• 11.3 ~ Hiding from you in this skin
“That’s not what the fuck that was,” Louis says now, relieved to hear that his voice doesn’t crack. Harry just rolls his eyes again.
“That's a lot what it looked like to me, mate. From my spot on the floor. Naked. Where you left me, like you didn’t give a shit. So what was it then?” Louis thumps his shoulders back into the wall, the alcohol enabling him, wanting him to be physical and suddenly that question is too difficult to answer. So he says the simplest, purest thing he can think of.
“Why’d you do it?” Harry wasn’t expecting that, obvious in the way his eyes blaze. He runs a hand through his hair and laughs, but it's humorless. “You know what I’m talking about,” Louis clarifies. “Don’t be thick.”
“What do you mean why,” Harry asks, voice rising. “You know why. I didn’t have a choice.” Louis knew that was coming. He wouldn’t be Harry if he hadn’t said it.
“Yes,” Louis hisses, can’t stress it enough, “you did. You did, Harry. You always have a choice, but yours is never `no´.”
“Louis, I didn’t. You know I didn’t, why’re you-”
“Because you did, Harry! You always do! There’s always an option but you’re just too fucking-”
“The other option,” Harry snarls, “was letting everyone down.” And this, this is what Louis hates most of all, the fact that there are people, imaginary, irrelevant people, who Harry believes he could disappoint. Who Harry thinks it’s easier to try and please than to do something, anything, for himself.
“Who the fuck is everyone!” Louis says, shouting now, and he’s glad the party’s still going on strong so their voices won’t travel. Zayn would never forgive them. Harry stutters and starts about four different sentences.
“The- our people, I don’t know! The team and the boys and the crew” A laugh bubbles up in Louis’ throat before he can help it.
“The bloody crew?” he says, exasperated. Trust Harry to want to please everyone, the blades of grass under his boots as well, probably. “Since when do they get a say in our personal lives! Jesus, Harry, listen to yourself!” Harry pulls at chunks of his hair, looking slightly wild in the face, and Louis knows he’s difficult to argue with but he doesn’t care. He can’t care, not when this is the most attention Harry’s given him in so very long.
“Well not them but like, everyone else. I don’t know! I couldn’t say no, they’d had it all worked out and she was for it and it’s not like there was anything holding me back.”
“There wasn’t?” Louis nearly screeches. Harry stares at him for a minute, tilting his head to the side. Either that was what he was waiting for or he decided that he didn’t like the way the conversation was going, so he says, scoffing and barking out a laugh.
“You can’t mean yourself.” The way he says it couldn't have hurt anymore if he’d tried and there it is again, that sinking feeling in the pit of Louis’ stomach, like he has no idea what conversation they’re having. He’s never been good at talking like this and he curses Harry for it, for his ease with laying himself bare like it costs him nothing, curses himself for feeling like it costs him everything, but he’ll be damned if he doesn’t go on with it.
“Yes, me,” he says, emphasizing, the back of his neck prickling. “You should have asked me.” Harry’s eyes go wide.
“I should have asked you?” and he stands up now, slightly unsteady on his feet but focused. “I don’t need your bloody permission.” Louis was angry before but his rage now, it feels like every breath he takes only fuels it more, feels like it’s going to burst from every pore on his skin.
“Yes, you do,” and everything he’s saying feels like the right thing but the wrong thing at the same time, not enough, but there’s so much to say, so many sentences running through his head that he can’t pull them down to speak them fast enough.
“No, I don’t,” Harry says, adamant.
“Yes, you do,” Louis grits out, ignoring how childish he sounds.
“Look, Louis, you made it clear that night that I shouldn’t- that I shouldn’t need you,” Harry says, voice faltering slightly, and Louis stares straight at him. “That you couldn’t do this.” Louis opens his mouth but he can't speak.
He flashes back, again, to that night and he can see himself, flushed all the way down his chest, working Harry’s cock like it’s his job. Harry had left the window open so it was cold, Louis had known at the time that it was supposed to be cold, but he couldn’t feel it, not with the way it felt like he was shedding all of his skin. A breeze had ruffled the curtains, flapping them into the room, and it had been the only sound he noticed until he had breathed out, tightening his fingers around Harry’s nipples, `I can’t do this.´ It had been the only thing in his head, playing on a loop again and again, until he couldn't hear anything else. It was a breath, that’s all it had been, and looking at Harry now Louis can’t believe he’d actually said it out loud. He sinks forward, elbows to his knees, and rubs his hands across his face. When he looks up Harry is still standing in front of him and he looks hurt, like he’s reliving that night too.
“Harry,” Louis says, on a breath, “I didn’t- that wasn’t- that’s not what I meant.” Because, drunk or not, he can see the context of it now, can see how saying that then leaving, with no explanation, might not have been the wisest thing to do.
“Well what did you mean,” Harry snaps. “Because I tried to get you to tell me and you wouldn’t." And he had, of course he had. Harry had been desperate, had followed Louis out of the room as soon as he’d picked himself off the floor and thrown on some clothes, but it had felt like Louis was floating, down the hall and back to his own room, the room he hadn’t even intended to use, and his chest was so tight he’d had to steady himself against the wall, forcing himself to take breaths. He’d heard Harry bounding down the hall and calling his name but it’d sounded like he was underwater. Louis hadn’t turned around and he’d fallen into his room and he’d clicked the door shut. The next day, Harry had almost undone all of his work the night before, all the energy it had taken just to convince himself to roll out of bed, when he’d materialized beside him at the tea kettle and gently pressed his elbow, asking him on a whisper what was wrong. Louis had spun around so fast he almost dropped his tea and the second he saw Harry’s face he’d nearly lost it. It was obvious he hadn’t slept, or hadn’t slept well, the skin around his eyes was red and looked dry and Louis could still see the sleepiness in the slack of his mouth, in the slower than normal blink of his eyes. But he’d done it, somehow, had laughed big and long, said, `All good, Harold!´ and walked away from him, clutching the mug in his hand and ignoring how it burned. It was rude and childish and unfair, all things Louis knew, but still things that came easier to him than doing what he should’ve done. So now, he takes a deep breath, hears it rattling in his ribcage, and looks at Harry.
“I meant that I couldn't do this.” Harry had been looking at him expectantly but now he sighs and tosses his head back, closing his eyes and fuck, that hadn’t come out right, it never does, so Louis scrambles to correct himself. He wishes he wasn't still half drunk.
“No, no, Harry. I meant- I couldn't do this. I can't,” he says, desperately gesturing between them. “Not with her there.” Harry opens his eyes and pulls his head back forward, looking at him so directly that Louis can see the dark green of his eyes.
“What’s Taylor got to do with it?” And trust him to actually say her name, to practically invite her into the room. Louis gapes.
“What- she’s got everything to do with it.”
“How?” Harry tilts his head, puzzled.
"How? Harry! You’re dating her!”
“Yeah, but what’s that got to do with us?” He’s biting his lip and turns his head like he’s distracted by the noise coming from downstairs, was that- Louis hears it too, was that glass shattering? Christ. Somehow, Louis forgot that this was part and parcel for speaking with Harry, forgot that he’d have to explain in the clearest words possible, no mincing anything, no saying just whatever and hoping for the best and fuck Harry for that, for making him have to work. Louis sighs, wanting to scream instead, and his anger’s threatening to rise up again.
“You can’t be dating her and fucking me, Harry.” Harry looks surprised at that, like he really wasn’t expecting it, but his expression hardens.
“I’m not fucking you though.”
“Exactly." Harry's pinching at his mouth.
“But that’s because you don’t want me to fuck you.” Louis screams with his mouth closed so it just rolls, high in his throat.
“What- no! I do, I do- that’s- that’s why I did what I did.”
“And what was it that you did?” Harry sounds like a fucking psychiatrist, tilting his head and looking genuinely curious, smug, and earnest all at once. Louis does yell this time, and that’s fine, because the music has picked up again.
“In that meeting, I couldn’t- there was nothing I could say, and I knew that- I knew that you were going to say yes. You always say yes. I couldn’t stand it, so I found you and I brought up something stupid and then I did something stupid and then I left.” He’s heaving, deep breaths that fill his lungs and help to steady him. Harry’s still staring at him, still just standing there. When he speaks, it sounds odd in contrast to Louis’ shouting.
“Louis,” he starts, eyes scrunching up. “I said yes to that, yeah. But I wasn’t saying no to you. Is that- is that what this is about?” The beat drops then, suddenly and so deep that it rumbles through the desk and Louis can feel it under his thighs.
“Yes, you were,” he presses, heart rate climbing in time with the rhythm. “But it doesn’t matter.” He sighs and it rattles out of him, whispy and thin, as he looks away. Harry walks forward. The music seems louder, or maybe they’re just quieter. Harry's necklaces are right there so Louis could snatch them, grabbing them like he used to when he wanted a kiss or just wanted to tug on Harry’s neck a little, loving the little prints that would be there later when he’d wash his hair in the shower.
“How could you think that?” Harry asks, voice deep and rumbling out of his chest. Louis swallows and tries to look away, look anywhere else, because he's never been good about people right in his face when he’s feeling so emotional. But it’s Harry, he tells himself and Harry’s not people.
“Dunno,” Louis responds, sighing out. “We never talked about, like, us. I didn’t know if we were- if you were-”
“What, serious?” Harry asks, incredulous. Louis licks his lips and wipes his sweaty palms on his knees. If it’s possible to die from fear, someone should probably get his coffin ready.
“Yeah. I mean, I don’t know, we never talked about what we were doing, it was always just- there.” And they hadn’t, they hadn’t needed to, or so Louis thought. Ever since he had kissed Harry, on the dirty floor beside their X Factor bunk, they had just gone for it without looking back. Everything was so easy, so simple, almost like it had already been carved out for them, like life had already found a way to put them together and keep them together, but it was risky. After a while they’d had to learn how to keep a low profile but even then it was good. Harry came home to Louis and Louis came home to Harry and everybody knew it. They fought, but even that was easy, in a way. Louis knew just what to say to hurt Harry and Harry knew just what to do to infuriate him back but they both knew how to kiss it better and they always did. Louis tries not to focus on the fact that that’s not what’s happening here. It swells up in him, and now that he’s started he can’t stop.
“We never talked about any of it. Then she- Taylor just came along and you said yes, like I knew you would, and then MSG happened and you, you stayed with her and Harry.” Louis looks straight at him and it feels like his heart is breaking in two. “Harry,” he says again, swallowing, but he doesn’t know how to finish it. Harry runs his hands across his face and turns his body to the window. He stares out of it for a few seconds and the only sound in the room is the thrumming music, some people laughing downstairs. When Harry turns his face back, Louis’ not sure if he’s ever seen him look so serious. He looks older, all of a sudden, not quite like the boy he met but not unlike him, either, just different. It scares him, he realizes, and he never wants to look at Harry again and feel like he can’t recognize him.
“Louis. I said yes because I didn’t think it was a big deal.” It feels like someone’s dumped cold water right on his head. He inhales, lets it fill his lungs.
“Why would you think that?” Harry laughs, short and dark.
“Because- what you and I have, it isn’t- it’s not negotiable. I trust it to be there. I trust- I trusted you to be there.” Louis ignores that, that dig that makes it sound even more like this is all his fault. His anger is at the surface again so he bites back.
“And I trusted you not to do some bullshit where you date someone else right in front of me.” Harry's eyes grow wide.
“Did you even listen? During the meeting?” Of course Louis hadn’t listened, he hadn’t needed to. All he’d heard was `Harry´ and `Taylor Swift´ and `a few weeks, a few months, tops´ and all the life in him had shriveled up and died.
“Of course I listened,” he snaps and Harry’s a right bastard so of course he pulls a face and rolls his eyes, again, saying:
“No, you didn't. If you had we wouldn't be in this mess.”
“We’re not in a mess,’” Louis says, sloppily curling his fingers in air quotes, and he’ll be fucked if he’s letting this conversation get away from him once again.
“Well what do you call it, then?”
“A conversation,” Louis says, as calm as he can manage. Harry makes a sound like he’s choked. He really runs his hands through his hair this time and Louis can see where he grips the strands before letting go. He turns on his heel and steps away from Louis, walks back to the bed but stops, like he can’t be bothered with sitting on it, and starts pacing instead.
“This is not a fucking conversation. This is you, being an idiot still.” And this, this is surer ground, ground Louis has practically paved the way for by scratch, has hurled insults at people for as long as he can remember. Joy blossoms in his chest.
“I’m the idiot? Don’t be a twat, Harry, just because you wanted in one. If we’re in a mess, it’s because you damn well put us here.” Like it physically pains him to do so, Harry laughs and whirls around.
“But you did! Louis, can’t you see that? We’re here because of you. My shit is here,” he gestures, all around the room, “and your shit is there,” he strides to the door and opens it so the sound floods through even louder, tossing his arm out in the direction of the guestroom, “because of you.” He slams the door shut and the sound rushes out of the room.
“It isn’t,” Louis says, and he’s so mad he can barely get the words past his gritted teeth, the alcohol only making him angrier, making him mean it more. “I was with you, Harry, and you left me.”
“Oh, will you quit that! I didn’t bloody leave you!” Harry shouts. Simultaneously, Louis hates and loves that Harry’s shouting at him because it means that he gets to shout right back, but do it better, and do it louder.
“You did. You didn’t fight it, you didn’t try to change their minds, you just sat there. Around that stupid table with those fucking idiots, you’d already left me.”
“Fuck’s sake!” Harry throws his arms up and spins around again, until he’s even closer to Louis. “If you would have talked to me, if you would have just- just pulled your head out of your ass for one motherfucking second, you would know.” Harry never swears like this, Louis notices, and it startles him but not enough to stop shouting in his face.
“Know what, Harry? That it was that easy for you, that you didn’t even have to think about it? That what we had wasn’t 'a big deal’,” he air quotes again and it feels childish, spiteful, but he doesn’t care. Not when it feels like the past few weeks have been leading right up to this moment. “You made your choice-”
“Louis,” Harry’s voice is ridiculously low and his eyes have managed to get even darker.
“You chose her, like it didn’t even matter, you didn’t even ask me what I thought before you just-” Harry nearly growls.
“Louis.” But Louis can’t stop, feels like his lungs will collapse if he doesn’t get it out right this second, get it out before it kills him.
“But I can’t do this. I can’t do this anymore, Harry. You can’t just toss me aside like that and give me up, like I wouldn’t fight for you, like I wouldn’t fucking- fucking burn London to the ground for you-” And Harry stops moving forward, stops trying to interrupt. He’s so close Louis could reach out and punch him. He wills his hand to stay by his side even as his knuckles curl up into a fist. Harry’s whole body looks rigid, like a statue, but it’s definitely his voice when he says:
“I don’t know what you’re saying. Louis-”
“I fucking hate the thought of you with anyone else,” Louis says, and it feels like he’s going to vomit. As soon as the words leave his mouth, he wants to snatch them back. It’s everything he wanted to say, everything he felt ever since he heard her name, ever since he saw Harry’s face when he’d looked at her, and it didn’t have to be her, god knows it could’ve been anyone else, anyone on the planet, and Louis still would've wanted to destroy them. Harry looks at him like he’s never seen him before. Louis takes a deep breath until it feels like most of the anger is ghosted out of him. He can’t be angry about this, not anymore.
“Harry, what you and I- what we- what we have, I can’t just let it go. I can’t just let you go and I’m not used to this, or good with this-” he trails off, looking away from Harry because suddenly it’s too intense. But in a flash, Harry’s right in front of him, gripping his knees and turning his head so he can follow his eyes, until Louis’ forced to look at him. The pressure of his hands on his legs makes Louis weak, makes him almost stupid with want, in spite of everything. The music’s been such a constant that Louis can feel his heart beat in time with it. He wonders if Harry can feel his legs shaking, his knees threatening to knock together.
“Keep going,” Harry says, and his voice is so much softer. Louis swallows and looks at him and tries to forget what it felt like to kiss him.
“I can’t just be friends with you. I don’t know how to do that.” Suddenly, a laugh bubbles out of him and even that sounds hurt. “I can’t even try.” For the first time tonight, for the first time in what feels like years, Harry smiles at him, slow and crooked and so familiar.
“You don’t have to.” Louis rolls his eyes, not in the mood to be coddled, and suddenly can’t take Harry touching him at all if it means they’ve got to do it like this.
“Haz,” he starts, clucking his tongue to show he doesn’t need this, doesn’t need Harry’s pity.
“No,” Harry says, voice strong, and he squeezes Louis’ knees even harder. “You don’t have to because you don’t have to. I broke it off with her.” Louis’ heart stops and his face falls.
“What." Harry takes his hands back and runs them through his hair, pushing his fringe off his forehead where it’s sticky. But he doesn’t move away.
“When you saw me outside,” Harry says, and Louis’ brain cuts back to standing in the kitchen and how angry he had felt, how betrayed, when he’d noticed Harry on the phone and it had been her. “Taylor called so I had to step out and take it. We’d talked about it for a while and it wasn’t- it just wasn’t working out. She was cool about it, like, but she had to check with her team first.” He drops his arms by his side. “We were going over the logistics of it. I couldn’t do it, Louis.” Harry takes a deep breath. “It was just publicity,” he continues steadily, like he’s had to explain it a million times already. “Or like, at first it was, but then you acted like you didn't wanna- wanna be with me, so. I dunno. If you would have just talked to me, Christ.” He rubs at his temples. “You never even- Louis, you hit the ground running and you didn’t stop. You assumed- you seriously thought- god, Lou,” he says, breaking off and sighing. Louis feels his cheeks flame and swears under his breath, cursing all the gods he knows for the fact that he still cannot do this right. He feels so stupid. So goddamn stupid. But that’s still not-
“But- why- why now?” He asks, and he cringes at how small his voice sounds.
“Because. I dunno. She was sweet, and lovely, and it was easy to be with her. But I couldn’t like- I couldn’t get into it. I couldn't make it realistic and I tried, but-” he’s almost whispering and if Louis wasn’t right in front of him he’d probably miss it. “It was starting to feel like more trouble than it was worth." He grins again. "Then there’s the fact that she isn’t you, so-” Louis stares at him, jaw slack. This whole time he had made himself think- god, he had made Harry think.
“I can’t believe I was such an idiot,” he says, like a revelation. Harry stares at him for a second then laughs. It’s easy this time, comes out sounding just like him, and he puts his hands back on Louis’ knees.
“Yes, you can and so can I." He shrugs. "But I've been pretty stupid too.” Louis’ never particularly liked the idea of someone knowing him better than he knows himself, but Harry isn’t someone. Harry is Harry. For all the ways that anger has led Louis here, fear has been right there too, hot on its heels, and it returns now so quickly as he looks at Harry. Harry, who he would fight for even though he’s not used to fighting for anyone. Louis takes both his hands and, tentatively, places them on top of Harry’s over his knees. Harry’s hands are warm and his skin is soft, so Louis digs his nails in to anchor them there. He wants to say so many things, wants to ask Harry why he didn’t just make him listen, why he didn’t just punch him in the damn face, but Harry didn’t get them in this mess.
“Haz,” Louis starts, but Harry’s already smiling, brighter than the sun, and leaning forwards, so slowly but so sure. Louis wants to meet him halfway but even more he wants him to stop stealing his moments, to stop getting there miles ahead of him. So he pulls him in by the wrist, knocking him off balance. He leans in until their foreheads are pressed to each other and he swallows his fear and whispers,
“I love you,” feeling like it’s the first time he’s ever said it in his life, and mashes their lips together before Harry can say anything back.
Whoops de ruzie gaat door,
maar het gaat de goede kant op nu toch?
Is het al een beetje duidelijker op het moment?