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Could You?

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Louis took a deep breath, beads of sweat trickling down his back as he stared out over the audience. This show had been a long time coming, and he’d loved every minute of being on stage, singing his heart out, losing himself in the moment, in the amazing crowd around him. There was nothing like the rush of performing on stage in front of the most loyal crowd full of his fans, and he swallowed down the lump in his throat, knowing the best was yet to come and best of all, the audience had absolutely no idea.

He wandered over to the drum kit, picking up the bottle of water that had fallen over before when he’d taken a sip and gulped down the rest of it, locking eyes with Zak his keys player, smiling softly at him. Of course, his band was in on the surprise he was about to unleash on the world, and Louis felt more supported in that moment than he ever had. He was surrounded by his fans who loved him unconditionally, his band who were his biggest cheerleaders when he was having moments of self-doubt, and his wonderful family were somewhere in the audience, supporting him as they had done his whole life.

In a way, it felt like Louis’ whole life had been leading to this moment. His first tour had been a raging success, and Louis couldn’t quite believe it was over. He still loved performing his songs to the sea of happy faces in front of him, watching them sing along, wearing his merch, holding their signs aloft, Louis taking in as many as he could see, their words bolstering him through. It was what he’d been building towards since One Direction had gone on hiatus back in 2015, and so far, it had been the stuff of dreams. Sure, it had taken a while to get things off the ground, but now the album was out and he was touring, it felt like everything was right.

“Alright, alright,” Louis yelled into his microphone, waving at a few fans towards the back of the pit, grinning as they screamed at each other when they were spotted. “Are you all having a good time?”

The loud screams reverberated around the venue in reply, and Louis laughed, yanking his cap from his head, throwing it to the floor. He was well aware he’d have hat-hair by now, but he couldn’t bring himself to care. He ran his hand through his fringe, pushing it back out of his eyes, aware the cameras would be picking up his every move.

“So, you all know by now I’ve got a couple of bangers left to sing for you-”

They all screamed with the knowledge Louis still had to sing his rockier version of Just Hold On and his favourite single so far Kill My Mind . They were both perfect for his encore, but tonight, Louis was going to shake it up a bit. He shushed the crowd gently, waving his hand to temper down their noise and as always, they listened, their screams quietening until just a hum of conversation could be heard. Louis lifted the mic to his mouth again, thousands of pairs of eyes on him, waiting with bated breath to hear what he would say next.

“Fucking hell, you guys really are the best, you know?  The love in this room is just fuckin’ amazing, I’m so proud of all of us. Best team in the world.”

The crowd echoed his sentiments, and Louis slid one of his in-ears out to hear better.

“Love you, Tommo!”

“We fucking’ love you, Louis!”

“Sing Kill My Mind!”

Louis just laughed at the enthusiasm and nodded, winking at one young guy near the front as he shouted words of love to him. He could see lots of iPhones pointed at him, and Louis had a feeling more than a few of them would be streaming the show to their followers on Twitter, fans around the world always wanting to join in with as many shows as they could. Louis couldn’t believe the creativity from his fanbase, and he paused again for a moment, feeling a little overwhelmed. He glanced to the wings, smiling at Oli and Calvin who were stood there, giving him a cheesy thumbs up which broke him out of his trance.

“Let me be a soppy twat for a moment, okay?”

The crowd hushed as if they understood what was going to happen would be momentous in some way. He could see rows of girls holding hands, staring up at him, parents with their arms wrapped around their children’s shoulders, boyfriends, girlfriends… everyone had someone, and it filled Louis’ heart with happiness to see.

“You guys have no idea just what you’ve done for me. Sometimes I stop and think about how this has happened to me. I’m just a lad from Donny, a boyo who never really expected I’d achieve my dreams. But I have, and it’s because of you. Every single one of you.”

Louis paused to let the fans cheer for a moment, not caring at how emotional he was getting now. He was at the pinnacle point of the whole tour, what he’d been working towards for days, weeks, months, years even. It had to be right, and he had things to say.

“You’ve kept me going when I doubted myself. When I thought it wasn’t good enough for all of this. You believed in me more than I ever believed in myself, and I’ll never be able to find the words to thank you for all that you’ve done for me. I say it too fucking much, I know that, but I really do have the best fans in the world. You’ve done promo for me when you felt it was lacking, you got my name out there, you made this-” he gestured around the arena “-you made this happen. You did that. Every single one of you, and I love you, all of you.”

Louis felt a tear tumble down his cheek now, too quickly to brush away but he didn't care. He could see several fans crying and part of him wanted to show them that he was as vulnerable as they were, that it was okay to cry, to show how you really felt.

“Ever since the early days of One Direction, you’ve been there, validating me, making me feel like I matter. When shit got tough, you didn't leave. You stayed, through my grief, through my sadness, through it all, you were there. I felt it, your love, and it kept me going. And when finally things started to go my way, you were my biggest support. You held me up, you cheered me on, you blocked out every single hater. This whole thing, this tour, this album, it’s for you.”

He turned to look over his shoulder, smiling at his drummer Steve and his guitarist Michael, seeing their eyes shining suspiciously, much like he was sure his own were. They knew what was coming, but hearing the heartfelt speech come out of Louis’ mouth still struck a chord none of them were expecting.

“You’re the only people I want to be part of tonight. This is so special to me, being the final night, but there’s one more thing.”

Louis felt his heartbeat start to speed up, his palm going sweaty around the black microphone in his hand. This was it. There was no going back, not that Louis wanted to. They’d discussed it, was the thing. Thought of ways to do it. But since they’d first heard this song, Louis singing quietly under his breath as he carded his hands through chocolate brown curls as they laid in bed together, he knew this was how it had to be. He was at home on stage, with his fans. This had to be the place.

“This song isn’t mine. But it’s beautiful. So fucking beautiful, it makes me want to cry, actually. I called the singer, asking her if I could do this. She said yes, only after making me sing it to her down the phone. That was embarrassing as fuck, but there you go.”

That earned a giggle from the audience and Louis chuckled too, taking a few deep breaths, trying to gather himself. 

“Some of you won’t know it, and that’s okay. But just… just listen to it. The power of music is that it can make you feel, and this song does that for me. When we-” Louis cut off, realising his mistake and he grinned, well aware that everyone in the audience had caught his slip up. “When I first heard this song, it gave me shivers. I could relate to it, personally, on a level I hadn’t in a while.”

Louis’ stomach was churning now and he slid his microphone into the stand, aware he was starting on his own, licking his lips.

“I’m gonna try to get through this one but bear with me. This song is… it’s special. And it’s… this one is for someone. For the love of my life.”

A sudden hush fell over the building, and Louis heard the opening piano notes, letting them run twice before his eyes slowly shut, singing with every piece of his heart.

“Even if you see my scars, even if I break your heart
If we're a million miles apart, do you think you'd walk away?
If I get lost in all the noise, even if I lose my voice
Flirt with all the other boys, what would you say?”

He found the courage to open his eyes now, watching as a few members of the audience turned on the lights on their phones as they swayed to the beat, and whoever was in charge of lighting let the room lights dip down until just a spotlight fell on Louis as he slowly moved into the chorus, putting as much passion as he could into the words.

“Could you?
Could you?
Could you love me anyway?”

There was a small piano interlude then, Louis writing one in for this performance, knowing he’d need a few seconds to get himself together as he saw movement in the wings, a silhouette as familiar to him as his own appearing. He bit back a smile and started to sing, suddenly full of confidence, knowing this was perfect. This was when it was meant to happen. After all these years, they were about to be free. This was their moment.

“Is it for better or for worse, or am I just your good time guy?
Can you still hold me when it hurts, or would you walk away?”

The next line was key. Louis started to sing, and he watched as the man in the wings raised his microphone, harmonising effortly, their voices perfect together.

“Even if I scandalize you, cut you down and criticize you..”

Louis shut his eyes again for the last line, knowing this was his last moment alone on stage.

“Tell a million lies about you, what would you say?”

The next chorus began and Louis forced himself to open his eyes, to watch as the man he loved stepped onto the stage to join him, singing along with Louis’ words as he walked over, beautiful as ever in a flowing black shirt and dark trousers, understated but utterly gorgeous.

“Could you?
Could you?
Could you?
Could you love me anyway?

Could you? ( Aw, could you? )
Could you? ( Could you? )
Could you?
Could you love me anyway?
Could you?”

Louis reached up a shaking hand to the microphone, taking it from its holder as he turned to face Harry, the love of his life, their eyes locking quickly and easily as they’d done countless times before. Louis felt his heart whoosh again as he stared deep into the green eyes that looked back at him with such love, he could still butterflies in his tummy. They might have had ten years together, but each they looked at each other like this felt brand new. 

It had been a hard fight for this moment. They’d seeded it for long enough before everything had gone to shit, and then they’d slowly built it up again, letting mentions of each other slip into their interviews, wearing things from where the other had been publicly seen. It had been a long and emotional struggle, and while Louis had sometimes been driven to despair with a desperation to be able to tell the world who he truly was, Harry had been there.

He’d been Louis’ rock, the one constant in Louis’ life. When things had fallen apart and Louis kind of wished the world would stop turning just for a moment, Harry had held him through his tears. He’d let Louis fall apart and slowly put him back together again, piece by piece. Louis had never believed in soulmates or fate or anything like that until he’d met Harry. He hadn’t believed that in the whole world, full of billions of people, that you could find one other person who was made for you. Harry made him believe that there was, because he was Louis’, and Louis was his.

Louis had been the one to doubt Harry could love him through everything, and when he’d first heard this song when it had come on Harry’s Spotify account one lazy morning in bed, the words had resonated through him, forcing him to tears as he realised it was exactly how he felt for his boy. It didn't matter what he did. Harry loved him. He loved Harry. He wasn’t sure if there was anything in the world that could happen which would ever stop that, and no thought made him happier.

“Could you? (Could you still love me?)
Could you? (Pick up the pieces of me?)
Could you? (Could you still love me?)
Could you love me anyway?”

Harry took a step closer then, a ring-clad hand outstretched and Louis didn't hesitate to slip his hand inside, Harry’s touch familiar and reassuring. They slid their fingers together, Harry’s fingertips digging into the back of Louis’ hand for a moment, reminding him he was there as they sung to each other, voices complementing each other, ignoring everyone and everything around them. Louis felt like they were entirely alone.

“Could you? (Ooh, could you still love me?)
Could you? (Pick up the pieces of me?)
Could you? (Could you still love me?)
Could you love me anyway?”

There was no screaming from the audience.  They were mesmerised, simply listening and watching, lost in the love story unfolding before their eyes. Harry wasn’t trying to outsing Louis. If anything, he was holding back, pouring emotion into his voice. Louis could see tears wavering in Harry’s eyes, his cheeks pink. Both of them knew what this song meant, and it felt like Harry was reassuring Louis that once again, he was there and he loved him, that he’d always be there.

“Could you? (Could you catch me when I fall?)
Could you? (And we rise above it all)
Could you? (And hold me when it hurts) ...”

Louis watched a tear slowly trail down Harry’s cheeks at his final words, sang beautifully over Louis’ sustained notes, and he could only watch as Harry lowered his microphone, his chin wobbling as he struggled to hold himself together, the music soaring into its final piece.

“I can't stay here in the world, could you?
Could you? Could you? Could you?”

The final piano notes rang out, and that was it. It was done. Louis had done it. He’d sung the song which meant so much to him with the man who meant everything to him. The man he knew would love him in spite of his flaws.

“I love you,” Harry whispered, a hand coming to cup Louis’ cheeks, swiping gently with his thumb at an errant tear. Louis nuzzled into the touch as he always did, his softer side coming out as it always did around Harry. “We did it, Lou.”

Louis couldn’t speak. Instead, he just turned and faced the audience, watching as they raised their hands, signs, rainbow flags, whatever they had. He knew they would but somehow he still felt stunned that they supported him. They’d seen the part of him he’d been so afraid to share with the world ten years ago, and they were embracing it. They were happy, and it was for them, for their love. He felt Harry’s firm grip around his waist as he tugged their bodies back together, and Louis could feel himself start to shake, realisation setting in.

"Could you?" Louis asked then, his voice shaky and wavering even though he knew the answer.

“I'll love you no matter what. You never need to ask if I’ll love you anyway. I’ll love you always ,” Harry whispered again, slipping his fingers under the side of Louis’ shirt, touching his skin.

“Then kiss me,” Louis replied, knowing this was the final hurdle.

And so Harry did, right there in front of thousands of Louis’ fans, showing the world they were in love, after singing a heartfelt duet together. They were out. It was done. They were free. The fans were crying and shouting at them, but Louis blocked everything out except the feel of Harry’s lips on his own. 

Nothing had ever felt better.