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“How do you even get yourself into these situations?” Taylor says, slicing through the ropes binding Harry to a chair in yet another abandoned warehouse on the edge of town. It’s nice that the local criminal element hasn’t figured out any money-making schemes besides “hold a pop star for ransom in an industrial setting far from the city center”, but it’s also a little boring. She can run half speed and stop for a latte and still get there well before they’ve harmed a hair on Harry’s pretty head. And it’s always Harry.

“Sometimes I think I’m too trusting,” says Harry sadly. “When someone tells me they just want me to sign an autograph for their child who’s waiting in the car, I believe them. Many children sit in cars, you know.”

Taylor glances at the two (now unconscious) men she’d had to work her way past at the door. They don’t look really parental, but maybe they’re lovely when you get to know them. Which Taylor won’t, because she’s already helping Harry to his feet and dusting him off. The police are still a minute away, so she uses some of her best Girl Scout knots to tie the goons’ feet together to keep them from waking up and wandering off.

“Do you need a lift home or do you want a ride in the back of a squad car?” she asks.
Harry’s brushing dust from his jeans. It looks like they roughed him up a little bit this time. There’s a scuff that might become a bruise on his wrist, and he keeps rubbing at his shoulder like it hurts. “I reckon you’ll be a bit kinder about this happening again.”

Taylor nods. “Just let me call the mayor and I’ll run you home.”

Harry lives in the penthouse of a high-rise apartment building downtown, and when he invites her up, she has to admit she’d like to see the view. Her own apartment is really just the space behind her studio, cozy and full of stuff she loves, but with a view of other people’s walls. Harry’s got a whole wall of windows in his living room, and the sun is setting over the park and licking orange and pink along the skyscrapers. It’s such a good moment to arrive, the sort of moment she’d write a song about if she had her guitar and her notebook. If she could be herself. The edges of her mask seem to pull tighter against her skin for a moment.

“Do you want a cup of tea?” Harry asks. “Or coffee? I think that’s more American. I’ve got this espresso machine too, but it’s got a lot of fancy dials and things and I’m a bit afraid of it.”

Taylor smiles. “I should probably go. But thanks.”

Harry chews his lip, and for a moment he looks sad and worried and small. This is the fifth time she’s rescued him since he moved to the States three months ago, but previously she’s just handed him over to the cops and gone on her way afterwards.

“Are you gonna be okay by yourself? If I go? Is there someone you can call?”

“My assistant’s away,” says Harry. “But I’ll be fine, I reckon. Might need to see about getting some proper security for next time though.” He smiles, but it’s not the big, flashy smile in his publicity photos. It’s just little and sad.

Taylor’s family is two hundred miles away, and there are only a half dozen people in the city who know her secret identity, so she’s familiar with how lonely it can be. “I can come back later and check on you. Maybe even figure out how to work your espresso machine.”

Harry’s smile doubles in size at that. “That’d be great. The doorman will let you up. I’ll leave word. You’ll come in your…?” He gestures at her costume, the dark grey catsuit and tall boots she wears on patrol, a hood pulled over her head and joined to the mask that hides most of her face. There are heroes now who go out in public looking like normal people, who let the public see them and know them and consequently prod at them like zoo animals. But the Swift isn’t like that. At heart, Taylor’s an old-fashioned girl, and she likes leaving her crime fighting responsibilities behind when she can.
“I’ll come like this, yeah,” she says. “See you later, Harry.”

 

By the time she makes it back to Harry’s, she’s baked a batch of blueberry walnut oatmeal cookies and thwarted three would-be muggers up by the university. She hesitates before taking the cookies with her. She doesn’t like to give anything away about her hobbies, but Harry looked as though he needed someone to bake for him.

His espresso machine isn’t nearly as complicated as it looks either.

“Do you want a cappuccino or something?” she asks over her shoulder. His kitchen is enormous, and he’s sitting on a stool beside the island eating his second cookie.
Harry gestures at the electric kettle, which is lit up and starting to steam quietly. “I’m having herbal tea. Too much excitement today.” His hair is damp and curly, and he smells shower-clean. He’s bundled into an oversized sweater and picking at the rip in the thigh of his jeans. He doesn’t look like a pop star, but then most of the people Taylor meets in her other life don’t either. They slouch into her studio looking hungry and ask for her songs, and she opens them up until they start to sing their own. If she can. “Do you make a lot of house calls?” Harry asks. “These cookies are incredible, by the way.”

“Thanks. I’ll stay with kids, if they’re scared. Or people who don’t feel safe with the police.” She doesn’t add that the number of people who feel safe with the police seems to be shrinking all the time, as she brings in the same crooks again and again, only to watch them go free. Some days it’s hard to believe in justice. Some days she’s just tired.

“That’s nice of you. More than nice.” He pours his tea while she makes herself a latte, steaming up a little pot of milk and pouring in fresh espresso. It smells so good. “Do you do that professionally?” says Harry. “When you’re not saving idiots like me?”

“I don’t talk about that,” says Taylor, gently but by rote. The choice she’s made about her identity may be old-fashioned, but it’s firm.

“Fuck, right. Sorry. That was bad form.”

Taylor shrugs and picks up a cookie. “Everybody’s got different ways of managing their image. You of all people understand that, I’m sure.”

Harry scrubs a hand through his long hair and smiles bashfully. “I reckon I was better at it back home. It wasn’t quite so much related to kidnapping there. Sometimes I think I should just go back.”

“So what keeps you here?”

Harry looks past her, out the windows onto the glittering skyline. “I like it. Sometimes you just want to be someplace different.”

Taylor thinks of the little town she grew up in, where her parents had debated taking her out of school when her powers started coming on because the scrutiny was so intense. As soon as she got to the city, with her brand new agent’s card, her guitar, and not much else, she could already feel her life expanding, the space she was taking up changing around her. She doesn’t tell Harry that, but she nods her understanding. They’re quiet together for a minute, looking out at the place they chose to run to.

 

It’s three weeks later when she gets a call asking if she’s interested in working on a song for Harry Styles. That is, if Taylor Alison, country songwriter, wants to work with Harry Styles. It’s a conflict of interest she thinks she should have seen coming. The Swift has been to Harry’s apartment a few times for coffee while his assistant is away, and she’d given him some tips about finding personal security, but Taylor Alison is a total stranger to him. At least she should be.

It’s not the kind of job she can turn down either. She’s been trying to get into mainstream pop for a while, and Harry could be her big break. She’s tense as she waits for him to arrive for their first session, watching Meredith bat a paperclip across the living room floor. She changed her clothes three times this morning, spent ages trying to get the swoop of her eyeliner right with shaking hands. She doesn’t let herself think about the fact that maybe there’s more to it than professionalism.

She expects Harry to be late; most of the pop singers she’s met are. But her buzzer goes off at five minutes till two, and she rushes to put on her shoes and check her lipstick. Meredith is totally judging her as she goes to the door. “Just don’t tell him anything, okay?” she says to the cat.

Harry looks like a pop star today. He’s wearing a black shirt unbuttoned halfway down his chest, and tight black jeans, and he’s got his hair tied back with a scarf. There’s also a burly man behind him in the hall, so Taylor guesses he took her advice about security.

“Hi, I’m Harry,” he says, holding out his hand, and some part of Taylor is disappointed that there’s no spark of recognition in his eyes. She’s been lax in keeping things from Harry, and although it’s better that he doesn’t know her like this, it’s weird pretending she’s never seen him before.

She shakes his hand. “Nice to meet you. Do you want a cup of coffee or anything before we get started?”

“Just water, thanks,” says Harry.

He’s very professional and attentive when they get into the studio, but it’s not what Taylor really needs from him. He’s not telling her anything about his feelings, not giving her anything to work with, and she doesn’t know how to push him without revealing what she already knows about him: that he’s lonely, that he’s not sure how he fits here. “How is this process for you, usually?” she asks, still plucking at her guitar while he watches her hands.

“I don’t know,” says Harry. “I think I usually just, like, imagine what I’d say to someone I fancied. Or someone I was dating. Love songs, you know? Just nice stuff.”

Taylor’s heard his songs, and they’re catchy and sweet, but there’s no real story to them. Nothing personal or specific. “Are you dating anyone now?” Taylor asks, even though she knows the answer.

“No,” says Harry. “Not recently. It’s tough, with the way things are. With being in the media and everything. It’s like, you’re just being watched all the time. Followed. You’re, like, prey.”

Taylor understands that. Every few months, one of the papers will run a story speculating about the Swift’s personal life, littered with pictures Taylor didn’t know anyone was taking and comments about her body that make her want to patrol in a parka, aerodynamics be damned. She can’t run far or fast enough to get away from that kind of attention. “Have you ever tried writing about that?” she asks.

Harry shakes his head. “I don’t know. I don’t want to complain about the attention. The attention is what keeps me where I am.”

“But people don’t have to see every part of your life. You should be able to have things that are private.”

Harry nods slowly. “I hope so.” Taylor wants to reach out to him when he looks sad, but she doesn’t.

After several hours, they still don’t have a song, but Taylor’s made some notes, and she has a chord progression she’s interested in. She finds herself humming the start of a melody as she runs through the park that night on patrol, leaves rustling as she passes, shadows shrinking back. It’s quiet out, and it gives her plenty of time in her own head. She wishes she could give Harry a little of this peace.

 

The next time Harry comes back to her studio, she plays him the nearly-finished song, just her and a guitar. It begins:

Took a chance going out during daylight
It's a scene when I'm out here in plain sight
I can hear them whisper as I pass by
It's a bad sign

Something happens when everybody finds out
See the vultures circling, dark clouds
I already know the things that they talk about
That they talk about

They got their cages, they got their boxes and guns
They are the hunters chasing the foxes
And I run

Baby, I need places I won't be found
They'll be losing my trail when I go to ground
And I, I need places I can hide
I need places

When she finishes, he’s quiet, steepling his fingers together in his lap. The look in his eyes tells her that’s she's got a handle on what he really wants. “It’s good,” he says quietly. “It’s really good. I don’t know how you did it.”

Taylor lets herself reach out to squeeze his hand, and Harry folds their fingers together and holds on. “You gave me a really good idea,” she tells him.

“It seems like you know how it is,” says Harry. “Do you… Do you ever feel like that? Like you’re being hunted? Like you need to run and hide?”

Taylor looks away and doesn’t answer. As far as Harry knows, she’s a behind-the-scenes kind of girl, so she can see why he’s confused. “Do you want the song?” she asks.

“Yeah,” says Harry. “I definitely do.”

The next time Taylor has to rescue him, Harry’s dangling above a vat of boiling wax in an abandoned crayon factory, and she doesn’t recognize the guys guarding him from the revolving roster of organized crime. It’s more immediate danger than the city’s criminals have put him in before, and when she pulls him to safety on a catwalk overhead, Harry sways into her and starts to cry. She hugs him tight and rubs his back and doesn’t even try to make him talk for a minute.

“Sorry,” says Harry into her shoulder. “Sorry.”

“Shh,” says Taylor. “You’re okay. It’s okay. Let’s get out of here.”

She’s running across the city with Harry in her arms before he can protest. “Don’t you need to call the mayor and stuff?” he asks, when she steadies him on his feet outside the door to his building.

“I will in a minute,” she says. “What happened to your security guy?”

“Apparently we didn’t check his references closely enough.”

“He set you up?” Taylor feels a sharp pang of guilt. She’d told Harry to get himself some personal security and he’d be less of a target. Instead he had ended up in another trap.

“I thought, he’s English, right? He must be on my side. But I’ll be more careful next time.” He waves to the doorman as they pass, his arm still hooked through Taylor’s. “Tell you that a lot, don’t I?”

“Don’t worry about it,” she says. “I’ll keep saving you as long as you need saving.” She doesn’t even consider leaving him this time, does a sweep of the penthouse as well before she lets him step inside.

While Harry goes to shower, Taylor calls the mayor and then the police commissioner for good measure. Kidnapping Harry Styles has become a local joke, she tells him, and it’s not even a little bit funny. What is he doing about the fact that even these uncreative crooks are walking around free to do it again? Of course he doesn’t have a good answer.

She hangs up as Harry walks back into the living room, wearing sweatpants that sit low on his narrow hips and a t-shirt gone nearly transparent with washing.

“Maybe I should try wearing a mask,” says Harry, looking sadly at her. She knows what he sees; she’s seen it in the mirror often enough, the way the mask curves out from her cheeks to hook into a beak. The whole shape of her face is hidden.

“It has its advantages,” Taylor says. “But it can be hard too. It keeps everyone at a distance. You don't seem like you'd want that."

"Sometimes I do. Sometimes I just want to hide." He flops down onto the couch and pulls out his phone. “Can I play you something?”

Taylor freezes, knowing he’s queuing up her song. She manages to nod, although she feels her throat closing up, her cheeks burning beneath the mask. For someone with two discrete identities, she’s not a very good liar.

She listens to herself singing, Harry looking between her and the phone with no recognition. “I talked to this songwriter about something for my album. And I think I expected, like, a love song. But she wrote me this. And I don’t know if I can record it.”

Taylor sits down next to him. “Why not?”

“Because I really feel like that. But I don’t know if I want people to know I do.”

“You feel vulnerable,” says Taylor. “It’s okay if you don’t want people to know that.”

“I don’t need people to think I’m, like, tough. I keep getting bloody kidnapped, so they know that. But I want them to think I’m happy.”

“Are you?”

Harry runs a hand through his hair, pushing it off his face as he looks at her. “Usually, yeah. I feel really lucky to be where I am, and to do the stuff I do. But sometimes it’s too much, all the attention, all the cameras. And it’s just me dealing with it. And then everyone I care about cleaning it up.” He looks like he might cry again.

“You’ve had a hard day,” Taylor points out. “It’s all right if it doesn’t feel good.”

“Does it ever get like that for you? Do you ever feel like, ‘Fuck all this fighting crime stuff, I’m staying in bed’?”

“Sometimes I don’t put on the costume for a day or two, when nobody calls me. And I bake and listen to music and unwind. But I can’t stay like that. People need me to be this.”

Harry’s looking at her so closely, and she’s sure that he’s going to work it out, that he’s going to unravel her right now. But all he does is nod. “Reckon I’ll record the song. Better not to lie to all those people counting on me. The label may hate it and nix it anyway.”

Taylor manages not to grimace. “That can happen.”

“Thanks for staying with me today.”

“I like it better when we can hang out without you getting dangled over anything, but you’re welcome.”

Harry grins, and Taylor has grown so fond of his dimples in the past couple of months. Dangerously fond, maybe. “We should do that again soon.” He folds his hands in his lap. “I was also wondering, like, do you have a partner? Or do you date or anything? I’ve seen some stuff in the papers, but…”

“Always reliable, as you know,” says Taylor wryly. Every young model during fashion week seemed to be “linked” to Harry by “a source close to the couple”.

“Right. So I thought I’d be better off just asking.”

“I haven’t dated anyone in a while. You can’t be half a person when you’re in a relationship. It’s no good unless you put all of you into it. And that’s complicated for me.” The fact is, she hasn’t found anyone who would be worth the trouble, and she can write love songs well enough without a partner. But it’s also starting to feel dangerously like she and Harry might make a good team.

“Well, if you ever wanted to give it a go,” says Harry, and then he seems to lose his nerve. He doesn’t even say, “Date me,” just trails off and stares at his hands again. Taylor leaves before she offers him any encouragement.

 

Harry’s people call Taylor Alison a week later to say Harry would like to record a demo of her song, and maybe collaborate with her again. But this time the only person who shows up with Harry is his assistant, Niall, who is blond and cheerful and Irish, and seems at least as protective of Harry as Taylor feels. “Should I hang around?” Niall asks Harry, then adds for Taylor’s benefit: “I went home for six weeks and he got himself kidnapped twice, once by his own security.”

Taylor nods sympathetically.

“I’ll be alright on my own this time, mate, thanks,” says Harry. She likes that he travels without an entourage, and it makes her small studio seem less crowded.

“You’ll phone if you need anything though,” says Niall. “Promise me.”

“Pinky promise,” says Harry, holding out his hand.

“I’ll look out for him,” says Taylor.

Niall pulls Harry into a hug. “Then I’ll be back in two hours.”

It’s strange to just be standing in her hall with Harry Styles. They’ve never been alone together when she was herself. But just as she’s trying to work out how to get started, her oven timer dings, and she realizes she forgot the last batch of cookies for her friend Karlie’s birthday. She should tell him to head on back to the studio, but instead she says, “Sorry, let me do one thing real quick,” and ducks through the door of her apartment. “Don’t let the cat out.”

She grabs the cookies and lays them out on a cooling rack, and then she hears Harry’s little “oh” of surprise. She turns towards him, tries to remember if she was moving at more than normal speed, but she’s careful, she’s so careful.

“Blueberry walnut oatmeal cookies,” says Harry. He’s staring at her wide-eyed from the kitchen doorway, and she feels trapped against the countertop. “You brought these to my house the first time you came. I haven’t been able to recreate them.”

“Cardamom,” she says quietly. “That’s the secret.” Her heart is beating so fast. She’s told people before, but she’s never had someone just put the pieces together. And even though she’d imagined Harry working it out, the reality is bigger and scarier.

“You saved my life,” he says. “A lot. And then you wrote me that song. I should have known. Do you think I’m an absolute idiot? For not knowing?”

“Nobody knows,” says Taylor. “Nobody knows unless I tell them. And I didn’t tell you.”

“I’m sorry,” says Harry. “If you didn’t want me to know.”

“I don’t know if I did,” says Taylor. “I might have.”

He takes a step closer, but stops when she flinches. She could run before he even put his foot down, but she doesn’t want to run from him. “I won’t tell anyone,” Harry assures her. “I wouldn’t, especially after everything you’ve done for me.”

“Thanks,” says Taylor. “I trust you not to.”

“Should we just carry on as though nothing’s happened? Write some songs?”

“That would be way less awkward than standing in my kitchen like this.”

Harry gives a startled laugh, and Taylor steps forward to hug him as herself for the first time, hanging on tight for a long moment.

 

It’s so easy after that, being with Harry in whatever form she can, snatching moments during patrol to stop by his apartment, inviting him over to bake with her. She doesn’t have to make excuses to run and change when she recognizes a mobster following them in the street, and she thinks eventually the message will sink in that kidnapping Harry just can’t be a thing.

When Harry finally asks her out, he has to be very clear about it. “A proper date,” he says. “Where I make a reservation someplace really exclusive using my fame to get us in the door, and maybe we hold hands in the street or something.”

“In front of god and paparazzi and everyone?” she says. “Isn’t that exactly what you didn’t want?”

Harry ducks his head shyly. “When I’m with you, I reckon we can outrun them.”

Taylor smiles. She thinks maybe she’ll change the words to her song.

Baby, I know places we won't be found
They'll be chasing their tails tryin' to track us down
Cause I, I know places we can hide
I know places