like a deer caught in the headlights and Louis doesn’t sighs again. He doesn’t . “Yeah, umh... we met-.” he clears his throat and tries to stand upright, hoping he would look less scared himself, “We met this morning.”

“Oh.” Niall says, eyes bouncing between the two of them. Then a look of recognition takes over his face, “Oh. Oh!” He looks at Harry, which is still staring blatantly at Louis, smirking in a twisted way, “Really, H? Blue eyes, really petite, ' I swear Niall, the cutest thing I've ever... '”

That seems to snatch Harry away from his trance and he elbows Niall directly into his stomach, hissing a quiet but firm “ Shut up , Niall.”  

Louis doesn't have the energy to understand what's going on, and frankly he's not even sure he wants to. So he gives them a faintly smile and without further ado heads straight for his room, face planting the bed as soon as he steps in. Clothes, shoes and shoulder bag still very much on.

That's how Niall finds him a little later when he gently taps on Louis shoulder. He's not sleeping, not really, but he keeps his eyes closed, evening out his breath. Maybe if Niall thinks he's asleep then maybe he'll leave him alone.

“You know…” he starts quietly, “Having known you for basically my whole life has its perks. I know when you’re in pain but don’t act on it. I can tell when you had a shitty day and you only want a cuddle. Or when you had a good day and you just want to be silly and forget for a moment the constant weight you keep on your shoulders.” He’s stroking Louis’ back gently now. “But it also has his downfall. I can tell when you’re pretending to be busy or overtired just because you don’t want to come out with me. I can tell when you want to be alone but you’re just being nice for me. And I can surely tell when you’re definitely not asleep.”  

No such luck then. “Leave me alone, Niall.” His words are muffled from where his face is squished on the bed. “I’m really tired.”

“Is this about Harry? I had him over just because you were not supposed to be home yet. I swear he was about to leave.” He sounds guilty now, a hint of sadness in his voice, and that just wouldn’t do. If there’s one thing Louis is sure of in his mess of a life is that Niall Horan must not be sad. Never .

Louis sits up, releases a big sigh and takes the shoulder bag off from his shoulder. “No, Niall. It’s not because of Harry. And we had this conversation too many times before, you’re allowed to have friends over, it’s your house too.”

“Yeah but it’s not worth it if it makes you sad.”

“It’s doesn’t make me sad. I just had a really, really shitty day.”

“Yeah… Harry said.”

“Uh?”

“Ah. He… umh… he mentioned meeting someone who looked like was having a hell of a day.”

“Oh.”

See, Louis thought about it. In that short bus ride back to work that morning, he actually tried to understand why he reacted so badly. And sure, everything was out of place and so far away from Louis’ comfort zone, filled with warmth and familiarity and normal life things, but the thing that did it for him, if he has to be honest, was Harry.  

And the problem is… the problem is that Louis has always been a big dreamer. The day he realised he couldn’t have a normal life he started dreaming about it. Getting into a nice university to help him reach his goals. Finding a good job after that, which isn’t really possible when all of a sudden you need to go missing for a couple of weeks. And, who knows, maybe if said job had turned good enough, he could have afforded to live in a nice place on his own as well.

A nice, quiet, boring, normal life taking its course.

But, of course, he would have finally experience love. Oh, how much had he dreamed about love. The feeling of butterflies in his stomach, knees going weak at the sight of a smile, the heart missing all the beats when you look into their eyes and you think That's it. I love you. I'm sure .  

And Harry… Harry was just that kind of perfect for his daydreaming dose. They would have met in the same way, a clumsy accident, and Harry would have invited Louis for a coffee afterwards. Except Louis would have stayed, this time around. They would have talked for hours and hours, because time really slips through your fingers when you’re having fun, doesn’t it? They would have said their goodbyes a couple of times more than needed, always finding a way to keep the conversation going afterwards, both of them not really interested in letting the other go.

Louis would have left with Harry’s number in his phone, and a new text message would have appeared not long after their waved goodbye. They would have texted non-stop until one of them would have finally found the guts to ask the other out and then the eagerness of finally see each other again, the first date, holding each other’s hand, smiles hidden behind wrists, Harry kissing the side of Louis forehead while they’re walking unnecessarily close cause ‘ It’s really cold, Harry, ok? ’, when it’s really not but Harry would just smile and hug him closer. And then, finally, the first kiss. Oh, the first kiss. Insecure and tender at first, leaving them giggling and blushing and then coming back for more, turning it into something more deep, desperate and-

Yeah. That was why Louis had to run away. Because without meaning to, Harry just became the most painful dream Louis ever had.

“You like him, don’t you?” And it’s just a whisper, but Louis hears it like it was shouted.

“Yeah.” What’s the point of lying anyway? Niall will see right through him. Always has.  

“He would be good for you, you know? I’ve known him for a while now and he’s a really good-”

“Yeah, Niall. Whatever.” Louis sighs and gets off the bed, all of a sudden he’s tired again. He’s taking off his Vans when Niall starts talking again.

“Oh, c’mon Louis. He wouldn’t care, I’m sure of it. Your mum doesn’t care. I don’t care! You have to-”

“Well that’s bloody different, Niall, don’t you think?” Louis says harshly, turning quickly around to look at Niall. “My mum doesn’t care? Really? That’s your argument? She’s my mum! Of course she doesn’t care! And you! Oh you!” He says with an accusatory finger, “you wouldn’t even know about it if it just didn’t happen right in front of your eyes and my mum had to explain why all of a sudden there was a bloody sodding g-”

There’s a cough coming from the door, Louis eyes snaps in that direction to find a very embarrassed Harry about to enter into the room. Panic rises in his chest, bile burning from the pit of his stomach. How long had Harry been there? How much did he heard? Does he know? Did he understand? Has he-

“I’m sorry. I… uhm. I just- I mean. Dinner is ready?”  

“Dinner?” And Louis is looking at Niall again, the burning fire in his eyes making his skin around them tingle.  

“Yeah, that’s what I came in for. Harry made us dinner, didn’t feel like pizza again. Came to ask if you wanted to join us…” Niall answers while adjusting the glasses far up on his nose, a serene smile on his lips. Eyes sparkling behind the lenses.

And Louis knows that look. From the outside Louis is sure it looks innocent enough, like Niall just threw the ball at him and now the decision of catching it or let it fall it’s completely on him. Like joining dinner or not it’s his choice and it’s harmless and it’s easy. But Louis doesn’t fall for it, Niall knows exactly what Louis is thinking, what his major fear at the moment is.

Louis needs to be sure Harry didn’t hear anything. He can’t know , because if he does then he could tell and next thing he knows Louis might be the next freak show in town.

No, no, no .

Louis has to make sure that this night goes smoothly, that Harry has a good time, he has to be friendly enough that Harry would forget, at some point, that it might even have been something wrong with Louis to begin with.

So Louis takes a big breath, puts on his best smile and then says, “I’d love to. Let me just change my clothes.”

The boys both smile at him and quietly leave the room afterwards. Louis smile drops as soon as the door clicks shut and he buries his head in his hands, tears pooling in the corner of his eyes out of frustration. So much for a quiet night in.

He looks over in the mirror across the room, his reflection staring back at him with hollow eyes.  

Right. Let’s get on with the show then.

 

When he steps into the kitchen he's barefoot with soft track pants hugging his legs, chest swallowed by an old faded jumper that has definitely seen better days, but it’s still the comfiest thing in Louis’ possessions and he’s wearing one of his best fake smiles. He had years of practice after all.

Niall is already sitting at the table while Harry is equally distributing the food into their crazy-IKEA-cheap, chipped plates.  

“Smells good.” he says conventionally, while he sits across from Niall, giving him an annoyed stare and his smile falters just a tiny bit.

“It does, doesn't it? H, you should come around more often, would be nice not having pizza five nights out of seven.” Niall promptly answers and he has the audacity of wiggling his eyebrows at Louis, a twisted smile on his face, like this is the most fun he's had in awhile.

“Could always think of starting cooking yourself, Niall.” Louis says between gritted teeth, because it’s not funny, this is not a freaking game, it’s my fucking life , he thinks. “Nobody forces you to-”

“Enough, children.” Harry says with an amused smile on his face, “Here, tell me if it tastes as good as it looks.”

And, obviously , it does. It’s just burritos for crying out loud, but they’re the best burritos Louis has ever eaten in his life and it's just another reason for Louis to hate Harry, to be honest.

But despite his best efforts to keep his composure on, to never let his guard down, as the conversation goes on, he finds himself relaxing more and more. They’re talking and laughing and Louis’ stomach aches from it, he’s quite sure he has never laughed so hard before in all his life. He doesn’t understand if it’s because they’re in his kitchen, in his house, in his safe space and he never had to fake anything at home. Or maybe it’s just Harry, this lovely, incredible silly boy, this terrible joke-teller homme fatale that somehow disguises himself as a baby deer. Or if it might be his mind still playing games with him.

When they're done with their meal, Niall goes off to the living room, having agreed on watching a movie, and Louis is collecting the plates ready to wash them. Harry helps him bring them to the sink, then promptly offers to wash the dishes himself and, for the life of him, Louis doesn't understand why his voice goes all soft when he says, “No, you cooked, I'll clean them up, yeah? Help Niall to choose a good one. That boy has horrendous tastes.” Harry chuckles, gives him a small nod of his head and leaves to join Niall.  

Louis takes a big breath and releases a long sigh then, his whole chest moving with it, he turns around and braces himself against the countertop, hands gripping the edge and head hung low. He switches the tap on and his eyes began slowly following the floating bubbles forming between the dirty plates. It’s a good distraction and for a moment, when he closes his eyes, all he can see are still traces of blue and purple and green on top of shiny bubbles. But it lasts only a moment and in the next the bubbles pop like balloons full of colours and Louis feels exactly like the white wall where the balloons broke, beaten and scarred.

How did he ended up in this mess? But, most importantly, how can he get out? Because from whatever angle Louis looks at it, there is no way out. He’ll either look crazy, which is probably already the case after his encounter with Harry that very morning, or, worse , he’ll provoke Harry’s curiosity by making him think that he has in fact something to hide.  

But he’s been good, right? He was friendly. He made Harry crack a smile or a laugh too during their meal, he was thankful for the delicious dinner, he did all the right things for God’s sake, why should Harry think he has something to hide anyway?  

Because he heard you, idiot .  

Niall. All this is Niall’s fault, and Louis is sure he’s going to kill him one of this days. Maybe not tonight, and not with Harry sitting few feet away from him as that might strengthen the idea of him being absolutely bonkers.  

And why does it matter anyway? Whatever Harry thinks of him it doesn’t- it shouldn’t… Louis let out a frustrated groan, his forehead banging lightly on the cupboard above the sink. Why is his mind betraying him like this?  

And the truth is, Louis is lonely . It’s simple as that, really. He’s 25 years old and all the reasonable excuses, all the lies he used to repeat in his mind to convince himself that it was the right thing to do, every plausible story that he told himself to keep the hole in his chest quiet, to make it hurt less, simply don’t work anymore. He’s aching for a touch, for a simple caress of someone’s hand on his cheek, he’s dying to feel the warmth of someone hugging him. How would it feel to just -

“Louis...”

He's startled so much that he spins around so quickly that he has to grip the kitchen counter behind him again to prevent falling. And it's just Niall. Thank God , it's just Niall.  

Or not. Cause from the look on his face Louis knows that he must know what's going on in his mind.  

He takes one careful step and reaches out with one hand, cautiously, like one would do while approaching a wild animal stuck in a corner. “Louis...” he says again.

“I'm not. I don't. I should...” Louis is shaking his head, as if the gesture could magically clear all the mess and the confusion, the frustration. “Niall...”

“It's just a movie,” he says gently while slowly getting closer, “C'mon Lou, it's just a movie.”

“It's not, though. It's not just anything and I feel - I need to...” Niall arms surrounds him then, and Louis releases another big sigh, squishing his face in the other man's shoulder, hands coming up to grasp Niall t-shirt in tight fists.

“Why are you panicking like this?” Niall voice is soft, a quiet murmur at the side of Louis' head, “It's been ages, mate. I don't even remember last time you panicked this much.”

Louis breathes in and breathes out, the sweet smell of Niall’s cologne invading his senses, and it’s familiar and it’s safe . Louis breathes in and breathes out again and it drains all the life out of him when he quietly says “I don't know.” and it’s obviously a lie.

 

 

Harry has always considered himself a lucky guy.

He loves his work. He has friends that would die for him. He still has all of his grandparents. He has the privilege of being in a close-knit family that have supported him through every decision he's ever made.

Like when he decided that he didn't want to study law in order to be a pastry chef and baker, when he later decided instead that he did wanted to try out studying law just to have a back out plan and when, with no surprise of anyone really, that plan didn't work at all and he went back to culinary school.

Even when he was a little fourteen year boy, insecure of everything, insecure of his body and his looks, scared of life and the future. But if he was sure of one thing and one thing only, it was that he was different. He was so, so scared because he heard people talk, and apparently it was wrong, wrong, wrong and Harry didn't know how to make it better until his mother held him tight, shushing his crying gently, telling him that nothing, nothing about him was wrong, that he was perfect the way he was and Harry kept crying in her arms up until his sister came crashing into them, giving him a loud kiss on his head, saying ‘ C'mon knobhead, there's this really cute guy that I... ’ and Harry groaned so loud that the three of them burst into laughters before his sister could finish that sentence.  

So, yeah. All in all, up until now Harry had a good life. He's not complaining, he wouldn't dream of it, but...  

Harry remembers vividly his first encounter with Love . He was just about ten years old at the time, knowing very little about life and all his aspects but he was, as all kids are, very eager to discover, to understand. And so Harry had theories, theories that would help him understand why things kept happening the way they did. He had lots of them. There was a theory on why he woke up with the sun and went to sleep with the moon; theories on why the sand kept sticking onto his toes even after he'd left the beach; theories on why summer was warm and winter was cold. Why the moon was white and the sun was yellow but then the sunset was orange and so on, really. There were theories for everything.

But that day, that day had found him unprepared. He was at the park with his mother and other friends and their mothers, they were just running around trying to catch each others playing ‘Tag’ when Harry saw them. One moment, he was running and laughing and the next one he was standing still, panting from all the running, eyes curious and wide.  

There, a few meters away, on a bench of a brown faded colour, sat an elderly couple. He was sitting beside her, his hands engulfing hers completely, gently stroking the one in his grip, his head lying on her chest while she kept caressing the nape of his neck. They were talking, and Harry couldn't hear a thing, but they were smiling, smiles so bright that in Harry eyes made them look so much younger than what they sure were in real life.  

He kept walking until he reached his mother and sat beside her, one of his small hands coming to rest on her knee, eyes never leaving the couple. And he kept watching, captured by every gesture, eyes dancing with every movement. He just didn't know why he couldn't look away.

And then after a while the man stood, with the typical slow pace and difficulty of elderly people, one hand out ready to help the woman to do the same, while she was helping herself gripping a cane as well. She smiled and he kissed her cheek, and Harry’s hand, still on his mother's knee, tightened without him meaning to. They took few steps and then she stopped, looking down at her feet frowning, mouth no longer smiling. Harry's eyes couldn't see what was wrong but a moment later, he saw the man giving her another little peck on the cheek, smile still very much on point, if not bigger, and then kneeling down with lot of effort, one knee on the ground.

He's tying her shoelaces ,’ Harry thought in realisation, eyes growing big and mouth slightly apart. Then he started frowning. He didn’t understand. Why would he? Why a man that clearly can't do such movements would kneel down to tie someone's shoelaces? Why would he risk falling, or losing stability, just so she could have tied shoelaces. ‘S hoelaces! ’, Harry scoffed internally.  

“What is it baby, what's wrong?” or maybe not so internally.  

But Harry couldn't explain it, no. He just couldn't wrap his mind around it, to be honest. Why. Why. Why .

“Mum?” he asked turning around to look at her once the couple was out of sight, only to find her already watching him, a small smile curving her lips. “Mum, why would he... I mean-”, he kept frowning, he didn't even know what to ask, why that scene was bothering him so much.

“Why did he tie her shoelaces?” his mother indulged with a light tone.

“Did you see, too?” Harry asked, excited. “But, why? It must have hurt, I mean, he wasn't really stable on those knees, reminded me of grandpa Keith,” he said with a small smile, before frowning again, eyes searching for his mother's, “Why would he? I mean, yeah, she had a cane but...” Harry shook his head again, trying to make sense.

“Because he must love her very, very much, Harry.”

“What?”

“Oh, sweetheart.” his mother chuckled, gently patting the side of his head, “You'll come to understand one day that we do silly, silly things when we're in love. For love.”

“But why?” Harry whined.

“Because when you love someone you want to see them happy, with a smile running on their faces. You want to be reason why that smile is there and you'd do anything to keep it there, to keep them happy. Make them feel all your love.” she sighed looking at Harry's confused expression. “One day, love. One day you'll understand, I promise.”

So Harry kept thinking. And thinking. And then he thought some more. He spent the rest of the afternoon thinking, choosing on not to play with his friends but preferring keeping looking around, trying to find something, anything that could help him understand; not commenting when his father said how awfully quiet he was that night but looking on every interaction between his parents; not making a sound when it was time to get out of the bath and willingly going to bed when it was bedtime.  

His parents were both in his room because his sister was allowed to stay up a little longer since she was older. And so they were both there, sat on the bed with him, his father telling a story of some sort, his mother laughing like there was nothing funnier in the whole world, eyes full of fondness. The same gentle expression that she gave Harry every time he would do something very, very silly.

“Alright, you.” She said pointing first at Harry’s father and then at the door, voice still full of mirth. “Harry needs to sleep.”

“You're no fun” his father pouted, but then he smiled, the corner of his eyes all crinkly, and gave her a single, light peck on the lips; one of his hands still stroking Harry's. He bent down to first kiss all his little fingers, making him giggle, then his cheek, whispering a gentle “Sweet dreams, little man”.

After he left the room was quiet for a few second, and all of a sudden Harry didn't need to think anymore. All of a sudden everything made sense and he knew. He just... knew .

“I think I get it now, Mom.” He whispered, and she looked lost for a moment, but then a look of soft recognition took place on her face. “It's like when you make dad his favourite spicy tuna dish even though you hate tuna.” he concluded nodding to himself, like he just found out about the meaning of life. “And spicy.”  

Harry smiles every time he relives that moment. And he smiles despite the fact that that was the beginning of a catastrophe. Because years later, when he started to have crushes, crushes that turned into dating and dating that turned into relationships, he'd remember that moment each time, thinking That's it. I've found it .

And, oh boy, how wrong he was. He started to try and please everyone, he just wanted to see them happy, even if that meant for him to be miserable. He loved with such force that he was sure his love would have been enough, for both of them. He kept thinking that it must have been normal, that no one could ever be happy all the time, until he started realising that he was never happy. Ok, never is a big word, but there were definitely only a few flashes of shining frenzy here and there that he must have confused with happiness, but it wasn’t. It wasn't happiness at all.  

So Harry started to change, he started to follow his head more than his heart, he started to count till ten, and then Breathe in. Breathe out .  

It wasn't easy at the beginning. His caring and indulging nature made it easy to mistake the difference between doing something because it felt right and doing it only to please someone instead. But in the end he managed. He had years of practice after all, with countless relationships where he learned that it just wasn't meant to be.  

Did he love? Was he happy? Yes. And yes. The moment he had stopped frantically looking for the one , strongly believing that it would hit him the face if and when was the right time, everything else just took the right direction.  

It's for that reason that he felt like everything was collapsing around him the moment he met Louis. When he felt the heat of his body, reaching his bones even more than the warm coffee spreading on his t-shirt, hitting him like a train, the annoyance, the anger after an already rough morning, everything just disappeared the moment he met Louis' sad eyes and the only thing he felt was that pull, that long lost urge to just do whatever was in his power to make this boy happy; to make the hurt, so visible in his eyes, go away.

And Harry was so confused, after so many years, he just didn’t even know how to handle that feeling anymore. He tried resisting it, he did, but when he miserably failed and Louis flew out of the door, he couldn’t help but feeling a big wave of relief under the disappointment that was settling over his mind.  

Yes, relief.  

That situation would have had Harry running straight into a brick wall, breaking all his bones, and that just wouldn’t do. Not anymore.  

Louis took the right decision for both of them. Once again, Harry couldn’t be more thankful thinking that it just wasn’t meant to be.

So that’s why the whole world started to crumble down again, violently and with more force, when he met Louis again that afternoon. Was he whining with Niall about it? Yes, he was. Was he sulking? Absolutely. But he was sure that he just had to push it out of his system and then everything would have sorted itself out. A couple of days, with life running its course and sooner or later, with time, he would have forgotten everything about it. About him .

How many times did Harry come over to Niall’s flat without meeting him? How long has he known him without knowing the existence of Louis? Sure, there was small talk, casual mentions about this elusive friend / flatmate here and there, but nothing more.

Why now? Why twice in a day?

See, Harry was trying so hard to be rational, but meeting him again? It felt like… fate . It felt like a pat on his shoulder, a gentle push towards the right direction. It felt like a  “ The first time didn’t go well, pal. Here’s another chance ”. It felt like a “ Don’t fuck it up ”.  

Thing is, he’s absolutely, without a doubt, scared to the bones. He’s not looking forward to having his heart broken. And this… feeling , this pull towards Louis, so strong and powerful without even knowing him, it scares the living shit out of him.

Harry is so desperately trying to rationalise the situation, but he just... can’t. Sure, he has a past as an irremediable people pleaser, a past that he’s buried and forgotten, but at least at that time he knew those guys. He has even been in love with them, at some point or stage. There always was a smell, a smile, a slow drag of a hand between his curls, something, anything, that would remind him why he loved them so much .  

But now? Nothing. There’s nothing. Because he doesn’t even know Louis.

They’re currently watching a movie he hasn’t been able to pay any attention to and his palms are sweating so much that he has to wipe them on his jeans constantly, trying to hide that he’s having an existential crisis in the middle of their living room while Niall is snoring softly on his right. Everything, everything is absolutely out of place.

So why is it that just sitting on this wonky couch, inches away from Louis’ thigh, has him feeling happier than ever?

How is it possible? Why does he feel like giving up would be a huge mistake? Why can’t he just let Louis go? And, for the love of God, why is he even thinking of-

“Go out with me.”

That. That wasn’t meant to come out of Harry’s mouth. He doesn’t even know how or why he managed to say those words but they’re out now and, even if he wants to, he can’t rewind these past two minutes and swallow them down and-

And Louis has gone completely rigid. His eyes are still locked on the tv screen, and if Harry had not just passed the last hour and a half subtly studying every single one of Louis’ movements, it might even seem like Louis hasn’t even heard Harry say anything at all. But. But. But .  

Harry has spent the last hour and a half watching and studying every movement trying to impress it like a burn in his mind. The way Louis’ chest goes up and down gently with every breath. How it vibrates when he’s chuckling. The way his eyes dances with the lights on TV in the semi dark room around them and how he closes them slightly every time he smiles, letting tiny crinkles appear.

Harry has noticed everything and now? Now it looks like Louis is not even breathing. He looks terrified and scared.

What happened to you? Who did this to you? Why are you so scared? Harry thinks.  

“Why?” and it’s so quiet, so feeble that Harry almost missed it. Louis doesn’t even turns his head to look at him, he just keeps his eyes on the TV. He doesn’t move, at all.

“Why not?”

“Harry...” Louis sighs and it sounds final. That's Louis pushing Harry away without even using words. With only a sigh, Louis has built a fence on top of the wall he was already using to protect himself, and Harry feels like staring directly into the eyes of the void while all of his hopes are crushing down.

“Just- just once, alright?”  Harry says, pleadingly, while he twists to look directly at Louis. It's embarrassing, and his cheeks are burning from a mixture of shame and disappointment and anger towards himself but he just can't stop. “And if it's really that bad, then you can tell me to fuck off and I will. I will, I promise . Just- just once. Please .

Louis' eyes are fixed somewhere in the middle of the TV screen, unblinking. His face, that mere seconds ago was so open, fear clearly shaping its features and mixed with something else that Harry couldn't read, all of a sudden has lost any visible emotion. Now he looks calm, serious, unaffected, like nothing can touch him and nothing can graze him.  

He stands up, the movement delicate and fluid, and starts walking away. He's almost at the end of the hallway, one hand ready to reach the doorknob to his room, and Harry's already feeling tears prickling the sides of his eyes, head hung in shame and regret closing his throat, his mind trying to find conceivable and bearable reasons on how could he have been so insensitive, so needy, ignoring every single one of Louis' warning.  

“Tomorrow night. 7 pm.”  

Harry's head jerks up so fast that the movement almost breaks his neck, eyes wide while he tries to listen past the noise his heart is making in his ears. Louis' cold voice is only an echo of the melodic sound Harry remembers from earlier.

“Once. Only once. Then I want you out of my life.”  

 

 

Louis keeps only a few selected memories of his early years. He keeps them somewhere between the regrets drawer and the missed opportunities one. Reminding him of a stranger that barely looks like him anymore.

The first time, the only time, Louis let himself go, is one of the memories he decided to keep. It was his eighteenth birthday.

He was tired of feeling different and lonely. He was tired of hiding behind his worries, his fears. Tired of smelling death and desolation when he just wanted to breathe life and carefreeness. He had just turned eighteen and the only wish he had was to feel alive, to forget the constant weight hanging on his shoulders, to act his age, to just feel for once.

And so he dragged Niall down the first pub they could find and got completely drunk. He kept drinking and drinking, and life couldn't have been sweeter in that moment. His head was floating, thoughts muffled by a pink cloudiness, everything a beautiful blur of softness, and for the first time since forever, Louis could feel life flow in his veins.  

He was having the time of his life and he doesn't even remember his name, to be honest, but he remembers how good it felt to have someone else touch him, the heat in his belly spurt by their proximity, the blood pumping at the same tempo of the music beating around him. Louis still remembers the smell, the chaotic frenzy, how loud everything was, the lights patterns that made him feel dizzy. He doesn't remember who made the first move, but all of a sudden they were kissing. It was Louis' first kiss and it was filthy, dirty, more teeth and tongue than he what he had imagined and yet it was absolutely perfect. Then the kissing turned into groping, the groping into grinding, and in a blink of an eye, they were moving and he was being pushed back into a door, strong smell of piss and other things that, to be completely honest, didn't bother Louis one bit.  

It was fast, and dirty, and so painful, and nothing of what Louis expected it to be but it was, still is , without a doubt, the best night of his life.

And that's why he's standing in front of a mirror, now, slightly panicking. Without the slightly part. He's panicking so much that he's petrified by it. Tonight is the night and he still can’t believe that he agreed to this.

Because he doesn't know how to do this. Whatever this is.

Dates are one of those things that he's only dreamed about. How does he decide… things ? The hair should be in a quiff or should he keep them down? Does he want to dress to impress? Does he want to dress smart? Casual? Does he wants to look so horrible that Harry will be so repulsed by him that he’ll take a run for the hills? So jeans? Or maybe leggings? A fucking tracksuit?  

What? How-? What?  

That’s the moment he realises that he’s panicking for all the wrong reasons, and he starts trembling, the room shaking around him and his heart starts pumping so hard in his chest that it feels like its gonna bruise itself against his rib cage.  

It hurts and Louis brings up a flickering hand on his chest hoping it will go away, feeling its steady drumming underneath his fingers, but everything fucking hurts because the hilarity of it all is that despite every dream, every little thought Louis had about them, every little smile that blossomed on his lips at the mere vision of what they could be, Louis knows that tonight nothing matters. Tonight must be the end of it all. And it doesn’t matter even if it’s killing him.

And it’s killing him alright.  

Up until two days ago he was living a decent life, happily hidden in his cocoon of beliefs and fears where no one was allowed to come in. The lies he used to tame himself with, to make himself believe that he didn't need anything more, that he was fine, that he was still on life's lucky side, were still enough. He didn’t need more. He didn’t. He doesn’t .

But then… then this big, terrible, infuriatingly beautiful stranger crashed into his life and from that moment nothing, nothing has been the same.  

Sure, Louis’ always been a dreamer, and he can handle a few dreams, alright? He can. He can handle dreaming about a smile on a stranger’s lips. He can handle dreaming of disastrous first encounters. He can handle dreaming about cute coffee dates with strangers. He can.

What he can’t handle is giving a face to said stranger. Picturing an exact smile, with two bunny teeth at the front.

What he can’t handle is the feeling of Harry’s hands on his arms, the memory of Harry’s warm body when he spilled the damn coffee, how Harry’s lips curl when he starts to smile. The deep expanse of his dimples. The way his eyelashes flutter when he lets a breathy laugh escape. How Harry lit up like a Christmas tree when Louis complimented him on the tasty dinner. What he can’t handle is the way everything feels so… real .

But first and foremost, what Louis can’t handle is hope. This wishful feeling that Harry truly likes him that has started creeping his way up in Louis’ brain. He’s slowly allowing every fibre of himself to dream that the only reason why Harry has asked him out is because he likes him, truly likes him. And the consequence is a warm feeling spreading lightly in his chest, making him feel uneasy and uncomfortable while at the same time is lulling him in a peaceful bliss.

And what is killing him is reality jumping up on him, reminding him that the only reason why Harry wants to take him out is because he understood what a freak Louis is and he’s just trying to snatch a front row ticket for when the show starts.

What is killing him is knowing that those smiles will be never truly for him. That those arms will never hold him. That those hands will never touch his skin.

He’s the principal attraction of a wandering freak show and everything is mysterious and interesting because he’s in a glass box, looking pretty and delicate, and no one can touch him.  

Louis dreads the day when the box will be opened and he’ll be left there, bare and open, for everyone to see. For Harry to see.  

And while Louis closes his eyes to steady his breath, the only thing he can see is Harry backing away, disgust ruining his lovely features.

And yeah... that’s what’s killing him.

 

 

Harry is fidgeting.

He’s fidgeting because he’s nervous. He is nervous because he’s outside Louis’ flat, a stupid flower bouquet in his hand, and all of a sudden he’s not sure why he thought this whole thing was a good idea.  

Louis didn’t want to go out with him, that much was clear. Why did Harry insist? Why did he have to be such a fucking creep?  

Because it’s Louis and that’s the only reasonable reason Harry has this days, as pathetic as it can be. Because Louis… Louis is beautiful, and delicate and mystical.  

And it’s all about perspective, Harry thinks.

Outside this light brown coloured door, Harry feels like approaching a wild animal’s cage, hoping to tame it with flowers .

See, the difference is just that. Perspective, Harry thinks. Louis might seem delicate, fragile. A flower, someone would say. You have to handle him with care, you need to be careful, you could damage him. And see, this is the funny thing about perspective. Because... because Louis doesn’t feel like a flower, Louis feels like a fucking bomb and that doesn’t change the fact that Harry must handle him with care. Because, see, the thing about perspective is that all it takes is a little mistake and they blow up in your face and everyone gets hurt.

And Harry is just in the line of fire.

 

 

So Harry thought of everything, it appears. It’s crystal clear to Louis, really.

Harry thought of the beautiful flowers that are now standing in his filled kitchen sink because he didn’t have a vase. Harry thought of the right thing to say, and when to say it, and how to make his voice quiver when he said “ you look lovely tonight, Louis ”.  

He picked the perfect restaurant, he opened the bloody car door, “ Is this music good for you? ”, and “ I’ll ask to close the window if it’s too cold for you ” and he took the chair out at the table for Louis like they were in a bloody Jane Austen novel while is hands calculatedly trembled with nerves, just enough for Louis to notice.

And the thing is, he’s faking it all, Louis is sure of it, but he's faking it so well that you wouldn’t notice if you didn’t look closely for it, for the lies underneath. The nervousness, the careful insecurity, the shyness, yet his eyes are bold, staring directly into Louis’ ones without fear, and there’s a cocky smile well placed here and there.  

Louis is more than impressed.  

He's playing all the right cards, and Louis sees right through him, right through this little farce, this little façade Harry orchestrated too well but he doesn’t care.

Even though he knows how fake all this is, Louis can’t get a grip on himself. He's having so much fun, he’s feeling lighter than ever, his cheeks hurt from how much he’s smiling, his insides are trembling with all the fluttering of the butterflies’ wings he’s feeling deep into his stomach, and despite the sour and bitter bile Louis tastes every time he swallows, they just won’t die.  

And isn’t that just the predicament of Louis’ life? Always stuck between the reality and the dream, the sweet and the sour, the feelings he isn’t allowed to feel and the battle to fight them off. To crush them. To destroy them.

And the thing is, Louis doesn’t know if it’s because he’s tired, having slept less than maybe two hours in the past 48 hours. He doesn’t know if it’s because his emotions have been all over the place since he met Harry yesterday morning. He doesn’t know if he has just run out of the same lame excuses, of the same pitiful back up plans. He doesn’t know if it’s because the hole in his chest has gotten so big, so devastating and disturbingly huge, that has left him with no room for rationality anymore. He doesn’t know , he doesn’t understand why , but he... he has surrendered. He doesn’t have the strength, the obstinacy, the will to keep fighting anymore.

If this is the night where everything goes down, where his whole world twists and crumbles on himself, if this has to be the night where he’s dragged to the ground and shredded to pieces, if this is the night where all Hell breaks loose and every single fucking demon comes out to welcome him with open arms and outstretched claws to lock him in his personal little hell...

Well , Louis thinks, eyes locked on where Harry’s fingertips are sneakily trying to reach Louis’ on the table and Louis lets him, of course he does. And when they touch, as light as it is, as cliché as it sounds, his touch-deprived body lights up as vivid flame and he feels tingly everywhere, the fluttering feeling in his stomach taking it on another level, it’s a hurricane and Louis is vibrating with the force of it. With a single touch, Louis understands the thrill of the sailor in front of the siren that will curse him.  

So yeah, if this is the night where everything goes wrong, Louis is ready. So ready.  

 

 

Harry is happy. He's buzzing. He feels drunk and bubbling and on a fucking high. He was so scared, so anxious, and from the moment he saw Louis opening the door of his flat, all those emotions started to increase by the second.

Louis was beautiful. God , he was. From the moment Harry registered the light, feathery fringe across Louis’ forehead, the immense blue of his eyes, the delicate features of his face under the cast light of his hallway, he wasn’t sure how he was supposed to keep breathing. And when the shadow of a genuine smile started to creep on Louis’ face after accepting the flowers, he was definitely sure his brain was about to go in overdrive.

Thing is, he had imagined probably about one hundred billion scenarios, if not more, and none of them ended well. He had imagined getting to Louis’ door only to have him not answering at all. Or having the door slammed to his face. Or have Niall looking at him questioningly, then asking him if they had planned a night out that he must have forgotten. Or Louis opening the door, clearly annoyed, simply asking him to go away. Or Louis slapping the damn flowers right in his face.

He was ready for the worst to happen. Literally. What he wasn’t expecting was for things to be so... easy. With Harry sitting in this damn uncomfortable chair across from Louis, fingers lightly caressing Louis’ fingertips, still in disbelief because Louis is letting him. Louis is letting Harry touch him. And everything, everything, even the fucking damn chair that is going to be a nightmare for his back tomorrow, the other people, even the waiter that keeps checking an oblivious Louis out, everything just disappears.

Because he’s touching Louis.

And it’s so overwhelming that Harry feels like an art student admiring the Mona Lisa with his very own two eyes for the first time. He feels like a sculptor standing in front of the David. Like a musician touching reverently the keys of an old piano, gently, barely there, because any roughness might destroy its delicate secrets, the tender and fragile memories of kept tunes that other hands lovingly played.

“If I had known that acting like an idiot and making a fool of myself was all it would take for you to laugh this much, I would have started way earlier!” Harry says dimpling after finishing a story about his young five year old self accusing his sister of being a drug dealer, which sets Louis off in a fit of laughter.  

“Oh,” Louis says, eyes round in mock stupor, but the smile halfway on his lips is betraying him, “you mean you weren’t trying before?”, another airy laugh bubbles out of his mouth. Harry want to hear that sound forever.

“Heeey! That’s just plain mean!” He says pouting, but it doesn’t last long. “By the way the filet mignon is amazing, you should have listened to me.”

“Mmh” Louis nods while chewing, “I don’t know, these prawns are really good!”

“No, seriously, you have to try this.” He scoops a bite with his fork and bring it up to offer it to Louis.

“Harry,” Louis says amused, hand waving gently in front of his face, “I’m eating fish, I don’t wanna mix it with meat!”  

“But it’s good-

“But I said-”

“Ok, fine! Jeez . I don’t wanna have a beef about meat, alright?” Harry says bringing out his best pout.

Louis manages to choke out a “Did you just-” before erupting in a loud crackle that starts to bring tears to his eyes. His hands are both cupped on his mouth and his eyes are so blue that Harry gets lost for a few seconds. Louis is weeping by the time Harry realises what he said.

“Urgh.” He groans, “Just when I think I ran out of ways to embarrass myself in front of you, my brain likes to prove me wrong.”  

“Was that your special way of formulating a compliment?” Louis says squinting his eyes.

“Hey! Enough. What was in that dish? A cyanide vial as a side?”

“Was there a humour lesson in yours?”

Harry face must show how confused he is, “I’m literally still eating-”

“Precisely.” Louis says fighting back a smile, “Because you’re not funny.”

“Oh my god !” Harry groans again, his hand coming to cover his face this time, “And you say my jokes are terrible? That was horrible !”

“It was rather brilliant, if I say so myself.” Louis replies while he brings the fork to his lips and he’s smiling widely, so obviously proud of himself, and Harry’s breath is knocked out once again.

“So, tell me about yourself.” Harry asks after a beat and he hates to see how Louis’ smile, which has been comfortably on display on his face for most of the night, slips right off, at the same speed Harry’s stomach drops. The silence stretches for just a few seconds but any second that goes without Louis having a smile on his face is a twisting jab in his chest so he clears his throat, locking aside any worrisome thought about this amazing creature sitting across from him. He puts on a blinding smile and pretends that the next few words are the ones that were meant to be. “I’m sure I am certainly not the only one full of embarrassing stories!”

“Nu-uh.” A hint of smile starts to show on Louis’ face as he shakes his head.  

Getting there . “No, uh? No telling your mother what her presents were before she even managed to torn the paper up?”

Louis snorts.

“Umh,” Harry brings his fingers to rest on his chin, eyes locked somewhere on the ceiling as he was in deep thoughts, “Perhaps a funny hair phase when you hit puberty?”

“Oh God, no.” Louis says indignantly but he’s proper laughing again now and Harry’s heart starts to beat faster again.

“Ah, I got it! This is the moment when you confess that you had a crush on the Green power ranger!”

“Actually,” Louis answers with a smirk, “It was the Pink one.”

Harry shocked gasp sets both of them into a fit rowdy laughter.

 

They’re walking hand in hand and Harry’s disbelief didn’t stop his heart from all the type of somersault it is apparently set on doing from the moment their hands brushed and Louis’ fingers just slid between his. Just like that.  

He’s done that a couple of times already. Little things, little gestures that would completely send Harry’s brain in shock.

Because it doesn’t matter how much he tries, he can’t figure Louis out. He’s always so composed and closed off and so incredibly beautiful that half of the time Harry just gets starstruck and forgets how to be a functional human being. But the thing is, half of the time it seems like Louis is ready to shred him to pieces and the other half is split between dull moments of apathy where everything in Louis seems to radiate a big, bold, go away energy and small fragments of joy, like right now, where he seems ready to give Harry whatever he needs.

So yeah, it sucks. But Harry will take anything. That’s how far he’s gone for this boy.

They are just passing Primrose Hill park and they are walking in comfortable silence, their feet guiding them. They take a turn in a quiet, little street, all the houses are a candid white with pretty wrought iron fences.

Louis sighs, his hand tightening a little around Harry’s one.

“Can you imagine living here?”

Harry turns around to look at him and a shy smile blossoms on his face at the sight of Louis dreamy face.

“Not really, no.” He says, then chuckles when Louis’ head whips right in his direction with a look of scrunched up horror on his face. “The area it’s too pompous. And it’s close to a famous park so it’s always crowded. I don’t know, it doesn’t feel very homey to me.”

“What is homey to you then?”

Harry smiles but says nothing more and starts gently taking the lead. They keep walking and walking, the silence broken only by the city noises and by the soles of their shoes on the pavement. But it feels nice, it feels comfortable.

After a short while, Harry smiles and then points at something in the middle of the new street they turned into.

That , is home to me.”

Louis eyes snaps up and, when he takes in the surrounding, gasps. “Oh.”

The houses here are all made of bricks, with big white windows, and they are all different colours. Even in the dimly lights of the lamp post in the dark night Harry knows that the pastel colours are noticeable.

“Do you want to come in?”

Louis head snaps in his direction. “What do you mean do you want to come- do you live here ?” he squeaks.

“Yes.” Harry chuckles.

“How… how can you afford to live here?”

“Well…” his hand sneaks up to scratch his head, “The bakery is going really well and family money I guess-”

“The bakery?” Louis interrupts him. “You own the bakery?”

“Umh, yes?”

“Oh my god .” Louis groans covering his face with both hands. “I thought you worked there!”

“Well, I do-”

“But it’s yours !”

Harry chuckles again at Louis indignant face. “Do you wanna come in for a cuppa? I might have some fresh biscuits as well.”

Louis eyes darts on the floor. His right foot starts scraping the hard pavement. Harry wishes the light was strong enough to read his face but he can only see his scrunched up eyebrows.

“Ok.” Louis sighs.

Harry’s eyebrows almost disappear into his hairline. “Ok?”

Louis lifts his head, eyes guarded and searching for something and Harry doesn't know what it is and doesn't know how to give it to him. But then he smiles, just a little, just a little quirk of the lips, but it’s there. “Ok.”

 

Once inside, Harry automatically presses play on the iPod in the living room, an accustomed old habit, while they both take their shoes and light jacket off.

There’s an awkward moment, while Harry is putting the jacket away in the cabinet by the stairs, when he realises that Louis hasn’t said one word since they stepped into the flat and that he hasn’t moved at all from the hallway. He’s standing perfectly still near the big chair with his hands folded in front of him, the indecision of what to do next clearly readable on his face.

Harry forgets all about his intentions of making tea and goes to sit on the sofa, sighing. He looks over at Louis, who’s already looking at him. He smiles and reaches out with his hand, silently inviting Louis to join him.

Louis body jerks into motion as if it’s going on autopilot and when his hand lightly grabs Harry’s their eyes meet again. Harry smiles once more and brings Louis’ hand to gently cup his own cheek. He turns his face into it and leaves there a delicate kiss that probably surprises himself more than Louis.

 

Track: Aria - Giovanni Allevi

A piano song starts to gently fill the air, Harry scoots back on the sofa, widening his legs, and brings Louis down to sit between them, his back plastered against Harry’s chest.

Harry bends his head forward so that his chin rests comfortably on the crook of Louis’ neck, where it meets the shoulder, and takes a big gulp of air, breathing in Louis’ addictive smell. He circles Louis with his arms and puts his hands on his thighs, Louis’ hands almost immediately reaching out to gently rest on top of Harry’s.

He is so lost in this moment, so lost in Louis, in the feeling of his body so close to him, in the sweet smell of caramel and hinted sweat, that without noticing his hands start moving on their own volition, playing imaginary piano keys on Louis’ legs, as to follow the song softly playing in the background.

Louis head gently leans on the side of Harry’s face, bringing them even closer together. Harry feels his body relax while his heart begins beating like crazy in his chest the moment Louis hands start following his movements, their hands gently dancing in the air.

They stay like that for a while, softly playing an imaginary piano, and all Harry wants is to just cage his arms around Louis and squeeze until their bodies melt together, but the last thing he wants is to ruin the moment. He doesn’t want to scare Louis away, not now that he seems so close.

There are questions on the tip of Harry’s tongue that are aching to be asked. Louis’ skin is warm and soft and Harry wants to know if he’s always been like this or if he uses special products. His incisors looks very sharp every time he smiles and Harry wants to know how they would feel on his own skin. The Louis in his arms is calm and serene and Harry wants to ask why he’s always so guarded, alerted. He wants to ask why, if this is who he truly is, then why this sweet, amazing, truly incredible boy disguises himself in worst ways possible?

He breathes Louis’ natural perfume and thinks of the night they just spent together. He thinks of difference between the man standing content between his arms now and the one he met yesterday morning.  

Yesterday morning , he thinks. It’s been only two days, and it feels already like an eternity. Like he’s so full of Louis that he can’t imagine a life where they are not standing in this exact position, like every moment not spent with him is a complete waste.

But it’s been two days. Only two days. And Harry wants to know so much. He wants to know what does he eats for breakfast, if he has breakfast at all. If he prefers tea or coffee. If he’d rather take the tube than the bus. If his socks are always matching, if he like to do his laundry. If he’s more a dog person or a cat person, or maybe if he doesn’t like animals at all. Harry wants to know which side of the bed Louis prefers. If he puts on warm socks before going to bed in winter and if he prefers peanut butter toast with or without jam. He wants to know what is scaring Louis so much. He wants to know when happened and who hurt him and he wants to know why .  

But there are question, Harry thinks, that shouldn’t be asked until you’re completely sure of being able to bear the answers.

Louis’ fingertips have just started drawing light and delicate patterns on the top his hands, and Harry selfishly realises that he might be ready for answers but he’s not ready for the consequences because, clearly, Louis is not ready to talk and as long as Louis keeps being a steady pressure on his chest, everything else can wait.

He's sure he made the right choice when Louis turns slightly in his arms and looks at him with his immensely blue eyes. Behind them y ou hold the secret of the universe , Harry thinks.

And just like that he stops thinking. It's just a few inches to cover, just a little tilt of the head is enough, and Harry doesn't think. He just kisses Louis.

Just like that.

 

 

Louis is exactly caught up in that moment.   

That small, imperceptible instant that precedes every catastrophe. He knows it’s happening, he can feel it coming, so palpable that he can sense it in the air, but he doesn't have the strength to move. And he can almost see it, the world, collapsing slowly beneath his feet and above his head, ruinously cracking the walls that surround him, including that small personal and imaginary golden prison that was built to keep others out.  

Everything, absolutely fucking everything it’s crumbling down and it shouldn’t feel this good, Louis thinks  

Blocked by Harry’s body, with his hands delicately on his hips and soft puffs of breaths on his face just above his upper lips, Louis should feel cornered and repulsed, scared and ready to run. He should feel disgusted and manipulated, and he should be angry, furious. He should push Harry away, maybe even slap him, scold him, yell at him with all his might.  

There’s a lot of things he should do and, somewhere lost in his head, he has a complete and detailed list of don’ts that he should religiously follow.   

He shouldn’t reciprocate the kiss. He shouldn’t put his hand on Harry’s chest, feeling under the firmness of his pecs the loud drumming beat of his heart. His lips shouldn’t search Harry’s every time the other man separates them to take a shaky breath, they shouldn’t keep on latching themselves on Harry’s as if keep on kissing was more vital than breathing. His hands shouldn’t slide their way up Harry’s torso until his fingers are cradling his soft, silky hair. His heart shouldn’t skip a beat when a breathy, feeble moan vibrates its way past Harry’s lips at the touch and his body shouldn’t erupt in goosebumps at the sound of it, its reverberance shaking Louis inside out from his head to his toes.  

He wonders when Harry’s lips have stopped tasting like dread and his own failure and started tasting like warm, silky honey that is gently sliding into Louis, in his head, in his heart, in his stomach, filling him to the brim of Harry .  

It is like- it's like Harry all this time had done nothing but dig a crack in Louis’ armature with his delicate fingers. Slowly, just a scratch of fingernail at first, carefully, widening the hole a little bit at a time, until the point where now it’s so loose that everything is falling apart. He snuck his way inside and, all of a sudden, he’s everywhere and Louis, not for the first time, thinks that he’ll be happy to keep on with his miserable life if he can just have tonight.  

So he lets go.  

And, oh boy, does that feel good. Everything gets a new taste, a new perfume, a new sensation. Louis can feel the imperceptible bumps and roughness of Harry’s cotton shirt under his fingertips. He can feel the delicate tickling of Harry’s poor attempt of facial hair on his upper lip. He smells vanilla and something like maybe tobacco, sweet and sour essences exploding in his nostrils combined with the light sweat of Harry’s skin. And Louis has definitely lost his mind, he’s sure of it, when Harry kisses him again and he thinks he can still taste the powdered sugar Harry must have used in the bakery earlier in the day.

Louis feels dizzy with it. He feels alive.

He doesn’t know when it happened, how he ended up lying on the sofa caged under Harry, but he’s not about to complain. The air surrounding them has suddenly raised a few degrees and everything feels incredibly hot. Louis wants to shred all of his clothes off but that would mean stopping Harry, stopping kissing his delicious lips, stopping their crotches from grinding together and, oh ...  

Louis abruptly stops kissing him and looks down, down where his legs are wrapped around Harry’s waist and where he can now see both their cockheads peeking out their jeans, exposed by their shirts that must have ridden up their torsos with all the rubbing against each other, tips already shiny with precome.

“Oh.”

Shit .” Harry says, scrambling to get up and Louis almost whines at the loss so he grips Harry’s biceps hard to stop his movements. “I’m so sorry, I-”

Louis shakes his head, he doesn’t really need words right now. He doesn’t need coherent thinking creeping its way into his brain again. He needs more kisses. He needs Harry to make everything quiet again. So, he shuts him up kissing him again.

Harry is unsure at first, muscles still straining to maintain a plank position above Louis so that their bodies don’t touch. And Louis is having none of it, so he lets go of Harry’s biceps and while one hand finds its way into the baby hair positioned at the nape of Harry’s neck, the other dances its way down, caressing the hard muscles of Harry’s spine until it’s resting just above his back and starts applying a gentle pressure there. It’s mild but constant and Harry gets the message quickly.  

“Are you sure?” Harry whispers, and the air puffs in Louis’ face.

Louis looks at him. His eyes meeting the blatant sincerity of Harry’s green ones. He's looking right into the eyes of a man that will do whatever he asks, he knows Harry will stop. He knows that a little negative tilt of his head or the smallest trace of insecurity in his voice will make him stop immediately, so Louis makes sure to look directly at him when with all the courage he can muster he whispers, “Never been so sure of anything in my life.”

Harry sighs and closes his eyes, as if he’s trying to release something else along with the air in his lungs. His head drops down until it comes to rest against Louis’, his body still not moving from his planking position above him.

Louis hands gently start to slide up, slowly and delicately as if they want to imprint the memory of every single touch in his brain. They come to a stop to frame Harry’s face and Louis manoeuvres him until they’re a few inches apart. Harry goes so willingly, not a hint of resistance in his body and it’s yet another confirmation of the fact that this man will never hurt him. Not on purpose.  

And it’s as crazy as it sounds but his eyes are still closed and he looks so serene while Louis gently strokes his face. It makes Louis smile despite the rational part of his brain screaming at him to catch this moment of weakness and go, to stop being so foolish. Pointing out that this is the part of the story where everything is telling him to run .  

But for the first time in his life Louis doesn’t want to run. For the first time in his life he wants to stay .  

Louis shakes his head as to whisk all the bad thoughts away, an old habit that doesn’t really work anymore but it’s like muscle memory. He looks at Harry’s lips first. So pink and plump from all the kissing, barely open to bare his calming panting. Louis smiles again.  

He never believed in the power of smiles. What power could a smile have? he used to think. It’s just lips. And teeth. Sometimes too much teeth. But what did he know? He couldn’t have possibly imagined of meeting Harry’s smile one day. And it is just lips and teeth. But it’s also warmth. And kindness. And a tingling feeling taking over your body.

All Louis life theories were torn apart by a beautiful smile. But a smile like that lights up an entire day and smiling back is the least one can do, really. It looks like a command: Harry smiles, and the ones pulling up are your lips.

“Harry...” Louis sighs, please , he thinks. “Let me see your eyes.”

Harry opens his eyes and the pupils restrict themselves the moment Louis come into focus, letting that beautiful peculiar green take over. It's becoming quickly Louis’ favourite colour.  

“There you are.” Louis says.

“Hi.” Harry smiles. He lowers himself down and he scoots just a tad so that their crotches are not in contact anymore, arms squishing behind Louis’ back and the sofa.

“Hi.”

They look at each other, little smiles painted on their faces. And Louis has read thousands of books and poems that should help him find the right words to express what he’s currently feeling. But then he realises that he doesn't need many. One is more than enough: it’s happiness .

God , your eyelashes.” Harry grunts, interrupting Louis’ thoughts. Head falling with a soft thud against Louis’ chest. When he lifts it up again his eyes are big and sincere, looking straight into Louis’, “You’re not even aware of it but all you do twists my feelings like a hurricane. I feel like a kid at his first crush. And I know it’s only been a handful of-”

And Louis can’t take it anymore, he interrupts Harry by kissing him. It's an uncomfortable position, because he had to lift his head to reach him, and it’s straining his neck but nothing matters. For every word that Harry says there’s a part of him that blooms like flowers in spring, cracking walls and breaking old sadness by letting light come through those same cracks and then there’s another part of him, the oldest one, his best friend, the voice that has always been in the back of his mind, roaring louder and louder, like a caged animal, snarling his way out.

But kissing Harry... kissing him silences everything. He can finally feel his heart beating faster and faster. His toes curling at the sparks of electricity that every swipe of Harry’s tongue gives.

He tries to slide down under Harry’s body, almost accidentally, without thinking, and Harry helps him by lifting his lower back a bit and they both moan loudly when their crotches meet again.  

One of Harry’s arms slides out from underneath Louis’ back and his hand latches itself behind Louis head, caging the soft hair there in his fist.  

It's not tentative anymore, it’s not delicate anymore. It's teeth and panted breath, it’s lust and purpose. It's lighting striking at every grind of their clothed erections.

With a strength and audacity, he didn't know he possessed, Louis’ hands sneak their way down between their bodies to open up the bottoms of Harry’s jeans.

“Louis we don’t have to-” Harry says after abruptly detaching himself from Louis’ lips with a loud wet sound.

“No,” Louis interrupts him, “Please, I- please .”

And Harry must have sensed Louis desperation because after that everything is a blur.  

But not like his first time. It's not a blur of movements and pain, of disgusting smell of piss and sour smelling grunts on the base of his neck.

This time it’s Harry . It's sweet smell and sugary taste. It’s clothes flying and hands moving everywhere, exploring every inch of each other. It's the incredible taste of Harry’s sweat that Louis licks straight from his chest. It's the pleasurable pain of Harry’s fingertips when he grips Louis’ legs too hard while he’s fingering him open with the other hand and it's moans that are like music to Louis ears.

It's teeth marks on his inner thighs from where Harry tried to suppress his moans at the view of his fingers disappearing into Louis. It's love bites like jewels everywhere on Louis’ body. It's the absolute pleasure of his body opening up and welcoming Harry in like he’s always belonged there.

It's everything at once and Louis is so into it that he doesn’t realize he’s crying until Harry abruptly halts all his movements and starts sliding out.

Louis arms, as on their own volition, reach out immediately to stop him, gripping hard into Harry’s biceps with more force than probably needed.

“Baby, you’re crying.” Harry says gently.

“I just- I didn’t know-” it could feel so good , Louis thinks but the words are stuck in his throat like choking air. I thought sex in real life was awkwardness and pain. I didn’t know it was supposed to make you feel so much. I didn’t think I would ever be able to experience it like this, never like this. I don’t know what I did to deserve this with you and I’m scared to wake up and find out it was only a dream. I don’t want it to be a dream. "I didn’t know- I- please, please don’t stop.”

Louis legs come up to circle Harry’s hips as to make sure he won’t go anywhere. His hands come up to frame Harry’s face and he’s blabbering something that most likely is just a string of please over and over again.

Harry pecks him on the mouth, shushing him with a gentle sound.

“Please, please.” Louis goes on, “I’m sure. I'm so sure. I want this so much. Please .”

“Shh, it’s ok. It's ok.” Harry kisses him again. “It’s ok.” he says one last time before he tentatively starts moving his hips again.

Louis eyes rolls on the back of his head and a loud moan escapes his lips. “ Yes .”  

The sensation is amazing and the new angle given by his legs up on Harry’s hips makes him hit all the right spots inside Louis.

It’s so good that Louis gets lost again. In Harry and with Harry. In the slow drag of their skin together. In their smell merging. In every kiss and every breathy moan.

It better than every dream Louis has ever had and when they both come in unison and Harry slips out of him and gently cleans them up while peppering him with kisses, Louis can’t do much but kiss him back every time and murmur thank you over and over again.

And before he knows it, he falls asleep with a content thud in his chest and Harry as comforting warmth surrounding him.

I'm happy , he thinks incredulous right before dozing off, I’ve never been so happy in life .

 

 

Something feels incredibly wrong when Louis wakes up.

He’s warm and cosy and he feels like he slept through two whole centuries. He can’t even remember when it was the last time that happened. But still, something feels just plain wrong .

Eyes still closed, he inhales the bittersweet smell emanating from Harry’s neck nape. It’s probably the combination of a fruity shampoo, perfume and the dried sweat from last night. They must have switched positions during the night, because Harry is now the little spoon, caged between Louis and the back of the sofa, and how they manage to do that on this little space is a big mystery to Louis.

Last night , Louis thinks while his nose starts drawing abstract patterns on the back of Harry’s neck right where the baby hairs are more sparse. An involuntary smile forces its way on his lips.

The best night of my life . Louis thinks again while the smile on his face grows bigger and bigger, to the point where his cheeks are hurting and he feels incredibly warm there. He feels so light and silly and happy that it makes him feel quite embarrassed with himself so he just squishes his face right into Harry’s back, arms tightening around his middle, while a little squeaky noise escapes his lips.  

Thank you .

He just doesn’t understand what it is that feel so wrong. So out of place.  

His mind gets distracted again and he wanders back to last night events. His smile can’t get any bigger when he remembers them walking hand in hand, Harry’s incredibly bad jokes, every little compliment but the blush on his face, however, intensify when he sees again the images of Harry’s body, Harry on his knees, looking at Louis while he sucks him off, Harry’s face when the orgasm hit him.

His legs shift at the same time as he lifts his right arm that squished between his stomach and Harry’s back, to rub his eyes. He’s jokingly thinking that a semi right in this moment wouldn’t exactly be appropriate, or maybe it would , he snickers to himself, with the two of them being stark naked and all. Maybe they can even get a replay of last night. Maybe he can-

Louis freezes as his mind finally register the missing details. His eyes widen, locked on a spot on Harry’s back because he’s too scared to look down, while his hand touches a tenderness on his chest that shouldn’t be there. His heart skips a bit when he finally registers a tickling sensation on his shoulders that can’t be anything else but long hair . The air gets definitively punched out of his lungs when he shifts his legs with more intent and he feels nothing .

Louis left arm, that was still hugging Harry’s middle, retracts as if burned. His mind is in a loop of hide and run. And hide and run . Run and hide , Now! The force of the gesture is so powerful that makes Louis fall from the sofa and thank god for the sofa cushions that they just throw randomly last night. Last night . The thought of it is a punch right in Louis’ gut now.

He lies there on the floor in the same exact position he fell in. His body seems to have forgotten how to move despite the constant screaming in his mind to run far away from this place before Harry wakes up.

Harry . Louis eyes snap to look at him, at the back of his head, at the soft, luscious curls and at the lovely expense of pale skin on his back and he remembers everything, every single moment spent together and every single reason why he knew this was a bad idea. Every touch he’ll never have again. The sparkle of his eyes that Louis will never see again. The joy of a touch he’s destined to have only as a memory.

Louis was right, after all. Hell did break loose and the feeling is not as bearable as he thought, he was wrong, so wrong thinking that a night could have been enough and now he’ll have the rest of his life to remember how it is to be touched and loved and cared for only to never have it again.

He chose his own grave to lie in the moment he decided to go on this damn date and now he'll just have to lie in it.

Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

Harry stirs lightly, just a movement of his shoulders and the barely audible sound that his skin makes against the cotton material of the sofa is loud enough to snaps Louis out of his trance. He jumps up, gets dressed quicker than humanly possible and in a matter of minutes he’s ready with one foot already out of the door.

Louis stops, one foot in and one foot out. It's just a thought, just one, a quick one, and he promises himself not be a human cliché but it catches suddenly and, in the end, he has to look back one more time. Just one more. One more.

From the door Harry is just a mop of curls scattered everywhere and nothing has ever brought such sadness crashing into Louis as the view of those hair.

Thank you , he thinks. For your kindness and your special soul . Tears starts filling his eyes making his vision so blurry that Harry is nothing but a blob of brown and pale pink colour. Thank you for letting me see it. A quiet sob escapes his lips and he cover his mouth with the jacket in his hands as to take it back.

I will miss you for the rest of my life.  

And with that thought he’s out of the door and Harry’s life.  

 

 

So, the story it's like this.

Louis’ first recalled encounter with uncle Trevis is from when he’s four years old and he coloured with Louis for two hours straight without letting Louis’ mother interfere despite being past his bedtime. She tried once, arguing that even if it wasn’t a school night it would mess up with Louis’ sleep routine, but uncle Trevis had said, Please, Jay, let me spend time with him while I can , and that seemed to be the end of it.  

It was quite odd, thinking about it in prospection, but Louis was only four and this man made him stay up until 9:30 in the evening, uncle Trevis was definitely his new hero.

He was a tall man, with broad shoulders and a well-built body that always intimidate Louis a bit but he also had kind eyes and a gentle smile blossoming on his face every time Louis would talk to him.

And oh boy, Louis talked to him a lot. Whenever uncle Trevis came over, Louis was like a train at full speed. He didn’t manage to come around often, there were periods were the visits were pretty frequent and other long, boring periods of no news from him at all. So every time there was a lot to catch up on. Like Louis’ new friend Niall. He's from Ireland, that’s like, really, far uncle! And the boy at school that tried to push him down but Louis stood his ground just like uncle Trevis taught him. You're such a smart little lad, Louis. I’m proud of you. He had said with a loving pat on Louis head and Louis remembers not being able to stop smiling all day after that.

Louis loved him. Uncle Trevis was Jay’s twin and, apart from Louis, he was the only man of the family; their father, Louis’ grandfather, had flown from the scene after few years from the twins’ birth, and with Louis’ dad also disappearing before he could learn his own name, Trevis was the only male figure in his life. Needless to say, Louis worshipped the ground he walked on.  

He even was the first person who Louis told his big secret, when he was about twelve and all his friends were focused on girls and boobs and who would get a kiss from beautiful Katy and Louis just wasn’t into it. It doesn’t feel right to think about girls like that, unkie . He had said shily, scared of his uncle reaction, but Trevis just held him tight, a knowing smile on his face, and told him it was alright.   

So, yeah, Louis loved him a lot, he just couldn’t understand at the time why, despite his smile and sweet temper, uncle Trevis looked so sad all the time. Why he carried himself like a man who had all the weight of the world on his shoulders. He remembers a time when in all his innocence, Louis offered him the last scoop of his favourite ice-cream. There , he had said, now you can be happy.

But how could have Louis understood the sadness of man that had to live, among the rest, with the consciousness of having destroyed his parent's life. The pain he had to carry knowing that his father was so disgusted by him that he had left in the dark of one night without even saying one word. That he was the one that had deprived his mother of her beloved husband.

Most of Louis’ memories are of him always being alone, for every dinner, festivity or celebration. But then one day, when Louis was about thirteen, uncle Travis came hand in hand with a lovely woman called Susan. It was the first time Louis had seen him truly happy and Louis was just so pumped that he didn’t understand why his mother seemed so anxious, so nervous, her smiles too tight to be sincere. She didn’t say anything all afternoon to Trevis or Susan, nor even to Louis, but then Louis remembers Jay excusing herself to the kitchen to prepare some tea and asking Trevis for help. That’s where the angry whispers that soon became muffled shouting started. It didn’t make much sense to Louis but Uncle Trevis and Susan left soon after.  

All Louis got was another pat on the head and a take care of yourself, kid .

After that visit, they didn’t see him anymore for quite some time. He never came by their house, he didn’t show up at any dinner, he didn’t call for anyone birthday. And Louis at the beginning was so angry with Jay that he didn’t speak to her for three days.

“How could you be so cruel to him? He was so happy, mom!”

“Louis you don’t underst-”

“Stop saying that! I'm not stupid! Guess since you’re alone and stuck with me no one else deserve happiness, huh?”

That was also the first time Jay had slapped him.

And then one day, about two years after, there was a woman on their doorstep and as soon as his mother saw her she started sobbing, running into the woman’s arm, holding onto her for dear life.  

Louis remember watching the scene perched on the sofa, he was fifteen and in the middle of that phase of feeling very much the man of the house, so he had tons of questions, but something made him bite his tongue.

Treva . Her name was Treva, and she was tall, with broad shoulders and a well-built body that intimidated Louis a bit but she had kind eyes and a gentle smile started blossoming on her face when her eyes landed on Louis.

Louis was so ready to understand who this woman was and to start his questioning but Jay practically obligated him to go into his room to do his homework. Louis tried do protest, a but mom already on the tip of his tongue but her eyes left no room for objections, so up Louis went.

He remembers the screams.  

He was in his room, laying on his bed, with headphones perched tightly on his head, loud music blasting through them and yet he remembers the first scream loud and clear.

He bolted towards the door and started basically skip the stairs as fast as he could until his brain started to register the words.

“You have to tell him!” Treva shouted.

“It’s none of your business. It hasn’t happened in years! It might as well-” Jay was arguing before being interrupted again.

“What? Do you think he’s free ? Look at me!” she roared opening her arms, “He's not ! And if you don’t tell him it will crush him, just like it happened to me! You were there Jay, you know how the world swallowed me up when dad left-”

“I would never -”

“That’s not the point!” Hollered Treva, “The point is that it’s going to happen again at some point, and he will remember this time, he’s not a three-year-old anymore, and maybe he won’t lose you like we lost our father, but his world is about to change forever and you are not warning him -”

Treva's loud words died in her throat as soon as she spotted Louis entering the kitchen, both her and Jay were red-faced, the flush extending on their necks, and Louis didn’t even register his feet moving until he was standing in front of the two women.

“Mum, what- what's going on?” He asked, head turning left and right to look at the both of them.

“Nothing, sweetheart. Nothing. Treva and I-” Jay said dismissively, waving her hand in the air. Her smile was so forced that Louis got shivers among his back.

“Louis, sit down.” Treva interrupted.

“Don’t you dare !” threatened Jay, eyes snapping on Treva again. Voice firm and menacing.

“He deserves to know.”

“No, what the deserves is-”

“Mum?”

Jay's eyes snapped on him again, all anger leaving her beautiful face, a long sigh of resignation leaving her plush lips. She looked at Treva again and the two of them seemed to have a wordless conversation.

“Come sit down baby.” Jay said finally, another long sigh left her mouth. “I think it’s time you learn our family’s history.”

Louis had been a lot scared, sitting at their dinner table with two set of eyes looking carefully at him, but when the first words, such as ‘magic’ and ‘a curse’, started to come out from his mother’s lips he started laughing uncontrollably.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” he had said wheezing between laughs, “You're saying- what you are saying is that my great-great-grandfather cheated on his wife, broke the heart of the wrong woman and what?” he said with another fit of laughs rolling out him, “she had turned into a woman ?”

“She didn’t just turn him into a woman, Louis.” Jay said patiently, “She put him under a curse that would turn him into a woman now and then, more frequently if he ever fell in love, so that his love could never see the light of the day.”

That set Louis off again.

“Your grandmother- our mother, didn’t believe it either. That’s why she never said anything to her husband and that’s why he left when I turned the first time.” Treva said.

Louis eyes snapped on her, laughter dying in his throat faster than a bullet. “Our mother?” he asked feebly, “You mean- you are-”

“Uncle Trevis.” She said smiling sadly, “Hi, Louis. It's nice to see you again.”

“No, that’s not- it's impossible!” Louis replied, involuntary banging his fist on the table.

“Louis do you remember that time when we coloured for hours on end?” she asked and Louis scoffed. “You’re right. That's not personal enough. How about the time when we went for ice-creams and you offered me some of yours because I looked sad?” Louis’ throat clenched violently. “Or when you told that felt wrong thinking about gi-”

“Ok. Ok, let’s just pretend I believe you.” Louis had said, voice hoarse and trembling, interrupting her, “Let’s say this is all true, ok? Even in that case, what does it have to do with me?”

“Have you ever wondered why we’re the only siblings in the family, Louis?” Treva asked, “Why I don’t have children or why grandma Judy had a twin brother that mysteriously disappeared at a really young age?”

Louis shook his head.

“Because the curse is set on every man of family. George, grandma’s twin brother, was taken away when he was three years old because he turned into a little girl during family dinner and- well, old times and crazy mentalities.” Treva said waving her hand in the air, “No one knows what happened to him after that. Anyway, they kept it quiet, like the dirtiest secret to keep, and Grandma Judy was too young to remember but years later, when she met her future husband, Edward, your great-grandparents tried to explain it to her. They tried to avoid any more troubles first imposing her of not having any children, ever, and then banning her from marriage all together, but times had changed, magic was already nothing more than a fairy-tale to tell the children, and she never witnessed her brother ‘ turning ’” she quoted, “So she laughed in their faces, pretty much like you are doing right now, told them they were old fools and then ran away with Edward. They got married within months and rest is history, you could say.”

“So, what-”

“You’re a man Louis.” Jay said, and Louis almost forgot that she was in the room from how quiet she had been. She started sobbing, loudly and agonising, her voice quivering when she added, “You’re a man, baby.”  

After that everything is a blur of more words spoke through tears and Louis felt like he was stuck in a bad dream.  

Louis learned that Trevis had disappeared because falling in love with Susan had made him ‘turn’ more often, that obviously ruined his relationship, disappearing on days on end without saying a word about it it’s not the best recipe for a young love, and also ruined his life by being fired from work for not showing up, so he had to get away to digest the pain of it all and go somewhere where no one knew about him. Or ask about him.

He also learned that he did turn already, first when he was two months old and then years later when he had just turned three years of age. Louis remembers staring at his own hands scared that they might change into something dreadful right in that instant.

They talked, and talked and then talked some more. Louis went to bed that night knowing that the terrifying feeling he had in his chest was only the beginning.

He just didn’t understand yet how true that was.  

 

GIRL LOUIS

 

One of Louis’ biggest regrets is putting all the blame on his mother.

When it finally happened, months later, and he woke up feeling dizzy, disorientated and just wrong he had cried and shouted, accusing Jay of being awful and selfish for wanting a child knowing what would have happened.

She never said anything, she just let him rant and shout. Silent tears streaming down her face.

Thing is, Louis knew the story. Louis knew that he wasn’t planned, that his mother was innocent and that it was only a twisted turn of fate that the condom broke that night. That she didn’t plan on getting pregnant so young. That it wasn’t her intention to raise a child alone because she knew her boyfriend would have left as soon as he found out.

And he did. Troy went away when Jay was no more than 4 months pregnant, with a disgusted frown on his face and the accusation of wanting to trap him in a life he never wished for. He left her with a belly that couldn’t be blamed on gaining some weight anymore, a pang in her heart and more tears than a simple break up would need.

Because she knew. She was aware of the curse and since the moment she saw her brother turn for the first time she swore to every possible god out there that she would never inflict such awful pain on an innocent soul. She swore with everything in her heart that she would never have a baby.

But life and destiny have a thing for destroying dreams and wishes and promises and Jay found herself alone, a few months later, with a son and only her brother to give her support since her parents refused to help her in any way, accusing her once again of being selfish and irresponsible, leaving her completely alone to fend for herself and her baby.

So, yeah. Louis knew everything. Louis knew the difficulties she had to go through to raise him, the long shifts taken to pay the bills and the extra ones so he could have new shoes, new books, the school uniform.

Louis knew that his mother sacrificed her whole life for him but still, when the time came, he vomited all his anger and frustration on her, blaming her for everything.

That’s why he has never forgiven himself for saying those awful things to her. He was young, yes. Scared and afraid, sure. But if he could go back in time and change one thing and one thing only, he would definitely erase that day from their memories and all the extra, futile pain he inflicted on his mother’s shoulders.

But despite the irony of what his condition would suggest, Louis knows that in real life things don’t work this way. You can’t go back and fix whatever damage you’ve caused, you can just try to make amends for the rest of your life hoping that it’ll work out. And, mostly, try to learn the lesson: don’t blame others for what happened.  

So that’s why when he barges through the door, blotchy face, eyes red and swollen, and Niall is sitting on the sofa munching on his morning cereals, Louis decides to ignore him.  

Louis pretends he doesn’t hear his disappointed Oh . He pretends he doesn’t see Niall’s face going from surprised to confused, to concerned to sad.

With incredible strength, he doesn’t pay any attention to the irrational part of his brain that wants to scream and throw things at Niall because none of this would have happened if you didn’t push it too far the other night . None of this would have happened if you’d just let me be. None of this would have happened if-

“Louis.” Niall sighs and sits up straight on the sofa, bowl of cereal dangerously forgotten over the edge of a cushion.

Louis doesn’t react, he doesn’t want to react, he doesn’t want to talk. He just wants his bed and forget everything that happened in the last 72 hours.

“Lou.” Niall tries again. “Louis, I’m sor-”

“It’s fine Niall.” Louis says and then winces at the sound of his voice. He thinks he will never get used to it, to how light and delicate he sounds. It’s another reminder of how this is not him at all.  

It feels like a night sky without any moon. It’s beautiful, in its own way, but empty. Everything shines out of stars reflection and it’s twinkling and it’s supposed to be magic but there’s something missing .  

“It’s fine.” He repeats after clearing his throat. Nothing really changes but he still tries. He’s one step away from his door. “I’m fine. I just want to sleep, alright?”

The last thing he hears before shutting the door close is the damn cereal bowl crashing on the hard pavement of their living room.

If objects had feelings, Louis thinks, he then knows exactly how that bowl feels while he lets himself fall face first on the bed.

After that, everything is black.

 

 

Harry is dead on his feet.  

He’s stressed, overworked, tired to his bones to the point that when he finally shuts the door to his flat behind himself the only thing he wants to do is face-plant the sofa and possibly merge with it until next Monday. As in, two days from now Monday. That’s how tired he is.   

But being extremely busy and dive himself into his work is better than thinking, he guesses.  

Tonight it’s the night of Liam’s birthday and there’s absolutely no way Harry can bailout. Liam has been planning it for months on end because “ I’m turning twenty-five, Harry. That calls for celebrations and getting shit-faced!

Pfft. Harry scoffs internally, founding the seriousness of it utterly ridiculous but it’s Liam and, since the day they met years ago, he’s been absolutely, definitely, one-hundred percent incapable of telling him no, no matter how much he wants to.  

Bailing tonight would be like kicking a puppy: painful, absolutely unnecessary and, honestly, just brutal. Harry can imagine his pouting face and for a moment he feels already guilty.

Besides, going out might help with all the non-thinking thing.

So that’s why, despite the pitiful whine that comes out on its own volition when he walks past the sofa, Harry goes straight to his room to shower and get ready.   

He’s warm from the shower and comfortably wrapped up in his fluffy towel when another whine comes out as Harry eyes his favourite tracksuit, laid out on the chair from the night before.

He looks around his room and starts to take in the mess adorning it. Clothes from the previous days didn’t manage to make it into the laundry basket, his bed is unmade and the sheets are hanging out from one side. Everything is just scattered everywhere .   

Harry sighs, head lolling forward to rest in his hands. He’s not coping as well as he thought, he realises. He sighs again.  

It’s just- since waking up, five days ago, alone and abandoned and feeling used and played, Harry has not been able to take reign of his life again.  

His perfect world made of blinking glass shattered around him leaving him with useless bits and pieces scattered here and there and all they’re good for is cut and slice through him, making old wounds, that he desperately wants to heal, open and bleed again.  

Harry has had a good life. He knows that. Honestly, he can’t complain. He can’t .  

But you don’t choose the things that will mark you for the rest of your life, no. They find you, suddenly and unexpectedly, on a sunny Tuesday afternoon, while the family is all sitting out in the garden. Harry is five years old, and everyone is laughing and happy and a phone call destroys everything. Harry has never seen his mother cry so much, sadness written and washed all over his face with her tears, and he has to learn that he can’t see his beloved grandma anymore. It's the first time Harry learns that the people you love might eventually leave, even if they don’t really mean to.

Or maybe they’ll come on a school day, when Harry is eight years old, and they’ll be in the form of his best friend telling him ‘I hate you’ for the first time. All Harry did was smile back to Lidiya. He realised years later that it wasn’t really his fault, only his friend being a dick but, all the same, he’ll never forget how much it hurt. It's the first time Harry learns that the people you love might hurt you, for no reason at all.

Or maybe they’ll hit you when Gemma comes home one day in tears, inconsolable, because someone made fun of her freckles and Harry felt his blood boiling but he was seven years old and he just didn’t know what to do. It's the first time Harry learns that you can’t always protect the people you love.

Or maybe, years later, when Harry’s is eighteen and in love and his boyfriend tells him, just like that, ‘I don’t love you anymore’, just like that, like it’s easy and harmless, like the world didn’t just swallow Harry whole after hearing those words. Another piece of his heart breaks right there and it's also the first time Harry learns that the people you love might leave, because they choose to.

So, yeah, despite being surrounded by love, and kindness, and attention for most of his life, Harry has  learned the hard way that life is not all roses and flowers.

He doesn’t know when it happened, or how, or why , but at some point he started to build a little gold cage around his heart and despite it being beautiful, and intricately delicate, it was nonetheless a cage and Harry realised too late that with his heart he locked up all his feelings too.  

Harry doesn’t remember the last time he felt whole . Or the last time he hasn’t overthought a situation. The last time he just enjoyed the moment. The last time he felt something moving, flying or even beating inside. The last time he stopped being careful .

Right . Harry thinks and drops the towel with way more force than needed, like it’s its fault if Harry’s life is an absolute mess.  

Because that was before Louis.  

Before Louis came waltzing on tiptoes in his life. Before he carved his way inside Harry with a sweet face and a sad smile. Before Harry let himself believe that something was tying him to Louis.

Before Louis made him believe that they were sharing something, that that night he was giving a part of himself to Harry.  

Lies. Lies. Lies. Harry thinks. It was just an act for Louis’ own amusement and he didn't stay to see the aftermath.  

This has to stop. He thinks while sliding one leg after the other into his briefs. It was just sex. You had one night stands before, hips shimmying while he tries to bring his black trousers up. You worked yourself up, he hastily pulls the zip up, and you will talk yourself out.

You’re going out tonight and you're gonna get your head out of your own arse. He looks at himself in the mirror and gives himself a sharp nod, like a pat on the shoulder.  

And that’s when the doorbell rings.

Harry looks at the clock on his nightstand and for a moment he panics thinking he’s late but as the doorbell rings again he remembers that he was definitely not expecting guests. Still, he heads towards the front door without even bother to put a shirt on.

But sometimes, the things that will mark you for the rest of your life, arrive on your doorstep on a quiet evening, while you were getting ready for a party and you were absolutely oblivious and totally not ready for the collision.

That’s all Harry can think when he opens the door and there’s Niall on the other side, out of breath and looking guilty, and the first words he says are:

“We have to talk about Louis.”

 

 

Harry's is staring at a closed door that surely must has seen better days and his hands are shaking. Because this-  

This can't be real , this can't possibly be happening. How stupid of him is to even considering it, right?  

Right?

But there's this growing feeling that he can’t grasp that's eating him alive and he's so scared because... Because-

What if is it true. What if what Niall said was nothing but the truth and what if, what if the person behind this door is in fact his Louis and Oh God, Harry has gone crazy, hasn't he?  

But then, no. No. No . Get a fucking grip .  

His Louis is gone, his Louis willingly ran away. His Louis was never his to begin with and he disappeared, in the middle of the night probably, after all the kisses and the soft touches and Harry hates him. He fucking hates him for leaving him like that, for leaving him broken and so desperate that he's even considering the possibility of this absurdity to be true.  

And, honestly, he should just leave, put all this behind and move the fuck on-

But then the door burst open and there's a girl on the other side. Her hair is messy, long enough to be all over the place even if she attempted to put them in a bun and she looks tired, exhausted and like she cried all the tears of the world and absolutely none of this matter because all Harry can see is blue.  

Blue .  

Her eyes are blue and not just- not just blue. They're that blue-greeny-blue colour and Harry knows those eyes, he had fallen for them, he had worshipped them, he just-  

This can't be a trick, this can't be his imagination or his desperation fucking with his mind, making him see things that are not real.  

For a whole minute they stand there looking at each other and Harry can read her emotions like an open book. First is surprise then recognition and lastly panic. They all come in circles over and over again until her expression becomes completely blank and Harry is paralyzed .

“Can I help you?” She whispers faintly, like she's afraid that her own voice will give herself away.

“I... uhm, I-” he clears his throat looking for words but there's not an easy way of doing it, is it? How can Harry possibly say something when he doesn't even know what to say. Something along the lines of ‘Hi, I know who you are, please tell me I'm not crazy’ will definitely not work, because there's always, always the possibility that all this is just in his head and he's one step closer going completely mad with every passing second. “I am-” He tries, he really fucking does but he's losing it, every nerve in his body feels like it’s on fire so he gives up and whispers, almost pleading, “Louis.”  

He sees her hands, that up until that moment were gently holding the door open, start to grip it so tightly that her knuckles and fingertips turn white.  

“I think you're in the wrong place, mate.” And- Mate. Mate . And it's such a Louis thing to say. And they way that she said it- It's... It's overwhelming, that's what it is.  

Because all this was to prove himself wrong. Because he was supposed to come here, and lose any hope after figuring out that Niall had just pranked him, in the worst way possible. That he had told Harry the most ridiculous story of all times just to make him go .

And instead here he is, shivering and trembling on a complete stranger’s doorstep that might turn out be not a stranger at all.  

No, scratch that. Because he's looking at her and, sure, the picture is all wrong, the voice is completely different, but he knows now that the person standing in front of him it's Louis, his Louis.

“Please...” Harry whispers, and he doesn't occur to him that he’s clutching his hands to his chest until he follows her eyes. And Harry knows how desperate he must look but he doesn't care because he is , he's so desperate that he doesn't even makes sense anymore.  

She releases a breath and it sounds like defeat. Harry sees the uncertainty in her eyes but it looks like she's not ready to give up yet.

“I don't-”

“Niall told me.” Harry says in a rush, interrupting her. “Everything-” he continues but he chokes on air. He takes a big breath and then repeats more calmly, “Niall told me everything. Please , let me in.”

There are few moments in which no one says anything, the only audible noise is probably Harry’s ragged breath. Harry looks at her and she’s biting the inside of her right cheek, mouth pursed and lightly moved to the left. She’s not looking at him, her eyes are focused on a spot somewhere on Harry’s boots and all he can see is Louis .  

In the sharp shape of her cheekbones, the long eyelashes, in the caramel shade of her hair. And the blue of her eyes-

Harry was so lost in taking in every small detail that linked her to Louis in his mind that he missed the moment where she started looking directly at him. And she’s not crying, but she’s pretty damn close.

“I- I can’t do it. I- I'm sorry, I-”

She's whispering her rant, blinking furiously while tears finally escape and all Harry can do is reach out and hug her. It’s not even a conscious decision, he sees those eyes full of tears and his body just moves .

She doesn’t put up any fight. Harry's arms tighten around her shoulders while she grips his jumper in her fists and buries her face in it.

Harry can’t help to think of how wrong and right it feels to have her this close. And the reason why it feels wrong are pretty obvious: she’s a woman and apparently she has nothing of the man he loves. But if he closes his eyes and inhales the smell coming from her hair it’s so incredibly Louis that it feels just like hugging him.

There's a lock being turned on a door somewhere in the communal hallway and she goes immediately rigid in Harry’s arm that he, once again, makes the unconscious decision of pushing them both inside and close the door behind them.

Her head snaps up like she just processed what happened, hands pushing Harry away like she’s been burned. “You can’t tell anyone. Promise. You must promise not to tel-”

“I wouldn’t.” Harry interrupts her, but she looks anything but convinced. “Louis, I wouldn’t. I promise.”

She’s ready to fire back, Harry can see it in the way her mouth opens and closes a couple of times. But she has the face of someone so tired of fighting. He thinks he’s right when she just sighs, defeated, and turns around to sit on the sofa.

“What do you want, Harry?” She’s sitting with her legs open and her elbows planted on her knees. Hands clasped together. “Now that you know, what do you want?”

And what does Harry want? He didn’t think that far. He was supposed to come here and leave conscious of the fat laugh Louis and Niall would be having at his expense for the big prank they pulled.

He was hoping, sure, but the rational part of his brain didn’t fully let him believe that all this might be true. And can he be blamed? Magic, curses, old mean witches... It's a lot to take in living in a world where all this is nothing but fantasies and stories good only to produce books and movies. It's like believing in Santa as a kid: it comes to a point where you know it’s not true but you still wish to be on his good list.

The difference now is that Santa truly does exists and it’s staring back at him, asking him what does he wants .

On the other side of the room, Louis just sighs and drops her head. She's looking at the carpet beneath her socked feet and she’s slowly shaking her head, like she’s disappointed in something.

“You know what? This was a big mistake-”

Once again, Harry speaks without thinking. “You. I want you.”  

“Me? Is this what you want?”

Harry shakes his head, his right hand come up as to stop an imaginary thing that’s about to hit him.

“What is it?” Louis goes on, voice rising with rage, “is this just a way to fulfill your fantasies? What, you-”

“No, Louis. I want you . I want the real you.”

“The real me?” Louis scoffs, “Look at me, Harry! This is the real me, this is as real as it gets! Have you considered- What if this is the face you have to look at for the rest of your life, uh?”

“But Niall said-”

“It doesn’t matter what Niall said!” Louis hollers, “Me falling in love with you complicates everything! So, let me ask you again, what if this is the face you’ll have to look at for the rest of your life?”

“Then we’ll cross that bridge when we come it.”

Louis scoffs again, “Are you really that stupid? Do you think this is a joke?”

“No, Louis. I-”

“Do you really want to be with someone that has to hide half of their life away? What about your family, Harry? What are you going to tell them? Have you thought about that? What if we give this a shot and I’m never turning back?” Something swift in her eyes, they become a little darker, a lot colder, “Do you like this ? Is that what you’re trying to say? I suppose she’s pretty for female standards,” The words are coming out like gold honey, but they sting like a snake bite, “Do you want to have a go with the freak , is that what it is?”

“Stop it, Louis. Just stop.” Harry pleads.

“Oh, but why should I?” She sneers, “Should I be more obliging?” she fake smiles and bats her eyelashes, “Is that how you like them-”

“Just fucking stop, Louis.” Harry shouts. “Why are you doing this? I am gay, you know I am. If you think all I'm here for is to have another fuck than you’re certainly mistaken!”

“Then why are you he-”

“Because I love you, damn it !” Harry roars, getting so close to her in few strides that he’s able to grip her elbows, “I don’t know when it happened or why it happened so fast, but I do. And I-”

“Harry, you wouldn’t like if I was-”

“I’d still like you even if you developed antennas, Louis. That’s how gone I am.”

They look each other into their eyes for a bit, Harry’s breath still ragged from all the emotions, until Louis starts chuckling. Harry follows until both of them are full on laughing.

“Your jokes are really, really bad. You know?” Louis says after a bit.

Harry smiles gently, one hand coming up to caress Louis’ cheek, “Do you think you can get used to it?” he says only half joking, knowing that the question is not just related to his bad jokes anymore.

Louis chuckles again, shaking her head. “Yeah.” She says, face leaning more into Harry’s hand. “Yeah, I think I can.”

 

 

“Hey, I forgot to ask. How was your day?” Harry asks yawning. They're laying in bed about to doze off, Harry on his back and Louis on his side, head resting right on top on Harry’s pecks.  

“Good.” Louis answers tilting his head up to look Harry in the eyes. “Stayed in, worked a bit; watched telly, went grocery shopping, got bored out of my mind…”

“Yeah?” Harry asks, eyes already dropping close.

“Oh but wait, wait! Something happened!” Louis replies, getting up on one elbow.

“Consider me intrigued.” Harry shift on his side, putting his left hand on Louis’ hip.

“Coming back from the store I met Nina. You know, the nice Spanish old lady that lives across the hall?”

“Yup.” Harry says, only half listening. He’s tired and ready to sleep but Louis’ neck is right there and he’s only human. “Tell me more,” he says kissing the spot just behind Louis’ ear.

“She had something very interesting to share...”

“Uh-uh.” Harry hums, “Can I have a kiss first?”

“Kiss you?” Louis smiles, “That’s a terrible, terrible task to ask for, Harold. You’re lucky I’m so magnanimous.” Louis smiles, head already dropping down.

“Shut up, you idiot.” Harry fires back just before their lips meet.

They kiss languidly for a few moments, until Louis pulls back.

“I was in the middle of a story.”

“Right! My bad. You were saying?” Harry says putting some distance between them, leaning his weight on his elbow.

“I believe her exact words were ‘better be careful young man, that boyfriend of yours is a little too comfortable with your cousin’.” Louis says amused at Harry’s reaction.  

“She thinks I’m cheating on you?” Harry says shrieking.  

“Maybe she saw us? I mean, she doesn't know it’s me. She caught me sneaking in one day and I panicked, so I told her I was Louis’ cousin. ” Louis says.

“But- you haven't turned in months? Since-” Harry asks confused.

“She must have seen us that day, the day you came over after Niall told you everything.” Louis pondered. “You did say you heard a lock turning before pushing us into the flat.”

Harry hums and lays down, he feels Louis do the same. Both of them lay there, side by side, looking at the thin line of moonlight on the ceiling coming from the curtains.

“Do you think it will happen again?” Harry asks after a beat.

“What? Nina seeing us? I mean, probab-”

“You turning.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah.” Harry sighs.

“I don’t know.” Louis whispers. His left hand moves just enough to lace his fingers with Harry’s and lift them both to lay on his own chest.  

He hasn’t turned in five months, exactly the time he and Harry have been together. He woke up the day after their confrontation with a raging headache, having cried his eyes out with Harry right before falling asleep, disoriented and in his own body.

He never questioned it, never dared.

He brings their joined hands up to his mouth so he can kiss Harry’s knuckles. “I go to sleep every night fearing to wake up like that.” He whispers, “I dread the day it will happen and see the look on your face-”

“Babe,” Harry says turning to hug him, “whatever happens, we’ll get through it. Together.”

“Together.” Louis replies and they share a gentle peck before laying back down. “I’ll never gets used to how good that sounds.”

Harry’s eyes are about to close, a content sigh leaving his lips while he adjusts his head on the pillow.

“So…” Louis says, “You and my cousin-”  

Harry groans, eyelids squishing together. “Louis. I’m tired. And it’s weird.”

“I’m just saying-” Louis whines.

“God, I hate you.” Harry chuckles.

“I know.” Louis murmurs sighing and Harry can’t see it but he can feel his smile, “You like to say it, once and again.”

“I do. I hate you so much right now.” Harry says turning on his side and the sheets get tangled between his legs. Louis shifts as well and his arm comes securely around Harry’s waist.

“You despite me.” he whispers conspiratorially.

“So much.” Harry sighs while his head finds the perfect position between Louis’ chin and his chest.

“I ruined your life.” Louis muses. It feels good to finally joke about all his worse insecurities.

“You did.” A smile has taken all over his face and Harry is so glad they’re in complete darkness.

“Should I leave you?”

“Please do.”  

Louis hums contentedly. “All those nights sleeping next to me must have been awful.”

“The worst.” Harry murmurs. Louis’ fingers are lightly tracing abstract patterns on his bare back and goosebumps are rising with every swipe of a finger. “Worst nights of my life.”

Louis hums again. “If only you could have done that with my cousin .”

Harry erupts in a series of uncontrollable giggles despite his best efforts to resist.

“God, you’re an idiot.” He sighs, “You’re taking this cousin thing too far.”

“Am I?”

“Yes, you nitwit.” Another giggle leaves his lips, soon followed by a yawn. God , he’s so tired.

A beat passes while they lay there holding on to each other. Louis hand is still caressing Harry’s back and Harry’s fingers have sneak up to Louis’ chest to trace tenderly circles.

“Ah, so what? You, like, like me?” Louis says after a while.

“Oh, God-” Harry groans again, kicking his legs, before starting laughing again. Louis joins him this time and when they calm down his head tilts down just as Harry’s shoots up and they share a tenderly kiss.

“Ok, that got too far. I admit that.” Louis says detaching himself from Harry’s lips with a loud pop . “But just so you know? If you ever cheat on me, I’m chopping off your balls and I’ll feed them to the cat.”

“Baby, we don’t have a cat.”

“And just for that, we’re getting one tomorrow.” Louis says before tickling Harry’s sides. God He loves this man so much. So much .

When the laughter dies down, they get back on holding each other. Louis’ chin is on top of Harry’s head and he smiles when he feels Harry gently peppering his chest with light butterfly kisses.

“You’re my whole life.” Harry whispers after a while, lifting his head once again. His eyes have adjusted to the darkness of the bedroom and the faint moonlight creeping through the curtain is barely enough to make out Louis face. He sighs, one hand coming up to cup Louis’ cheek. “You’re my whole life.”  

The smile that blooms on Louis’ face it’s more powerful than ten suns, shining his way through the darkness, and Harry thinks that for a smile like that he can bear losing some sleep. He doesn’t even feel that tired anymore.

Louis arms tightens around him. “I love you”, he whispers, gently kissing Harry’s forehead. “I love you so goddamn much. I really don’t want to feed your balls to our cat.”

They both start laughing again and Harry wonders if they’ll catch any sleep at this rate.

But then Louis sniffles and snuggles closer, his body heat enveloping Harry and with his heart doing all sorts of jumps he thinks that yeah , this is something definitely worth losing some sleep for.

CUDDLING

 

 

 

Meanwhile, somewhere lost in northern England, in the ruined basement of an old, abandoned house that surely has seen better days and is now forgotten like like the details of a dream too painful to remember, the mouldy corners of a dusty journal start to flutter under an inexplicable gust. A piece of paper slips out and mid whirl it promptly catches on fire.

The last readable words before everything turns to dust are:

Only in the eyes of his true soulmate, when and if love will be shared, his soul will find happiness and shall therefore be free. Because true love wins. Always.

 

The end