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

Part 1b

Louis could tell how hard Harry was trying over the next few days. He still did his best to make Harry smile, even going so far as to reach over to press a thumb against his thigh during a radio interview, whilst knowing they were being filmed. “You all right?” he whispered. He received a stern look from off-camera, but decided it was worth it when Harry nodded yes then pressed a knuckle into his thigh right back and gave him a goofy little grin. He reached for Harry again when they were sat next to each other for the song performance portion of the taping, but at the last minute pulled his hand back, remembering the reminder he’d got to tone it down. Harry had been looking so sad, though. Fuck it, Louis thought and made faces at him anyway until he smiled again.

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.”

“But if—”

“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?”

-o-


I fackkinggg miss London!!!

-o-


“Ten days? You’ve got to be fucking kidding me?” Harry immediately stood from where he was sat on the sofa with Louis and ran his hands through his hair, starting to pace.

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.”

“Hazza—”

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.”

“I’m...”

“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.

-o-


“You can’t mean that.”

“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.”

“Yeah.”

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.

-o-


Part 2
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