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[personal profile] arcadianmaggie
Title: Alongside You
Fandom: One Direction
Pairing: Louis Tomlinson/Harry Styles, Nick Grimshaw/Harry Styles
Rating: NC-17
Word Count: 31,360
Warnings: possible dub-con, ridiculous amounts of fanon.
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction and these characters are fictional representations.
Summary: The thing is, when they decided to take a break, Louis never in a million years thought Harry would move on so quickly. He thought they were going through a rough patch, just needed a little time apart. He never once considered that they might not be forever. A “bullshit” fix-it!fic. Slash, RPF.
Author's Note: As always, my eternal gratitude to my most wonderful beta, [livejournal.com profile] otta_ff, for her superior skills, outsider’s perspective (since she somehow still has zero interest in 1D (I know!!)), cheerleading, love and support. You’re the best, bb! Thank you to [livejournal.com profile] fr333bird for the Brit pick and to [livejournal.com profile] faintheartednot for the pre-read. And thank you as well to the mods of the [livejournal.com profile] 1d_bigbang for hosting this challenge! Please visit the community to enjoy all the other entries. Title taken from Greg Laswell's And Then You.

Also on AO3.

The amazing fanmix for this story was created by [livejournal.com profile] delugedpapercup and can be found here. Thank you so much! Please show her some love!

Part 1a | Part 1b | Part 2a | Part 2b



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.

“Yeah?”

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.

-o-


Except things weren’t okay. If Louis had to pinpoint when it all started going wrong he’d say California. Or maybe Chicago. Or maybe it was as early as New York when Eleanor first flew out to join them on tour. For that matter, maybe it was as far back as when they signed with Columbia Records. They’d agreed to tone everything down, to play it straight in order to crack the U.S. market. He tried hard not to look at it as a deal with the devil but with Harry clearly not coping under the strain, Louis couldn’t help but wonder if they’d traded in happiness for fleeting success.

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—”

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.”

“That’s different.”

“Is it?”

“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.

You around?

The reply came almost immediately.

What’s up?

Me and Harry had a fight. Can I come by?

Room 638


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?”

“Yeah.”

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?”

“No worries.”

“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.

“Yeah?”

“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.

-o-


A noise woke Louis. He blinked, disoriented then realised he must have fallen asleep while Zayn was gone. Pushing the pillow off his face, he rubbed his eyes and sat up, leaning against the head rest.

“Hey.”

“Hey,” Zayn said, sitting down on the edge of the bed so he was facing Louis.

“You talk to Harry?”

“I did.”

“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?”

“Yeah. I think the two of you need to talk.” He held up his hand when Louis started to reply. “Hear me out first.”

“Okay.”

“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.”

“Lou…”

“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.”

“What?”

“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.

“You’re welcome.”

-o-


Louis stood outside the door to their suite, gathering himself. He wasn’t sure what kind of mood would greet him on the other side. Letting out a deep breath, he gave a soft knock, making Harry aware he was about to come in, then he slid the key card in the slot.

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.”

“I figured.”

“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.”

“Isn’t it?”

“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.”

-o-


Part 1 cont.
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