15.5 ~ No Simple in Loving You
Part of Louis' attempt at trying to be better is agreeing to go to this gig Harry's excited about. It's a local band that Harry's a fan of and Louis agrees with the understanding that Harry will have friends there and Louis will meet them. So, he switches shifts with Christian to get the night off and, as he gets ready, trying on every single piece of clothing he owns, he wishes he could just crawl under his bed and hide from the evening. The thing is, yeah, they've been together for a while now. It's been a long while and he knows Harry's friends know about him and now he's going to meet them and it's all just really scary. What if they don't like him? And, the even scarier and always present thought. What if Louis loves them? His brain is always so many steps ahead and he wonders what will happen if he becomes a real part of these people's lives and then the thing with Harry doesn't work out. He won't just lose Harry, he'll lose his friends. It's just easier to keep some distance sometimes. When they walk into the small, dark club, Harry takes Louis' hand and leads him to the bar, ordering them beers, and Louis tries to breathe normally as he takes in the crowd. With every face he sees, he wonders if Harry knows them, wonders if that's Liam or if that's Zayn.
Babe, Harry says lowly into his ear. Relax, come on. It's not a big deal, yeah? Louis tries to smile but his nod is too jerky to pass for relaxed, so he takes a long sip from his beer instead, hoping the alcohol will loosen him up. Harry starts to lead them through the crowd, but they only take a few steps before someone's rushing up to them and hugging Harry tightly. Louis stands back, begging his heart to please slow down to a normal rate.
Someone's had a couple, haven't they? Harry asks, amused, directing his question to another man off to the side. Liam, get off of me, you clingy animal. Liam, apparently, finally detaches, looking rosy-cheeked and happy and Harry immediately steps back to pull Louis closer by the waist.
Liam, Zayn, this is Louis. Louis, this is Liam and Zayn. Louis smiles politely, but Liam's eyes light up and then it's Louis who's surrounded by a crushing hug.
Oh, fuck, no, Liam, Harry groans, trying to pry him off. Louis is caught between laughing and crying as he awkwardly pats the lad's back with the hand not holding his beer and he shoots a nervous glance at Harry, wondering if he's always like this or if it's just intoxication.
Liam! Off! Harry commands like the guy's a dog or something, but he actually listens, pulling back and grabbing Louis' shoulders instead.
It's so fucking good to finally meet you, mate. We've heard so much about you. Before Louis can respond, Zayn is pushing him out of the way and stepping up to shake Louis' hand.
Sorry about that, he doesn't usually drink. He's only had two actually. Louis does smile at that, greeting Zayn properly, and they all chat for a bit before they move into the stage area, finding a nice spot toward the back where they can lean against a wall. Louis is quiet for the most part, only speaking when spoken to directly, and he's constantly on edge, not sure if he wants them to like him or if he's afraid that they will. Pulling away and trying to hold on. Always. As they wait for the band, Zayn gets distracted by a mopey Liam begging for just one more drink and Harry pulls Louis into a hug, kissing just below his ear.
Thank you, babe, he says quietly. This is amazing, really. Louis doesn't feel amazing, honestly, but he holds onto Harry's neck, letting Harry's fingers slide up under Louis' shirt and the skin on skin contact feels nice. It's something to focus on and, as the band starts, Louis still feels anxious and a bit like he can't breathe, but he has Harry's hand on his hip and it's enough to keep him grounded. Halfway through the show, Louis tells Harry he'll be right back and he pushes his way through the crowd, heading for the patio. Stepping out into the cold night air feels good after the pressure inside and he pulls out the pack of cigarettes he'd brought just in case. As he lights up, he leans back against a railing at the edge of the patio and breathes, happy for this little escape, but then he looks up to see Zayn approaching and hastily puts his guard back up, smiling politely at the lad as he moves into the spot next to Louis.
Didn't know you smoked, he says, cigarette between his lips as he pulls a lighter from his pocket.
Never used to, Louis says, looking down at the ground and shrugging. Something about tending bar and smoking. Zayn nods at that and Louis thinks maybe he does like this lad. He seems thoughtful and quiet and Louis kind of likes that he can't tell what he's thinking. He relaxes a bit into the silence before Zayn speaks again, staring out at the street.
He said this stuff is hard for you. Meeting the friends and all that. Well. Maybe Louis doesn't like him as much as he thought he did. Or maybe he doesn't like Harry as much as he thought he did. Either way, he's irritated that this has been a topic of discussion between Harry and his friends.
Oh, did he, Louis says quietly, flicking his cigarette.
He did, Zayn replies, still staring off past Louis. He's mad for you. You know that, right? Like, I'm pretty sure I heard him use the phrase `soul mate´ and I'm not convinced he was joking. Louis wonders if this is some sort of test to see how much it'll take to get him to just run. His palms feel sweaty and his tongue feels bigger in his mouth and he really wants to. He really wants to run.
Listen, I'm not saying that to freak you out or anything, but we care about him a lot and he seems to think you're in this for real. Zayn pauses to take a drag from his cigarette, the end burning orange in the darkness, and Louis can feel his own fingernails digging into his palm. I hope you are. You seem like a cool lad and god knows Harry's obnoxiously happy with you, so I really hope you are. In it for real, I mean. Louis' cigarette has burned down to the filter in his hand and he stares at it for a second before tossing it into an ashtray close by. Zayn stubs his own cigarette out and he tosses it next to Louis', then pauses in front of him, finally looking into his eyes.
I'm sorry if that upset you at all. I meant what I said, that you seem like a cool lad. Zayn gives him a small smile, gently clapping Louis on the shoulder before going back inside and leaving Louis to panic alone. Instead of going in, he slides down to sit against the railing, knees tucked up, and he smokes another cigarette, even though it burns his throat. He's still not ready to go back in and, just as he's contemplating truly fucking up his throat and lighting a third, Harry comes out, scanning the patio before finding him.
Hey, he says, concerned, squatting in front of where Louis' hugging his knees. You okay, love? Louis looks into his unbearably kind eyes as he feels the backs of his fingers smooth over his cheek. He's so good, too good, and Louis feels the muscles in his chest squeezing painfully.
Lou, seriously, babe, talk to me. Did something happen? You look pale. He shakes his head, not wanting Harry to know what Zayn said to him. He's fairly sure Harry would be angry at his friend for it and Louis doesn't want that.
Just not feeling well, he says, reaching up to touch Harry's wrist where his hand is cupping his face. Think I should head home if that's alright? He almost cringes as he says it because he feels awful. This was the big night, this was him trying, and he's about to punk out because Harry's mad for him and Louis is in this for real, isn't he? He's in it, completely buried, and that's fucking overwhelming.
Yeah, of course. Just let me say goodbye-
No, stay, Harry, Louis says softly, pulling him in for a short kiss. Stay and have fun. Please. Harry is not easily convinced, but he eventually agrees to let Louis take a cab home, giving him one last kiss before Louis gets into the car and, as he drives away, he thinks to himself that things have already gotten so messy.
Harry keeps glancing anxiously toward the door as Louis takes a count of the bottles in the cooler. He's been doing it all night and Louis' curious as to what's going on with him, but he lets it go, going back to counting. With his head half in the little cooler, he hears Harry greet someone happily, almost excitedly, and from Louis' vantage point on his knees, he can see Harry run around the bar, out of his sight. Curious, Louis stands and sees Harry hugging a pretty girl tightly, beaming. She looks familiar, but Louis can't quite see her whole face, her hair falling over her eyes in the embrace. It's not until they part that Louis gets a good look and, yeah, he definitely recognizes her. He just doesn't know why. Something in him tightens anyway, feeling anxious for a reason Louis can't quite figure.
Lou! Harry shouts happily, pushing the girl onto a stool and running back behind the bar to drag Louis over across from her. Lou, this is Gemma, he says, eyes twinkling. That's when Louis realises he's meeting Harry's sister. He freezes, jaw slack from surprise, and Harry grins more, leaning down to kiss his temple. The place is almost empty, just a few people scattered around the room, but Louis feels trapped anyway, like people are pressing in on him from all sides.
Uh, hi, he finally forces out, attempting a smile.
Hello, Louis Tomlinson, Gemma says, grinning. Heard so much about you. Like, too much, probably, she adds, throwing Harry a little mock glare. Louis can't breathe. He's really quite sure he's not breathing. His hair is a mess and he's wearing day old clothes and he spilled beer on his trousers earlier and he reeks and he's meeting Harry's sister and she probably knows too much about him. Fuck.
You didn't tell him I was coming, did you? Gemma asks Harry, carefully eyeing Louis, noticing how rigid he's gone.
Wanted it to be a surprise! Harry says defensively, curling an arm around Louis' hip. Louis forces himself to suck some air in and tries harder to smile, to act like this is the most lovely surprise ever because he doesn't want to make Gemma feel bad.
It's surprising, he nods, avoiding Harry's gaze. I've heard a lot about you, too. Gemma relaxes and Harry pours her a beer and Louis tries to look like a normal person, like he's not panicked or angry or upset at all.
Guessing you didn't tell him about dinner tomorrow then either? Gemma asks carefully, watching Louis like he could snap at any moment and maybe she's right, if her idea of snapping is running as far away from this situation as possible.
He didn't, no, Louis responds when Harry doesn't and he can't explain the wave of disappointment rushing through him, mixing with the anger and the panic and the hurt. He can't explain any of it, just knows he doesn't want to be here. Louis makes polite small talk for a while before excusing himself to the loo with what he hopes is a polite smile. He doesn't stop at the loo, though, walks straight toward the back exit and steps out into the fresh air, leaning back against the brick wall. He pulls out a cigarette and lights it, closing his eyes as he takes in lungful after lungful of smoke. By the time he's chucking the butt into an ashtray, he feels like maybe he can breathe again. Maybe. When he goes back in a few minutes later, Gemma's gone and Harry tells him she went to check into her hotel. Louis barely looks at him for the rest of the night, but he feels Harry's concerned eyes on his back almost constantly as they work.
They're quiet as they lock out the last of the customers, submerging the bar in silence as they set about their closing tasks. They've done this enough times that they know their places. Harry checks the levels on the liquor as Louis restocks the coolers. Harry counts the money in the till while Louis wipes down counters. It's routine, but usually the routine is coated in laughter and jokes and dotted with kisses and slaps to the bum. Tonight, though, there's just this tense silence flooding the air between them and Louis grits his teeth as he wipes down tables. Finally, Harry seems to have had enough.
"I need you to tell me why youre upset, Louis. His voice is louder than Louis is accustomed to and he wonders fleetingly if this is Harrys version of yelling, this slightly increased volume. Tell me right now, because Im starting to get angry that youre angry and I dont know if thats fair or not. And somehow, just the word `angry´ makes it race through him again, the heat of the feeling.
Your sister was here, Harry, Louis spits loudly, snapping around to glare at his beautiful boyfriend. You knew she'd be here and you didn't fucking tell me.
You consciously pushed me into taking this step that you knew I wouldn't be ready for. You sprung it on me because you knew I'd say no if you asked me first and I fucking told you from the very beginning that I was shit at relationships, but you seem to keep trying to pretend that's not a fact of the situation. Harry's eyes bug out, his fists clenching at his sides.
Shit, babe, that's not what I intended at all. I just thought it'd be a fun surprise. Louis brings his hands up to his face, wiping at his skin, and it feels like his rib cage is slowly crushing his lungs.
I don't know about your intentions, but it feels like you tricked me into taking a big step forward in this relationship and that's not fucking fair. It's silent as he keeps his face buried in his hands, afraid to see the look in Harry's eyes. He doesn't want to see the hurt in them, doesn't want to see the sadness. When he feels Harry's hands on his wrists, pulling Louis' hands down, he keeps his gaze to the side, avoiding eye contact.
I hate that look on your face, Harry says softly, his voice cracking right down the middle. And I hate that I'm the reason it's there. Louis finally looks up into Harry's shining eyes and he swallows heavily. His chest is aching now, his muscles tense with the constant struggle between running away and pushing in closer.
"It seems like lately I've been making you unhappy as much as I've been making you happy," he says, shaking his head slowly. We need to stop this now because I can't make you unhappy anymore, Lou, I can't do that. As Harry takes a step back, Louis' hand instinctively reaches out, holding onto him.
Wait, he says quickly, feeling like his entire body is moving, muscles jerking and heart racing. Harry looks broken as he whispers sadly.
"I don't know how to not want the things you don't want, babe and I can't stand that the things I want hurt you like this." Louis wonders when he took his last breath because it feels like he hasn't since this conversation began. He pulls Harry close, staring at the taller man's chest, afraid to look up into those eyes again.
I love you so much, he chokes out word by word, fingers grasping onto Harry's shirt, not daring to let go just yet.
I know, Harry says quietly. I know you do and you know I do, but sometimes that's not enough. They stand in silence and Louis realises he must be breathing because he can hear it, ragged and loud in the still air, mixed with Harry's. His mind blanks until he's not thinking about any of it, just the feel of Harry's shirt and the smell of his skin invading his senses. Finally, after a long silence, a long blankness, Harry speaks, voice rough and shaky in Louis' ear.
Kiss me, he says. Kiss me and then walk away from this. We have to. Louis barely lets the words touch his consciousness, gripping tighter onto Harry as he shakes his head. Harry pushes a finger under Louis' chin, forcing him to meet his gaze. It'll be better this way. Louis stares up into his eyes and, at that moment, he hates himself for letting anything else matter except this person in his arms. It's easy to let everything else fall away when it's just the two of them alone in the bar, easy to not care about anything else.
If it was just about you, it would be so easy to let you have all of me, Louis says, letting his fingertips skim the back of Harry's neck. Completely and permanently, you'd have it all. Harry smiles a wobbly smile, tinged with sadness, and he pulls Louis in closer.
But it's not just about me, babe. That's not how it works. He dips his head lower, lips hovering over Louis' as he breathes onto them, now kiss me. As Louis presses his lips into Harry's, he feels a sudden swell of sadness consuming him, wrapping around both of them, bleeding into the kiss. Because it's a goodbye of sorts, an ending, it's a failure, this kiss, and Louis lets tears fall from his eyes as he pulls Harry's lips into his, savouring every single second of it. When Louis finally pulls away, he's shaking a bit and Harry drops his arms, stepping back. Louis doesn't reach out to stop him this time. Instead, he takes shaky steps toward the door and pushes himself outside and then it's actually over. It's done.
Uhm yeah srry. I let them break up.
Het is wat ik moest doen. Srry. Ik ben gemeen.
En ja Harry is ook niet the smartest,
door Louis eerst zijn vrienden te laten ontmoeten en kort erna zijn zus.
Ja, dan gebeuren er dit soort dingen.
Ik ben trouwens al vanaf maandag thuis,
omdat ik nog steeds ziek ben.
Eigenlijk nog zieker dan dat ik was en ik voel me fucked up.
Ik wou dat het voorbij was, maar nee het wordt alleen maar erger. Ugh hate it.
Gelukkig heb ik een voorraadje voor jullie, want schrijven enzo komt er nu ook niet van.