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I. Skate America - Chicago - October 26th, 2014

Louis feels like he’s high.

Not that he’d know what that’d actually feel like since as a professional athlete, he’s always had to keep his body in top form. No room for recreational drug use. But, Louis thinks, he won’t ever need it if winning always feels like this.

Louis walks out of the Kiss and Cry after having his combined score of 257.67 (an all-time personal best) revealed and is immediately swarmed by cameras, microphones, and flashes. It should be overwhelming, and it is in a way, but Louis can’t keep the smile off of his face.

After two years of mediocre performances, two years of not living up to all the potential he’d shown on the Junior Circuit, Louis is more than happy to take his rightful place at the top. He’d worked his ass off for it, and he's going to enjoy his moment.

He registers Simon at his side, waving off questions and propelling them through the reporters like Moses parting the Red Sea. The reporters quickly side-step the renowned coach as Simon declares, “All your questions will be answered at the press conference. Let the man breathe!”

As soon as they make it through the pack, a bullet of bleached blonde hair tackles Louis with a loud cackle.

“You did it, mate! Knew ya had it in ya!” Niall exclaims. Right into Louis’ eardrum.

“Don’t do any permanent damage to him, Ni. He still needs this body to compete next month,” Liam’s disembodied voice says before Louis feels a pair of muscular arms hugging him from behind. “Great job, Lou. Proud of you.”

As his boys let him go, Louis wills down the lump in his throat. “Thanks, guys. Couldn’t have done it without you.”

“Course not. We’re great!” Niall beams before lifting up a hand that Liam high-fives without either of them looking away from Louis. His trainers are a little scary sometimes, but Louis loves them a lot.

“Ok, you lot.” Simon breaks in. “The awards ceremony is about to start. Louis needs to go get his medal now.”

Niall lets out a whoop, and Simon gestures towards the door, but before Louis can walk through it Simon grasps his shoulder and says, “Really great job, Louis. I always believed you could do it.”

“Thanks, Coach.” Louis gives him a brisk nod before continuing towards the door lest he actually burst into tears from how full his heart feels right now.

After the medal ceremony is completed, Louis is shuffled into the press room with his newly-minted gold around his neck and a beaming smile on his face. When he takes his seat, he waits a moment for the reporters to settle before picking one at random to begin the questioning.

“Louis, Ashley Simmons from USA Today here. First of all, congratulations on your win. Second, many of us who have followed your career are wondering about your recent improvement at competitive events. Can you attribute your win tonight to anything specific?”

“Woah. Right in there with the tough questions, huh, Ashley?”

The room fills with chuckles as Louis raises his brows at the reporter, who just shoots a challenging look right back. Louis leans forward toward the mic. “I guess the reason I feel so much stronger performing now, both physically and mentally, is that my programs have me in them. My programs have credibility because they come from me.”

Louis is being 100% honest right now. Ever since he's started choreographing his own programs, it's like everything has clicked for him. His jumps are there, his footwork is cleaner, and his personality gets to shine through in every aspect of it.

He goes on to say as much for Ashley’s benefit before answering a few more questions, including one about his unusual choice in costume.

Louis laughingly answers back. “What? Jeggings and a t-shirt aren’t an acceptable ice skater ensemble? I’ll have my team get right on it.”

“Allergic to sequins, Tomlinson?” Nick Grimshaw jibes from the back.

“Not at all, Grimshaw. I think sequins are lovely on certain people. I am just not one of them.”

Louis doesn't want to come across as one of those skater-types that try too hard to prove their masculinity. Louis is perfectly secure in his masculinity, thank you very much. He just doesn’t like how sequins and rhinestones itch his skin and make him feel less like himself.

A challenging glint appears in Nick’s eye. “So which of your competitors would you say does look lovely in sequins?”

Louis can’t help but rise to the bait. “Well, we all know who you think looks fetching in sequins, Grimshaw, and as much as I hate to admit it….I can’t say I don’t agree with you. Harry Styles is a whole new level of charmer with those low cut sequin shirts.”

The rest of the reporters laugh at Nick’s expense while he grumbles a bit, but it’s his own damn fault when he’d basically written a love letter to the boy in his article before the 2014 Olympics. Louis tries to quell the emotions that flare up in his stomach just thinking about it. He has plenty of reasons to dislike Nick. He doesn’t need to resort to resenting him for something that didn’t have anything to do with him. 

Anyway.

“Speaking of Harry Styles…” An older woman in the middle of the room stands to ask the question that Louis didn’t even know he was anticipating. “Looks like your old Junior Circuit rivalry might make a reappearance as we progress towards the Grand Prix Final this year. What are your thoughts on going up against the current Olympic gold medalist?”

Louis leans back in his chair and makes sure to look as arrogant as possible. It’ll be fun to ruffle some feathers.

“I say, bring it on.” Louis grins wider as the room becomes aflutter with murmurs. “I beat Harry Styles when I was fourteen, and I’ll beat him again when I’m twenty-three. I think he’s gotten a little too comfortable up on his throne, and someone needs to bring him back down to earth.”

“Well,” the reporter smiles at Louis, “I certainly look forward to watching you both compete.”

With that Louis waves his goodbyes and is escorted from the room.

He gets an earful from Simon and Liam about coming across too cocky, but Niall just laughs his ass off over it. “Harry won’t know what hit him! He’s going to be getting calls for a comment all night.”

Louis grins because that’s exactly why he’d done it. Just on the off-chance that Harry hadn’t been watching, he’d certainly know about Louis’ win now.

After finally getting changed and heading out for food and drinks with Niall and Liam, Louis gets back to his hotel room at 1:32 AM and collapses onto the bed.

The smile on his face is starting to really hurt, but he can’t seem to stop it. He’s finally accomplished one of the goals he wrote down when he was only fifteen years old. A list of goals that had kept him tied to this life path and a certain boy even at his lowest points. And now that he’d accomplished one of the items on his list, who’s to say he couldn’t accomplish more?

Just as he’s about to drift off into unconscious bliss, his phone buzzes on his chest. He’s going to ignore it until it starts buzzing in quick succession. He groans, and with sleep-clumsy fingers, he pulls the phone up to his chin and tilts it up so he can see the screen. 

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Louis tries not to let his fond grin split his face in two, but it’s unsurprisingly hard to keep his Harry Feelings in check. He watches as the ellipses dots come up and waits for Harry’s next text with a ridiculous amount of anticipation.

When it arrives, happy tears well up in his eyes and finally escape down his cheeks and onto his pillow. 

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II. Cup of China - Beijing - November 9th, 2014

The beginning strains of familiar music play from someone’s tinny iPhone speakers in the holding area, and Harry can’t help but roll his eyes.

Who knew Phantom of the Opera would be so popular this year? Harry had laughed for a good five minutes when he first found out that essentially all of his competition this season had picked a variation of a Phantom medley—just as Harry had.

“Must be one of those collective consciousness things that, like, philosophers talk about or something,” he’d said still giggling into his phone.

“Or maybe you’re all just pretentious twats.” Louis had replied drily.

Then Harry’d huffed in fake annoyance, and Louis’d taken the piss a bit more before whispering reassurances like, “No one’ll hold a candle to yours though, Haz.” So it’d been alright all in all.

But now, less than a month into the Grand Prix circuit, Harry is having an adverse reaction to 'Music of the Night.' Not a great sign.

He turns to his left to make a comment about it to Louis before he remembers that Louis isn’t there. Louis is back at his training facility in Vancouver, fresh off the heels of his massive win at Skate America with their coach, Simon Cowell. Although, Harry supposes, he really shouldn’t think of Cowell their coach anymore. But old habits die-hard.

A hand claps him on the shoulder followed by a dry sarcastic voice, “You think they’ll start playing Phantom during the warm ups? Or maybe they’ll just put it on loop for the whole competition.”

Harry laughs and turns to face Zayn, his competitor and good friend, who had performed his short program to Phantom last night. “Seems like a good plan, Z. Next year remind me to pick the most obscure piece of music possible, ok?”

Zayn smiles wickedly. “I think everyone is thinking that though, Harry. What if we all turn around and pick the same awful, off-the-wall piece of music next year by accident? I think Sara Hughes would kill us.”

Harry laughs a little too loudly at that. “I saw her earlier today, and all she could do was complain about how she couldn’t sleep last because 'Think of Me Fondly' was stuck in her head.”

They both snicker at the former Olympic gold medalist's expense. It was her choice to become a commentator after all. She only has herself to blame.

"Louis had the right idea.” Zayn says thoughtfully. “His short program? Killer. And no one can match it because we’re all using the same old tunes.”

Harry is inclined to agree. Louis Tomlinson is a bit of a genius. He’d chosen ‘Lay Me Down’ by Sam Smith, who had only recently begun to earn notoriety in the music scene, and by doing so, his program seemed fresh and and full of emotion compared to his competitors, who skated to the same old tired tunes. There's a reason Louis had posted the second highest short program score ever at Skate America. Harry doesn't know how he's supposed to compete with that.

“Yeah. We’re all suckers compared to Lou.” Harry agrees easily.

“Have you talked to him lately? He hasn’t been responding to my texts, but you know how Lou can be.”

Actually, Harry apparently doesn’t know how Louis can be since Louis texts him, like, every day. But Harry thinks it’s better for him to keep that to himself.

“Um, yeah, actually. He’s working himself pretty hard right now. Has his eyes set on the Final already.”

Zayn shrugs. “Makes sense. I mean, with the points he got from his win, he just needs to place in the top three to move on.”

“Yeah. He’s been giving me a hard time about it.”

“Yeah, I heard what he said at the press conference. Lou is such a shit.” Zayn laughs. “But you know, he’s got to be nervous about it. I always am if the press start focussing on me.”

Yeah. Harry definitely knows.

“What are you two chatting about?”

Harry turns to find Jeff Azoff with his arms crossed and eyebrows raised. “Harry, you should be doing your warm ups, and Zayn probably should, too.”

“Alright, Jeff.” Harry says, rolling his eyes. “Whatever you say. Just let me check my phone first.” After all this talk about Louis, Harry feels the need to check in.

Jeff throws his hands in the air in fake annoyance. “Fine! But if my dad catches you, I had nothing to do with this.”

Harry giggles as he extricates his phone from the pocket of his warm up jacket and pulls up his conversation with Louis. It was their ritual to text each other before competitions now that they weren’t always together. The last he’d heard from him was the previous night when Louis wouldn’t stop gushing over his short program, even though Harry had fucked up his quad loop. Sure, he was still leading the pack by a good margin, but.

(It’s not like Harry feels he has to prove something, it’s just—he’d won a fucking gold medal at the Olympics at 19. It’s just—he doesn’t want to be a one hit wonder. Ok. So maybe he does feel he has something to prove, and maybe Louis knows that, which is why Harry’s texts with him has just been a steady stream of encouragement, compliments, and joking challenges for the past few days. Not that that’s far off from the norm.)

But when he opens his phone, there’s nothing. Not a peep from Louis in the past sixteen hours, which is odd in and of itself, but even more strange when Harry’s about to skate. Louis always texts him before competitions even though he knows Harry won’t see it until after. Harry gulps and his hands start to sweat.

Part of Harry--the rational part--knows that it’s very early in the morning in Louis’ time zone, and he probably just didn’t wake up in time. Harry can’t blame him for wanting a lie in. Everything’s fine.

But a small, not insignificant part of Harry is saying, This wouldn’t have been a problem if I’d never left in the first place. Harry feels a bitterness rise up in his throat. We would be together.

“SKATERS TO THE ICE. WARM UPS WILL BEGIN IN ONE MINUTE.”

Jeff snatches his phone from him, slaps him on the bum, and says, “Go get’em, tiger!”

Harry tries to swallow down the bitterness and guilt in his throat, a wave of stubbornness following on its heels as it always does. He did what was best for his career, and Louis has been nothing but supportive since. It’s Harry who has a problem with the separation.

As he strips off his warm-up jacket, revealing his black and white sequined costume, he can almost hear the skating commentators talking about his 'inconsistency' on the ice, speculating what could cause such drastic changes in performance from one event to the next. He shakes his head to rid himself of those thoughts, makes his way to the edge of the rink and begins to stretch out his legs and roll his shoulders, waiting for the signal to take the ice. When it comes, he takes to the ice with the four other men in his group—the last of the night. He watches his competition for first whiz past him, and his gut clenches.

He does a few yoga breaths as he skates around the ice, getting the feel of it under his legs like he’s always been taught to. He needs to focus.

So he begins running through elements of his free skate program—the ones that give him a hard time—and pushes Louis’s face from his mind. He spares a thought to the fact that they aren’t playing Phantom over the speakers, and that it really is a shame.

He gains some speed under his skates as he preps for a quad, and suddenly, there’s just pain everywhere, numbing his limbs with the shock of it.

Then, a crack rebounds through his head.

Then, there’s nothing at all. 

 

=x=

 

Louis legs feel like they’re going to fall off. He’d been working on his quad since 6 AM, drilling it into his muscle memory. He’d been so focused that even Simon couldn’t drag him away. There are many benefits to having a coach that he's worked with since he was a young boy, and one of those was that Simon knew when to let Louis do his own thing and when to intervene.

It’s rare that Louis gets this single-minded about something, but after his conversation with Harry last night, Louis hasn't been able to stop thinking about his quad. Maybe it's a little sick, how he constantly pushes himself to be more—be better because of Harry, but Louis doesn't have time to psychoanalyze himself right now.

Harry. Shit. Louis had totally lost track of time. Had he missed it already? One look at the clock is enough to assure Louis that he had, and he mentally curses himself. He’ll have to find a way to make it up to him.

As a form of self punishment, Louis forces himself to do two more quads, and just as he’s on the brink of total exhaustion, he hears a shout from the other end of the rink that sends a chill down his spine.

“Louis! Get over here. Now!”

Louis waves his hand at Liam. “Just one more, Li, and then you can put me through whatever sort of weightlifting torture you want.”

“No! Louis. It’s Harry.”

Louis skids to a stop, ice chips flying up from under his skates. Suddenly, his throat is dry and his lips feel numb, but he still manages a rough, “What?”

Liam is leaning over the edge of the rink with a pained expression on his face.

“We just got the news. Well, Niall was watching, and Zayn texted. He was on the rink with Harry when…” Liam’s voice trails off into nothingness.

“When what?” Liam looks reluctant to answer, as Louis skates toward him, legs like jello and heart in his throat. “Liam?”

“There was an accident.” Louis hears through the rushing sound in his ears. “He collided with another skater during the warm up for his free skate. There aren’t many details yet on the news, but Zayn said he thinks Harry must have a concussion at least.”

Louis finally reaches the edge of the rink and grips the ledge so hard his knuckles turn white from trying to keep himself up. He breathes in through his nose and out through his mouth a dozen times before he feels steady enough to ask, “Where’s my phone?”

Liam’s brow knits. “I’m not so sure that’s the best idea, Lou. Irving and his team are going to be doing everything they can for him right now. He probably can’t answer his phone, anyway.”

Louis ignores him and steps off the ice with wobbly legs. Liam quickly hands him his blade-guards out of habit, and Louis puts them on before heading to the rec room, where his phone is stashed in his bag.

When he opens the door, he’s not expecting to be met with instant replay footage of Harry’s collision on the thirty inch plasma screen TV. Luckily, Liam is right behind him with a hand around his elbow because the combination of repetitive quads and seeing Harry’s head smash into the ice makes his legs feel like they’re going to give out.

Louis must let out some kind of noise because Niall’s head flips around from where he'd been watching on the sofa, and his face immediately fills with guilt as he scrambles for the remote.

“I’m so sorry, Lou. You shouldn’t’ve had to see that. I’ll just—“

“No.” It’s out before Louis can second-guess it, and he stumbles forward to sit next to Niall on the couch. “No. I need to know what’s going on. I need—“

Niall wraps him up in a cuddle, and Louis sinks into it even if his body can’t fully relax.

“Li? Can you get my phone from my bag?”

Liam looks like he wants to protest, but he gives in without a fight. “Sure, Lou.”

Thirty minutes pass, and no one answers Harry’s phone. Zayn doesn’t answer his either, and when Louis finally breaks down and tries Jeff Azoff, he only gets his automated message.

Louis feels about ready to throw his phone across the room when Niall says, “What the fuck?”

Louis looks over at him to find Niall’s eyes glued to the TV, when Louis turns to see what he’s on about, his heart stops in his chest.

There’s Harry. On screen. Skating out onto the ice with a white bandage wrapped around his infamous curls and his mouth set in a determined line.

What. The. Fuck.

“What’s he doing?! What’s happening?” Louis scrambles to find some sort of explanation.

Niall grabs the remote and unmutes the TV, and immediately they are met by Sarah Hughes voice, “—word that Harry Styles plans to skate in spite of a massive collision during his warm up only fifty minutes ago. I don’t really know what to say about this other than it can’t be safe.”

Louis’ stomach drops, and he groans, “What are you doing, Haz? Why isn’t anyone stopping him?!”

“We’ve been getting reports in that Harry has a mild concussion and possibly an ankle injury.” Sarah continues. “For him to skate in spite of such injuries may be considered brave by some, but I say it’s stupid and reckless.”

Louis had never agreed with Sarah Hughes more.

Harry settles into his opening pose for his program, and it’s like Louis can’t look away. Like waiting for a car crash he knows is going to happen. He feels sick, but he keeps his eyes glued on his boy.

And he doesn’t look away through the whole program, even when Harry falls for the fourth time, and Niall turns his head into Louis’ neck and Liam puts his head in his hands. He watches every horrifying second of it and marvels at how Harry still manages to look beautiful. Even after his fifth fall.

When Harry finally finishes, the crowd in the arena goes wild with applause and cheers, and Louis wants to beg them not to encourage him.

Harry has to be held up by Irving Azoff when he steps off the ice, and over the sound of the crowd, Louis hears the coach say, “You’ve got to keep breathing, OK? Hang onto the boards.” Harry nods and squeezes his glassy green eyes shut.

“Someone needs to get his inhaler.”  Louis murmurs under his breath. “He needs his fucking inhaler.”

Niall starts rubbing soothing circles into his back like Louis is the one who can’t draw enough air into his lungs. They all sit and watch as Azoff leads Harry into the Kiss and Cry, and they await his scores. Louis can’t imagine how something like that is important right now when Harry should obviously be on his way to a hospital, but then again, Louis doesn’t understand any of the choices Harry has made so far.

Someone does hand Harry an inhaler while they wait, and Harry takes a few puffs before his breathing regulates. Irving is whispering something in Harry’s ear, and Harry’s nodding and that’s when Louis sees the blood seeping through the bandage on his head.

He must let out some noise of distress because both boys scooch closer to him until he’s practically in their laps.

“He’s going to be fine, Lou.” Liam says in his most soothing voice.

Louis shakes his head, seeing red. “He won’t be after I’m done with him, the stupid fucker. How could he be so goddamn reckless? It’s not like the ISU wouldn’t have made an exception for their golden boy and let him compete at another Grand Prix! He just had to go out there and prove something.”

The other boys stay quiet as Louis peers at Harry’s pale face on the screen like he might respond to Louis’s accusations. He doesn’t of course, but his face tightens up as his scores start coming through and the crowd begins to cheer.

“Fuck me.” Niall says in disbelief over Sarah Hughes’ comment, “And that score will be enough to win Harry the silver medal here at the Cup of China. He’s lucky he had such a huge lead coming in from the short program….What he’s done tonight, I don’t really believe it.”

Harry looks like he doesn’t believe it either, but he stands, waves at the crowd, and smiles. Like he’s proud of what he’s done.

Finally, it’s like the spell is broken. Louis rises from the couch and stalks out of the room without a backward glance. If Harry wants to be a dumbass and risk being seriously hurt, that’s on him. Louis is under no obligation to look out for him.

“Where are you going?” Liam demands.

Louis doesn’t look back as he says, “To the ice. I need to be on the ice.”

Maybe if he drills his quad a few hundred more times he’ll be able to forget that Harry is hurt on the other side of the world, and there’s absolutely nothing he can do about it.

 

III. NHK Trophy - Osaka, Japan - November 29th, 2014

 

So Louis is avoiding him. Harry is certain that’s what must be happening because he hasn’t heard from Louis since the cursory Glad you’re alright text he received the night of his accident, and he hasn’t seen him at all since he’s been in Osaka even though they’ve already competed in the short program.

Sure, Harry had thought it was weird that Louis hadn’t called or texted him in the three weeks since his accident, but Harry had been too busy putting himself back together to really think about it. But now it’s obvious. Louis is giving him the cold shoulder, and Harry’s not stupid. He knows why Louis is mad.

It’s just like that time when Louis was thirteen and Harry was eleven, and Louis had started working on his triple axel. Back then, Harry wanted to do everything Louis did, so one night after normal practice hours, Harry had snuck onto the ice and tried it. He’d ended up with twelve stitches at his hairline for his trouble, and after making sure he wasn’t going to die on him, Louis hadn’t spoken to him for a week. When Harry finally wheedled him into acknowledging him again, Louis had promised if Harry ever did anything so stupid and reckless again, he’d never forgive him.

It’s starting to look like Louis might be keeping that promise, and that really sucks because after three of the hardest weeks of Harry’s life, he just wants to see Louis.

So Harry takes advantage of his competition-free day and tracks down Niall and Liam to see if they’ll tell him where Louis is, but when he asks, Niall just shakes his head and says, “Not sure he wants to be found, mate.”

“You should’ve seen him, Harry.” Liam’s sad puppydog eyes are in full effect. “I’ve never seen him that upset.”

“But it happened to me.” Harry says, indignant. “Like, I get that he’d be upset, but, like, it was my choice. He can’t hold that against me.”

“I know, mate.” Niall says. “I think it’s just hard for him with the long-distance thing. Relationships are never easy, but him having to watch that shit and not being able to do anything was a bit messed up, you know? I don’t know if I could handle it if Dru went to a different coach now and something happened to her.”

That pulls Harry up short because, well, Dru is Niall’s girlfriend of almost a year now, and Niall comparing their relationship to his and Louis’s is...weird.

“Niall? You do know that Louis and I aren’t like... dating or anything, right?”

Harry doesn’t know what reaction he'd been expecting, but it’s not for Niall to roll his eyes and say, “Yes, I know that you two aren’t actually ‘dating.’” He even gesticulates the air quotes. “But, I mean, c’mon, Harry! Even if you two refuse to acknowledge it for whatever reason, you are together. That’s just a fact.”

Liam chimes in. “He’s right, you know. It’s like you both are in a relationship without the actual benefits of being in a relationship.”

Harry may or may not me gaping like a fish, as he searches for some defense. He comes up blank. Louis is the person Harry wants to talk to 9 times out of 10, and he’s the person who can always make Harry smile. Being apart from him had opened a little ache in his chest that has grown and grown over the past two years until it sometimes feels like his entire chest is just an open wound from the ache of it. And -- Harry is an idiot.

“I really need to talk to Louis.”

“About fucking time!” Niall crows.

“I’ll text him. I’ll tell him to meet me in the weight room.”

“Thanks, Liam!”

Liam narrows his eyes and points at Harry. “Don’t mess this up.”

“I won’t. I promise!” Then he kisses both of them on the cheek and gallops out the door. He has a boy to catch.

 

=x=

 

Louis is going to skin Liam alive.

That’s his first thought, as he steps into the weight room where Harry is lying in wait, smiling bashfully. Louis wants to cuddle throttle him.

“What’d you say to get Liam to crack?”

Harry shrugs. “Don’t be too mad at Liam. He took some convincing. It was really Niall who did it.”

“Traitors.” Louis hisses and crosses his arms.

Harry takes a step forward, and Louis takes a step back.

“Listen, Louis. I’m sorry--”

“Don’t.” Louis put his hand up. “You don’t owe me an apology. If you want to be reckless with your safety, that’s your business.” Louis had spent the better part of a month convincing himself of this fact. Harry doesn't owe Louis anything.

“I think I do, though.” Harry continues moving forward, but Louis is done retreating. “Just--not for skating in China.”

Louis whips his head up to meet Harry’s gaze. “What for then?”

“For leaving you.”

Louis’ brow scrunches up in confusion. “What..what do you mean? Like, switching to Azoff?”

Harry shrugs, and now it’s Louis who’s moving forward. “Harry, you know I’ve never been upset about that. You did what was best for you. I’d never hold that against you. I mean, look at how well you’ve done!”

Harry shakes his head. “Well then, maybe I should be apologizing to myself.”

“Harry, I don’t--”

“I love you, Lou.”

Louis still doesn’t understand what’s happening, but-- “I love you, too, Harry. You know that, though. What is this about?”

Harry moves into Louis’ space and grips his shoulders, and Louis is still surprised when he has to look up into Harry’s eyes instead of down. Still surprised by the cut of cheekbones where chubby cheeks used to be. And maybe Louis does regret that Harry left him, if only because he missed watching this boy grow into these changes day by day. But still--

“Harry?”

“I love you, Lou. As in, I wish I had never left Cowell just so I could always be with you.” Harry begins to trace patterns on Louis’ upper arms, making him shiver. “As in, my first thought after my accident was of your face.”

Louis starts shaking his head because this can’t be real. Surely not.

“As in, I would give up my gold medal if it meant I had you.”

Louis grips Harry tight at that, pulls him close so that their noses brush. “You have me. I thought you knew that.”

Harry smiles a little, and his dimple is right in Louis’s eyeline when he says, “I’m sorry for never telling you that I’m in love with you.”

Louis’ heart is pounding in overdrive, but he ignores it in favor of placing a kiss in his favorite dimple. “I’m sorry, too.”

And maybe everything’s not perfect, and they still have a lot of things to sort out.

But in this moment, they're together. And that was enough.

 

=x=

 

Louis wins the gold medal in Osaka. Harry takes fourth, as he’s still not up to his normal skating form. (It still grant him enough points to land him into the Grand Prix Final. Just barely.)

Louis clucks like a mother hen about it for hours after the ceremony until Harry finds a way to shut him up. It’s super effective.

 

IV. Grand Prix Final - Barcelona, Spain - December 11-14th, 2014

 

After Osaka, Niall convinces them all, Zayn included, to head to Barcelona early for a few days of relaxation and fun before the Final. Harry jumps at the chance, and Louis agrees even knowing the practice time he’ll be giving up. Seeing that smile on Harry’s face is worth it.

So they spend two days doing all the normal tourist stuff: Park Güell, the Sagrada Familia, Park Nou for Louis, and Las Ramblas. On their last night of fun before they have to get back to the reality of training, Niall drags them all out on the town with a smiling Dru on his arm. He takes them down so many back alleys that Louis starts to believe they're hopelessly lost, but when he voices his concerns, Niall just waves him off.

When Louis goes to argue, Harry clasps their hands together and swings them between them. Louis rolls his eyes, but doesn’t complain.

They eventually reach a hole-in-the-wall restaurant with chalk-board menus, table-sized portions of paella, and the best sangria any of them have ever tasted.

Half-way through the meal, Harry’s curled up into Louis’ side and they’re all bemoaning how full they are. Louis lifts his glass to Niall. “You sure know how to pick ‘em, Nialler.”

Niall swings an arm around Dru, kisses her messily on the cheek and says, “Yeah, I do.”

Dru, bless her, pushes him away and wipes her cheek. “Did you just compare me to a restaurant?”

“Don’t be offended, Dru.” Louis jumps in. “That’s the highest compliment Niall could ever pay you probably.”

Dru’s eyes glint merrily. “Oh, I know.” Then she leans in, kisses Niall, and while he’s distracted, steals his last forkful of paella.

“Dru! How could you?” Niall looks truly betrayed, as she just cackles in response, blond hair flowing over her shoulders in golden waves. Louis will never understand how someone who looks like a storybook princess is so perfect for Niall. When she’s done laughing, she kisses the pout right off Niall’s lips.

“Sorry, babe. You know I can’t resist food.”

Harry leans over to whisper in Louis’ ear, as Niall and Dru continue to banter about food. “This is so weird.”

“Agreed.” Louis turns to Harry. Their faces are close enough that Louis can see the little bit of stubble on Harry’s upper lip.

Just as Louis’ about to lean in for a kiss, a phone begins to ring loudly. But not just any ring, ‘Lay Me Down’ by Sam Smith. As in, Louis’ short program song.

The whole table turns to look at Harry, who flushes pink and fumbles with his phone.

“It’s Azoff.” Harry mumbles.

“Don’t answer it, Harry. Only a few more hours of our mini-vacation left. Don’t waste ‘em!”

“But it could be important, Niall.”

Niall shrugs. “Then he’ll leave a message.”

“You’re very irresponsible for a trainer.” Dru says with fake disdain.

“That’s why they pay me the big bucks, sweetheart.” Niall winks.

“Don’t call me, sweetheart.”

And they’re back to bickering. Harry shakes his head and silences his phone, so Louis leans back in and teases, “Nice ringtone.”

“Shut up.”

“No, really.” Louis presses. “I’m flattered. Must mean something very special to you.”

“Oh come off it, Lou.” Liam says from Harry’s other side. “Don’t act like you didn’t choose that song with Harry in mind in the first place. I was there. I know things.”

Harry’s entire being lights up, as he turns to face Liam, who is very lucky that he is out of range for a nipple twist.

“Really?”

“Yep.” Liam says happily. “Louis is the biggest sap around, Harry. I thought you knew.”

“You are dead to me.” Louis growls.

“Aw, but Lou!” Harry says, turning back to face him and wrapping their arms together. “That’s the sweetest thing anyone’s ever done for me.” He flutters his lashes to rub it in some more.

“I hate you both.”

“Nuh-uh.” Harry shakes his head. “I think you love me. You even dedicated your short program to me.”

“Now you’re just making stuff up.”

“I don’t think so.” Harry’s eyes twinkle and he’s still pressed up into Louis’ side and Louis’s only human.

“Alright, fine. I choreographed my short program with you in mind. Happy now?”

The playfulness drops from Harry’s eyes and is replaced with something like awe. “Really?”

Louis clears his throat. “Yeah.”

Harry surges up and presses their lips together.

“And party’s over!” Zayn declare to the table at large. “I for one do not want to sit and watch these two get it on.”

“I do!” Niall protests. “I worked really hard to make this happen. I should get to reap the benefits.”

Louis breaks away from Harry to look at Niall, but Dru beats him to the punch. Literally.

“Let’s go, loser.” She says, dragging her boyfriend from the table.

“But, Dru!”

“No, buts!”

Niall giggles. “Butts.”

“Oh for god’s sake!” Zayn says before storming out with Liam right behind him. Dru drags Niall out before he makes even more of a scene.

When they’re all gone, Harry leans his head on Louis’ shoulder and says, “Did they just leave us with the bill?”

“Those motherfuckers!”

 

=x=

 

Harry hasn’t had this much fun at a competition in a long time.

Sure, his short program could have been better, and he's still worried about his free skate, but it’s hard not to have fun when every free moment means stolen kisses with his boyfriend.

Boyfriend. Louis is his boyfriend now. It feels both surreal and long overdue in a way that has Harry’s spine tingling every time he sees Louis.

Louis’s short program had been amazing, of course. He’d even broken his own record score, and when they’d laid down that night to sleep, Louis had whispered that he only skated like that because his program had new meaning now. And Harry -- well, Harry had definitely shown Louis his appreciation for that.

Dru had taken home the silver yesterday, which is an incredible feat considering all the young Russian talent in her category this year. Niall has been completely embarrassing ever since, treating Dru like she’s an actual princess. Well, then again, Harry’s not so sure that she isn’t. She does look eerily like Elsa, actually.

Anyway, today’s the day of his free skate, and Harry is trying to keep his panic below the surface. After China, it's hard not to associate this program with bad things, but Harry needs to push through it.  Even if it’s for no one but himself.

For the first time in what feels like forever, there are no expectations of him in this competition. He’s fourth after the short program, and nothing less than a miracle will change that. But Harry is competitive--he wouldn’t be in this profession if he wasn’t, and he wants to pull this off.

“Hey there, stranger.” A voice says right into his ear, making him jump.

“Jesus, Lou! Are you trying to kill me off before the competition?” Harry turns to face Louis’s mischievous grin.

“No need.” Louis says cooly. “I can beat you without resorting to foul play.”

Harry beams.  While everyone else has been treating Harry like he’s made of glass, Louis has been nothing but normal because he knows it’s what Harry needs right now. There have been a few times when Harry could tell Louis wanted to coddle him, like when he felt a little dizzy or short of breath, but instead Louis would say, “Suck it up, Styles.” And honestly? Harry couldn’t ask for a better boyfriend.

“Keep dreaming, old man.”

Louis squawks indignantly. “You youths! No respect!”

Harry giggles and Louis swoops in for a kiss.

“Love you.”

Harry feels like his heart is glowing in his chest. “Love you, too, Lou.”

“May the best man win.”

Harry grins. “Don’t worry. I will.”

 

=x=

 

He doesn’t. But he does skate a flawless free skate--his personal best--which lands him in second place. Louis takes the gold, and Harry has never been as happy standing on the medal podium. Not even when he won his Olympic gold. That’s probably weird, but honestly? Harry doesn’t care.

Sometime later, in the time between Christmas and New Year’s, Louis shows Harry an old list of goals that he’d made when he was fifteen. He’s crossed out some and added some more since then, but the list is probably the best thing Harry’s ever seen next to Louis himself. Harry says as much before he kisses Louis and lays him out on his bed.

They spend the rest of 2014 in bed kissing and smiling, and Harry’s never been happier.

 

MY GOALS FOR THE FUTURE:

  1. Win Skate America

  2. Win Grand Prix Final

  3. Win Olympic Medal

  4. Ask Harry on a date

  • Tell Harry how much I love him every day

  • Never listen to Phantom ever again