Chapter 1: Part 1
“Where are you going?” Louis asked, grabbing Harry’s arm.
Harry looked down at Louis’ fingers digging into his bicep and his nostrils flared. “For a walk,” he snapped, jerking his arm out of Louis’ grasp.
“A walk where? Up and down the corridor?” They both knew Harry wouldn’t be allowed outside the hotel, not with the hordes of fans still camped outside.
“The gym, then. I don’t know. Just not here.”
“Fine then. Go.” His voice was hard. Brittle.
Harry gave Louis a long look, then he turned without saying another word and left their suite. He didn’t slam the door, just let it go as he exited. It slowly swung closed until the soft click of the lock slipping into place sounded loud as a gunshot in the now quiet room.
Louis sank onto the edge of the bed and dropped his face into his hands, leaning over with his elbows resting on his knees. He rubbed his hands over his face, digging the heels into his eyes, then ran his fingers through his hair in agitated motions.
They were fighting more and more these days. Honestly, he couldn’t even remember what had started the argument tonight. Something to do with Eleanor, he knew that much. Even the sound of her name caused Harry to go tense. Louis tried to not bring her up when Harry was around; the situation was difficult enough as it was. But they’d been spending so much time together this tour, occasionally it just slipped out.
And that was another thing, Louis thought, growing angry again. As much time as he and Eleanor did spend together, would Harry really rather they remain uncomfortable and distant? Wasn’t it better that they were actually friends now? Better that Louis wasn’t completely miserable every second he was forced to spend with her?
No, he though bitterly, Harry probably did wish they didn’t enjoy their time together, the jealous prick. He probably wished Louis was completely miserable, desperately unhappy, every second they were apart. Wished Louis was only happy when he was with Harry.
Well too fucking bad. He’d just been trying to make the best of a bad situation, and it wasn’t Eleanor’s fault. Once he’d got over his resentment and gave her half a chance, he’d discovered she could be quite good company. Harry didn’t like to shop anyway, so why should he care if Louis and Eleanor did? Harry had other friends. Why was it such a big deal if Louis did too?
Louis pushed away the twinge at his conscience that told him he wasn’t being fair. Deep down he knew it wasn’t the same situation at all. But right now he wanted to be angry, wanted to stew in the unfairness of it all. For once, he wanted to be the aggrieved party. It wasn’t always about Harry. Harry, who couldn’t lie to save his life. Harry, the baby of the group whom everyone bent over backward to protect, Louis included. And he’d been happy to do it. Happy to carry the load, to be the strong one of the two, to tuck everything he felt away while they were in public. To wear the mask, play the role of the devoted boyfriend so they could reap the rewards of this incredible opportunity they’d been handed.
It wasn’t as if he’d made the decision alone. They’d all agreed; they’d all decided this was for the best.
It was unfair of Harry to get angry with him, when everything he was doing was for them, for their success, for their future. It wasn’t fair.
Louis let out a huff and stood up, walking over to the mini fridge. He needed a drink.
Hours later, Harry still hadn’t returned. The anger had worn off and the melancholy had set in. Louis lay on the bed, drink in one hand, pillows propped up behind his back, the room illuminated by the flickering light of the television while he mindlessly flipped through the channels, stopping occasionally to watch a few minutes of a programme before becoming bored and moving to the next one. Right now a demonstration of a fancy apple peeler was playing on some shopping network—the kind that attached with a suction base to the counter and you turned a handle round and round to remove the peel. Idly, Louis wondered if Harry would like something like that. He ate a lot of fruit.
He checked his phone again, for the millionth time, but still no text from Harry. It was late, must be after midnight. He was starting to wonder if Harry was even coming back. It wouldn’t be the first time, he thought with a tight downward twist of his mouth. There had been a time when they hadn’t been able to go to sleep angry. One of them would always find the other and they’d make up, words of apology warm against the other’s lips, hands clinging tightly, desperate to hold on, to assure the other of their love. Neither of them had been able to stand how much it hurt to do otherwise.
When had things changed? How had things got so bad that one of them could storm out in anger, leaving the other behind? Alone for an entire night.
Finally, he couldn’t stand the worry, the uncertainty. He didn’t like putting the other boys in the middle of their fights, but he needed to know where Harry was, if he was all right. He sent a text to Zayn, guessing he’d be the most likely to know.
U seen Harry? Hes not back.
After a few moments he received an alert.
Here with me, mate. Think he’s going to crash here tonight.
Louis stared down at the text and tried to ignore the tightness in his throat, the ache in his chest. If the text started swimming in front of his eyes, it wasn’t because of the dampness beginning to pool under his lids; he’d just had a little too much to drink. And if his hands shook a bit as he typed out a response, it was just that he was tired. They’d been on the road a long time. They could all use a rest.
Yeah ok. Thanks.
Louis put his drink on the night table along with his phone. He pulled his t-shirt over his head and shimmied out of his jogging bottoms and pants. Then he slid under the covers and found the remote, clicking off the telly and plunging the room into darkness. Only then did he allow the tears to fall, slipping like secrets down his cheeks, evidence soaking into the fabric of his pillow.
A noise woke him sometime during the night. He lay blinking in the darkness, disoriented, his brain a little groggy from the alcohol he’d drank earlier. At first he couldn’t even remember where he was, the hotels and cities blurring one into the other after months on the road. He felt the bed dip and then a waft of cool air as the covers were lifted, then a body was sliding in behind him, warm arm draping over his waist, pulling him back against a broad chest. He felt a nose nuzzling into the hair at the back of his head, soft lips pressing against his neck. Louis covered the arm over his side with his own and laced their fingers together. Moving backward into the embrace, fitting their bodies together familiarly, he slid his toes between the calves against his feet and hooked an ankle around one. “Harry?” he asked, memories of their earlier fight rushing back.
“I’m sorry,” Harry mouthed against the back of his neck. “I’m sorry.”
Louis gave a little nod, not yet trusting himself to speak. He tugged Harry’s arm closer around him and squeezed his hand tightly.
They lay quietly, not speaking, the beat of Harry’s heart strong against Louis’ back. Eventually, Louis pulled Harry’s hand to his face and kissed his fingers, one after the other, the closest part of Harry’s body he could reach without moving out of the embrace. When he was done, he unwound their fingers so he could kiss the palm of Harry’s hand.
“I love you,” Louis whispered against his skin, chest aching, so thankful Harry had returned to their room. Then he wound their fingers back together, pressing their joined hands over his heart. His pulse was racing.
Harry’s entire body seemed to pull Louis closer, enveloping him, one leg hitching over his hip, arm wrapping tightly around his waist. “Love you too,” Harry murmured against his neck.
As tired and as tipsy as Louis was, he couldn’t fall back asleep; even as his body relaxed against the comfort of Harry’s embrace, his mind refused to still. He wondered if they should talk, say more than quiet apologies. He worried if they spoke, they’d fall back into old arguments, ones that seemed to go nowhere and have no resolution. Instead, he lay silently, trying not to let the growing fear—that somehow things were slipping away—take root.
He felt Harry’s face nuzzling into the back of his neck again, moving back and forth slowly, lips lightly brushing, touch whisper-soft. Louis’ eyelids fluttered shut and goosepimples broke out on his flesh.
“Do you remember that first night in Leeds?” Harry asked, his voice a quiet rumble against Louis’ skin.
Louis squeezed Harry’s hand and he swallowed, throat suddenly tight.
“Course I do.”
They had lain, just like this, one spooning the other, but with Louis as the big spoon, having zipped their sleeping bags together under the pretence of sharing body heat for warmth, both of them buzzing from the tension that had been building between them all day—high on life, the music, cheap booze and flirty glances, dancing drunkenly and falling on each other, grabbing at any excuse to touch.
Outside the tent the party still raged, the dull beat of a band pulsing in the background, muted conversation and laughter all around. The air smelled of damp grass and the occasional waft of smoke from weed. Inside the thin nylon walls existed their own protected bubble, just the two of them, wrapped around each other, bodies held close.
They’d been physical from the start, instantly attracted to each other in a way Louis had never experienced. Being with Harry was overwhelming. Playful touches took only days to escalate to frantic handjobs and sloppy blowjobs. They’d spent hours kissing, rubbing off on one another, sucking marks into the other’s skin. They couldn’t get enough of each another. Louis knew Harry was young and inexperienced, only sixteen. Just a boy. As the older of the two by a few years, he tried to be the responsible one and respect Harry’s innocence. His resolve, however, crumbled almost immediately under the intense gazes Harry sent his way, the single-minded focus he’d train on Louis, all heat and want and unrelenting persistence. To round out the destruction of Louis’ resistance, the unwavering attention was wrapped up in a package of lethal charm—a curly-haired cherub with big green eyes and a devastating dimpled smile.
Really, looking back on those early days, Louis never stood a chance.
The other boys, surprisingly, took the relationship in their stride. There’d been teasing, exasperated cries of “get a room” when they’d start making out in their presence, but the annoyance was tinged with fondness and they never once expressed anything but complete support. Perhaps they saw what Louis realised early on: what was between him and Harry was as unstoppable as it had been inevitable.
They’d slept curled up with each other almost every night since they met, but in their tent at Leeds Festival, everything was different. For all the times they’d been intimate, for everything they’d shared—secrets, fears, hopes, dreams—for all the openness they’d had with one another about mutual crushes, the pet names, the affection, they’d never once really talked about what was going on between them, what they meant to each other. Louis knew exactly what Harry meant to him. He’d come to the realization early on, swept up by emotions and hormones and lust. And when the swirling chaos of those early days began to settle into something less like a tsunami, though still a raging storm, he began to sort it all out in his head, sifting through the layers of attraction to one basic truth: soul mates. He’d always believed in fate and the knowledge slowly crystalised into shining clarity.
He’d never said anything to Harry, had at times wondered if they were too young to know their minds, if Harry’s crush would eventually fade. But the longer things went on, the stronger his feelings became. Nervous as Louis was to speak the truth aloud, he was almost certain Harry felt the same.
Lying in the dark, nestled in the cocoon of their tent, wrapped around his perfect boy at the end of a perfect day, Louis couldn’t hold it in any longer.
“Harry?” he whispered, heart hammering in his chest.
Louis took a deep breath and hoped his voice wouldn’t shake. “I’m in love with you,” he said. He waited a beat, then repeated, voice growing stronger, “I love you.”
Terror and relief coursed through his veins in the quiet second after the words left his lips. As the moment dragged on and Harry didn’t respond, Louis felt his adrenaline spike and the edge of panic creep in. Then Harry was turning in his arms, surging toward him and kissing him frantically, crawling over his body and straddling him, hands sinking into Louis’ hair, hips grinding down against Louis’ own.
“Lou,” he moaned against his lips. “God, Lou, me too… me too. I love you too.” His hands were everywhere, shaking, stroking Louis’ skin clumsily, as if too overwhelmed for finesse. “So much… I love you so much.” Louis composure was no better, the rush of emotion from Harry’s reaction causing him to feel as if he couldn’t breathe, as if his heart would beat out of his chest. He opened his lips to Harry’s, mouths fusing as their tongues tangled. His head was spinning; he felt as if he were falling, light-headed and woozy, almost disconnected from his body, as if the fragile human shell was too small to contain the enormity of this moment.
They kissed and held each other, laughing, taking in shaky breaths as their bodies rocked together, limbs entwined, both of them hard, but neither of them chasing anything more than the touch of the other’s skin, as much as they could possibly reach. Harry buried his face in Louis’ neck, breath warm and real, and Louis stroked his back with long, loving caresses, palms flat, pressing him near. He felt something then, a drop of wetness, the slightest tickle as it slid down his skin.
His hands stilled. “Are you crying?”
Harry let out a small laugh with a huff. “Yeah. A little, I guess.” He sounded embarrassed. He lifted his head for a moment and brought a hand up to his face, wiping at his eyes before tucking his head back under Louis’ chin. “I’m just really really happy.”
Louis’ heart swelled and he felt his own eyes sting. He squeezed Harry closer, burying his face in Harry’s hair.
“Me too,” he whispered.
The hotel room in—what city were they in, anyway?—seemed far removed from the magic of their tent in Leeds, the air thick with the stale remnants of their earlier argument. The arms surrounding him, however, were the same. A bit longer, of course, more muscular, marked with tattoos. But they still felt like home. The voice, too, bridged the span of time. It was deeper now, slightly raspy. And when Harry said, “I’m still in love with you,” Louis had to bite his lip to keep from crying, wishing they could transport themselves back to that perfect evening when anything seemed possible.
Instead, he lay motionless, his emotions a confusing mix of heartache and loneliness, loss and regret, even with Harry plastered right next to him, holding him close. Everything was different now.
Harry continued speaking in a low voice, vibrations humming on the back of Louis’ neck. His foot moved up and down, slowly rubbing against Louis’ calf. “I really am sorry,” he said. “I shouldn’t have left like that.” Interspersing his words with soft kisses, his mouth travelled until it was right by Louis’ ear. Louis shivered when Harry’s tongue traced along the shell, his hot breath spreading a corresponding warmth to Louis’ gut. He shifted minutely, pressing back against Harry, feeling Harry’s cock against the crevice of his arse, the beginnings of an erection evident. Harry’s hand drifted too, untangling itself from Louis' fingers and sliding down to his stomach where he stroked gently back and forth before moving to his hip. Fingers gripped tightly while Harry’s hips tilted forward, pressing more firmly against his backside. Louis’ own cock was filling with blood, arousal sweeping through him from the seductive assault against his senses.
Harry’s hand travelled across his stomach again, up his chest, stopping at his nipples, rubbing the pads of his fingers across them, then sliding back down to his groin, scratching lightly at the trail of hair below his belly button. Louis arched back into Harry’s cock, feeling him slowly rutting against his rear.
“Do you want…?” Louis started to ask. He was tired, emotionally wrung out, but if Harry wanted to fuck him, he’d let him.
Harry shook his head no against the back of Louis’ neck. “Don’t want to move,” he said. “Don’t want to let you go.” He continued with the movement of his hips, rubbing his hardening cock against Louis while reaching for Louis’ dick. “Is this okay?” he asked, stroking it in a loose grip. “Like this?”
Louis shuddered at the touch, taking in a deep breath. “Yeah,” he answered. “This is good.”
He shut his eyes and lost himself in sensation, Harry’s warm body surrounding him, his hand on his cock, hot breath in his ear. Louis reached behind his head and sunk his fingers into Harry’s soft curls, tugging gently and scratching lightly at his scalp. A low moan left Harry’s mouth and the grip on Louis’ cock tightened, Harry’s thumb rubbing over the head, smearing the pre-come all around.
Fully hard now, Louis resisted the urge to thrust into Harry’s fist, relaxing instead and letting Harry set the pace. The rhythmic movement of Harry frotting against his backside and the slide of his fist around Louis’ cock was slow and sensuous, building inexorably toward climax. He let himself be carried along, tried to empty his mind and concentrate on his body’s reaction. Harry had always known how to touch him, how to bring him straight to the edge. When Harry’s fingers squeezed over the ridge at the head of his cock on the next upward stroke, Louis didn’t even try to hold back; his dick pulsed in Harry’s hand, come coating Harry’s fingers. A soft gasping cry left his mouth and chills rushed up his spine as Harry continued to stroke him through his orgasm, hand now slick with Louis’ come.
“So hot,” Harry rumbled in his ear, the pressure of his hips continuing steady and slow. “Gonna come on your back, Lou. Yeah? Gonna come all over you.”
Louis nodded, body still trembling from his release. He liked the idea of Harry splashing him with come, painting his skin with his seed. He wanted to feel that Harry was somehow claiming him, that Harry was still his. Baring his neck and tilting it to the side, Louis urged, “Use your teeth.”
A strangled noise left Harry’s throat and Louis felt his body tensing behind him, hot splashes searing his skin, hips jerking against him. Harry’s open mouth latched onto the spot Louis had exposed and he sucked hard, teeth biting down in a sharp nip. Louis shuddered again, overwhelmed, and he brought his hand down to rest on Harry’s wrist, stilling its attentions on his over-sensitive cock.
Body spent, Harry collapsed, slumping so he was draped partly over Louis. He was heavy, but the weight felt good. Solid and real. As Louis’ own pulse quieted, he could feel Harry’s deep breathing against his back. The earlier feeling of alienation had all but disappeared and Louis felt sated, content, and if he didn’t think too hard, could almost imagine they were still those two young boys in that tent in Leeds—crazy, stupidly in love.
Beginning to drift off, Louis heard Harry slur, “I’ll get us cleaned up in minute. Just want to lie here a few.”
He gave a small grunt in acknowledgment, too tired to do anything more. Drifting off to sleep, surrounded by the boy he loved, Louis’ earlier fears seemed far away. They were going to be okay.
Not that the success was anything to take for granted. None of them could still wrap their heads around how quickly they’d rocketed to global stardom. When people mentioned One Direction and the Beatles in the same breath, it was almost too surreal to believe. They had more money than they could have ever dreamed. Thousands of fans screaming just for a glimpse of them. And they were doing what they all loved—singing and performing as a career. If it wasn’t for what it meant for him and Harry, he’d be on top of the world.
The root of the problem, he thought, was the way he and Harry viewed their situation differently. Louis had no problem separating their public personas from their private lives. The fans were ravenous—gaping maws with insatiable appetites, always trying to devour pieces of them, whatever they could get, no matter how infinitesimal. He’d realised a long time ago they’d never get enough; they’d always want more and more and more, no matter how much they’d already been given. And fans were fickle as well. They’d love you one moment and turn on you the next.
Zayn was the one who helped put things in perspective. Intensely private, he’d had a much harder time adjusting to their fame than any of the rest of them. Eventually, he’d learned to compartmentalise, to separate who he was from whom he was expected to be.
“Out there we’re on a stage, yeah?” he’d said. “Playing a role. And that don’t mean we’re not being ourselves, but that also doesn’t mean we owe them more than we want to give. Our relationships, our families, all that’s private. They don’t get that part of us unless we decide to share. That’s ours and they’ve got no right to it.”
Louis had immediately latched onto this tactic of dealing with their crazy life. He still let fan speculation and comments upset him far more easily than, say, Liam or Niall, but he wholeheartedly adopted the idea of ‘Louis of One Direction’ being a completely different entity than Louis Tomlinson of Doncaster who was madly in love with his curly haired boy. ‘Louis of One Direction’ was the funny one, the mischief maker, devoted boyfriend to Eleanor and best friend of Harry Styles. In his mind, it was the truth. He saw no contradiction. It worked for him.
Harry, though… he couldn’t separate himself like that. Everything about him was open and honest. The person he presented to the world was exactly who he was. That openness, his generous heart were why Louis fell in love with Harry in the first place. The way he’d fearlessly let himself fall, going all-in from the start. Niall was similar in some respects—particularly the “what you see is what you get.” But with Niall it didn’t matter in the same way; he had nothing to hide.
Therein lay another problem; Harry didn’t think they should have to hide. He’d like nothing better than to stand up on stage and kiss Louis in front of everyone, declare to the world he would never be ashamed.
In an ideal world, Louis would love the same. But he was more business minded. Practical. He’d listened to the execs at the label, studied the numbers, absorbed the data on the life cycle of boy bands. Their success was unprecedented, yet he sometimes still didn’t feel it was real. The thought was always with him that it’d all be gone one day. Louis felt a responsibility to the band, to the crew, to the huge number of people whose jobs depended on their success. The choice had been up to them on how they’d handle the American market, where being out would be a huge risk. They could easily have decided to pass up the deal and enjoy limited success at home. But they had decided together. They agreed to try and make the most of these couple of years.
For that reason, Louis resented when Harry got such an attitude whenever Eleanor was around. Maybe they hadn’t realised how difficult it would be, having to pretend, for Harry to watch Louis publicly giving someone else the affection that belonged to him. At times when the guilt started getting to him, Louis wondered if maybe Harry only agreed because he thought it’s what Louis wanted. But the fact remained that he had agreed. For him to blame Louis, to be constantly angry, was the height of unfairness.
“Again? She just left!”
“That was almost two weeks ago.”
“Oh, almost two whole weeks.” His tone was sarcastic with an edge it never used to have.
Harry gave an angry shake of his head, cutting off what else Louis had to say. “Well how long is she staying this time?”
“Not sure. They want us to go to Disneyland. Get some pics snapped.”
“’Course they do.” Harry turned his back, the set of his shoulders tense. Louis walked over to him and put his hands on his upper arms, but Harry only stiffened further and gave a slight movement, shrugging him off.
Louis stepped back, unsure, stomach twisting. Increasingly, he didn’t know how to deal with Harry when he got like this. From experience, he knew if he spoke, tried to reason with Harry why this was all a necessity, Harry would simply become angrier. Then they’d both say hurtful things and Harry would storm out, or Louis would throw something against the wall, and they’d both feel like shit until one of them apologised.
“It’s not my fault.” He regretted the words the second they left his mouth. Could have kicked himself.
Harry rounded on him. “So you’re saying it’s mine?”
“I didn’t say that.”
“You were thinking it.”
“Oh, here we go.” Louis’ nostrils flared and he crossed his arms across his chest.
“You were. Admit it.” Harry started pacing, winding himself up. “What was it this time? The bus in Chicago? Too much flirting on stage? I’m sorry I can’t hide my feelings like you can. I’m not as good an actor as you.” He practically spit the words. “If you’re even acting anymore,” he added under his breath.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I think you know exactly what I mean.”
“If I’m even acting,” he repeated with incredulity. “What the fuck is wrong with you?”
“You just seem like you’re getting a little too good at this ‘pretend’ boyfriend thing.” He held up his hands to make little quotation movements with his fingers.
“Fuck you, Harry. At least I fucking try. It’s like you won’t even bother to.”
“Why should I?”
“Why should you? Are you serious?”
“You’re the one with the girlfriend.”
“She’s not my girlfriend.”
“She will be at Disneyland.”
“Christ. Listen to you.” Louis threw up his hands. “Do we really have to fucking go through this every fucking time?”
“So now I’m not even supposed to be upset when my boyfriend spends all his free time with someone else.”
“I don’t spend all my free time with Eleanor. I’m with you every single night. Every night. Unless you’re being an immature wanker and storming off in a huff.”
“So now I’m immature. I suppose a teenager’s too young for you now that you’re closing in on twenty-one.”
“What’s got into you?”
“Into me? Oh, that’s right. Because this is all my fault. See? I knew that’s what you were thinking.”
“Fuck this.” Louis felt his simmering anger heat up closer to rage. He needed to get out of there before he said something he couldn’t take back. “I’m fucking sick of this. I’m not doing this with you today. You act like this is easy for me. Like you’re the only one who suffers. And instead of doing your part, or really anything at all to make things easier, you seem determined to do everything in your power to make things harder. Well, screw you.”
He stormed toward the door and kicked his foot out in frustration when it got caught on a piece of clothing lying on the floor. After shaking it off with a few more curse words, he flung open the door and left without another look back.
Breathing heavily, heart pounding, he stalked down the corridor until he’d turned the corner, out of sight from their suite. Then he leaned back against the wall, tilted his head back with eyes closed and took a few deep breaths trying to calm down. He knew better; he really did. Louis had no idea why he’d even opened his mouth in the first place. The outcome was entirely predictable.
Fishing out his phone from the pocket of his jeans, Louis sent Zayn a text.
The reply came almost immediately.
Me and Harry had a fight. Can I come by?
Zayn opened the door almost immediately after Louis knocked, obviously waiting for him to arrive. He pulled Louis into a strong hug, arms wrapping around and holding him tightly for a few minutes.
“You wanna talk about it?”
“Not really,” Louis answered into Zayn’s shoulder.
“Same old, same old?”
Zayn nodded then let Louis go, giving one last pat on his back. Louis gave him a nod of thanks, then walked over to one of the beds, flopping down.
“Mind if I just hang out here for a while?”
“What were you doing?”
“Nothing. Being bored. Playing FIFA.”
“Well don’t let me interrupt.”
Zayn laughed and flopped down on the other bed, picking up his PS3. Louis took out his phone again and started scrolling through twitter. He tried to put the fight out of his mind. He’d drive himself crazy if he replayed the argument in his head. It wasn’t as if he could change anything.
“Hey Zayn,” Louis said after some time had passed.
“You think you could go check on Harry? Make sure he’s all right?”
Zayn looked over at Louis then gave a nod of his head. He tossed the game controller onto the bed where it bounced gently on the mattress. “Sure, I can do that.”
Louis lifted his arse up from the bed to reach in his back pocket. “Here, take this,” he said, handing Zayn his key card. “Just in case.”
Zayn took the proffered card. “Yeah, okay. Be back in a bit.”
Louis’ attention appeared to be back to his phone. “Thanks,” he said, not looking up.
He could feel Zayn staring at him for a long moment before he finally heard the click of the door. The minute he was alone, he tossed the phone down on the bed and rolled over on his side, pulling a pillow over his head.
“Hey,” Zayn said, sitting down on the edge of the bed so he was facing Louis.
“You talk to Harry?”
“He doing okay?”
Zayn shrugged. “You planning to go back to your room tonight?” he asked.
“Why? Does he not want me there?” The thought made Louis feel a little queasy.
His face must have shown at least a little of how he was feeling because Zayn placed a reassuring hand on his leg and said, “That’s not it at all. I think that you should.”
“Yeah. I think the two of you need to talk.” He held up his hand when Louis started to reply. “Hear me out first.”
“All these fights you two’ve been having. I think a lot of it comes down to him being afraid he’s losing you.”
“What?” That was the last thing Louis expected to hear. He sat up straighter. “That’s crazy.”
“Not to him.”
“But how could he think that? I mean, I know we’ve been fighting a lot lately, but he could never lose me. Would I go through all this stuff with Eleanor if it weren’t for him? He’s the whole reason I’m doing this. Well, for all of us.”
“I’m not sure he sees it that way.”
“Well how does he see it?”
“He’s jealous, yeah?”
Louis raised his eyebrows. “I think that much is obvious.”
Zayn gave a little laugh. “Yeah. But he feels stupid and really young. Like, he should be better able to control his reactions to you and El, but he can’t. And then you call him immature and it just kind of reinforces that he’s not good at this.”
“He isn’t good at this.”
Zayn laughed again. “He’s really not.”
“The absolute worst, if we’re being honest.”
“I have to agree.” They laughed again.
“So he’s jealous and feels stupid for feeling jealous. He should feel stupid.”
“What? I’m just trying to understand. It’s every fucking time we go through this. He doesn’t have anything to be jealous of. I don’t know how to make him believe that if he doesn’t know already.”
Zayn shook his head no. “But he does have plenty to be jealous of. You get to hold El’s hand in public. You get to talk about her in interviews. You get to go get coffee. You get all those normal everyday things that couples get.”
“But it’s not real. He knows that.”
“Yeah, but he wants that stuff so badly, but with you. And because he wants it so much, he assumes that you must want it too.”
‘Well, of course I want that. One day. But it’s not the right time. There’s too much at stake.”
“I understand that, and Harry on some level does too, but he wants it so much that he worries you’ll get tired of waiting for him when you can have all that right now with someone else.”
“Like with who?”
Zayn rolled his eyes, giving Louis a look that meant he thought he was being incredibly stupid.
“With Eleanor? That’s crazy.” He could only imagine the look that must be on his face.
“Not to Harry. You have to remember you were seeing Hannah when the two of you first got together.”
“What? Because I cheated on Hannah he thinks I’m going to cheat on him?” The thought made Louis sick. He still felt guilty about the way things had ended with her. He’d been young and stupid and handled things the worst way possible, but he and Hannah never would have worked. Not once he’d met Harry and had to confront everything about himself he’d tried so hard to hide. “That was completely different.”
“It’s because she’s a girl.”
“It’s because Eleanor’s a girl. Harry’s only ever been with you. But you were seeing a girl before you got together with him. He worries he’s not enough for you. Or that you’ll decide being with a boy is too much trouble. Or that you’ll decide he’s too young for you. Or something. I’m not exactly sure what’s going through that head of his, but he’s got it stuck there that you’re going to get tired of him and move on.”
Louis slouched down on the bed and draped his arm over his eyes. “Christ.” After mulling over Zayn’s words he spoke up. “The reason I fell for Harry and broke it off with Hannah is because I’m gay. And the reason nothing is ever going to happen with Eleanor is for the exact same reason: I’m gay. And, obviously, because I’m in love with him.”
“I’m not the person you need to be telling this to.”
“How on God’s green earth does he not know this already?”
Zayn laughed. “You want your key card back?”
Louis sighed and sat up. “Yeah.”
After fishing it from his pocket and handing it over Zayn said, “Now can you two please work your shit out? I’m tired of being in the middle.”
“Sorry mate,” Louis said, although he could tell from Zayn’s expression he was only joking. “And thanks,” he added as he scooted off the bed.
Harry was scooting up on the bed as Louis entered, moving into a sitting position. He had obviously been lying down. His eyes looked puffy and his hair was a mess, sticking out in all directions. Making an impulsive decision, Louis crawled onto the bed and right up Harry’s body until he was straddling his hips and settled onto Harry’s lap. Then he took Harry’s face between his hands and leaned in to kiss him soundly, coaxing Harry’s lips open with his own, sliding his tongue into his mouth. A small broken noise left Harry’s throat and his hands reached out to Louis’ sides, gripping his shirt in his fists.
They kissed for several long minutes, slow languid kisses. Louis’ hands moved from the sides of Harry’s face back to his hair and he sunk his fingers deep, loving the feel of the soft curls against his skin. He tugged at it a bit, tilting Harry’s head back farther and Harry made another noise, hands clenching the fabric of Louis shirt, and he opened his mouth wider. Louis explored every inch, tickling the roof of his mouth with his tongue, sliding over his teeth, tangling his tongue with Harry’s again and again. After a thorough snogging, he pulled back, scraping his teeth lightly across Harry’s bottom lip and pressed their foreheads together, looking into Harry’s eyes.
“I’m sorry about earlier,” he said. At least they were still able to voice their apologies straight off.
“I’m sorry too.”
Louis leaned back on Harry’s thighs and reached for the hands that were still clutched at his waist. He wound their fingers together.
“I asked Zayn to come check on you.”
“He told me what you talked about.”
Harry turned his head away and wouldn’t look Louis in the eye.
“Babe, c’mon. Look at me,” Louis coaxed.
Harry did, eyes wide, his face full of emotion, and Louis noted how young he looked. In many ways, he was still a boy.
“You’re never going to lose me, Haz,” he said, staring straight into his eyes, trying to convey the sincerity of his words. “I know we’re young, but I know what I want. You’re it for me, and I’m not sure why you don’t seem to know that.” He gave a small rueful shake of his head. “I guess I haven’t been doing a good enough job telling you.”
Harry’s big green eyes began to well up with tears. A drop of moisture tipped over the lower lid and slid down his face. Louis slipped his fingers out of one of Harry’s hands and moved his other hand to hook two of his fingers over Harry’s, holding both of Harry’s hands in one of his own. Then he reached up to gently wipe the tear from his cheek.
“Don’t cry, love,” he whispered, cupping Harry’s jaw in his palm, stroking his face with his thumb. Another tear welled over.
“I know we’re going through a rough spot,” Louis continued, “but we’ll get through it.” He continued his gentle motions, heart aching as more tears spilled over, one after the other. Harry’s chest heaved and he took a deep shuddering breath. Louis waited, letting Harry try to collect himself before saying anything more. When he looked as if he was getting himself under control, Louis spoke again.
“Zayn seems to think I need to make sure you know that I’m gay.” He smiled as he said it.
Harry let out a little laugh. Louis’ spirits were buoyed to hear it. “What?”
“I’m gay, Harry, in case you hadn’t figured it out. I’m not going to go running off with Eleanor. It’s never going to happen. And I wasn’t confused when I was going out with Hannah; I was hiding. Until I met you.”
Harry’s face looked more hopeful; however, what he said was, “But you’re still hiding. We both are.”
Louis sighed, an edge of frustration creeping back in. “It’s not the same thing.”
“No, it’s not. And you know it’s not.”
Harry was silent and looked away again. His teeth clenched and Louis could see the muscle move in his jaw. Eventually, he let out a deep sigh. “I know.” He shook his head. “I do know. It’s just really hard to see you with her like that.” His eyes were welling up again.
Louis released Harry’s hands and scooted forward, wrapping his arms around Harry’s back, pulling his head against his chest. When Harry let out a little sob, his back heaving, Louis had a fleeting moment of panic, wondering again if they’d made a huge mistake. How long could they keep doing this if it was hurting Harry so much? He pushed those thoughts aside; they wouldn’t help anything right now.
“It’s just for a few more weeks, love, and then we’ll be home,” he said, rubbing Harry’s back soothingly. “Back in our flat, just you and me. Watching telly, being lazy, getting fat. I’ll make you tea and keep you company while you cook eggs for me.” He felt Harry laugh and a little of the tension he was holding released.
“All this stuff is just a show. What you and me have… that’s real. And everyone important knows the truth.” He stroked Harry’s back, leaned his head to bury his face in Harry’s hair.
“I want the unimportant people to know too,” Harry mumbled.
Louis kissed the top of Harry’s head. “I know you do.” After a stretch of silence where he just held Harry close, he said, “It won’t be like this forever. I promise.”
At another media appearance, when they were arranged with Zayn between so they weren’t standing side by side, Harry put his hand on Zayn’s shoulder, and Louis propped his arm on top of it, staying in contact the entire interview. Zayn cooperated without protest, completely aware of what they were doing, and Louis felt a surge of gratitude for their bandmates. There’d be a price to pay, he was sure of it, but with Harry starting to unravel at the seams, Louis had to do what he could to help hold him together.
The growing question was whether he could hold himself together; even he had his limits.
The worst day, by far, was in Dallas. They’d fought again, no surprise. Where once it’d been days where fighting was the exception, it now appeared they were the rule. The argument never changed. The constant cycle of fighting, making up, fighting, making up desperately needed to stop, but neither of them seemed to be able to break the pattern.
The strain was getting to Louis too. Needing sleep, increasingly homesick, he was short on patience and snapping at everyone. Spending days with Eleanor, keeping up the act, then coming back to Harry, having to placate and reassure, he felt like he was being stretched paper thin. That afternoon he was still angry from the morning’s argument. About Eleanor. Again. Even seeing Harry actually cry during a radio interview—on air tears which he failed to blink away—couldn’t soften Louis’ mood. Because of course what had prompted Harry’s tears was his reputation with the ladies and the perpetuation of the cute story management had concocted about Harry introducing El to Lou.
It wasn’t news that Harry couldn’t lie to save his life and normally Louis would be sympathetic, but he was roiling with a confusing mix of emotions—guilt at what Harry was going through, anger at Harry for not being able to pull it off, anger at himself for being angry with Harry, anger at the world for shitting on couples like them. Underneath it all, a chilling fear that they were cracking apart into something that couldn’t be fixed.
What he craved was a place to hide away, to shut everything out for a while. He was tired of doing the heavy lifting, tired of carrying the entire load. Maybe he had days where he wanted to be held and told everything was going to be okay. Maybe he’d like reassurances that they’d made the right decision and were going to come through to the other side just fine. Always the caretaker, a role he’d assumed as the eldest in the group, maybe sometimes he wanted someone to take care of him.
The other boys were aware he was starting to fray. His laughter got a little too loud; there was little more bite to his wit. And Liam’s look of disappointment when he cosied up to Eleanor right before Harry’s eyes was impossible to miss. He couldn’t seem to stop himself, though. Any time he felt vulnerable, his instincts led him to lash out. Still, knowing what was happening didn’t mean he could rein it in.
Eventually, it all came to head.
The tension between them was starting to affect everyone in the group. Not just the boys, but the band and the crew. Everyone was on edge. To head off disaster, Simon Cowell was flown in. They all respected him, as a businessman, and also as a friend. He was practical, guiding them in ways that would protect his investment, but also that he hoped would be good for them long term; he’d never pushed them into something they weren’t willing to do. On everything important, the final decision had always been theirs.
All five of them met with him separately, catching up and checking in. When Louis was sat in front of him after a warm greeting and a strong hug, Simon wasted no time getting right to the point.
“I’m hearing you and Harry are having problems?”
Louis looked down and fidgeted, starting to pick at his nails. “Things are a little rough right now.”
“I hear more than a little.”
“You’ve heard a lot, apparently,” Louis said, an edge of sarcasm in his tone.
Simon ignored it. “Remember all those talks we had at the beginning? You know there were grave reservations about the two of you being in a relationship within the band. You both assured me you’d never let it cause problems for the group. That you were professionals.”
Louis turned his head away. “I remember.”
“Then it’s time to be professionals.” Simon spoke matter-of-factly, without disapproval or judgment.
Louis didn’t answer.
“I’ve been to a few meetings to discuss the situation…”
“The situation,” Louis muttered under his breath. He accompanied his words with a small roll of his eyes.
“And we’ve decided it would do you both some good to spend some time apart.”
Louis head whipped around to stare at Simon with incredulity. “What?”
“We’ve arranged for you to take Eleanor to France on a cruise. Ten days. A little romantic getaway at the end of the tour.”
“Ten days? What about my family? I haven’t seen my mum in forever.”
“We can arrange to have your mum join you after a few days. It’s probably not a bad idea to have her there for this anyway. Your sisters too, if you like.”
“Harry will never agree to it.”
“I think you need to convince him that he should.”
“But why? Eleanor is the problem. It’s just going to make things worse.”
“She’s not the problem.” Simon paused, elbows propped on the arm rest of his chair, fingers steepled in front of his mouth. He stared at Louis thoughtfully. “The problem is that you two need to learn how to work together when you’re having issues, without them carrying over to everyone else. And you also need to think long and hard about how you’re going to handle things if the two of you break up.”
“We’re not breaking up.”
Simon was nonplussed. He waved Louis’ words away. “Be that as it may. What’s happening right now needs to stop. We want you both to take a little time away from each other to give some serious thought to the future. We’re all in this for the long haul. Obviously, something isn’t working. Figure it out.” He shifted, leaning back in the chair and placing his hands on his thighs. A kind smile appeared on his face. “A little advice from an old man, if you’ll allow me.”
Louis was wary, but gave a curt nod.
“Regardless of how this affects the group, the two of you have barely spent more than a day or two apart from each other since you first met. I think it’d be good for you both to start to develop interests and friendships apart from each other. You work together; you live together. You’re in each other’s pockets twenty-four/seven.”
Louis gave a little shrug. It was true enough.
“That’s unsustainable for the long term. Healthy relationships need for each partner to have their own life, completely separate from the other. Their own friends. Interests. Hobbies.”
“I spend a lot of time with Zayn.”
Simon raised his eyebrow.
“Fine. I understand the point. But I don’t want a completely separate life. I like spending all my time with Harry.”
“Do you? Because from what I hear, the time you’re spending together hasn’t been all that pleasant.”
Louis huffed in frustration. “What do you expect? We’ve been on the road for months. Eleanor’s been there constantly. How about you send me and Harry on a romantic getaway to France? I think that’s a much better idea.” He crossed his arms over his chest, the angle of his jaw defiant.
Simon shook his head no. “Not this time. You know we could cut down on the Eleanor appearances if Harry—”
Louis cut him off. “No. Absolutely not.”
“Hear me out.”
“I said no.”
“Stop.” Louis broke in again. “It’s not happening. First of all, even if Harry could pull it off—which he couldn’t. I’m sure you already heard what happened when he tried to talk about that ridiculous story of him introducing us—he shouldn’t have to. That’s my job. It doesn’t bother me. I can handle it. But you know Harry.” Louis voice softened and a fond expression crossed his face. “I think it’d, like, destroy his soul or something if he had to do something so blatantly dishonest.” He paused, and when he spoke next, his voice had taken on a hardened edge. “You’re not doing that to him. I won’t let you. And I guarantee the rest of the lads wouldn’t agree to it either.” He added one last plea. “Besides, he’s only eighteen.”
Simon threw up his hands. “Fine. It was just a suggestion. It really doesn’t leave us much choice then. They’re going to insist on this trip to France.”
“That’s not fair.”
“Is it fair that you two have got everyone around you worrying about their jobs? Their futures? Wondering what would happen if One Direction imploded from the inside because you two lads can’t work it out?”
Louis was silent for a long moment, face resentful. Then with a heavy sigh, he leaned over, putting his elbows on his knees and the heels of his hands on his forehead, gripping at his hair. After another long silence he said, “Harry is going to lose it. I’m warning you now. This is not going to make things better.”
“Just think about what I said. You may not see it, but the time apart will do you both some good. Give you some perspective. If your relationship is as strong as you’ve been telling me, you’ll be fine. And if it can’t withstand a week or so apart, well, isn’t it best to find that on the break, before you both have to get back to work?”
“Me and Harry are the real thing. We can withstand a week just fine.”
“Then you’ve got nothing to worry about, right?”
Louis had taken some time to get his thoughts in order after meeting with Simon, then went to find Harry. Best to get the conversation out of the way.
“They think we should take a break from each other, have a little time apart.”
“A break?” Harry whipped around to face Louis, staring at him with incredulity.
“I didn’t mean it like that,” Louis hastily assured. “And they don’t either. Just… some time to sort things out, get past all this fighting. Simon said we’re being unprofessional, getting everyone anxious.” He gave a small lift to his shoulders, as if he didn’t disagree.
“Ten days is bullshit. That’s supposed to be our time. We’ve been working non-stop for months.”
Louis didn’t say anything, thinking it would be better to let Harry get it all out. Then they could talk.
“I’m not sure how they think making you spend even more time with her is going to help the two of us. That’s like the opposite of helping.” After another bout of pacing he added, “They should be sending the two of us on a holiday to France.”
“That’s what I said.”
“Well, of course. It makes more sense than their stupid idea. We haven’t been on a proper holiday in… a long time.”
Harry stopped pacing and gave Louis a hard stare. The stubborn expression crossing his face was one Louis knew well. His stomach sank; he wasn’t up for another fight, but he could see that’s what he was going to get. “No,” Harry said. “We’re not doing it. It’s too much.”
Eyes widening, Harry asked, “You already agreed?”
Louis’ face scrunched up and he gave Harry a look. “What? No. I wouldn’t agree to something like that without talking to you first.”
“But you’re going to agree.”
“Lou! What the fuck are you thinking?” Harry was growing visibly more upset, shoulders tensing, hands wringing. “Are you serious?”
Louis tilted his head and moved the fringe off his face, a nervous habit that always gave away when he was upset. “Can you… sit down, so we can talk about this?”
“What the fuck is there to talk about? You’d rather spend ten days, our first time off in months, with her instead of me.”
“That’s not fair. Simon said—”
“I don’t give a fuck what Simon said. This is bullshit. I can’t even believe you’re seriously considering it.”
“They think we’re jeopardising the group with our fighting and want us to have some time to think things through, figure out how to deal with our problems, so we can stay professional at work.”
“I don’t need to work things through. I already know what our problems are.”
Louis rolled his eyes, giving his fringe another flip. “Right. It’s all my fault, isn’t it? My fault for spending time with Eleanor, even though you agreed, my fault every time you get upset, my fault for thinking a little time apart might not actually be a bad idea.” His voice got louder with each word.
When he was done with his rant, his heart almost broke at the look on Harry’s face; it had gone from angry to crumpled and hurt. Shit.
“Not a bad idea? You really think that?”
“I… I don’t know.”
“You’d rather go spend time on a boat with Eleanor than at home with me?” Louis could barely stand the sound of Harry’s wounded voice. It hit him right in the gut.
Louis felt exhausted, wrung out. Wishing he had taken more time to think through how he would talk about this with Harry before coming back to the room, he simply said, “No. You don’t understand. That’s not what I mean.”
“What did you mean?”
Louis put his elbows on his knees and started rubbing his forehead with his fingertips. This was going a lot worse than he anticipated.
“Lou, what did you mean?”
Louis didn’t answer.
Harry stalked toward him and knelt at his feet, pushing Louis’ knees apart, pulling Louis’ hands away from his face.
“Lou?” His voice was barely a whisper, cracked and broken. Louis looked into his eyes and could see the desperation.
Harry surged forward and pressed his lips to Louis’ pushing him back on the sofa, plunging his tongue into his mouth. Louis, taken by surprise, grasped onto Harry’s shoulders to steady himself. After another rough kiss, Louis pushed him back with a shove, saying, “Haz, what the hell?”
Instead of answering, Harry lunged again, giving Louis another bruising kiss, biting down on his lip when Louis tried to turn his head away. Louis slammed the heel of his hand into Harry’s shoulder until Harry let go. Fingers pressing against his lip, dabbing to check for blood, Louis glared at Harry. “Ouch, you fucker. That hurt.”
Harry was staring at him, eyes dark and intense. Predatory. Possessive. Louis felt a curl of arousal in his belly and was suddenly short of breath. Sometimes he hated how Harry could do this to him, make him want above all else.
“We need to talk.” He didn’t even sound convincing to himself.
“We’ll talk later,” Harry said before diving back in for another kiss. Louis’ mouth opened to him immediately and he moaned, feeling Harry’s fingers digging into his sides at the sound. The harsh pressure against his already sore lips hurt, but Louis almost craved the pain. They’d always got off on marking each other, leaving physical reminders of what they shared.
As Harry continued with his relentless assault, devouring his mouth, kneading at his flesh, Louis felt rational thought leaving him almost entirely. The rushing of his blood through his veins felt like the roaring of the ocean, the heavy pounding of his pulse, the unrelenting beat of a primal drum. He felt himself going under, swamped by the overpowering pull of his body’s craving for Harry, a constant need that never seemed to abate, was always waiting just under the surface.
Grasping at the last remaining shreds of coherency, he tried once again to push Harry back. Wresting himself away, Louis tilted his head backwards, freeing his lips. In response, Harry simply latched onto his now exposed neck, sucking hard where his collar bone met the hollow of his throat.
“Wait,” Louis gasped out, pushing ineffectively at Harry’s shoulders. “We really need to discuss this.”
Harry lifted his head up from Louis’ neck and growled, “Later.” Then he moved his hands, sliding them under Louis’ knees and jerked his body forward so that his arse was flush with the edge of the sofa, Louis’ body falling backwards.
“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” Louis asked, torn between anger and arousal. Harry was rarely the aggressor in their relationship, but when he was, Louis always found it extremely hot, even if this time it was coloured by his agitation at Harry’s avoidance.
Instead of answering, Harry went for the waistband of Louis’ tracksuit bottoms, tugging them down his hips. Louis tried to push his hands away and they wrestled a little back and forth, Louis kicking out with one of his legs, Harry trapping it against his side while he struggled to get his pants down one-handed; Louis continued to try and push his hands away.
“Hold… still,” Harry ground out, grabbing both Louis’ wrists in his own large hand, scooting to trap his Louis’ errant leg between his knees. “I’m going to suck you off.”
“Maybe I don’t want to be sucked off,” Louis spat back.
“Oh, I think you do,” Harry retorted, having successfully freed Louis’ prick, one leg now liberated from his pants. It lay thick and heavy against Louis’ stomach, the tip glistening wet peeking out from his foreskin.
Harry released Louis’ hands, but before Louis could react, Harry was hooking his own under Louis’ knees again, giving his body one more jerk, moving it even closer. Louis’ hands flew back to steady himself against the cushions of the sofa. Then Harry shoved Louis’ knees farther apart, slotting himself between them, and giving him one last hot and hungry look before leaning over to take Louis’ prick between his lips—pink and kiss-swollen and looking like sin.
Louis’ hips bucked up and his head flew back as Harry’s hot wet mouth closed around him. He let out a ragged cry and his hands, now free, instead of pushing Harry away, sunk deep into his curls. God, it felt incredible. Harry’s head bobbed up and down, his tongue working along Louis’ shaft, wet and slick and amazing.
Pushing Harry’s hair back, so he could get a better look, Louis stared rapt at the sight before him—Harry’s flushed face, cheeks hollowed out, those lips wrapped round his cock, and his eyes... Louis couldn’t look away. Harry’s eyes were dark, almost black, pupils so dilated there was just the slightest ring of celadon at the edges. Louis slid one hand down Harry’s cheek, fingertips lightly brushing across his skin, and brought his index finger to the corner of Harry’s mouth, touching it where his cock slid in and out. Harry moaned, fingers digging into Louis’ hips, eyelids fluttering shut. Louis’ stomach swooped at the reaction, chills dancing over his skin. A helpless feeling washed over him and he became unsettled at how in thrall his body was to Harry’s.
Seeking to gain back a little control, he brought his hand back to Harry’s hair and gripped the soft curls in both his fists, holding Harry steady while he lifted his hips off the sofa, thrusting into his mouth. Harry let him at first, giving a satisfied grunt. Louis thrust again, deeper this time, making Harry moan. The sound triggered something in Louis, a desire to wreck him, destroy his equilibrium the way Harry was doing to him. All his anger and frustration rose to the surface and he grew bolder, fucking deeper and harder to the back of Harry’s throat, feeling him choke around his dick. Harry’s eyes flew open, watering a little, and Louis barely had time to enjoy his satisfaction before the lids slitted in anger, Harry’s nostrils flaring.
Harry gave him a hard slap against the side of his arse, the loud smack of skin against skin echoing in the room. Taking advantage of Louis’ momentary distraction, Harry pulled off Louis’ dick and ground out, “You little shit.”
Then he flipped Louis over in one deft move, manhandling him like he was a child, so that his chest was over the edge of the sofa, arse in the air. Harry’s palm came down again in another hard slap and Louis gasped, feeling the sting. That would leave a print.
Before he could even react, the hand came down twice more and Louis moaned into the cushions, the heat from his arse spreading over his body. Boneless, he pliantly let Harry pull the shirt off his body.
“Stay right there,” Harry demanded and Louis heard him get up and head to the bathroom, rifling through his overnight bag. Louis’ prick was hard and aching and he reached between his legs, giving it a few hard strokes. When Harry came back, already naked, he saw what Louis was doing and batted his hand away, saying, “No you don’t.” He grabbed Louis’ wrist and moved his hand to the cushion by Louis’ head. Then his own hand was on Louis’ backside, thumb spreading his cheeks apart, and his fingers were sliding over his hole, slick and covered with lube. As he pressed them slowly in, he leaned over Louis’ back to say, “I’m going to fuck you now.” Louis moaned again.
He worked his fingers in and out, twisting them a bit, getting Louis ready. Then he lined up his cock and pushed, slowly and steadily in one long movement until he was all the way in. He leaned over Louis’ back, panting a little bit, and asked, “Okay?” The stretch burned, but Louis didn’t care. Harry felt so good inside him; he always did with his huge cock filling him up.
Louis didn’t speak, but moved his head in an approximation of a nod. He barely had time to get used to the feel of Harry’s cock before Harry was pulling back and slamming into him again and again, fucking him hard and rough. His fingers dug into Louis’ hips and he grunted with each thrust. Moving his hands so the palms were flat against the back of the sofa, Louis braced himself, knowing he would feel this tomorrow. Thinking about Harry fucking him so hard he’d have trouble walking was overwhelming and he felt his cock jerk in response. He reached down between his legs again, gripping his dick.
This time Harry didn’t stop him and Louis buried his face in the sofa, stripping himself off, motions quick and rough. Harry draped himself over his back again, thrusts becoming erratic, hot mouth open against his shoulder. “You’re mine,” he growled. “Mine,” he said again before biting down hard, body going taut as he shuddered against him.
Back arching, Louis yelped, simultaneously overcome with pleasure and pain—the sharp burn on his shoulder, Harry coming inside him, his own hand bringing him to the edge. He tipped over, cock spasming as he splashed come against the side of the sofa, body trembling all over.
As he came down from his orgasm, panting and spent, Harry’s weight began to grow heavier. “Get off me,” he mumbled, face still pressed into the sofa cushion. He felt Harry reach out with his left hand, bracing it on the edge of the sofa, while his right moved to his cock, pulling out of Louis. They both moaned at the sensitivity. Then Harry rolled off, flopping down on the floor. Louis hoisted himself up and did the same, not even caring he was probably making a mess. From the look in Harry’s eye, he was certain he must look thoroughly debauched.
Harry leaned over, nuzzling his face in Louis’ neck, licking at his skin, tasting the salt of his sweat. Louis closed his eyes and tipped his head back, bringing a hand up to paw clumsily at Harry’s head. He barely had the energy to move.
“Feel better now?” Louis asked, a tinge of sarcasm in his voice.
Instead of answering, Harry just kept mouthing at his throat, sucking and kissing at his skin. Then he increased the pressure to the point of pain, biting down again, pinching Louis’ skin between his teeth.
Swatting at his head, Louis exclaimed, “Ow! What the fuck, Harold?”
Harry leaned back, expression defiant as he stared at the dark red mark that was sure to bruise. “Now I feel better,” he said.
Growing angry again, Louis bit out, “This can’t be solved with sex. Or you… acting like a vampire or something and putting teeth marks all over me. We need to talk. Really talk.”
“Talk about what? That you’re planning to choose her over me?”
“I’m not choosing her over you. That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.”
“That’s exactly what you’re doing. It’s supposed to be you and me, back home in our flat, drinking tea and getting fat. That’s exactly what you said.”
“Yeah, but that was before. They—”
“Fuck them! It’s our time off. Our time. This is about us. You and me.”
“France is about us too. Just listen to me. Let me explain.” Louis rubbed his forehead. He felt vulnerable, come dripping between his thighs, his pants still tangled around one of his legs. Coming to a decision he said, “I need to get cleaned up.” His emotions were running too high. He’d already screwed things up by not taking more time to think it all through before talking to Harry. He needed to get his head together. Struggling to his feet, Louis kicked his pants off his foot. He leaned over and grabbed his discarded T-shirt and wiped at the come on the sofa. “I’m gonna have a quick shower. Then we’re going to sit down and talk.” Harry simply stared at him as he walked to the bathroom.
When he finished his shower and came out for fresh clothing, Harry was gone from the room.
“I do mean it.” Harry’s jaw was clenched, arms crossed over his chest. “I’m done always coming in second. And I know what you’re going to say. Yes, I agreed. But this is taking it too far. This is our time off. I may have agreed to be the dirty little secret while we’re on tour and out in public, but there’s got to be some part of our lives that’s actually ours.”
Louis was silent. What could he say to something like that? Harry was right, of course. Where exactly was the line when it stopped becoming a role and simply became their actual lives? He wasn’t sure he knew anymore.
He put his head in his hands. “I need to think.”
“What the fuck is there to think about? Pick up the phone, call Simon and tell him you’re not doing it.”
“It’s not that fucking easy,” Louis yelled.
Harry looked taken aback. “What? Why isn’t it easy? This choice, Lou, should be very fucking easy, as far as I’m concerned.”
“I already tried to talk to them about it. They said no.”
“Too fucking bad. We’re putting our foot down. It’s too much.”
It was too much. This fight, the ongoing arguments, the entire situation, the way Harry looked like he was about to fall to pieces. Overwhelming anxiety started to settle in and Louis felt as if his chest was weighted with a stone, as if he couldn’t breathe. He needed to get out of there.
“I can’t do this right now,” he said, getting up and twisting his hands together. “I can’t fucking do this right now.”
He fled the room, trying not to notice the shattered expression on Harry’s face.
Maybe it was the heat, unlike anything they had in England. Maybe it was the stress of being gone so long from home. Whatever the reason, Louis and Harry hadn’t had a single conversation about the impending separation without it ending in shouting and recriminations, though tonight’s might have been their worst fight to date. Harry had finally given an ultimatum. If Louis went with Eleanor to France, they were through. He would move out; he’d already talked to Tom and their stylist Lou who would let him crash with them until he could find a place of his own. No matter how many times Louis tried to explain Simon’s reasoning, Harry saw it as choice between him and Eleanor. Or, rather, everything she represented. Louis had called Simon and begged him to reconsider, but Simon said it was out of his hands.
They both made it through the show that night, but Louis’ stress was at an all-time high. Instead of trying to talk to Harry again, he chose to ride on the other bus with the band and proceeded to get wasted, drinking far too much, trying to let off some steam. What was the point of yet another conversation, after all? They were unlikely to say anything new. They’d gone round and round in circles, never getting anywhere, stuck at an insurmountable impasse. At least he’d avoided saying something he’d live to regret.
An evening of letting loose gave little relief, however, and the hangover the next day was brutal. They were in Florida, hot sun overhead making everything far too bright, and Louis wanted to do nothing more than to draw the curtains and sleep all day. After spending some time by the pool, Harry had returned to the room and convinced him to at least come out onto the balcony. Louis dragged on some shorts, and grabbed his shades. The heat hit him like a furnace blast as he left the air-conditioned room and he thought sweating the toxins out of his bloodstream might do some good. He settled himself on his stomach on a chaise, face resting on his folded arms.
Gentle pressure against his shoulder blades woke him up and he realised he must have dozed off some time ago.
“Sorry,” said Harry. “I didn’t mean to wake you. I’m putting some lotion on your back. Didn’t want you to get burned.”
Louis sat up with a groan, still feeling the effects from the night before, and said, “Thanks.” Reaching over his shoulder to press a finger into his pinkening skin he said, “Maybe I should put a shirt on.”
“Here,” Harry said, handing him a water bottle and a few pain killers. “Got these out for you. Figure you’d need them.”
“Thanks,” Louis said again, taking them both. He drank the water down thirstily, popping the pills in his mouth. Then he went inside to grab a t-shirt. When he came back out, he leaned over the balcony, taking a look around. A pap was already stationed nearby, trying to catch a glimpse. Pap this, he thought to himself as he flipped a bird, then he sat back down on the chaise.
“You look hot,” Harry said.
“What do you expect? It’s like a thousand degrees here. This heat is insane.”
Harry gave a little laugh and shook his head. “No, I mean you look sexy. Not sure how you manage that hungover as shit, but you do.”
Louis snorted. “I feel like crap.”
The sat quietly, both lost in thought. A heaviness stole over Louis, a sense of dread inevitability. When they started this tour, exhilarated, high on their good fortune, he never expected it to be ending like this. His throat was tight, but the words had to be said.
“I’m going to France after the tour’s over.”
Harry’s nostrils flared and he exhaled a small puff of air as he shook his head. “I can’t believe that’s the choice you’ve decided to make.”
“I don’t feel as if I really have a choice.”
The silence settled between them like lead. Finally, Harry spoke, “So that’s it then.”
Louis’ chest ached; his mind felt numb. There was nothing left he could possibly say.
“I guess it is.”
He lay back down on the chaise longue, burying his face in his arms, and tried not to think about how heartbreak really did feel like you were dying.
-End of Part 1-
Chapter 2: Part 2
“Out with it, popstar,” Nick said.
“Out with what?”
“Young Harold, my luscious-locked curly-haired friend, you know very well what.”
Harry knew the look that was probably on his face—a deer in the headlamps sort of thing. He knew eventually he’d have to talk about what had happened, but he still wasn’t sure he was ready to say it out loud.
Nick’s expression softened. “You’ve been hanging around the studio for days now, looking like your dog died or something—wait… your dog didn’t die did it?”
“Don’t have a dog.”
“Cat’s fine. Home with Mum.”
“That’s a relief. Good to know.” He picked right back up at the point he was making before the conversation got derailed by the non-existent dog. “Make no mistake; it’s not that I don’t enjoy the company, because I do. Big international pop sensation like yourself. Who wouldn’t want to be me? Now I may be spectacularly self-involved, but even I can see something’s going on. C’mon. Talk to me.”
Harry looked away for a long moment. Coming to a decision, he took a deep breath and turned to face Nick. “Louis and I broke up.” He could feel his eyes already filling with tears.
Nick’s eyes widened in surprise. He let out a soft, “Oh.” He stared thoughtfully at Harry then gave a sharp nod of his head. “Right. Shall we go get drunk, then?”
Harry didn’t trust himself to speak, but he gave a shaky nod.
“Yes, let’s.” Nick said it for him.
They ended up at Nick’s flat. Wisely deciding Harry was in no shape to be out in public, Nick stopped to grab a bottle on the way to his home, telling Harry to wait in the car. Then Harry was sat down on the sofa, a strong drink placed in his hand. Nick hadn’t pushed, for which Harry was grateful, but several drinks in, he finally started talking. Once he got going, everything came tumbling out.
“I gave him an ultimatum. Wasn’t that the stupidest thing? You hear people say they’re never ever a good idea, but you never really know just how bad an idea one is until you’ve gone and done it yourself.”
He was vaguely aware of having already covered this same ground with Nick, possibly several times already, but he kept going anyway, poking at the wound again and again.
“I have heard that, actually.”
“Because of course,” Harry continued, “the person sometimes picks the choice you’d never ever ever think they would.” He looked at Nick and asked, voice pleading, “How could he pick France and Eleanor over me?” He could feel the hot sting of tears on his cheeks.
“Anyone who wouldn’t pick you isn’t right in the head.”
Harry sniffed and glared at Nick. “You’ve never liked Louis. What do you have against him anyway?”
Nick held up his hands in protest. “I’ve got absolutely nothing against your boy, I swear. Just trying to be a supportive friend.”
Harry was slightly mollified, but only for a second until what Nick said sunk in.
“He’s not ‘my boy’ any longer.” Harry wiped at his eyes with his sleeve. “You know the worst?”
Nick shook his head no.
“I took it back. After the ultimatum and the whole horrible awful, terrible discussion. I completely freaked out. Me and Louis… we were supposed to be forever, you know? I was sure of it.”
Nick wordlessly handed him another tissue.
“So we talked again. Not two days later I said I’d been too hasty. Asked him if he felt the same. That we’d made a terrible mistake. The worst possible. And you know what he said?”
“What did he say?”
“He said…” Harry couldn’t get the words out at first. He swallowed, took a deep breath then continued. “He said he thought it was a good idea. A good idea. Those were his exact words. A good idea.”
Nick clucked sympathetically.
“Said he thought we should take a little time apart. Try and figure things out, that we needed the break.”
Again, the words left him. He wanted to double over; the pain of remembering was so strong. The hole in his stomach felt as large as it had when he and Louis first spoke.
Nick leaned over and pulled Harry against his side, tucking his head under his chin. He wrapped his arm around Harry’s shoulder and patted him awkwardly. “There, there, my little popstar. There, there.”
Harry rested motionless save for a few deep ragged breaths, letting himself be comforted. A few moments passed and he gave a huffy laugh in spite of himself. “Did you really just say ‘there, there’?”
“I’m afraid I did.”
“You really are rubbish at this, aren’t you?”
“Hey, I supplied the alcohol.”
They were sat outdoors having a pint. Aimee had joined them and they were expecting a few others from Nick’s crowd a little later. The evening was pleasant, not too cold, not too warm, the showers from earlier in the day having cleared hours ago.
Harry laughed and shook his head at the question. “Just a bit weird.” They had started back to work, finally, and it’d been harder than he anticipated seeing Louis every day. Not wanting to be a complete stick-in-the-mud, Harry searched for something he could contribute to the conversation. “Looked at a few places in your neighbourhood the other day.”
“Did you? Are we going to be neighbours?” Nick looked delighted.
“Dunno. Might be. Took Lou with me to get her opinion.”
“And what’d she think? Wait. Leasing or buying?”
“Buying, most likely. My dad thinks I should invest in some real estate.”
“Look at you. That’s so adult.”
“They grow up so fast,” Aimee chimed in, tilting her head and holding her fists under her chin.
“They do, don’t they? Seems like only yesterday he was on the telly telling the world he was just a little lad from Cheshire who worked in a bakery.”
“Such a precious cupcake.” Her lips formed into a moue and she reached over to pinch his cheek.
“Shut it you two,” Harry said, swatting her hand away and ducking his head to hide a smile.
“Come, come. Tell us about this parcel of real estate. Your potential investment. What’s it got? Fourteen bedrooms, sixteen baths? It’s got to have a pool, of course. Every popstar needs a pool. Does it have a pool? The people need to know.”
“Not quite. It does have four garages, though.”
“Wherever will you put the rest of your fleet?”
“What? It’s just a question.”
“I don’t have that many cars.”
“The rest will be kept at his country estate,” Aimee suggested.
“Right. Jolly good show,” Nick said with an exaggerated posh accent.
They carried on with their good-natured teasing, taking the piss out of him, keeping him from sinking back into the wallowing mess he’d been for the majority of his free time lately. Trying to keep his mind off Louis.
Louis had looked fantastic after his time in France. Fit, tanned. Unlike Harry’s pale skin, Louis’ had always been able to soak up the rays, darkening to a beautiful golden colour. Harry had always loved touching it, especially when it was still warm from the sun, ghosting his fingers over the glowing flesh, watching it break out in goosebumps even when the heat was bearing down. Loved to press his lips against every inch, feel the smooth warmth under his mouth, taste the salt on his tongue. He loved the way Louis’ arm looked draped across his stomach whey they lay in bed, the contrast in their skin tones together, loved the way his body tucked right into his own, small and curvy and a perfect fit. Of course Louis’d been dressed in a cream sweater and then a white tee that day too. He’d looked amazing.
Harry tried not to think how good he looked meant Louis was doing fine without him. Because he hadn’t been fine at all. Quite the opposite, really.
They’d been at Henley-on-Thames, doing a photoshoot at Fawley Hill, an amazing location that was a curious combination of museum, railway and animal sanctuary. It was the kind of place Harry would have loved to come with Louis on a day off—not that they got many of those—watching Louis’ eyes light up while watching the meerkats play and the emus strut with their awkward gait. It housed an incredible collection of classic cars as well, which he himself greatly enjoyed. But on that day it was hard to maintain composure, pretending he was having a fantastic time riding in golf carts, piling onto a sofa in the middle of a field. He kept stealing glances at Louis, and knew Louis was doing the same to him. The discomfort he felt trying to act as if they hadn’t a care in the world was difficult enough, but the ache of holding back each time his body instinctively reached for Louis was almost impossible to bear. Would it always hurt this much?
“Where’d you go, young Harold? Furnishing your country estate inside that curly head? Hanging some damask curtains or setting out a nice plush Oriental rug?”
Nick’s voice brought him back to the present. He hadn’t even noticed some of the others had arrived.
“Sorry,” he mumbled before greeting Nick’s friends.
When they were settled with another round of drinks, Harry felt something nudging his foot and he looked over at Nick who cocked his head a bit. “You all right?” he mouthed, a concerned but fond expression on his face.
Harry nodded, mouthing a, “yeah,” back at him. Maybe one day it would be true.
Then a mischievous look crossed Nick’s face. He gave a jerk of his head over his shoulder, motioning for Harry to look behind him. Harry’s eyes followed in the direction indicated and he started laughing. The man sitting across from him had his arse crack showing from where his trousers had pulled down when he sat. Not just a centimetre or two; a large expanse of arse was visible.
“An Instagram moment if I ever saw one,” Nick challenged.
Harry huffed a laugh and shook his head, but he got out his phone anyway and snapped a pic, posting it to his account.
Bum crack is whack!
Nick and Aimee laughed at all the comments immediately pouring in and they took turns reading them aloud. Harry smiled along with them, and couldn’t help but note how different this was from spending time with Louis. He wondered just how long it’d been since they’d been able to go out in public somewhere, just the two of them. They’d certainly never be able to make jokes about bums on Instagram. Overwhelming sadness threatened to pull him under again and then he felt Nick’s foot against his ankle, giving him a gentle nudge.
He looked up and Nick was smiling at him, once again his expression incredibly fond. “Listen to this one, Harold,” he began.
Harry smiled and listened.
“Hey, it’s me,” Louis said.
There was silence on the other end. Harry’s stomach did that funny twisting thing it had been doing lately around Louis, an almost automatic reaction to the awful discomfort that always seemed to be between them lately. “Lou?” he prompted.
Louis cleared his throat. “Sorry. It’s just that… I thought we could…” He stopped speaking again. Another heavy silence filled the air.
“You thought we could… what, exactly?” Harry waited.
“Well…” Louis sounded nervous. “We’re at Leeds today, yeah?”
Oh. The funny twisting turned to gut-wrenching pain and Harry felt as if the breath had been knocked from his body. Harry had avoided specifically thinking about the day. The Party in the Park wasn’t the same as the Festival, but he still knew it would bring up memories.
“Yeah, I know.” Somehow he got the words out.
Louis cleared his throat again. “Stan… A bunch of us are getting together later and Stan wants you to come.”
For some reason, that just made Harry feel worse.
“I don’t know,” he said. The last thing he wanted to do was to try and pretend in front of Stan. “Didn’t you tell him—”
“Yeah, ‘course I did. He knows. But he wants to see you, and I told him… I told him I’d ask.”
Harry was silent, thinking it through.
“I want you to see you,” Louis corrected. Harry went rigid, thoughts scattering everywhere. “I mean, see you outside of work. It’s…” Louis hesitated again. “It’s at Leeds, you know? And I… I don’t want us to fight, or for the day to be weird. I just… want us to have a nice time, and go out with friends later and maybe see if we could… I don’t know… somehow manage to be like we used to be.”
Mind racing, Harry didn’t answer right away. As the moments dragged on, Louis spoke again.
“I don’t want the day to be spoiled, you know? If you don’t want to go out later, I understand. I’ll let Stan know. But…” His voice was tight and Harry had the feeling the conversation was as difficult for Louis as it was for him. “I just want the day to be nice, for us to get along. I promise I’ll try my best not to be a prick.”
Harry let out a little laugh. “Yeah, okay. That’d be good.”
“You’ll come out later then?”
“I… can we just play that part by ear? Tell Stan it’s a maybe for now? See how it goes? Don’t really know if I’ll be up for it later.”
“Yeah, yeah. Of course. Sure.” Harry could hear the relief in Louis’ voice; his own chest felt immediately lighter. After another lengthy silence, neither of them moving to end the conversation, Louis asked, “How’ve you been? You been all right?”
And that was enough for Harry for this particular conversation. He didn’t think he could handle discussing his feelings on top of a conversation about Leeds. “Sorry, Lou, but I’m going to have to go. I’ve got another call coming in.”
“Right. Yeah. Sorry.” Harry knew Louis would know he was lying, but he didn’t care. There was only so much he could take in one morning. “Sorry,” Louis said again. “See you later, then.”
“Yeah, okay, bye.”
Harry hung up the phone and stood silently, staring at it. He thought back to what Louis has said: him wanting them to see if they could be like they used to be. With a shake of his head, Harry thought no. He didn’t think so. The Louis and Harry they used to be ended when Louis decided their relationship wasn’t his priority. And it’s not that Harry was completely blind to Louis’ reasoning. Yes, the band, the music, the fans, the jobs, the security—all these factors were important. They had agreed… He had agreed to the subterfuge to capitalize on their success. But at the end of the day, when it was all over and they settled back into normal lives—well, as far as that would ever be possible—there had to be something left that had been worth fighting for, something worth all the sacrifices. Maybe he had made a mistake when he forced Louis to choose. But it didn’t change the fact that Louis should have chosen him.
At the end of the day, Louis should have chosen them.
It really almost seemed like old times that night, partying with Stan and a bunch of Louis’ friends from home. They’d both done their best to set aside their differences during the performance. Where Louis had been sharp-edged, distant and cutting lately, today he’d been warm and kind, going out of his way to make sure Harry was comfortable. They’d all had fun on stage and with their other work obligations for the day. It was a welcome relief. Because everything had gone so well, Harry gladly agreed to meet up with everyone that evening. The hurt from their break-up was bone-deep, but the day had been so fantastic, he didn’t want the time with Louis to end. They had been fighting for so long, he almost couldn’t remember the last time they’d had this much fun.
And now, Louis was drunk. Completely pissed. And as usual when he’d been drinking, he was soft and pliant and handsy, face lit with a radiant smile. Exuberant and hilarious. Larger than life. He’d been all over Harry, arm draped around his neck, guiding him through the room with a hand on his hip, grabbing at his elbow. He’d barely left his side.
As the night wore on and the edges began to blur, Louis became even more affectionate, words slurring as he spun his tales, turning his attention more and more solely on Harry until Harry realised they were alone in the corner of the room, just the two of them.
Louis seemed to realise it too. His voice trailed off from the story he was telling. After a pause, he said, “I’ve really missed you.” His voice had turned serious. “Really, really, really missed you.”
“I’ve missed you too.” The admission left his mouth before he could stop it.
“The flat seems too big without you there. And the bed. ‘S hard for me to sleep.”
Harry nodded, pulse beginning to quicken at the dangerous direction the conversation was taking. Louis was leaning in, intimate and close. Harry could feel his breath on his skin, the heat from his body. Without question, the physical attraction was as strong as ever.
Feeling the sudden urge to flee, Harry said, “I need to take a piss,” and he ducked out from under Louis’ arm, stumbling for a moment now that Louis wasn’t partially supporting him. He must be drunker than he thought. Making his way to the bathroom, he slipped through the door and flipped the lock, taking a moment to gather his wits. God, what was he doing? If he stayed there for another second, he would have leaned right over and kissed Louis on the lips in front of everyone in that room. He ran his fingers through his fringe, shaking his hair and pushing it back off his forehead. Then deciding that he might as well piss while he was there, he lifted the seat and relieved himself. Splashing some water on his face after washing his hands, he took another minute to compose himself before heading back out. He should probably go home.
When he opened the door and Louis was on the other side, he wasn’t really surprised. Nor was he surprised when Louis pushed him backward into the bathroom, following him inside and locking the door. And when Louis pulled his head down and leaned up to kiss him, he knew they’d been leading toward this moment all evening long. He practically melted when Louis’ tongue slid against his own, and he moaned, the feel of it was so amazing. He had almost forgotten how good Louis’ kisses were. It had been weeks.
After a few delicious moments, Louis pulled his mouth away and buried his face in Harry’s neck, sniffing him, rubbing his face back and forth across his skin. He was mumbling, a steady stream of words and Harry tried to clear the buzzing in his head to listen.
“Smell so good. Missed you so much, Haz. Been going crazy without you. Can’t sleep; can’t eat.” His hands were roaming everywhere as he spoke, slipping up under Harry’s shirt, sliding around and cupping his arse. Louis bit down against his collar bone, not hard enough to mark, but enough for Harry to feel that familiar pull in his gut. He growled and sunk his hand in the back of Louis’ hair, giving it a tug, pulling his face back so he could kiss him again.
Harry knew this was probably a bad idea, but he didn’t care just then. He’d missed it too much too, and Louis felt so good against him. They kissed and kissed, grinding against each other, both growing hard. When Harry felt Louis fumbling for the fastening on his jeans, he reached down to help, desperate to feel Louis’ hand on his cock. Louis obviously had other ideas in mind; he sunk to his knees after one more deep kiss, freeing Harry’s cock, tugging his jeans down his thighs. Gorgeous eyes looking up under a fringe of dark lashes, Louis began mouthing the underside, sucking and tonguing along the length.
When he reached the tip, licking at his slit, Harry fought the urge to close his eyes, not wanting to miss a single second of the sight of Louis kneeling in front of him. Instead, he leaned back against the sink and sunk a hand in Louis’ hair, gently resting it atop his head. Louis continued his movements, sliding his mouth back down the side of his cock, then back up, again and again. Growing impatient, Harry used his other hand to guide his prick between Louis’ lips, urging him to take it into his mouth. Eyes never leaving his, Louis complied, closing his lips around the head and swirling his tongue around the tip. Then he sunk slowly down Harry’s cock, taking him in as deep as he could go.
Harry watched, rapt as Louis sucked his cock, then even more entranced as Louis reached down to unfasten his own trousers, pulling his cock out and stroking it as he sucked on Harry. His hand began to move faster as his head bobbed up and down, and when Louis groaned around his cock, white pulses of come shooting from his dick as he ejaculated onto the bathroom floor, Harry’s hand squeezed into a fist, and he was coming down Louis’ throat, unable to hold back any longer.
Louis sucked him through it, humming and moaning against his cock, then he pulled off and rested his head against Harry’s thigh. Harry gave him a few minutes while he caught his breath and his heart rate slowed, then he pulled Louis to his feet, helping him tuck his cock back into his trousers, fastening them back up. He did his own next, avoiding Louis’ eyes.
This was a mistake. He knew it, but he couldn’t seem to help himself. He’d always found Louis pretty much irresistible, their chemistry unlike anything he’d ever known. But nothing had really changed. The Olympics were coming up soon and he knew there were already plans for Louis and Eleanor to be paraded in front of the crowds.
Louis’ hands were on his hips, thigh pressing between his own. Harry looked down at his beautiful, hopeful face, so open and loving, and stroked his knuckles softly against his cheek. Louis turned his head nuzzling against his hand and Harry thought his heart would break. He knew Louis believed in fate and for a while, he had too. But maybe sometimes you were meant to fall in love with someone, but you weren’t actually meant to be with them.
He savoured the moment, memorizing the feel of Louis’ body pressed against his own, then he hugged Louis close, resting his chin on the top of Louis’ head.
“This doesn’t really change anything,” he said.
He could feel Louis tense, then after a moment, he said, “Yeah, I know.”
When he pulled away, Louis’ expression was completely closed, a blank slate, devoid of any emotion. Harry felt as if something incredibly precious was lost to him forever.
Working. I’m a slave to the man.
Can I come down to the studio?
Open invitation popstar.
“If I’m invited.”
“If you’re invited? Harold, please. You’re one of us now. Half the station probably thinks you work here with all the time you spend lurking about.”
“Hey,” Harry whined. “I do not lurk.”
“Fine. With all the time you spend lounging about, oozing your popstar charm all over everything. Gives the place a certain cachet. I, for one, am not complaining. Proper A-lister you are these days. Maybe some of it will rub off on me. Honestly, I’m half waiting for you to drop me as a friend any day now. Trade up, so to speak.”
“Nope. ‘Fraid you’re stuck with me.”
“So what’s the plan?”
“Come ‘round to mine at seven. We’ll have a cocktail or two then head to dinner. Mexican. Do you like Mexican?”
“Excellent. The party proper’s at The Groucho later, where I intend to get spectacularly drunk and mourn the loss of my youth. You, Harold, are not allowed to remind me that you’re still a teenager.”
“I’m over a hundred in dog years.”
“You’re such a strange child,” Nick said, shaking his head mournfully.
Nick and his group of friends had effectively adopted Harry into their ranks over the past few weeks. Still reeling in shock from the end of his relationship with Louis, Harry had been staying with Lou and Tom, but felt weird and intrusive disrupting their family life. Lux was enjoying the extra attention, and Harry soaked up her unconditional and very welcome love, but he still felt like an interloper into their happy home.
Harry had known Nick for quite some time. He admired him greatly, really got his sense of humour, and was envious of the easy way he navigated being gay in a very public occupation. They’d spent loads of time together in the past whenever he was in London, and Nick was often his go-to person when Louis had obligations with Eleanor and Ed wasn’t in town. The radio station had long since become used to him hanging ‘round.
The time he spent there, however, had ramped up considerably in the past few weeks. Louis was such an integral part of his life—he touched every aspect of it—that unravelling all their threads had left Harry adrift. He had always disliked being alone and now it was a hundred times worse; he felt lost, and achingly lonely.
Nick seemed to instinctively know how to help. As much as he joked about being only interested in himself, Nick had a keen insight into how people worked, what they needed at any given time. When he was unable to meet with Harry, he arranged for Aimee or Pixie or any other of his numerous friends to pick up the slack. They often ended up at Nick’s later anyway; Harry had spent many a night crashed on his couch.
They were both feeling no pain by the time they got to The Groucho Club and the hours passed in a blur of laughter and conversation. Nick was in his element, charming and sociable and basking as the centre of attention. Harry watched, amused, as Nick flitted about the room, holding court, opening presents with great fanfare, demanding birthday kisses from half the attendees there. Harry was content to keep mostly to himself, having quiet conversations with a few select friends. He was enjoying himself, but this was probably the most social he’d been since he and Louis split, and he wasn’t up for much more. He stuck it out, though, appreciative of the growing friendship between him and Nick.
When the hour was approaching 5:00 a.m., however, he knew he’d had enough. Searching the room for Nick, he spotted him seated with a group of friends. Harry walked over and gave his shoulder a squeeze. Nick looked up and a huge grin split across his face.
“Harold! Where have you been hiding?”
Harry smiled. “I think I’m going to head out.”
“It’s almost morning.”
“Is it?” Nick pulled out his phone and checked the time. “Oh. I suppose it is.”
“Happy birthday. Thanks for inviting me.”
“Wait,” Nick said, hauling himself to his feet. “I’ll walk you out.”
“You don’t have to do that.”
“I insist!” He turned to the others. “I’ll be right back. Don’t say anything interesting while I’m gone.”
They waved him away good-naturedly and he and Harry made their way to the door.
“You can’t leave without giving me my birthday kiss,” Nick demanded, puckering up his lips.
Harry laughed, not taking him seriously. “I think you’ve had plenty of those.”
“Ooooh. Jealous are we?”
Harry simply rolled his eyes in response.
Nick pouted. “Harold, what’s the use of inviting a gorgeous young popstar such as yourself if I can’t even get a kiss at the end of the evening.”
“It’s the morning.”
“And it’s my birthday,” Nick added, in a whiny voice, stomping his foot like a recalcitrant toddler. “Haroooold.”
Harry rolled his eyes again. “Fine.” He looked around at the guests still left at the party. Deciding discretion would be the prudent choice, he said, “Not here,” then tugged Nick down the corridor by his elbow.
“This is so exciting! It’s like our own little tawdry adventure, looking for a secret hiding place for a birthday snog.”
Harry stopped by the entrance to the men’s room and asked, “Here?”
“That’s rather cliché, don’t you think? Slipping into the gents for an illicit assignation?”
“God, you’re impossible. Now come inside,” he directed, opening the door and pushing Nick through, “and get your birthday kiss so I can go get some sleep.”
“You said ‘come inside’,” Nick said, with a hysterical giggle.
They were both laughing as the door closed behind them. But then the memory of him and Louis in the bathroom after Leeds came rushing into his mind and Harry’s demeanour abruptly changed.
When Nick noticed Harry had stopped laughing, he asked, “What wrong?”
Harry just shook his head.
“You look sad.”
Harry looked away. “I’m all right.”
With a shrug of his shoulders, Harry said, “Probably not.”
“Come here,” Nick said, holding his arms open wide for a hug.
Once again, Harry rolled his eyes.
“Harold. None of that.” His hands opened and closed, motioning Harry towards him. “Come here and have a little cuddle. Pretty popstars like you should never look so sad.”
Reluctantly, Harry walked toward Nick and let himself be enveloped in a big hug. His arms slid loosely around Nick’s waist and they swayed gently back and forth.
“Everything’s going to be okay,” Nick said, into his hair, pressing soft kisses on the top of his head. “It’s just going to take a little time.”
Harry nodded in acknowledgement.
After a few more moments, Nick leaned back and reached under Harry’s chin with his thumb, tilting his face toward his own. “I’m going to kiss you now, okay?” he whispered.
“Okay,” Harry said, eyes wide.
Nick leaned down and pressed his lips gently against Harry’s, resting them lightly for just a moment, not moving, but breaths mingling. Then he took Harry’s top lip between his own, softly, with the slightest pressure. He did it again, holding it lightly between his lips, then did the same to his bottom lip, capturing it petal soft. Finally, his tongue slid out and lightly traced the seam of Harry’s lips. Harry’s mouth opened with a slight gasp and his own tongue tentatively peeked out to meet Nick’s. Nick pulled back after only a second, giving Harry’s lower lip one last soft kiss.
“Been wanting to do that for ages,” he said.
“Have you?” Harry asked, slightly stunned from the sensuous kiss.
“Oh.” He didn’t know what to say.
Nick smiled and ran a finger down Harry’s cheek. “Don’t fret, little popstar. Who wouldn’t want to kiss you?”
Louis. The name immediately came unbidden to his mind.
“Still fragile, I see,” Nick said, not unkindly, a soft smile on his face. “Go get some sleep, young Harold. You’ll be able to get home all right?”
“Yeah. I’ll grab a taxi.”
“Thank you for my birthday kiss. It was lovely.”
“I’ll call you tomorrow, all right?”
“Yeah, okay,” Harry said as he made his way to the door.
On the taxi ride home, he tried not to think about the fact that for the first time in years, the last person he had kissed was no longer Louis.
“It’s a gorgeous day, young Harold. Come join us in the park.”
“Are you serious? How are you even awake? I left before you did and I’m still in bed.” He sat up, leaning against the headboard, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes.
“Oooh. Now that’s an attractive image. Maybe I should come join you instead.”
“You’re still drunk, aren’t you?”
Nick giggled. “Maybe just a little. But it’s birthday week. It’s expected. C’mon, popstar. What do you say? You know how rare it is for me to be out of doors during daylight hours. This is something that shouldn’t be missed. May not happen again in this lifetime.”
“I haven’t even showered.”
“Neither have any of us, though I have changed into more appropriate attire. I’ve got shorts on. My legs are completely exposed. Quite hairy they are too. We’re a rag tag crew, all of us. Smelly. You’ll fit right in.”
Honestly, Harry had planned to stay in bed all day, watching bad telly, eating crisps, feeling sorry for himself. Louis and Eleanor would be at the Olympics later and he knew there would be a barrage of pictures coming from their appearance. He was trying very hard not to let it spoil the excitement of being asked to perform at the Closing Ceremonies, but he’d be lying to say it hadn’t affected his enjoyment. When they first got put together as a group, he and Louis would talk far into the night about “what ifs,” dreaming of their future. They dreamed big—a hit record, a world tour, maybe even an MTV award one day—but neither of them had envisioned anything like this. Even so, in all the scenarios they thought up, all their possible futures, never once did they picture anything other than the two of them together, side by side.
When Harry, lost in thought, didn’t respond, Nick whined, “Harry, it’s my birthday.”
“Your birthday’s Tuesday.”
“You do get fixated on the most insignificant details, don’t you? I told you; it’s birthday week. Now get your gorgeous arse out of bed and come entertain me.”
“I’m really not in much of an entertaining mood, to be honest.”
“Just your usual charming dimpled self is entertainment enough, my dear child. You on a bad day is still preferable to over 99% of the world’s best day.”
“Laying it on a bit thick, don’t you think?”
“False modesty doesn’t become you, young Harold. You know I speak only the truth.”
Harry heard voices arguing over the phone line.
“No, you can’t have it,” Nick was saying. “Get your own popstar!”
“Give me that,” another irritated voice cut in.
Then Aimee was on the phone. “Harry, you have to come join us. Grimmy’s been a right tit, complaining all morning that he barely got to see you yesterday because you left the party so early.”
“We met at his place. And we were all at dinner together. And it was 5:00 a.m. when I left!”
“You know how he gets. He’s like a big baby. Completely spoiled. Now are you joining us?”
Harry could hear Nick and Aimee arguing again and then Nick was back on the line. “Must I resort to bribery? I’ll let you buy me an ice cream.”
“I don’t think that’s how bribery’s supposed to work, exactly.”
“Oh, wait! I’ve got an even better idea. You have to come now so I can show you one of my pressies. You can even try it on and everything!”
“What is it? A shirt with some rude saying?”
The “even better” turned out to be a muscle morphsuit, a stretchy one piece that looked like a human figure with the skin completely peeled away, showing the musculature underneath. It was hilarious and frightening and Harry drew stares when fully costumed.
“It's figure-hugging and guaranteed to grab the ladies’ attention.” Nick read the suit’s description out loud. “Harry…”
Harry turned his head.
“I can’t even tell if you’re looking at me.”
“I’m looking at you.”
“I think we should test the validity of their claim. See that group of girls over there? Now go see if you can grab their attention. It says right here on the package: guaranteed.”
“No, I don’t think I’ll do that.”
“Harold, must I remind you what today is?”
“’S not your birthday.”
“Now entertain me. You promised.”
“I did not promise.”
“Again with the details. Aren’t you a little young to be so anal about things? Please? Please, please, please? It will be funny.”
“Just so you know, I’m rolling my eyes at you. Fine.”
Harry stood up from where they were sat on the hill and starting walking to the group of picnickers set up nearby. The ones facing him spotted him coming their way and he put a finger up to his lips, motioning for them to keep quiet. Then when he got close enough, he reached over and tapped the shoulder of the woman with her back to him.
She turned around, took a quick look and started screaming. Picking up her purse, she jumped to her feet and began hitting him with it. Her companions were doubled over with laughter on their blanket and he could hear Nick and all their friends cackling with hilarity from behind as he tried to shield himself from her wild swings. Finally, he took off running back to his group and dove to the ground, hiding behind Nick.
“Are you happy now?” he asked.
“Yes! I am. That was brilliant. Best birthday ever!”
The rest of the afternoon passed enjoyably with more fun and laughter. They did get ice cream and took a nice walk through the park, taking advantage of the weather. Eventually, they made their way out to dinner, the group dispersing bit by bit until it was just Harry, Aimee and Nick. They found themselves back at Nick’s place where they collapsed on the couch, sipping a beer, flipping the telly on.
“Don’t think I really want to watch that,” Harry said when he saw the Olympics were playing. The day had been busy enough that he had almost forgotten about Louis being out with Eleanor.
He stood up. “Should probably just go home anyway. Didn’t get enough sleep last night for some reason.”
“You should just crash here,” Nick suggested. “Bed’s big enough for us all. Had at least this many in it a time or two before. More, in fact.”
“You two take it,” Aimee said. “I’m not moving.” She had already stretched her legs out to take up the space Harry had vacated.
“C’mon, popstar. Let’s get you in bed.”
“I bet you say that to all the popstars.”
“Only the attractive ones,” Nick said with a wag of his eyebrows. “Unfortunately, I’m completely knackered. Birthday week takes a lot out of a lad. Your virtue is safe with me. Doubt I’ll be awake for even five more minutes. Now come along.”
Harry let himself be led to the bedroom.
“You want something to sleep in?”
“Nah. Don’t usually wear anything to bed.”
Nick gave a dramatic gasp. “A naked popstar in my bed. Birthday wishes really do come true!”
“I’ll keep my pants on.”
“If you must. But, honestly, don’t feel you have to on my account.”
Harry just laughed. “You have an extra toothbrush?”
“Probably. In here,” Nick said, leading him to the attached bathroom.
Once Harry had texted Tom and Lou letting them know he wouldn’t be home and they were both settled under the covers, Nick asked, “Are you opposed to a little spooning? Not trying to get fresh with you or anything, I swear. I really will be asleep in less than five, but a little cuddle’s nice, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, no,” Harry said. “I mean, I’m not opposed and a little cuddle is nice, yeah.”
Nick’s arm draped over his waist and Harry turned on his side with his back toward Nick. Nick snuggled closer, knees bumping into the back of Harry’s, arm pulling him tighter.
“Your hair smells good,” Nick said, words already slurring from exhaustion.
“Thanks,” Harry said with a little laugh.
“’G’night, popstar,”Nick said.
“Good night. Happy birthday.”
“’S’not my birthday,” Harry thought he heard Nick say before his breathing turned deep and rhythmical; he was already asleep.
Harry lay quietly, thinking how nice it was to sleep with someone again. After being with Louis for so long, he’d had a difficult time falling asleep all alone in the bed. This was different, of course. Louis was small and curvy and like a little furnace. He’d be all over Harry in his sleep—sometimes the big spoon, sometimes the little. Often tucked right up against him face to face, others times draped over top of Harry like a starfish. Nick was even more angular than Harry, and taller too. But this was nice. Comfortable.
Harry shifted, moving just a little closer, and then in moments, he too was fast asleep.
Before the emotions that were threatening to overwhelm him could take over, he was pulled in for a picture and more congratulatory hugs.
“Let’s go get drunk, yeah?” Ed said in his ear.
Harry nodded his agreement, giving Louis one last lingering look before turning away.
Work, at least, had become less difficult. Louis had dialled down the sarcasm and biting humour, acting more like the friendly boy Harry remembered from their X-Factor days. They’d done photoshoots, had been busy recording and collaborating, even started filming the video for their next single. Throughout the shoot, tensions were low and the mood on the set was one of fun and exuberance. Harry’d be lying if he said he hadn’t had a passing thought or two about Louis insisting a little distance might do them some good. Not a single person on the shoot could fault them for a lack of professionalism; he was sure. Seeing the V Fest wristband still on Louis’ wrist from his highly publicized outing with Eleanor was a little jarring, but, he supposed, it was a good reminder of the reason things were the way they were.
When the work day was done—sometimes that would mean late into the evening—he’d hang with friends, not wanting to be alone and still trying to keep out of Tom and Lou’s hair. Occasionally, he’d meet up with Nick’s gang. Or he’d crash over at Ed’s. But for the majority of the time, he could be found at Radio 1, and then back at Nick’s flat. He just found it easier sleeping with someone, and Nick made him feel welcome and at home.
Being with Nick was easy. Fun. No pressure. The more distance he got from Louis, the more Nick seemed to fill in the empty spaces. Before he knew it, they were spending practically all their free time together. Every so often he’d catch Nick staring at him with a look he couldn’t quite decipher, but in a moment, it was gone. More than once Harry thought back to what Nick had said after they kissed at The Groucho: been wanting to do that for ages. But Harry had slept in Nick’s bed numerous times by now, and apart from a little joking about inevitable morning wood, everything had stayed completely platonic. The possibility for more between them was a constant presence, but to be honest, things were going so well, Harry wasn’t sure he wanted to examine it too closely.
In the back of his mind, however, he knew it was inevitable that things would change. And a part of him, growing larger every day, was starting to think he wanted them to.
“Hurry it up, Harold. We need to get on the road.”
“I’ve been ready for a half hour. You’re the one who’s been holding things up.”
“A quiff this eye-catching and attractive takes time.”
“You look very pretty. Now c’mon; let’s go.”
“Do we have tunes?”
“Right. I think we need to stop for some lunch first.”
“I thought you were in a hurry to get on the road.”
“Florence isn’t on until later. We’ve plenty of time.”
Harry rolled his eyes.
The Festival was a great time—good music, fantastic company. Nick seemed to know everybody and made certain Harry was included in the conversation wherever they went. They posed for countless pictures, with everyone from the security staff to any number of performers. Harry couldn’t remember when he’d had more fun. Afterwards they put in an appearance back in London at The Funky Buddha for Liam’s birthday. Then to round out their very full day, they popped over to G.A.Y. where Rita Ora was playing. It was early in the morning before they finally made it home.
“Ugh. I smell like smoke. And stale beer.”
“Why don’t you grab a shower? You can go first. I’ll take one after,” Nick suggested.
“Or you could join me. Save water and all that.” Harry was surprised at his own boldness. The alcohol had definitely loosened his inhibitions. Maybe he’d once again thought too many times that day about what Nick had said at his birthday party: been wanting to do that for ages. Maybe he’d caught Nick staring at him more blatantly than was usual, Nick’s own inhibitions lowered by their extended partying. Maybe he’d been wondering what it would be like if Nick were to kiss him again, but this time, for real.
Nick’s head whipped up and he gave Harry an assessing look, eyes narrowing. “Are you drunk, young Harold?” he asked after a long moment.
Harry gave a little laugh. “A little, yeah.”
“Hmmm. You go ahead. I’ve got a few things to take care of.”
Harry shrugged his shoulders, trying not to feel disappointed, ignoring the twinge of embarrassment, and headed to the bath.
When he heard the door to the bathroom open as he stood in the shower soaping his hair, his heart started beating frantically
“I hope you were serious,” Nick said, and Harry could see the outline of Nick stripping off his clothes through the opaque glass of the shower. “Because if you weren’t, this is going to become extremely awkward rather quickly. But I was standing in my kitchen thinking to myself that if you were serious, I’d have to be the biggest idiot on the planet to turn down the advances of Harry Styles, the world’s most desirable popstar.” Now he was just outside the shower, hand on the door.
“So which is it, young Harold?” he continued. “Am I about to make an even bigger fool of myself than usual?”
A barely remembered feeling began blooming in Harry’s chest, an odd combination of nervousness and excitement, a thrill of anticipation. It had been a long time since he had felt this way.
“Why don’t you come in and find out,” Harry said, his voice rough and low. Even he was shocked at how suggestive he sounded.
“Christ,” Nick said from the other side of the door and then he was opening it, stepping under the spray with Harry, backing him against the wall and kissing him.
Harry was already buzzing from the alcohol, the festival, the gyrating bodies on the dance floor of the club, but that was nothing compared to the way Nick’s kiss put his mind into a complete tailspin. A small part of him was busy cataloguing how different this was from kissing Louis—the taste of his mouth, the shape of his lips, the feel of his tongue—but a bigger part of his brain was being swept along by desire as Nick took charge, exploring Harry’s mouth, roaming his hands all over Harry’s body. The only semi-coherent thought that was floating through his head was that Nick really knew how to kiss.
After a few moments Nick pulled away. Harry stared up at him—that was something new, kissing someone taller than himself—at his swollen lips, dark pupils, long eyelashes clumping from the spray of the shower. A serious expression was on Nick’s face, and Harry was acutely aware of how very naked they both were.
“What did you have in mind here?” Nick asked. His fingers were digging into Harry’s hips. “A little snog?” He leaned in and kissed him again, dirty and quick. Pulling back, he asked, “Do you want me to suck you off?” This time when he tilted his head in, he sucked at Harry’s neck, sliding his tongue over his skin. Then he moved his mouth to Harry’s ear. “Should I use my hand?” He reached between them and wrapped his fingers around Harry’s cock, giving it a tug. Harry reacted with small strangled noise, body giving a shudder.
“Oh, you like that, do you? Is this what you want?” He stroked Harry’s cock again. “Or would you like me to fuck you?” Harry’s body shuddered again as Nick tilted his hips, rubbing his erection against Harry’s thigh, letting him feel how hard he was. “Anything you want, popstar. Just say the word.”
Harry wanted it all, wanted to feel Nick’s hands, his mouth, his cock deep in his arse. But for now, he said, “I want your mouth on my cock, and I want your fingers…” He hesitated. “I want your fingers inside me.”
Nick’s grip tightened and he kissed Harry again, sweeping his tongue through his mouth. It was hot and filthy and Harry was left imagining what it would feel like on his dick. His knees felt weak and he grabbed at Nick’s shoulders to steady himself.
“Fuck. That may be the hottest thing I’ve ever heard in my life,” Nick said between kisses. “But that can definitely be arranged.” His hand slid around Harry’s waist and down his backside, middle finger pressing into the crack of his arse, finding his hole and resting against it with just the slightest pressure.
Harry moaned and searched out Nick’s mouth for another kiss, the curl of desire in his belly twisting sharply. He could feel himself growing desperate for more and he leaned into Nick’s hand, urging him to press deeper.
Instead, Nick pulled his hand away and pushed Harry gently back. “I’d rather move this into the bedroom if that’s okay by you. Kneeling on a hard tile floor isn’t as sexy as it looks in the movies. And,” he added with another kiss, as if to take away the uncertain look Harry knew must be on his face, “I’d like to spread you out properly.”
“Are you through with your shower?” Nick asked.
“Why don’t you get out and get yourself dried off and go wait for me on the bed. I’ll just be two minutes, hmmm?”
“Yeah, okay,” Harry said, voice gruff.
As he waited for Nick, the hot burn of arousal temporarily banked, nervousness started creeping in. He’d never done this with anyone but Louis. And god, he didn’t want to be thinking of Louis right now, didn’t want this day to slide into sadness. He especially didn’t want to feel guilty for having fun and wanting to take things a little further with Nick. He and Louis weren’t together anymore. There was nothing wrong with what they were doing. Nothing. They were both single, both young, and Nick seemed into it. No, he wasn’t going to think about Louis.
Determined to shake off these intrusive thoughts, Harry turned his attention back to Nick, thinking about the way he pressed right up against him, assured, experienced—definitely someone who knew what he was doing. He’d heard the stories; Nick had been around. Harry wondered if he was cooling off a bit while he was washing up, hoped he wasn’t going to change his mind.
Deciding he would do what he could to ensure things continued, Harry leaned over to rummage through the drawer of Nick’s nightstand. Finding the lube, he drizzled a little over his cock and gave it a few strokes. If Nick was having second thoughts, Harry wanted him to walk in the bedroom and find the sight of him too tempting to resist. Thinking back on Nick’s comment that what Harry had said in the shower—he wanted Nick’s fingers inside him—was one of the hottest things he’d ever heard, Harry squeezed out a little more lube onto his own fingers and reached between his legs.
That’s how Nick found him when he stepped out of the shower, Harry lying back with his eyes closed and lips parted, legs spread with his fingers in his arsehole.
“Holy fuck,” Nick said, momentarily speechless.
Harry opened his eyes and tilted his head up to watch his reaction.
Then Nick was dropping his towel, striding to the bed, kneeling to position himself between Harry’s legs.
“Couldn’t wait for me?” he asked with a husky voice.
“Was thinking about you, if that counts?”
“Christ, Harry.” He placed his palm against the back of Harry’s thigh, pushing his leg up toward his chest, watching Harry fingering himself.
“Want yours in me, though,” Harry said.
“All right,” Nick said, letting go of his leg to reach for the lube. “All right,” he said again, almost to himself. “Yeah, I can do that.”
He slicked up his fingers, then gently pulled Harry’s hand away. Harry was watching his face, Nick’s eyes riveted on what he was doing. Then Harry felt Nick’s fingertip against his hole, felt it slowly pressing in, deeper and deeper, past one knuckle, then two, all the way in. He let it remain inside, unmoving, letting Harry get used to it.
“You’ve got really long fingers,” Harry said, a little breathless.
Nick looked up then, cocked his eyebrow slightly and gave him a wicked grin, then his attention was back on Harry’s arse, watching intently as he slid his finger back out and slid two back in.
Harry laid his head back down, spreading his legs wider and giving a low moan. “Feels good.”
Nick didn’t answer, just continued his slow assault, sliding his fingers out, then back in, again and again, twisting them slightly, pressing against him from inside. He didn’t attempt to add a third one, just kept the movement slow and steady.
Harry’s neck was strained taut, low moans leaving his throat. His fingers grasped at the bed clothes while Nick fingered him relentlessly. His dick was hot and heavy against his stomach, the tip dripping with pre-come. He wondered if he could actually come from Nick’s fingers in his arse. With another deep moan as Nick moved his fingers just right, Harry thought the answer was probably yes.
When Nick asked, “You said something about my mouth too?” Harry answered with another moan, hips reacting to the question by bucking up from the bed. He tried to push his arse farther down on Nick’s fingers, but Nick held his thigh again, dipping his head down, licking at his rim next to his fingers. Then he moved up to mouth at Harry’s balls before licking a stripe up his cock. With the next press of his fingers, Harry was coming, his cock spurting stripes all over his stomach.
“Jesus,” Nick said before taking one of his balls in his mouth and moving his fingers while Harry writhed on the bed. Then he was pulling his fingers out, scrambling to kneel and jacking off above Harry. After only a minute or so, Nick was groaning, splashing his come all over Harry’s cock. When he was finished, he leaned over, panting, bracing himself with one hand on the bed. Then he leaned back on his heels, swiped one long finger through their combined release, slicking up his finger with their come, and pressing it back inside Harry.
Harry’s entire body shuddered, and he let out a strangled, “Nick,” completely overcome.
“You are the hottest thing I’ve ever seen in my life, Harry Styles,” Nick said. “Christ.”
“Why don’t you find out,” Harry said, sinking his fingers in Nick’s hair.
Harry was overwhelmed. Nick was deep inside him, pinning him down on the bed, fingers digging into his bicep. He couldn’t help but think of Louis in a moment of panic, almost as if he was betraying him, how no one but Louis had ever been with him this way. And now here he was, being fucked by Nick Grimshaw.
Something of his internal conflict must have shown on his face because Nick said, “We can stop. We don’t have to do this, Harry. It’s all right.”
Opening his eyes to look up at Nick, Harry was steadied by the look of concern on his face. He took a minute to regroup. He should have realised that the first person he slept with after Louis would be painful, but somehow his emotions had taken him by surprise. He was glad it was Nick, though. Taking a moment to re-focus, pushing thoughts of Louis aside—he could process everything later—he concentrated instead on the feel of Nick’s cock filling him up, his gorgeous eyes staring down at him.
“No, I’m okay,” he said. “Keep going.”
“Oh, thank god,” Nick said, starting to move, and Harry laughed.
After they both came and Harry lay across Nick’s chest, he was grateful Nick didn’t say anything about how quiet he was. Surreptitiously, Harry reached up to his face with his fingertip, wiping away a tear that had squeezed out of the corner of his eye. Nick simply held him close, chatting about inconsequential things, occasionally carding his fingers through hair or leaning over to kiss him gently on the top of his head.
“No time like the present. Not too proper, though.”
Nick laughed. “Not to worry, young Harold. I’ll make it as filthy as you like.”
“How long will you be gone?”
“VMAs though. Very big deal, popstar. You must be excited.”
“I am. Filming a commercial too. But we’re not supposed to talk about that, so keep it quiet, yeah?”
“All your secrets are safe with me. Mainly because I’ve got a mind like a sieve. Can hardly remember a thing most of the time.”
Harry laughed. He’d miss Nick. They’d spent every waking moment together this week when Harry wasn’t working, including most of the time Nick was. He’d been at the studio, out to watch him DJing, even filmed some promo for Nick’s new breakfast spot on Radio 1. Add to that lunches, shopping for groceries, disastrous and not-so-disastrous attempts at meals at the flat, and even karaoke with Nick’s friends, it had been a good week overall. Not to mention the incredible amount of sex they’d had. Harry was beginning to get a clear picture of what a life could be like with someone other than Louis, and he realised it could be pretty great. Of course they’d yet to deal with a separation, which was a reality any relationship with someone other than one of the band would have to contend with; as a result, he wasn’t quite sure where things would stand.
“So,” Harry began hesitantly, “what exactly are we doing here?”
“Uh-oh, it is time for ‘the talk’? I’m completely rubbish with those.”
“Nick,” Harry said, a note of complaint in his voice.
“Calm yourself, Harold. I’m only joking. You know how I love to talk.”
“That you do.”
“Made it my career and everything. In fact, most times it’s hard to get me to shut up.”
“You were saying?”
Harry hesitated again, unsure of what he wanted to ask. “This thing…” he waved his hand back and forth between them. “What exactly is it?”
“Whatever you want it to be.”
“That’s helpful,” he said sarcastically.
“I’m serious.” Harry watched Nick’s face carefully, and his expression was serious. “Look, Harry. You’re young. You’re famous. Half the bloody world’s in love with you.”
Harry rolled his eyes.
“Yes, roll your eyes all you want, but you know it’s true.”
“They don’t even know me.”
Nick just smiled. “You’re going to be gone travelling the world all next year. And probably the year after that, and the year after that. That’s pretty much your life now as a big international popstar on the rise.”
“So this is just a bit of fun, is that what you’re saying?” He tried to keep the hurt out of his voice, but gauging from Nick’s reaction, he didn’t think he was successful.
Nick took his hand and rubbed the back of it reassuringly. “No, that’s not what I’m saying.”
“Well, what then?” He could hear the petulance in his voice himself and was aware of how young and stupid he sounded.
“I’m saying that this can be anything you want. Anything, Harry. Am I making myself clear?”
Harry was quiet for a few minutes thinking. “You said at the party—your birthday party, at The Groucho—that you’d wanted to kiss me for ages.”
“So you… like… have feelings for me?”
Instead of answering directly, Nick said, “Here’s the thing. I’m quite fond of you. Have been for a while. And I think you could probably come ‘round to being quite fond of me one day as well.”
“I am fond of you.”
Nick tilted his head and wrinkled his nose. “Maybe,” he said. “But… I’m a lot older than you—”
“Not that much,” Harry cut in.
“No, not in any significant way, I agree. Not in the ways that matter. But in terms of, shall we say, life experience, I’ve definitely got the edge.”
“What I’m saying,” Nick continued, emphasizing his words, “is that you’ve only had one relationship so far in your young life.”
“What’s that got to do with it?”
Nick continued on as if he hadn’t spoken. “And it was quite a serious relationship. Long term, intense, and tremendously complicated, considering the circumstances. Now there’s an element of self-preservation here, I must admit, but I’m quite certain that you’re still half in love with one Louis Tomlinson.”
“You don’t know that.”
“Harry, you cried after we slept together.”
Harry jerked his hand away, embarrassed, and a little resentful Nick would bring that up at all. “I wasn’t crying,” he said, denying his claim.
Nick reached for his hand again and held it firmly. “It’s okay. I’ve been through break-ups before. And heartache. I understand, I do. And I promise you I didn’t take it personally, didn’t regard it in any way whatsoever as a slight against my prowess as a lover. I’m quite confident in that regard.”
Nick smiled when Harry gave a little laugh in response, obviously the result he’d been going for.
“So I think maybe we should keep this casual for the time being, while you work things out in your head, yeah?”
“You’re going to be spending a lot of time with Tomlinson here in the next week or so. I know how easy it is to fall back into old patterns. You don’t need to be feeling guilty about having someone waiting back home. If,” he emphasized, “you decide you and Louis want to make another go at it.”
“Don’t think that’s going to happen.”
Again Nick ignored his comment. “And even if you don’t, you might want to take advantage of your freedom. Live a little. Play the field, so to speak. Sow some wild oats.”
“Don’t really think that’s my style either.”
“Be that as it may... As I said; you’re only eighteen. You might want to keep your options open. In the meantime, I’m not going to be going out hooking up with the next attractive bloke I see, either. I won’t exactly be waiting for you, as I’ve stated, but at the same time, I think it’s only fair for you to know that I would most definitely like to continue what we’ve started here. See where it could lead.” He gave Harry’s hand a squeeze. “Now do you understand what I’m saying?”
“I think I do.”
“Good. Now enough talk. This could be my last opportunity to sleep with the very famous international pop sensation, Harry Styles. I’d like to make the most of it.”
Harry rolled his eyes, but he was smiling.
He stared at Louis, asleep in the seat across from him, head leaning against the window, hoodie pulled up. The sight was as familiar to him as breathing. How many times had he watched Louis when he was sleeping, features softened, his usual guard down? Far too many to count.
As if he could feel Harry looking at him, Louis’ eyes opened. When he saw Harry, his face broke out into a sweet smile, the kind Harry hadn’t seen in a very long time. He felt the old familiar swooping sensation in his stomach and couldn’t help the smile he gave in return. Like a light switch flipping off, Louis seemed to become aware of his surroundings. Almost imperceptibly, his expression changed; the smile was still on his face, but it was if the emotion behind it was gone, once again tucked behind those walls Louis put up so well. For a moment, though, Harry had seen straight into his heart and he knew: Louis was still half in love with him too.
Turning away, he stared out the window of the plane, thoughts churning. Their love for each other had never been the problem, though, had it? He had never doubted how Louis felt about him. But for love to work, it had to be more than feelings, didn’t it? Love also needed choice and decisions and action. And time and time again, Harry had felt the choices they were forced into, the decisions Louis made, weren’t ones that would let love grow.
Now he shut his eyes, feeling drained, and leaned his head on the window. Why couldn’t things ever be easy with Louis, he wondered? Harry ignored the stream of images running through his mind of their early months together, flickering like a film on fast forward motion, when every moment together was simple and natural. When it felt fated and meant to be. When it really did feel as effortless as falling.
His conversation with Nick had been running through his mind ever since he’d left London. He understood what Nick meant about slipping back into old patterns. Unlike the months before he and Louis broke up, their interactions were more like the early days, where they couldn’t get enough of each other’s company. Would it really be possible to try again? Would he even want to? The… whatever it was he had started with Nick was so uncomplicated in comparison, but, as Nick had rightly pointed out, his feelings for Louis ran deep.
He was sat on the beach, toes buried in the sand, watching Louis try to take another wave. He had no illusions about his own skills on a surfboard. He had fun with it, and he loved being in the water, but he was more successful lying on the board padding than actually standing on it. Louis, though, had some real skill. Unsurprising, since he seemed to be good at almost any sport.
Cal, just coming out of the water, walked up the beach and sat down beside Harry. “Getting old. Can’t keep up with that one,” he said tilting his head toward the ocean. They both watched Louis for a few moments. Then Cal turned to Harry.
“What happened between you two?” he asked.
They sat in silence, listening to the rhythm of the waves, the cry of a seagull, Louis’ yelp of joy as he successfully navigated a wave.
“You think there’s any chance of fixing it?”
Harry shrugged again and looked down, sifting sand between his fingers.
“I honestly never expected in a million years to see the two of you split.”
“You know I’ve never agreed with the things they put you boys through. It’s hard enough making a relationship work without wading through layers of lies and deceit. The people closest to you, the ones supposedly watching out for you—they should be the ones supporting you the most, especially in this world when so many are already against you, just for who you are.”
“We agreed to it. It’s not like they forced us.”
“I think they led you astray. Gave you bad advice. Harmful advice.”
“It was a business decision.”
“Ah, but that’s no way to live your life. Your business should be an extension of who you are, a reflection of your values. I think that’s an excuse people use to rationalise injustice and treating people badly. ‘It’s just business.’ You’ll hear that phrase used most loudly when someone’s screwing over someone else for the sake of a profit.”
“Maybe. But it’s too late now.”
Cal looked thoughtful, but didn’t comment. Seeming to change the subject he asked, “What are your plans for the rest of your time here?”
“We’ve actually got some time off after the show, believe it or not. Haven’t planned much so far. I’d like to catch some music. Get another tattoo. See some friends. Relax, mostly. Sleep.”
“Ready for that Packers logo?”
Harry laughed. “Don’t think so, old man, but you just keep trying.”
“Hey, who you calling old? I outlasted you out there.” Cal tilted his head toward the waves.
“Fair point. I’ll give you that.”
After another few moments, Cal spoke again. “What about Louis? What’s he going to be up to?”
“Don’t know what he’s doing. Haven’t discussed it with him.”
“You not even talking these days?”
Harry sighed. “We’ve been… doing better. Was pretty hard at first. Trip’s been nice so far. Today’s been good.”
Cal nodded. They both sat and watched Louis again as he went for another wave. When he wiped out, they both let out an, “Oooohh,” in response, laughing when he emerged from the water cursing.
“Think you’d like to stay here at the house instead of a hotel? You’re practically part of the family already. You know you’re always welcome.”
Harry didn’t even need time to consider the offer. “That sounds nice. Yeah, I think I’d like that.”
Staring out toward the water, Cal then asked, “What would you think about me inviting Louis to stay too?”
“I…” Harry paused. What did he think about staying here with Louis? Without the rest of the band and only Cal and his wife. “I don’t know,” he finally answered.
“You can tell me it’s none of my business, but it might do you both some good to have a few days away, just the two of you. Give you a chance to talk. See if there’s anything left to salvage. If not, get a little closure? We’ll stay out of your way as much as possible. Or,” he added with a tilt of his head, “keep you company, act as a buffer if you’d prefer. Help you sort things out?”
Sort things out. Those were the exact words Nick had used. Harry had avoided thinking about Nick today. Even with the agreement to keep things casual, the assurances that he didn’t need to feel guilty, Harry couldn’t help it. But, he argued with himself, maybe he and Louis should hash it all out. If it was well and truly over, then he’d be better able to think about what he might really want with Nick. Would Louis even agree, though? Harry might have thought it was already a lost cause if he hadn’t caught Louis in that one unguarded moment on the plane.
“Don’t think Louis will agree,” he said. “I tried to talk to him once before and he didn’t want to discuss it.”
“Hmm. I’d like to ask him anyway, if that’s okay with you.”
His chest feeling a little tight, nervous from even the thought, Harry said, “Yeah, it’s okay with me.”
Cal broke out into a huge smile and Harry laughed.
“I wouldn’t get your hopes up,” he said, although Cal’s reaction had made him a little giddy as well.
“Too late!” Cal laughed with him.
“Why do you care so much anyway?” Harry asked.
“Why do I care?” He looked shocked Harry would even ask. “I almost feel like you’re my own kids. It’s hard watching people you care about be in so much pain.”
Harry sobered at that statement.
“And you’re both so young, I know. A lot of pressure. Too much riding on your young shoulders. But the older you get, the more you start to understand certain things.”
“Like how rare the kind of love you and Louis have for each other is. Doesn’t matter that it happened when you were both so young. People go through their whole lives and don’t experience anything that comes even close. It’s a rare thing, indeed. And it’s something worth fighting for.”
We owe you everything. Thank you so much for this. Three VMAs!! YEAH .xx
Wow can't believe we won three awards ! I said it on stage but i'll say it again! The awards are because of you guys , thank you everyone !
They were on the beach. Louis had been surfing again, taking advantage of every second he could to be out in the water. Harry had gone with him a few times, but never lasted long, preferring to watch from shore. Cal had been out with them earlier, but had gone back to the house once the waves died down. Wanting to soak up the sunlight, Louis and Harry had stayed. Already Louis’ skin was turning that beautiful golden colour.
“Are you…” Louis hesitated. “Are you seeing him?”
Harry couldn’t look at Louis. He used a shell to scoop up some sand, then poured it back out onto the beach. “A little.”
“Oh.” The tone of his voice said it all.
Afraid that the conversation would be over before it had barely begun, Harry rushed to add, “It’s not serious.”
They were quiet for a few minutes, listening to the sound of the ocean. Its rhythm was soothing. Into the silence, Harry asked the obvious follow-up question.
“Are you seeing anyone?”
Louis gave a small laugh. “No.”
“Okay.” Harry wasn’t sure he was ready to examine the huge rush of relief that flowed through him.
“Only one person I’d be interested in seeing anyway.”
Harry’s heartbeat sped up. “Yeah?” He turned to look at Louis who was staring pointedly at the ocean.
“Yeah,” Louis said and turned his head. Harry’s breath caught at how open Louis’ expression was. He wasn’t holding anything back; everything he felt was right on his face. So that was the way of it. Harry wasn’t sure what to say.
Louis just shook his head at Harry. Then he stood abruptly, saying, “I’m going to go cool off. Be back in a few.”
Harry watched him run toward the water and dive in. He splashed about in the surf, ducking under the waves before they broke, cavorting like an otter, full of fun, athleticism and grace.
When he returned to their spot, neither of them brought up the previous conversation. They lay on their stomachs, side by side, faces turned toward each other and chatted amicably about various subjects—the VMAs, mutual friends, new music they’d heard, anything but themselves.
“Lou? That you?”
There was no answer, but a moment later, Louis was lifting the sheet and sliding under it next to him in the bed.
Harry instinctively reacted, pulling him close against his body. God, he had missed this. Louis was warm and the way he fit against Harry was so familiar.
“Couldn’t sleep last night knowing you were in the next room,” Louis whispered against his skin.
“Same here,” Harry answered.
“Can I stay here tonight?”
Louis was quiet for a few minutes and Harry was hyper-aware of the beat of his own pulse. “Wasn’t sure you’d be okay with it,” Louis said, breaking the silence.
“This is nice,” Harry whispered. Then he added, after a long pause, “I’ve missed you.”
Louis’ arm was draped over his waist. His knee was pressed against his legs. Harry moved them a bit to allow Louis to slide his knee between his thighs.
“Can I… can I kiss you?” Louis asked then. “Please?” he added, and Harry’s fingers twitched against the skin of Louis’ back.
Instead of answering, Harry dipped his head down, meeting Louis’ upturned face. When their lips touched, Louis moaned, long and low, almost as if he were in pain, and his fingers dug into Harry’s back. Harry could relate; he felt as if he’d been punched in the gut. At first, they only pressed their lips together, breathing in the taste of each other. Then Harry licked into his mouth, coaxing it open, sliding their tongues together, stomach clenching when Louis moaned again.
They kissed this way for ages, languid and sweet, never taking it further, even though he knew they were both hard. Louis’ mouth was as familiar to him as his own, but Harry almost felt like he was learning it for the very first time all over again.
After a while, he pulled back and said, “We should probably talk.”
In the dim light he could see Louis shaking his head no. “Tomorrow,” he said. “We’ll talk tomorrow.”
“Okay,” Harry said and kissed him again.
But somehow, they never had the hard conversation. Louis avoided it every time Harry attempted to bring it up. And Harry didn’t push because everything was easy—surfing and swimming during the day; hanging out in the evening, side by side on the couch, comfortable and domestic, the way they used to be; watching programmes on the telly, laptops open, laughing and talking; sharing tweets or emails and texts. Harry didn’t mention how many of the ones he got were from Nick, and Louis never asked.
After the night Louis had slipped into his bed, they didn’t bother going off to two separate rooms when it came time to retire. Careful around each other during the day—neither seeming to want to risk upsetting the delicate balance they’d obtained—once the lights were off and they were safely in bed, their physical intimacy resumed. Kisses progressed to more and they moved in a well-rehearsed dance, gasping against each other’s skin, shuddering in the dark.
Louis looked up in surprise, obviously not having heard Harry enter the room.
“I have to leave for Florida.”
“What? What for? We don’t have anything scheduled for days.”
“Apparently, my holiday’s over.” Harry could hear the anger in his voice.
Harry sat down next to him. “I don’t understand. What’s going on?”
Louis pressed the heel of his hand into his forehead. “This is so fucked up.”
“What’s fucked up?”
“I guess that Instagram picture you tweeted—the one at the tattoo shop from the other day—had a bit of my shoe showing or something. And then I said something about not being in L.A. So of course people put it together that we’re on holiday together, and now they want me to meet up in Florida with Eleanor for ‘damage control’.” He made little quotation marks with his fingers, sarcasm heavy in his voice.
Harry gave a little huff and shook his head; he already knew what Louis was going to do. Still, what were they doing here if they weren’t trying to work things out? He had to ask.
“Don’t go. Stay here with me for a few more days.”
Louis now had his elbows on his knees, phone forgotten on the cushion next to him, both hands in his hair. “Fuck. I knew you were going to say that. This cannot be fucking happening.”
With a sinking heart, the realization that nothing had changed at all was settling in.
“What was the point of all this then?” Harry asked, growing angry. “I thought when you agreed to stay here you were saying you wanted us to get back together.”
“I do want to get back together.”
“You’re just not willing to do anything to fix any of our problems, is that it? God, Lou, you wouldn’t even talk to me about any of this these past few days, no matter how many times I tried to bring it up. I guess I should have figured out it was because you didn’t have anything new to say.”
“No. It’s because I was afraid if we started talking, we’d end up fighting and then it would all just disappear. I fucking missed you. I missed you, all right? I wanted a little time with you.”
“Well, you got it. And now it’s over.” Harry knew he sounded cruel, but he couldn’t stop himself.
“Don’t say that.” The look on Louis’ face was devastating.
Harry simply shrugged and looked away.
Louis started speaking. “You can’t even imagine how many times I’ve wished I could go back in time and redo that day when you came over and said you’d made a mistake. I’ve regretted it every moment since. I just…” He swallowed. “I just never thought it would be the end. I really thought we just needed a little break. We were fighting all the time, and I…” He trailed off.
Harry didn’t want to look at his face, wasn’t sure he could handle the expression he’d see, but he watched Louis rubbing his palms over his thighs and couldn’t help but notice his hands were trembling.
“Harry, please,” Louis continued. That was unlike Louis. And it wasn’t the first time since they’d been at Cal’s that he’d asked instead of demanded. “These past few days have been pretty great, haven’t they?”
Harry could admit they were. “Yeah.”
“I still love you. I love you like crazy. I’ve never stopped. Please don’t say it’s over.”
The way Harry felt Louis’ words burn through him, like he was being heated from the inside, heart skipping a beat, skin flushing, nerves tingling all the way to his fingertips, made Harry even more aware of what he already knew: he had never stopped loving Louis either. But was love enough? He kept coming back to the same question.
When he didn’t answer, Louis made one more plea: “Please, Harry. Can we talk more when we’re both back in London? See if there’s any way to make this work? I’m begging you. Please.”
And that did it. He couldn’t say no. “Yeah, okay. Let’s… we’ll talk when you get back.” Harry finally glanced over at Louis. His complexion looked white, even with his newly acquired tan, but the relief on his face was clear. His fingertips were digging into his thighs.
“Okay. That’s good. Yeah. Thanks,” Louis said.
Harry nodded, not at all sure it would change anything.
Yayyyy! Should I ask?
Will fill you in when I’m home.
btw, can’t wait to see you, popstar.
Nick kept him close to his side during the broadcast and they easily slipped back into their usual playful banter. At the end of the show, Nick pulled him aside for a private moment, asking if he was coming out with them to celebrate.
“Don’t think I can, honestly,” Harry said. “I feel like I’m about to drop. Horrible jet lag. But you were really great. It was a good show.”
“I’m leaving on vacation day after tomorrow.”
“Oh. Yeah, I forgot.”
“I’d really like to see you before I go.”
“I’m supposed to meet someone tomorrow and I’ve got a thing tomorrow night.”
Nick made a face. “What would you think about going to crash at mine? That way you’ll be there when I get home.”
Harry looked up at Nick, at the friendly smile. He’d missed him.
“Yeah,” he said. “Yeah. I think I could do that.”
“Let me grab the spare key from Aimee.”
“Get a room,” a voice shouted from the group.
Harry rolled his eyes and laughed.
He had no idea what time it was when Nick came stumbling in. He’d fallen asleep almost immediately after stripping out of his clothes.
“Shit,” Nick whispered loudly as he bumped into something in the dark. Harry heard him in the bathroom then undressing before the bed was dipping next to him.
“Hey,” Harry said, letting Nick know he was awake.
“Sorry if I woke you up.”
“’S’okay,” Harry said, still groggy. “You have a good time?”
“I did. End of an era. Went out in style. I am now the official host of BBC Radio 1’s Breakfast Show. If anything calls for celebratory sex, it’s this. My star is rising, young Harold. Better get some of this while you can.”
“For some reason, the phrase ‘hot mess’ is coming to mind.”
“You wound me. Sad to say, however, I’m a little too drunk to ravage you in the manner you deserve. Rain check?”
“Go to sleep, you idiot,” Harry said with a smile.
The following morning they had lain in bed and Harry had given Nick an abbreviated rundown of his time in California. Nick, ever persistent, assured Harry he was perfectly willing to let Harry work things out in his own time, and if it meant he could still “get laid on the regular with the world’s most famous popstar,” then who was he to complain? Harry knew he probably wasn’t being fair to either of them, but when Nick pulled him close and started sucking on his skin, he almost couldn’t bring himself to care.
After successfully avoiding making any kind of decision about Nick or Louis for days, he was somewhat taken by surprise at James Corden’s wedding when he came face to face with Louis. It’s not like he didn’t know Louis would be there. They had spoken about it. Louis had known James since he was a kid and first getting into the entertainment industry, so of course he was going to be there. But Harry hadn’t prepared himself for seeing him after the way they had parted.
It wasn’t until well into the reception that they finally had the chance to speak. Louis separated himself from Eleanor to find the bathroom. Harry waited for him to come out then followed him, catching his elbow before Louis returned to the group of guests with whom he’d been talking.
Louis turned toward him, the look on his face cautious, almost wary.
“Hey,” Harry said back. “Wanted to say hello. Thought you might be avoiding me.”
“No. You just haven’t called. Or texted or anything, so…” He shrugged.
“Yeah, I… sorry. Just, sorry. I should have, yeah.”
Louis’ hands were in his pockets; his stance obviously uncomfortable. Harry felt like the biggest sort of arsehole. Even if they were over, he and Louis had meant too much to each other for far too long for him to be such a dick. Louis had begged to talk to him. Louis Tomlinson begging… no one would ever believe it.
Abruptly, Louis’ expression changed, completely shutting down, becoming a mask revealing nothing. He took a step back.
“It was good to see you,” he said, as if a polite stranger. “I better get back to Eleanor. See you at work.” Then he turned away and left Harry standing alone, confused and bewildered.
It wasn’t until he got to Tom and Lou’s, hours later while getting ready for bed, that he noticed the unmistakable bruise high on his neck.
Nick watched the show as well with an insider’s vantage point, making faces at Harry from the side of the stage. Harry couldn’t help but laugh until he caught sight of Louis who looked as if he might break down right in the middle of the performance. He’d rarely seen that look on his face; Louis was always so careful to keep his emotions firmly under control. When Nick suggested they get together afterwards, Harry bowed out, knowing he couldn’t avoid the situation any longer.
He had just showered and changed when he heard the doorbell buzz. Tom and Lou were out of town, so Harry had the place to himself. He opened the door to find Zayn standing outside. Pushing the door wider, he beckoned him inside.
Zayn didn’t waste any time getting right to the point. “What the fuck are you doing, Harry?”
“What do you mean?”
Zayn didn’t let him get away with it. “You know exactly what I mean. Why are you jerking Louis around like this? He deserves better from you.”
Harry ran his hands through his hair. “Shit.”
“Shit? That’s all you’ve got to say?”
Harry could see Zayn was legitimately angry. “Let’s go sit down, yeah?” he asked, tilting his head toward the kitchen.
Zayn gave a little shrug which Harry took as an agreement. He led the way to the other room.
“You want something to drink?”
“No.” Zayn said, taking a seat and crossing his arms across his chest.
Harry sat down opposite him.
“You want to explain to me what you’re doing?” Zayn asked. “Because I can’t for the life of me figure out what you could be thinking.”
“I don’t know what I’m doing,” Harry answered honestly.
“Then figure it out, because you’re fucking with his head. He’s losing it, and to be honest, the way you’re acting, I’m not sure you’re worth it.”
Zayn’s accusation hit its mark. Harry felt a little sick to his stomach.
“What do you mean he’s losing it?”
“You had to have seen his complete meltdown on twitter the other day. Or at least heard about it.”
Harry had. And after taking a glance through tumblr and twitter, Louis’ outburst was pretty much all their fans were talking about. Like everything else involving the two of them these days, Harry hadn’t wanted to think about it. Though he was the one who had pulled away, hearing Louis call their relationship “bullshit” had cut deep, even as he was completely aware of what precipitated the outburst.
“Well, it’s about a hundred times worse in person. Thought it was bad enough the first time ‘round, but really, what the fuck were you thinking? Spending all that time together in America, telling him you’d talk, and then you completely ignore him and the first thing you do when you’re home is to go and fuck Nick Grimshaw.”
“Me and Louis are still broken up. It’s not like I’m cheating on him.”
Zayn’s expression darkened. “Oh, is that the excuse you’re telling yourself? This isn’t some goddamn episode of Friends, you know. This is Louis. Louis. You’re a right prick, Harry.”
Harry looked away, ashamed. Having Zayn call him out was a reality check. He leaned over and buried his face in his hands. “I know.”
Zayn wasn’t finished. “He’s in love with you. Madly in love with you. Always has been; probably always will be. You’ve just got no fucking idea what you’re doing to him.”
Harry knew he was being an arse, but it’s not like everything was all his fault. Feeling defensive, he said, “It’s not like he’s blameless in all of this, you know.”
“What, because of Eleanor? You going to drag out that same tired argument to try and rationalise this?”
“It’s not a tired argument. You’ve got no fucking idea—”
Zayn cut him off. “I think I do. Who do you think Louis comes to every time the two of you fight? Who do you think talks him down every time he’s about to go tell Modest they can go fuck themselves? Who do you think’s been taking care of him when he can barely get out of bed because you’ve been out fucking someone else. I think I actually do have some idea, Harry.”
Harry was speechless listening to what Zayn was saying.
But Zayn wasn’t finished. “And you know, he’d do absolutely anything for you. He said if he’d had any idea he would actually lose you for good, he would never have agreed to any of this. But he’s stuck in it now. And it’s what we all wanted. None of us tried to talk him out of it. We were all for it back then, weren’t we?”
Harry had to agree that was true.
“But when the going got tough, you’re the one who’s let him down. He’s been the one carrying the heavy load, dealing with the shit from the fans, watching them rip into Eleanor, keeping everyone from making you go through these sorts of set-ups too. And no matter how much he’s sacrificing, half of them still don’t believe it, so he’s left feeling like it’s all been for nothing.”
Zayn’s anger was winding down a bit, doing less yelling at Harry and more talking.
“He told me he’d tell everyone he was done with the Eleanor charade, even come out publicly if that’s what it took to keep you. Not that I think he’s ready to come out, but he’d do it, for you. He’s convinced he’s too late, though. Thinks you’ve got what you’ve always wanted with Nick—someone who’s fun, who you get on with. You can be with in public, everything up front with nothing to hide. Thinks you’re probably better off this way anyhow too.”
Zayn seemed to be finished. Harry was in a bit of shell shock, trying to process everything Zayn had just said.
“I could use that drink now, if the offer’s still open,” Zayn said.
“Yeah, sure,” Harry said, still in a slight daze.
“Got any beer?”
Harry nodded and got up to pull two out of the fridge, popping off their caps with an opener.
“Here,” he said, handing one to Zayn.
“Thanks. Sorry for all the yelling.”
“That’s okay. I deserved it.”
“You really did.”
Harry nodded in agreement.
After they sipped on their drinks for a few minutes, Zayn started talking again, this time in a much more solicitous tone. “Listen, mate. You’ve got to put him out of his misery. If it’s well and truly over, you’ve got to end it clean. None of this hooking up in bathrooms or stringing him along like you’ve been doing.”
Harry nodded again.
“And, you know, Grimmy’s an all right bloke. None of us have got anything against him, you know that, right?”
“Yeah, I know that.”
“Maybe he is better for you. I don’t know.”
Harry shrugged noncommittally.
“You want to talk about it? I mean, I’m here obviously because I’m trying to look out for Louis, but I love you too. We all just want you two to be happy.”
“Yeah, I know that. Thanks. Think I just want to be by myself for bit. Got a lot to think about.”
Zayn stood up, taking the hint. “Yeah, okay. Call if you need.”
Harry stood up too, nodding at the offer. He walked Zayn to the door where they hugged, holding each other tightly. “Love you, bro,” Zayn said in his ear.
“Yeah, me too.”
After Zayn left, Harry ran a hot bath and soaked, sliding down with his eyes closed so his ears were underwater, emptying his mind as much as he could.
Images started filtering through and he let them lead him where they would—he and Louis in the X-Factor house, acting like complete idiots, crushing like mad; hanging in the studio with Nick, enjoying the glib banter, laughing at his jokes; curling up with Louis in one nondescript hotel room after another, his warm body the only constant; singing karaoke with Nick and his friends, out and about like a proper couple; fixing Louis breakfast back at their flat, sitting in bed watching bad telly, drinking tea; Nick’s fingers deep inside him, his other hand bringing him off; the taste of Louis mouth, the electric touch of his skin.
Was he better off with Nick? His mind said yes. Everything about their time together was great. Nick was loads of fun, friendly and intelligent, and the sex was incredibly good. Best of all, Harry could be out in public with him like a proper boyfriend, no being shoved in a closet, hidden away like some shameful thing. They couldn’t be blatant, of course, but they could get out and about like any normal couple would. Funny that the things he used to be so afraid he’d lose Louis over were the things that could end up causing Louis to lose him.
Like Louis, he’d always believed the two of them were soul mates, fated to be with each other forever. But maybe people could actually love more than one person that way. Maybe people didn’t have only one specific soul mate, but many possible ones, just waiting for love to take root and grow. Nick had suggested Harry could one day become fond of him too, and Harry now believed that to be true.
But, the thing was, he’d have to let Louis go, and when he contemplated that reality, he knew, with a certainty rooted gut deep, he’d never be able to. His head said Nick, but his heart didn’t agree.
Nick had been right when he said Harry was still half in love with Louis; he doubted he’d ever excise him from his heart. And when faced with the end of the two of them for good, everything inside of Harry rebelled at the thought.
Their relationship was messy, stressful and complicated, as Nick had also rightly pointed out. Louis was difficult at times, highly complex, and came with baggage that carried an enormous weight. But he was Harry’s. He’d always been and he always would be. If Louis couldn’t change to make things better between them, then Harry would just have to be the one to do the changing for them.
“It’s a little late for you, isn’t it; shouldn’t little popstars be in bed?”
“We’re flying to Germany tomorrow; I just need to talk to you before we go.”
“Hmmm. Is this an ‘I’m going to miss you, so I need to see you before I go’ kind of need or the ‘we need to talk’ kind?”
Harry hesitated. “The second one.”
“Mmm. Somehow I knew this was coming.” Harry’s nervousness abated the slightest bit hearing Nick say that. “Sure, come on over, young Harold. Very adult of you to do this face to face. It’s like you’re a proper grown-up and everything.”
“As I’ve said before, don’t fret, my little superstar. I’ve always known you were going to break my heart one day.”
Now he was on his way to his and Louis’ old flat, heart in his throat. What if Louis wouldn’t forgive him?
Louis didn’t answer when he first knocked on the door. Harry called out, “Louis, it’s me,” and knocked again. He was just about to use his key, still on his keyring, when Louis cracked open the door. He looked tired, hair dishevelled and eyes red-rimmed.
“Haz, what are you doing here?”
“Can I come in?”
“Yeah, sure,” he said, opening the door.
They stood awkwardly just inside. “I didn’t wake you, did I?” Harry asked.
“Nah, I was just listening to some music.”
Louis looked away and gave a little shake of his head, as if embarrassed, but he answered the question anyway. “I may have had the Beach Boys on repeat.”
Harry felt his heart give a little jump. “Lou,” he said, reaching a hand out toward him.
Louis stepped back out of reach and shook his head again. “What do you want, Harry?” he asked.
Taking a deep breath, Harry said, “I want you.”
Louis didn’t react right away, although Harry could see him go remarkably still.
“What do you mean?” he asked after a moment.
Harry stepped closer and was gratified to see that Louis didn’t move away from him again. “I mean I’m sorry. I want things back the way they used to be: you and me, together. I fucked up and I want you back.”
“We both fucked up.”
Harry took another step closer, tentatively reaching his hand out again. Louis stood stock still, letting Harry rest his hand against his waist. “I love you,” Harry said. “I’ve always loved you,” he added. “I want you to forgive me.”
Louis closed his eyes, as if letting the words settle over him. Harry thought his heart would break when Louis opened his eyes and they were shining with tears. He hadn’t let himself think about what would happen if Louis said no. His fingers gripped tighter.
“What’s going to happen the first time I’m sent somewhere with Eleanor?” Louis asked. “I can’t go through this again.” He turned away, staring at the wall. “I just can’t.”
Harry was ready with his answer. “Nothing. Because she’s irrelevant to you and me.”
Louis looked up at him at that, expression shifting from sadness to something that looked a little like hope.
“Yeah. I talked to Simon. Told him I’d be open to being set up. Take a little of the pressure off you. He said we could maybe transition Eleanor out if it was working.”
“I should never have agreed in the first place. Should have put my foot down long ago. Should have said no when you asked. It’s so fucking complicated now.”
Louis was shaking his head. “I can’t let you do that, Haz. You were never supposed to have to do any of that. That was part of the deal.”
Harry shrugged. “It’s not a sure thing. Just… I want this to work. I want to do my part.”
Louis reached up and touched his fingertip to the corner of his eye. Harry averted his eyes; he knew Louis hated to let anyone see him cry.
“What about Nick?” Louis asked.
“Told him I was still in love with you. Well, in all fairness, he told me first, but I came to see he was right.”
“So are you still seeing him? You seemed… good together.”
Harry stepped closer again and brought up his other hand, placing it against the other side of Louis’ waist.
“I think we’ll always be friends,” Harry said. “But, no. I’m not seeing him again. Not like that.”
Louis still looked unsure. “Lou,” Harry said. “Please. Tell me I haven’t ruined things forever. Tell me you still want me. Tell me we’ve got a chance.”
“I’ve always wanted you, Haz. Don’t think that’s ever going to stop.”
“You said you still loved me. At Cal’s.”
Louis gave a nod, but looked away.
“But… what? You don’t want us back together? Did I fuck it up that much by getting together with Nick after coming back from America?”
Louis hand clenched into fists and Harry’s nerves kicked into overdrive. Was he going to lose Louis after all? The thought made him a little crazy.
“I just don’t understand how…” Louis trailed off.
“How what? Talk to me. I’m serious about doing whatever it takes to fix this. To make this work.”
Louis looked up at Harry and his expression was completely open. Harry felt his stomach clench at the raw pain on Louis’ face.
“How if you really loved me, you’d find someone else so quickly. That’s all.”
There it was. Louis had clearly spelled out the damage Harry had done. He knew then it’d be a hard road to gain back Louis’ trust, but he was determined to try. He was committed. And he could start this very instant by being upfront with him and trying to explain how he’d come to this decision, so Louis could see how serious he was about their future.
Harry tugged Louis closer then wrapped his arms around him, burying his face in his hair. “I’m so sorry. It’s… things were crap between us and it was nice for something to be easy. Nick’s a lot like you in many ways…” He held tighter when Louis made as if to pull away. “Funny, always up for a laugh. A little bit of a prick.” He felt Louis laugh. “And Zayn told me what you said, that you thought maybe I was better off with him than with you.”
“Maybe you are.” Louis mumbled the words against his chest.
“The thing is,” Harry continued, “I want you. It’s harder; it’s a lot more complicated. It sucks a lot of the time. But it sucks more without you.”
“You’re really sweeping me off my feet here, Haz.”
Harry smiled and felt an easing in his chest at the return of Louis’ sarcastic humour. He loosened his grip on Louis and leaned back so he could see his face. “Hey,” he said softly. When Louis looked up at him, face expectant and waiting, Harry continued, “I love you. I’m in love with you. Expect I always will be. Do you think you can give us another chance?”
“Yeah,” Louis said, that old familiar sweet smile breaking out over his face. “I reckon I can.”