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

Part 2b

“I leave for the states tomorrow,” Harry said.

“How long will you be gone?”

“Ten days.”

“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.”

“True enough.”

“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.”

“That’s true.”

“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.”

Harry shrugged.

“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?”

“Maybe…”

“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.

-o-


Harry thought a lot about what Nick had said on the flight over to America. Not only that Nick would like to continue what they started, but that Harry was still half in love with Louis—the suggestion that Harry and Louis might want to give it another go, as he had put it.

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.

-o-


Flirting. If Harry had to pick one word to sum up the week so far, that would be it. First they were in New Orleans filming their big commercial for Pepsi. Then it was off to L.A. to rehearse for the VMAs. Cal Aurand, whom they hadn’t seen for ages, invited them to surf, and for one reason or another, only Harry and Louis were able to take him up on it. The afternoon was amazing, though, and Harry wished every day could be like this with Louis—none of the stress of the world’s eyes upon them, no reasons to pretend, just two normal lads enjoying the day with friends.

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.

Harry shrugged.

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.”

“Yeah… well…”

“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 what?”

“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.”

-o-


Maybe it was finding out that Louis had agreed to the stay at Cal’s; maybe it was the excitement of the VMAs, but whatever the reason, Harry’s mood was buoyant. There was more outrageous flirting between him and Louis and even the presence of Eleanor barely fazed him. When their name was announced, his eyes sought Louis’ immediately, and Louis’ did the same to him. They hesitated briefly, but then they were in each other’s arms, squeezing tightly for one powerful moment before joining the rest of the lads in an exuberant group hug. All those nights spent talking until morning, all the dreams they shared, this was how he’d imagined the future—with Louis right beside him.

-o-


@Harry_Styles
We owe you everything. Thank you so much for this. Three VMAs!! YEAH .xx

‏@Louis_Tomlinson
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 !


-o-


“So you’ve been spending a lot of time with Grimmy, I hear,” Louis said.

“Yeah.”

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.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay.”

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…”

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.

-o-


Harry was almost asleep when he heard the door to the bedroom creak open.

“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?”

“Yeah. ‘Course.”

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.”

“Yeah.”

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.

-o-


Don't want my holiday to end ! Loving it!!

-o-


Harry walked into the room and immediately knew something was wrong. Louis was sat on the couch, every line of his body tense, phone held in his hand.

“What’s wrong?”

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.

-o-


Going to make your last show after all.

Yayyyy! Should I ask?

Will fill you in when I’m home.

All right.
btw, can’t wait to see you, popstar.


-o-


Harry made it back to London in plenty of time to attend Nick’s final nighttime show at Radio 1 before he took over the coveted Breakfast Show slot. A huge crowd had gathered and the show was hilarious. They played a segment called, “Ask Grimmy’s Friends” that had everyone laughing. Having heard the stories before, Harry wasn’t shocked to hear anything they shared—Nick’s penchant for models, the fact that he had kissed everyone in the room. Harry actually enjoyed the feeling of inclusion, even got a kick out of Example’s joke about the song, I’m Coming Out, being his next single, although he made his token protest with a, “Heeeey.” Having his sexuality treated as no big deal was a refreshing change.

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.”

“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.

-o-


@skyleridk Hows this , Larry is the biggest load of bullshit I've ever heard. I'm happy why can't you accept that.

-o-


The iTunes festival was a clusterfuck of epic proportions. Nick, of all people, was interviewing them, and it had to be obvious to even the most oblivious observer that tensions between Louis and Grimmy were high. Thank goodness Annie Mac was also there to ease things along a bit.

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.

-o-


“Can I come over for a few?”

“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.”

“Nick…”

“As I’ve said before, don’t fret, my little superstar. I’ve always known you were going to break my heart one day.”

-o-


It could definitely have gone worse, but like with everything else, Nick made things easy for him. And when Nick said he’d like it if they could remain friends, that Harry was always welcome around the studio or over at his flat, Harry believed he actually meant it.

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.”

“Yeah, what?”

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?”

“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.”

“Lou…”

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.”

The End.


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

Date: 2013-02-27 04:42 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] feathertofly.livejournal.com
ugh, this is so good i can't breathe. the pain of being separated but still together all the time, their relationship, CAL, and i love so much what you did with harry and nick's relationship, how it just kind of happened and they're so grown up and he makes harry laugh but LOUIS, always louis.

basically i love this so much i'm in tears. thanks for that. except no seriously, thank youuuu <333

Date: 2013-03-02 03:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] arcadianmaggie.livejournal.com
Thank youuuuuu!!! I had mixed feelings about using Cal in the fic because I tend to have strong opinions that fic should be for public figures only, but I figured he's in the industry and public enough (I hope! If not, um, sorry!). Also, I know very little about him. But he worked for the scene. LOL. Thanks for the lovely comments. Glad you liked it!! (Yes, always Louis.)

Date: 2013-02-27 10:06 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] badjujuboo.livejournal.com
did you peek into my headcanon because THIS WAS IT FROM THE UAN US TOUR RIGHT THROUGH TO NOW

i hatelove you so much Maggie. This was brilliant and lovely and amazing and MY HEART HURTS SO VERY MUCH! xoxox

Date: 2013-03-02 04:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] arcadianmaggie.livejournal.com
This may or may not have elements of my own head canon. But I wanted to work from the premise that Louis was actually tweeting when he had his twitter meltdown and not MGMT!! and then I worked the narrative back from there. I actually contemplated doing alt endings--one with Louis and one with Nick, but I actually hate when writers do that, so I just went with Louis (of course. This is me, after all ;-).

Thanks for reading and for the lovely comment! xo

Date: 2013-03-02 06:29 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] icmezzo.livejournal.com
Oh Maggie, this really was so well done. Perfectly written--light storytelling when it needed to be light and heavier when it needed to be heavier. You know I don't really follow these boys but I get the basic gist via twitter, so I loved to see your take on how it is all working behind the scenes and how Harry/Louis is totally (and always will be) a thing. Great job, friend. Seriously. xoxo

Date: 2013-03-02 04:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] arcadianmaggie.livejournal.com
Thank you!! This is, of course, only one possible take on events and it's heavily loaded with fanon, but yes, Harry/Louis will totally ALWAYS BE A THING, LARRY 4EVAH!!!!! THEIR LOVE... IT'S... I CAN'T... (hehehe).

I love you for giving a 1D fic a try. Thank you again, friend. <3 <3 <3

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