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Chapter warnings (possible spoilers - highlight to read): homophobia, religious fanaticism, violence.

Chapter 6

Louis looked at the text from Paul and his hands started to sweat.

Emergency meeting 9:30am suite 1376

His breath felt short and his chest tightened with anxiety. Had they been seen? He looked over at Harry who was still asleep next to him, his hair a riot of curls splayed on the pillow, wild and unruly after they’d collapsed into bed, still damp from the pool. A fierce protectiveness swept over him. Harry looked so vulnerable, lips slightly parted, dark eyelashes fanning his cheeks. He’d grown so broad and so tall, sometimes it was easy to forget how young he still was. For once, none of the worry and stress was on his face; he looked peaceful, relaxed. Louis didn’t want to wake him.

Harry’s still asleep. Really needs it. Can we push mtg later?

If they’d been found out, another hour or two wasn’t going to make much difference and they’d be better able to make decisions if they were well rested.

Important. 10am?

Whats this about? Noon?

Have to discuss in person. 11.

Can give me some idea? 11:30

Can’t. In person. 11 is best I can do.

Alright. 11. See u then. Thanks.


He set an alarm and then turned off his phone, not wanting anything to interrupt the extra time they’d been given. He was tempted to call Paul back and leave Harry asleep for a few to run over and get a heads up about the meeting, but really, what good would it do? They’d deal with whatever it was. What choice did they have, after all? And if they really had been seen, he imagined their team would go into overdrive to explain it away. They’d probably not get a minute’s rest for weeks. He’d rather spend this time with Harry, even if he was fast asleep. Louis wanted to extend their magical night as long as possible, keep them cocooned in a bubble where only the two of them existed.

Eyes roving over Harry, Louis resisted the urge to touch him, run his fingertip across Harry’s lips, rosy pink and still swollen from their kisses. His eyes travelled down the long lines of his body, feet tangled in the sheets, the curve of his hip, his strong shoulders and chest, even more muscular now that they’d been supporting the weight of his wings. And those wings… god. Louis couldn’t look at them without a touch of awe. They no longer seemed foreign and strange; now they were such a part of Harry, he almost couldn’t remember what he looked like without them. Regardless, they still filled him with wonder—the way they shivered when he touched them, the way Harry’s eyes grew dark with passion when Louis ran his hand along the feathers, the way they’d carried them high into the sky to make love against a backdrop of stars.

In all fairness, being with Harry had always made him feel this way. From the very beginning, Harry had always seemed like some magical creature, sweeping rational thought from Louis’ mind, spinning a spell with his dimpled smile and curly-haired charm. Why wouldn’t he grow wings? Why wouldn’t Harry be the most miraculous person on the planet? That’s who he’d always been to Louis.

Growing sleepy, Louis lay back down next to Harry. There’d be plenty of time to worry about the meeting and what it might bring later. For now, he was going to snuggle next to his boy, rest in his arms and forget about the world outside their door.

He woke to Harry nuzzling against his face, pressing soft kisses against his jaw, hair tickling his cheek. Louis smiled and stretched, humming his contentment and turning his head to catch Harry’s lips in a kiss.

“Hey,” he said, voice rough from sleep.

“Morning. Alarm went off. You slept right through.”

“Time is it?” He rubbed at his eyes.

“10:30.”

Louis groaned. “We need to get up. Paul texted earlier. Emergency meeting.”

Harry stilled and Louis could feel him tense against his body.

“What about?”

“Don’t know. Said he wanted to discuss in person.”

“You think anyone saw us?”

“Maybe. I don’t know. Wanted to meet earlier, but I told him you needed the sleep.”

“Shit.” Harry disentangled himself from Louis and sat up, swinging his knees over the edge of the bed and leaning over with his elbows on his knees, hands rubbing his face. “Shit,” he said again.

“Hey,” Louis said, moving to sit next to him. He pulled one of Harry’s hands away from his face and laced their fingers together. “We don’t have any idea what it’s about yet.”

“Yeah, but what else could it be?”

“Dunno. Let’s just wait and see. Supposed to meet him at 11:00.”

“Fuck.”

Louis wanted to ease Harry’s growing worry, but in his heart he thought their discovery was the most likely reason for the meeting. “Hey,” he said, tugging on Harry’s hand, getting him to look at Louis. “Even if someone did see, we’ll deal with it.”

“How?”

“I don’t know. But we’ll find a way. I’m sure we’ll come up with something. We’ve done it before.”

Harry looked sceptical.

“We will,” Louis repeated. “You’re not alone in this.”

Harry sighed. “Yeah, I know. It’s just…”

“What?”

Louis received a shrug of the shoulders for an answer.

“C’mon, Haz. What?”

“Just that things were going so well. Knew it was too good to last.”

“Things are going great.”

“Getting harder, though. Don’t know how much longer we can pull it off.”

“Nothing we haven’t been able to handle. Think we can make it through the tour.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. Even if someone saw us, we’ll figure something out. I feel like we can definitely make it all the way to Madison Square Garden.” They’d been lucky enough to secure a date for the end of the tour. It would be their final show. Tickets had sold out in minutes.

“Really think so?”

“Yeah, I do.”

“And what then? After we work on the new album? If we tour again, there’s no way we could use the same gimmick a second time.”

“Dunno. Maybe you can be one of those eccentric musician types and they’re just your thing now.”

“Don’t think the eccentric musician type’s going to quite fit into our boy band image.”

“Well then, we’ll just have to reevaluate, won’t we?”

Harry looked glum. “I don’t see how this is going to work long term.”

“Hey,” Louis said, squeezing his hand. “Let’s not worry about any of that right now, all right? We need to get dressed and over to meet Paul. See what the emergency is. We’ve got time to figure something out for the future.”

Harry nodded but didn’t look convinced.

“We do. And we’re all in this together. I don’t need the other lads here to tell you that. We’ve all talked about it. Whatever happens, we’re sticking together. We’re not going to be leaving you behind.”

“Maybe you should.”

Louis let out an offended snort of disbelief, shaking his head. “I’m going to pretend you didn’t say that. I’m still feeling pretty great from last night and something like that would royally piss me off.”

He was relieved to see Harry fighting back a smile at his words. Louis gave Harry’s hand another squeeze. “And while we’re on the subject…” he added.

Harry looked at him questioningly.

“Last night was…” He tried to find the words. “It was amazing,” he finally settled on. “Absolutely amazing. You’re amazing.”

The worry eased from Harry’s face as he turned to look at Louis, a soft smile on his lips. “It was pretty fantastic,” he agreed.

“Don’t know if I’ll ever experience anything in my entire life that could possibly top that.” Louis didn’t think he was exaggerating.

Harry’s smile grew bigger. “I know what you mean.”

They sat side by side, grinning dopily at each other. “Your landings kind of sucked, though, not gonna lie.”

A bark of laughter escaped from Harry’s mouth, loud and unrestrained. Louis couldn’t hold back a cheeky smirk and he started laughing too, pleased that he had shaken Harry out of his mood. Harry pulled Louis close to him, hugging him tightly. Louis felt Harry’s lips on his hair, kissing the top of his head.

“I’ll work on that,” Harry said.

“Yeah, you do that,” said Louis.

-o-


Paul’s face was grave when they entered the suite. Louis, who’d grown more and more concerned about Harry’s rising anxiousness the closer the meeting got, dived right in. “This about last night?” he asked. Harry’s hand was gripped tightly in his and Harry gave a little squeeze, as if thanking him for broaching the topic immediately.

“What?” Paul asked, face registering confusion. “What happened last night?”

“Nevermind,” Louis quickly answered. “Nothing important.”

Paul frowned, clearly not believing him, but he didn’t push the issue.

“What this all about then?” Louis asked. “Very 007 with the ‘got to do this in person’ bit.”

“I’d like to wait until everyone gets here,” Paul said without cracking a smile.

Harry’s hand gripped more tightly and Louis glanced over to check on him. He looked a little sick to his stomach.

“Think we can get some tea and something to eat? Haven’t had anything yet.”

“Yeah,” Paul said, tilting his head in the direction of the kitchenette. “Already had something sent up. Help yourselves.”

Louis led Harry over to the sofa. “You sit down, love. I’ll go get something for you.”

Harry didn’t argue. He dropped down onto the seat as if his knees couldn’t hold him. Louis gave him a sympathetic look and a comforting squeeze on the shoulder before walking over to make them both a cup of tea. He was a little freaked out too. There was something about the way Paul was acting—Louis couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but he sensed it, nonetheless—that indicated the situation was something far more serious than they’d been expecting.

Bringing Harry his tea, and a plate with a banana and a few croissants, Louis went back to get his own tea before joining Harry on the sofa and grabbing one of the pastries. Seconds later, they heard voices outside the door and the rest of the lads showed up. Their jovial banter stopped as soon as they entered and saw how serious the mood was.

“What’s going on?” Niall asked.

“You lads need a cuppa or a bite first?” Paul asked.

“We’re good, aren’t we? Just had breakfast downstairs. Fantastic buffet!”

“All right. Well, have a seat. Got something important we need to go over.”

Louis couldn’t wait for everyone to get settled. “Jesus, you’re making me nervous, Paul. Just tell us what’s going on.”

Paul brought up a hand to rub at his temple. “All right. Not really a good way to tell you something like this, so I’m just going to lay it out.”

The boys, now all seated, waited expectantly.

“We had the cable that snapped in Chicago sent out for analysis.”

“You did? What for?” Zayn asked.

“Insurance. Legal. That’s not really the point.”

“What is the point?” Louis asked, a feeling of dread starting to grow in his stomach.

“The point is,” Paul said, pausing. He rubbed his temple again. “The point is,” he repeated, “that it didn’t snap by accident. The cable was intentionally compromised.”

The boys were quiet, taking in the statement.

“What does that even mean?” Liam asked.

Harry spoke up, voice soft, but his words weighed heavily. “It means someone was trying to kill me.”

Everyone started talking at once, throwing questions, expressing disbelief. Paul was talking over them, but Louis couldn’t comprehend a word they were saying; he was stunned, looking at Harry, stomach churning, ice running through his veins. This time Harry reached over and took his hand, anchoring him, calming him down.

“Are you sure?” Louis was finally able to choke out. “Could they have made a mistake?”

Paul shook his head. “No, they’re certain. It was deliberately cut almost all the way through. Just needed a little stress on it to complete the break.”

Harry spoke up. “It’s because of the wings.”

“Then maybe someone was trying to expose you, not… not kill you. Jesus.” Louis latched onto any other explanation.

Paul shook his head again. “We don’t want to jump to any conclusions. We have no idea who or why or even if Harry was specifically the target. Could be you’re all in danger or maybe someone was trying to sabotage the show. Could be something not even related to One Direction. Hard to tell at this point. Lots of crazies out there. I’m sure you all heard about that bizarre kidnapping/murder plot with your lad Justin Bieber.”

“Right,” Zayn spoke up. “He was pretty shook up about it.”

“Yes, so we’ve got the police involved.”

Louis’ head snapped up. “You’re not telling them about Harry, are you?”

Paul hurried to reassure him. “Absolutely not.” He paused. “I’m sure I don’t need to remind you lads, but the people who know now are the only people who are going to know. Too risky to let it get further, especially while we don’t really know what we’re dealing with. Got people going through all the fan mail, see if there’s anything crazy there.”

“Oh, there’s definitely plenty of crazy there,” Niall joked, breaking a little of the tension.

Paul finally smiled. “Above and beyond the usual, then. All the crew are being questioned, the staff at the arena, anyone who’s got a problem with Syco and Modest—”

“Rebecca,” Zayn said under his breath.

Niall giggled and elbowed Zayn in the side.

Paul shot them a warning look. “Everyone is treating this with the utmost seriousness. We need you boys to do the same. No pranking for the time being. No running off and disappearing.”

He got a few nods of acknowledgment.

“No going anywhere without security,” Paul continued. “No going anywhere alone. I’m serious. You need to be in constant contact with the security team. We don’t want to cramp your style or put too many restrictions on you, but until we’ve got a better idea what’s going on, better safe than sorry.”

“Got it,” Liam said, speaking for them all. “We’ll behave. Won’t we lads?”

The rest of them agreed, although Harry sat silently, an undecipherable expression on his face.

“All right. I’m going to leave you lads now. We’ve got security on the floor. Sound check’s in a few hours. Stay out of trouble until then.”

“Will do.” Liam spoke again.

Paul nodded, then headed for the door, hesitating before opening it. “I don’t want you to make yourselves sick worrying.” He was staring at Louis. “Leave that to us. That’s our job. We needed you to know so you understand why we might have to curtail some of your activities, and so you can give us a heads up if you encounter anything out of the ordinary, but don’t let that take the fun out of things for you. You lads enjoy yourselves, and leave the worrying to us, okay?”

Louis didn’t see how they could possibly not worry, but he nodded anyway.

“Okay. Good. See you in a bit,” Paul said as he left the suite.

“That was unexpected,” Zayn said into the silence.

“Moving up in the world if one of us is involved in an actual murder plot. I’d say we’ve finally made it lads!” Niall, as always, was able to lighten the mood.

Zayn snorted.

“Yay.” Louis gave a half-hearted, sarcastic cheer.

“Harry, how you holding up over there?” Niall asked.

“Not sure it’s quite sunk in yet.”

“Like the man said, might not have anything to do with you specifically.”

“C’mon,” Harry said, with a frustrated huff. “Do you really think this doesn’t have to do with my wings? I know I’m the youngest and you all tend to baby me, but I’m not stupid, you know.”

“’Course you’re not,” Liam jumped in. “Don’t think Niall was trying to imply that you were.”

“Absolutely not,” Niall agreed, standing up and walking over to Harry. “Budge over,” he said, scooting in beside him on the sofa. Harry shifted to make a little room and Niall hugged him sideways, resting his head on Harry’s shoulder. “Maybe it is about you and them gorgeous wings of yours, but maybe it’s not. Let’s not assume anything at this point.”

“Because you know what they say; when you assume, you make an ass out of you and me,” Zayn chimed back in.

“Really, Zayn?” Louis asked, with a curl of his lip. “I can see something that lame coming from Harry, but you’re usually—”

“Heyyyy,” Harry interrupted with a pouty frown.

“I don’t give a flying fuck what you think, Tomlinson,” Zayn countered, continuing the play argument with Louis, both knowing it was always a good way to distract Harry when he got upset. Except this time, his words were far more effective than he realized. Harry let out one of his undignified snorts and then he and Louis started giggling uncontrollably.

Zayn grimaced. “Ew. I don’t even want to know.”

“You really don’t,” Louis agreed, still laughing.

A crease appeared on Liam’s forehead as he tried to piece together what everyone was reacting to. His face changed expressions several times as it sunk in and he let out a little shocked, “Oh.”

“That’s sick,” said Niall, with an approving nod of his head.

-o-


When Harry and Louis were back in their room, Louis immediately lay down on the bed, pulling Harry on top of him. They made out leisurely for a few moments, soft hums of contentment coming from them both.

“Do you want me to suck your cock?” Louis asked against his lips.

Harry leaned back to look into Louis’ eyes, a fond smile on his face.

“I always want you to suck my cock, but you don’t have to. I appreciate you trying to distract me, but I promise I’m not freaking out.”

“Why aren’t you freaking out?”

“Because I don’t want you to freak out.”

Louis laughed. “Well this is a fine mess we’ve got ourselves into. What’s the world coming to when neither of us is able to have a proper meltdown over a homicidal maniac on the loose?”

“Hey, I thought you said it was someone trying to expose me.”

“I know someone who wants to expose you,” Louis said, reaching for Harry’s waistband.

“Oh yeah?” Harry asked, pulling Louis’ hands away and moving them above his head, pinning them to the mattress by the wrists. “We better apprehend the criminal.” He ground down with his hips, and Louis could feel his dick against his own, both of them half hard.

“Christ, you sound like a bad porno.”

“Bow chicka wow wow,” Harry sang, grinding his hips again in a circular motion.

“I changed my mind. I’m starting to feel a freak out coming on. I think I may need you to give me a blowjob to distract me,” Louis said with a breathless laugh.

“Yeah, okay,” Harry said, leaning down to nuzzle against Louis’ neck, hips still moving. “I can do that. Don’t have a lot of time before sound check, and I still want to call my mum, fill her in, but yeah.”

Louis groaned as he bucked up his hips against Harry. “Please stop talking about your mum.”

Harry laughed as he started to slide down Louis’ body. “Sorry.”

“Think I’ve figured out the problem with your landings,” Louis said.

“Yeah? What’s that?”

“Terrible timing.”

Harry chuckled as he pulled at Louis’ jogging bottoms, sliding them down his thighs. “I’ve got fantastic timing,” Harry said before taking Louis’ cock into his mouth, humming the tune to Rock Me as he bobbed his up and down his length.

“You’re the absolute worst,” Louis said with a sound that was somewhere between a laugh and a moan before losing himself in the sensation, pushing any thought about the possible threat out of his mind.

Afterwards, once they’d both got off, they lay together kissing softly, enjoying their last minutes of privacy before having to leave to get ready for the concert.

“You really doing okay?” Louis asked, tucking a curl behind Harry’s ear and softly running his knuckles against Harry’s cheek.

Harry gave a little shrug. “Doesn’t seem real, actually. I mean, I’m just me, and yeah, maybe it’s scary, something so different. It was scary for me too at first. But to think someone hates me enough to want to kill me—” he broke off, troubled.

“We really don’t know that, though.”

“I know. But I think we do know that, deep down, don’t we?”

This time it was Louis’ turn to shrug.

“Are you scared?” Louis asked, after a minute, absently trailing his fingers lightly over Harry’s shoulders, down his arm, watching the skin break out in goose bumps.

“Yeah, course I am.”

“Yeah, me too.” Louis ran his fingers back up Harry’s arm, across his shoulder then behind to his wing, loving the way Harry’s breath caught and his eyelids fluttered at the touch.

“What I’m really upset about…” He took a deep shuddering breath as Louis continued his caress across the top of his wing.

“Yeah?” Louis prompted.

“There’s going to be so much security now.”

Louis nodded in agreement.

“Think our chances to sneak away like we did last night are pretty much over.”

“Oh,” Louis said with a frown, not having thought about that.

“Yeah. And that was the first time I’d really got to try them out, and then with you, it was…” Louis’s hand stilled as Harry got emotional and couldn’t continue speaking for a moment.

“It was amazing,” Louis whispered, finishing Harry’s sentence.

Harry nodded, slipping up a hand to dab at the corner of his eye with his finger. When he regained control he continued. “So what if that’s the last time I ever get a chance to fly?”

Louis leaned in and pressed a tender kiss against Harry’s lips. “If you want,” he said, “we can cancel the rest of the tour. Go home and find a nice country house, far away from anyone, and go flying every day.”

Harry smiled. “Don’t think we need to cancel the tour.”

“Yeah?”

“I’m scared, but, this is what we’ve always wanted. I love it. I love being out there on stage.”

“Me too,” Louis agreed.

“I’m going to try and do like Paul asked, and let them do the worrying. You too, okay? I don’t want you to get all stressed out worrying about me. I mean, even more than you already are. Okay?”

“Yeah, okay.” He could try. “But know that at any point, if you want out, you say the word. We’ll all back you.”

“I know. After the tour’s over, I think that country house sounds good.”

“Yeah,” Louis said, leaning in to speak against his lips, “that does sound good. You and me, away from the world.”

-o-


Their worries seemed groundless through their next few cities. Shows in Salt Lake City and Denver went off without a hitch. Paul let them know there had been no security concerns beyond the usual. After a series of concerts through Texas went the same, everyone started to relax. It wasn’t until Kansas City that they got hints of trouble ahead.

Paul hustled them past the crowds of screaming fans as they made their way from the bus to the arena. Normally, they might stop and sign a few autographs, pose for some pictures, but today, Paul kept them moving, tossing apologies to the fans over his shoulder. Out of the corner of his eye, Louis caught sight of a sign in the crowd. It wasn’t one of the usual bright Sharpie coloured ones with declarations of love for the boys; instead, it was plain, with black text written across a white background. He paused, trying to read what it said.

“Hurry it up lads,” Paul said, herding him towards the arena. Louis resisted, still trying to make out the words.

Paul grabbed hold of his upper arm and pulled him along. “Not now, Lou,” he said.

“I want to see that sign,” he explained.

“No, you don’t,” Paul replied, trying to get him to move.

His response made Louis even more determined. He shook off Paul’s grip, standing on tiptoes to get a better view. A chill ran through him when the words came into focus.

Matthew 25:4: Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.

Immediately, he looked for Harry, not wanting him to catch sight of it. Relief filled him as he saw the tips of his wings disappearing into the building.

“Lou, come on,” Paul insisted, grabbing his arm again. This time Louis obediently followed, letting himself be ushered inside.

During the sound check, Louis was distracted, thinking about the sign he’d seen outside. The words were disturbing on a level beyond the fangirl obsession with Harry’s wings. He’d read plenty of those sorts of theories punctuated with comments like “actual angel.” The man outside—and right off, that was different—had been unsmiling, towering above the crowd of girls.

Paul pulled Louis aside once they were done on stage. “I’ve told you lads before, but leave the worrying to us. Your head wasn’t in it up there.”

“That sign—”

“’S not the first. Won’t be the last.”

“What?”

“Lou, it’s nothing for you lads to worry about.”

“How can you say that?”

“Let the police do their job. Let me do my job. You worry about yours, which is to put on a great show tonight.”

“If it were something for us to worry about, you’d tell us, right?”

Paul didn’t hesitate with his answer. “Of course. Not going to take any unnecessary risks with you boys. Now put it aside and enjoy yourselves. All right?”

“Yeah, all right,” Louis said, quite aware he was lying.

Back on the bus as they made their way to the next city, Louis lay in his bunk, laptop propped up on his legs as did a few Google searches on Harry’s wings. He’d got out of the habit of checking fan reactions after the initial frenzy and again after Chicago. In the interim, the tone had taken on a decidedly different edge. Various message boards were peppered with disturbing posts.

You are blind to the evil that now walks the earth. When Satan rebelled, he took up to a third of the Angels with him as they were given free will by God, and it is these we call Demons. From the first, with the tempting of Adam and Eve in the garden, Satan's goal has been to turn people from God. He is still at work today. What you call an Angel is an agent of Satan, leading our children away from God and toward sin.

The work of Satan is subtle and insidious. He seeks to hinder you from forming an intimate relationship with Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, distracting you with frivolous entertainment, idle amusement, occupying your minds with television, movies, concerts, songs full of lascivious meaning, keeping you busy so you have little time for God. Now he is so bold as to send his demon to stand before you in the guise of the entertainer, turning your head from the power of Christ.


Some were far more direct.

Harry Styles is one of Satan’s minions and should be cast back into the fires of hell.

Louis had certainly read similar sentiments numerous times on Tumblr and Twitter before, though those had clearly been said with tongue-in-cheek fangirl fervour. Where this differed, however, were the links in the signature, leading back to various religious sites including one run by a group notorious for its intolerance and hardcore Fundamentalism.

Overtaken by that same morbid curiosity that caused him to scour the web for negative comments about himself, Louis scrolled through the site, reading page after page of its hatefulness—denouncing homosexuality as the work of Satan, claiming the acceptance of sodomy dooms nations. God’s will… retribution and eternal damnation… abomination… the words swum before his eyes. And on the left hand column, a counter that increased in number the longer he was on the site, proclaiming how many had been cast into hell since he’d loaded the page.

Louis slammed the lid of his laptop shut and rubbed his eyes. It’s not as if he wasn’t aware that these kinds of people existed in the world; his and Harry’s relationship was hidden for reasons other than teenage fantasies. In fact, he’d never made a single tweet that didn’t get numerous slurs in reply, mixed amongst the follow requests, declarations of love, and sexual come-ons. He was used to being called some pretty horrible names. Knowing these kinds of people were homing in on Harry made him sick to his stomach.

What could they do, however? Neither of them wanted to quit the tour. Paul kept telling him not to worry, but how could he not? Not when someone had already made an attempt against Harry and who knew how many others wished him harm.

A text alert from Harry sounded from his phone. Louis dug into his pocket and pulled it out.

Go to sleep.

Immediately, Louis’ body relaxed the tiniest bit. A small smile slowly crept over his face. He was so busy worrying about Harry, he sometimes forgot how much Harry worried about him. Tapping out a message, Louis pressed send.

Ok, ok. Love you.

The reply was almost instant.

Love you too.
-o-


As they’d travelled through the southern U.S. leg of the tour, the mood grew more sombre with each successive city. Signs like the one Louis had spotted in Kansas City increased in number. Soon, the entrances to the arenas were lined with almost as many protesters as fans. Harry kept his head down as they entered the building, flanked by security. Progressively rattled by each new encounter, Harry would cling to Louis once inside while Louis did his best to soothe, distracting him with his mouth and hands, though thoroughly rattled himself.

Major news outlets picked up on the story. Louis was interviewed by one popular radio station that asked why Harry didn’t give an interview without the wings and put the rumours to rest once and for all.

“It’s become a bit of thing, hasn’t it?” Louis responded with a small laugh, doing his best to deflect. “But these kinds of folks are looking for attention, aren’t they? If Harry gave any notice to their insane conspiracy theories, it’d just be giving them what they want, yeah? Best to ignore these types of people. There’s no satisfying them.”

The concerts themselves, on the other hand, continued to go off without a hitch. Just a few more shows and they’d all be back in England, taking some much needed time off while they contemplated the future. Louis couldn’t wait. The strain was getting to everyone.

Finally, they tour was nearing an end. Only one date remained, and it was one of the biggest performances of their lives: Madison Square Garden. Even the crowd of protesters outside couldn’t dampen their spirits. Now familiar cries of, “The Lord Jesus Christ rebukes you,” and, “Submit yourselves to God and be cleansed of this evil,” followed them as they were hurried past the crowd. This time, however, they were largely ignored, even by Harry who was grinning with suppressed excitement.

“Can’t believe we’ve really done it,” he said as they gathered before the performance.

“I know. It was touch and go a few times, but we pulled it off,” Liam said with a big smile.

Niall joined in. “There’s no stopping us!”

“I just want to say thank you,” Harry said, expression earnest. “I know you could easily have gone on without me, and I…” He started to get choked up.

“Hey, none of that, love,” Louis said, sliding his hand around Harry’s side and rubbing the middle of his back underneath the drape of his wings. “We told you we were going to stick together.”

“Remember when I had to leave for a funeral and none of you would call yourselves One Direction without me there?” Zayn asked. “You said it was because you weren’t One Direction without the five of us. ‘S no different.”

“Right,” Liam said. “And we’ve talked about it. We’re not sure how, but we’re going to come up with something for the next album. We’ve tossed around some ideas. Not sure exactly what we’ll do, but we’ll figure something out. We did it before and we can do it again. The five of us are a team, no matter what.”

The rest of them nodded in agreement.

Louis squeezed Harry’s side, giving him a quizzical look, as if asking, “What did I tell you?”

Harry pressed his lips together and gave a nod, accepting their claim, even as he still looked emotional.

“C’mon lads,” Zayn said with a slight roll of his eyes. “Think it’s time for a little group cuddle.” He opened his arms and they all dove in, hugging each other closely, arms reaching round as far as they could go. Louis felt his own throat tighten as he blinked back tears. He couldn’t ask for better friends.

“Madison Square Garden. Can you fucking believe it? Whoo!”

They broke apart laughing, Niall’s excitement bringing them out of the sentimental moment.

“Let’s give them a show!”

Louis’ blood thrummed with adrenaline as they rose from the stage. No matter how many times they’d performed the same routine, the thrill never got old. And here they were, on one of the most famous stages of the world, a sold out venue. He peered out at the crowd through the fog, the frenzied screams augmenting the pulsing beat of the music. When the intro completed, he raised the microphone to his mouth, head tilting back, one hand flat across his stomach, and belted out the lyrics.

As the verse neared the end, signalling Harry’s cue to fly down the zip wire, a sharp crack rang through the air. Louis’ heart skipped a beat and he whipped around, expecting to see another severed cable and Harry’s wings spread with him gliding toward the stage. The sight that met his eyes bore no resemblance to the scene in Chicago; instead, Harry hung limply from the harness, wings folded down his back, head dropping toward his chest where a dark stain was spreading rapidly across the fabric of his shirt. Louis stared in disbelief, his bones turning to lead as paralysis overtook him.

Pandemonium broke out. The scream of the fans turned hysterical. From the corner of his eye, Louis saw security wrestling with a man who was waving a gun and struggling to reach the stage, shouting wildly about demons and divine retribution. And then Harry was landing practically at his feet, a dark red streak smearing across the stage as he slid to a halt, a crumpled mess of blood and feathers.

Louis forced his body back into motion, falling to his knees at Harry’s side. Afraid to move him, but desperate to know he was still alive, Louis gently touched Harry’s shoulder. Harry moaned and rolled partially onto his back. Though petrified by the stain still spreading, Louis thought he’d never heard a more welcome sound in his life. Acting on instinct, he pressed his fingers against the tattered tear in Harry’s shirt, trying to staunch the flow of blood.

“Think I’ve been shot,” Harry whispered, voice weak.

“Shh. Shh. Don’t try and talk, love,” Louis urged. Over his shoulder he yelled, “Get the fucking doctor!”

He was aware of the other boys around him now too, one of them unfastening the harness from Harry’s groin. Activity was everywhere, but Louis’ eye remained trained on Harry’s face.

“You’re going to be all right,” he said soothingly, although he was terrified it wasn’t the truth. There was so much blood and Harry’s face and lips were pale.

“They’re all going to find out.” Louis had to strain to hear Harry’s voice.

“Shh, Haz. It doesn’t matter. Nothing matters except that you’re all right. That’s the only thing that matters, all right? I love you. Everything’s going to be okay.”

Harry’s eyelids fluttered shut, as if they were too weak to stay open and panic took root in Louis’ gut. “Jesus Christ,” he muttered under his breath, closing his eyes against the wave of fear threatening to pull him under. “Where the fuck is the doctor?”

Then footsteps were pounding across the stage. Louis’s hands were being gently removed as they were replaced by gloved ones. Someone was pulling him away from Harry, lifting him to his feet, holding him tightly, giving him the support to stand on knees that could barely hold him. He watched helplessly as they worked over Harry’s still form.

“What about his costume?” Louis heard one of the medical team ask.

“Can’t worry about that now. Need to get him stabilized first. He’s lost a lot of blood.”

There was a buzzing in his ears and grey spots appeared in front of his eyes as he watched their efforts grow more urgent, the comments of the medics becoming clipped and sharp.

“We’re losing him,” one of the men bent over Harry’s body said.

Louis tried to pull away from whoever was holding him, but the grip grew tighter.

“Let me go,” he demanded.

“Lou, let them do their job.” His brain registered Liam. Was he crying?

“Fuck you. Let me go. He’s dying.” He struggled to break free.

“Niall, help me here.”

“Let go of me,” Louis yelled, frantic as he watched the medical team wheel in a stretcher. “Harry!” Louis called, pulling against his captors all the while. “You can’t leave me. I love you. Please.” He was sobbing. “Please don’t die. I love you.”

Harry was lifted onto the stretcher and wheeled away.

Louis tried to break free to follow but was held tight. “Harry,” he screamed as the stretcher vanished from sight. “You can’t die. I love you, Harry. I love you.”

The buzzing in his ears intensified and the spots merged together. “I love you,” he called out one last time as he faded into unconsciousness.

-o-


A/N: Sorry for the cliffie! I've already started on the final chapter and hope to have it up soon. Thanks for reading!!

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October 2015

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