• 27.1 ~ Route 66
Chicago is hot as fuck in mid-June, it turns out. Louis was not expecting this. All he knows of Chicago is gangster movies and, like, snow. Or something. He's sweating through his thin t-shirt and his stupid khaki trousers and Harry's next to him, looking haggard and tired. Harry pulls his shirt up to wipe the sweat from his face and Louis very carefully and very deliberately saunters over to the terminal map, trying to figure out where the fuck car rental is. Harry comes up behind him, resting his elbow on Louis's shoulder. Louis pulls a face, but says.
"So, baggage claim is that way" he points, "and the rental agency is in the next terminal, I guess? So we'll have to take a train thing. Sound good?" Harry's head is resting on the arm he has on Louis's shoulder, but he nods, hair brushing Louis's neck.
"Sounds good, Lou," he mumbles. They end up with an older model of a Toyota Corolla. Louis nudges Harry over to the car as he signs all the paperwork, watching out of the corner of his eye as Harry drops his bags into the boot and then slumps in the passenger seat. Louis nods his thanks at the attendant, grasping the keys in his sweaty hand and making his way over to the car. As he slides in, Harry cracks a bleary eye in his direction.
"You good to drive on the wrong side of the road, mate?" Louis gives him a tired half-smile.
"Think so. Hopefully we won't have to make too many turns, yeah?" Harry quirks his lips up slightly.
"We'll kip before we do anything, superstar," Louis says quietly. Harry nods, eyes closing. Louis stares at him for a moment, the late afternoon Chicago sun beating hotly down on the car and making Harry's pale skin bright, as if lit up from the inside. There's sweat pooled in the hollow of his throat, and his cheeks are slightly red, sun burnt already. There are lines on his forehead and around his eyes, as he squints against the brightness, too tired to find his sunglasses. Louis licks his lips and takes a deep breath, shaking himself slightly. There's a six hour time difference, he's knackered. They need a cheap motel and hamburgers, like, three hours ago. He sighs and shifts the car into gear, backing out of the car park.
Louis finds an old, seedy motel within a half an hour. It advertises cable and a forty-five dollar single room. Pulling up next to the office, he nudges Harry awake with his elbow before gently brushing Harry's hair off his face. Louis hates himself a little when Harry's eyes open, bleary and tired, and Louis can't control the soft smile he knows should be giving him away. Harry doesn't notice, just smiles back.
"Here?" he asks, raspy. Louis nods.
"Gonna go grab a room, yeah? Wanna come or stay here?" Arching his back off the seat, stretching his long arms, and letting out a groan, Harry smacks his lips together, finally saying.
"I'll come with." He unfolds himself out of the car and throws his arm around Louis's shoulder, leaning heavily into him. Louis wraps his own arm around Harry's waist, taking the weight. A woman who has smoked herself into middle age raises one heavily penciled-in eyebrow at them as they approach the desk.
"Can I help you?" she drawls.
"Er, yeah," Louis says and watches the woman's expression change as she catalogues his accent. "We'd like a room, please."
"Single or double?" she asks, glancing between Louis and Harry, eyes lingering where they're pressed together. Louis's chest feels tight and he licks his lips again, every point of contact between him and Harry alight with nerves.
"Single, please," he says, as casual as he can manage. He thinks he sounds breathless. He possibly hates himself a lot. Harry's half asleep on his shoulder, breath heavy and stale on his neck. It's hot and it's humid and Louis has his favorite boy slumped into him and they're going to be sharing a bed and Louis has to close his eyes for a moment, overwhelmed. The woman behind the counter just gives them another eyebrow raise and snaps her gum, sliding a paper for Louis to sign as he passes over his credit card. She drops a room key on the counter and gives Louis a long look and a cheeky wink as he grabs it. Pressing the key into Harry's hand, he nods down the long stretch of doors as they exit the office.
"Go find the room and hop in the shower, yeah? I'll bring the car around," he says and Harry nods, eyes heavy-lidded and smile sweet. Louis watches him walk down the corridor for a moment before sinking back behind the wheel.
When Louis stumbles into the room with their bags, he hears the shower running, Harry's clothes forming a path on the floor to the bathroom. Louis sinks down on the bed, laying back and sighing deeply. The air is damp, but luckily there's air conditioning, and the sweat on Louis's skin prickles, drying into a tacky sheen on his skin. He feels proper disgusting.
"Hey," Harry's voice comes rasping from the doorway to the bath. He's smiling at Louis. Louis blinks a few times.
"Must've drifted off," Louis says, pulling a face at Harry. He takes a deep breath and hoists himself to his feet, toeing off his shoes and pulling his shirt over his head. "Shower," he mumbles. Harry nods, patting Louis's side as he walks past him into the bathroom. When Louis finally scrubs the interminable flight and sticky American summer off his skin, he pads back into the main room, digging out a pair of clean pants. Harry's spread across three quarters of the tiny bed, breathing deeply. Louis bites his lip and eyes the tiny sliver of mattress left for him. He rolls his eyes to the sky and mouths why before climbing in, shoving Harry's warm body a little.
"Hmm?" Harry sounds, grumbling a little.
"Budge over," Louis whispers. "You've got not even half the arse I have, mate." Harry smirks slightly, eyes still closed, and he scoots back to free roughly half the bed, and Louis tweaks a curl in thanks. He rolls over, putting his back to Harry and closes his eyes, taking slow and steady breaths until he feels himself relax and then, of course, that is kicked to hell because Harry moves suddenly, moves till he's pressed against Louis's back, curved around him, and sliding a hand around his waist, pulling him into Harry's body. Louis's eyes fly open and his muscles tense immediately. There's no sound in the room but Harry's even breathing, quiet, hot, and damp against Louis's neck.
The sun beats in through the dirty window at half eleven in the morning and Louis wakes up sweating, sticking to the sheets and to Harry, still curled around him. Groaning, he buries his face in the pillow for a moment, before taking a deep breath and rolling out of bed. He washes his face and brushes his teeth, staring at himself in the mirror. Jet-lag isn't a great look for him, he decides, as he lazily gels his hair into a halfhearted quiff.
"Oi," he calls, stumbling back into the bedroom. "Lazybones." Harry doesn't stir. Louis rolls his eyes and grabs his calf, shaking.
"H," he says. "Get up." Harry mumbles a bit, cracking an eye, and then flopping over onto his stomach.
"Harry," Louis raises his voice. "We've got an itinerary, mate, get the fuck up."
"You're the devil," Harry groans into the mattress. "Feel like I've been hit by a truck."
"Come on, princess," Louis says. "We've got lands to conquer. Go west, young man, and all that." Harry finally sits up, scrubbing his hands over his face.
"Yeah, Lou, you're a real literary genius."
"Fuck off," Louis replies mildly. "Get dressed. We'll get some breakfast on the road. We'll check out Grant Park, I think, and then head on to Dwight and Odell, probably stop in Pontiac for lunch." Harry looks at him.
"You've really got this planned, haven't you?" Louis smirks.
"It's gonna be legendary."
"Alright," Harry says, rolling out of bed. "Let's do this. Middle America, here we come."
The temperature is already climbing once they check out of the motel, and the stale air in the tiny car is suffocating. They decide to get as far as they can with just the windows down, avoiding the use of the air conditioner, and Louis can't stop smiling over at Harry.
"California, here we comeeee," Harry yells, sticking his head out the window with a whoop, hair whipping across his face. He leans back into the car, grinning giddily at Louis. "Everything is so American," he exclaims. "Look at these signs, mate, I feel like we're in a Jack Kerouac novel." Louis blinks innocently.
"Who?" Harry just laughs, throwing his feet up on the dash and reclining his chair. "Man, cornfields and all. We're gonna be proper outsiders, you know? We should stop at bars and see what American girls are into. They'll probably think we're cultured as hell." Louis wrinkles his nose a bit, shaking his head with a small chuckle.
"I'll leave that one to you, love. You'll just have to give me the PG-13 version later, yeah?" Harry smiles over at him, and Louis can see his eyes crinkling behind his wayfarers.
"Come on, mate. What's more American than a threesome? I'm sure you could get into that."
"Actually," Louis says, rolling his eyes as he stares at the road, "I'm pretty sure that's a French thing." Harry sighs, defeated.
"Fine. Well, then, you can pick up blokes and I'll pick up chicks and we'll get the whole spectrum of experience."
"Harry," Louis says dryly, "I am pretty sure we're in redneck country. I can live with a few weeks of celibacy, don't you worry about me." Harry's quiet, thinking about this for a moment, until.
"Okay, yeah, don't want your pretty face to get broken. When we get to California, though, mate, I expect you to go buck wild." Louis rolls his eyes again and tosses Harry his iPod.
"Choose something. Some road music, though, none of your weird faucet-dripping, alt-hardcore, undefined-genre shit." Harry snorts, but obliges, scrolling through, muttering.
"Well, people will think I'm cultured at least," as he settles on Bruce Springsteen. Louis glances at Harry, grinning hugely, and Harry reaches over to grab Louis's right hand off the wheel, holding it tight.
"Cos tramps like us, baby, we were born to run!" Louis yells over at him and Harry laces their fingers together.
Louis stops at every roadside attraction that catches Harry's attention, and by the fifth, Harry proclaims.
"I'm going to start a bolo tie collection."
"Harry," Louis groans. "This is not the eighties and I still have to be seen with you." Harry beams at him and picks up a rainbow one from the display at some kitchy cowboy themed market sprawled along the highway in rural Illinois. He holds it up to Louis's throat.
"Suits you, I think." Louis bats him away.
"Save your money, babe." Harry just laughs and scampers out the door onto the rickety boardwalk, staring up at the old-time wooden facade.
"This is amazing," he says, and the sun is catching his curls and his skin in his white tank top and cut-off shorts and Louis stands in the doorway, leant up against the jam, smiling over at him.
"You're insane," he mutters through his smile, and Harry beams back.
"You know what we need?" Harry asks. Louis arches an eyebrow. "A Polaroid camera!"
"Shit," Louis says, hopping down the steps to get to Harry. "Can't believe I didn't think of that!" Harry just shakes his head, wrapping an arm around Louis's shoulders as they walk across the gravel to the car.
"It's not all on you, Lou, just relax and have some fun."
"Yeah," Louis says quietly. "Just want this to be perfect." Harry stops and turns Louis to face him, pushing his wayfarers into his hair and sliding Louis's aviators down his nose to see his eyes.
"It's gonna be perfect no matter what, I promise. Nothin' but the open road and my very best boy. What could be better?" Louis squints over at him, trying to control his face, but finding he can't. He whacks Harry lightly in the stomach, saying.
"Gonna give me premature wrinkles, mate. Can't fuckin' stop smiling." Harry laughs and curls his arm around Louis's waist, pulling him into his body. He smells like wind and dust and Harry. Louis rests his forehead on Harry's shoulder and pinches at his side. "Gonna get looks," he mutters. Harry shakes his head, but lets him go.
"From what, the roadkill?" he says, glancing around.
"Let's get to St. Louis," Louis says. "It was named after me, you know. Only bastardized pronunciation. Arseholes."
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