27.4 ~ Route 66
The bed is empty when Louis wakes up in the morning, but he runs his hand over the other side, finding it still warm. The shower's running, a curl of steam coming from under the door. Louis sighs, rolling over into the phantom warmth. He stares at the ceiling. Harry pads out of the bathroom and Louis looks over at him. Harry meets his gaze briefly, then drops his eyes, digging around for clean clothes.
"Morning," Harry says quietly. Louis lets his eyes fall shut again.
"Morning," he says back. "I'll just - shower, then." He gets ready as quickly as possible, because there's no air in this fucking room, there are just heavy shadows from the night before. He throws on whatever clothes are closest, does his hair, and slides on his sunglasses. Harry's sitting on the side of the bed, staring out the window.
"Ready?" Louis says, hesitant. Harry jumps a little, but glances back at him and nods.
"Yeah. What's the plan today?" Louis shrugs.
"Was thinking we could stop near Oklahoma City for lunch. There's this barbecue place in Arcadia or something? It's supposed to be really good and we should probably get some barbecue at some point, I think." Harry's lips twitch up and he nods.
"Sounds good. I'll drive." It's early. Earlier than their days usually start, and the sun's not all the way up yet. There's still a sense of newness hanging in the air, that quiet of just after dawn. Louis looks over to the bar in this morning light. There are only a few motorcycles outside now, and it's quiet, dark. Louis bites his lip and glances over at Harry. Harry has dark smudges under his eyes and his lips are drawn into a small pout and there's a slump to his shoulders that Louis hasn't seen in a long time.
"H," Louis says. "Should we, like, talk?" Harry looks over at him, jerking his head as though startled by the sound of Louis's voice.
"What?" he says, and then blinks a bit. He pulls his sunglasses down from his hair. "Nah, Lou, it's fine." Harry puts on Gregory Alan Isakov and Louis slumps in the seat, sinking into the melancholy of the morning, the music, the mood.
After an hour of dusty Oklahoma road, Harry turns down the music and starts to speak quietly.
"I'm sorry, Louis. About last night. I was way out of line. That was- I don't know. I was really- I don't know. Over-emotional? Over-protective? I never meant to- to push myself on you, or anything. Fuck." Harry's knuckles are white on the steering wheel. Louis closes his eyes tightly behind his sunglasses.
"Harry-" he says softly.
"No, I just-" Harry cuts himself off, running a hand through his hair. The speedometer is creeping up slowly. "I just, like. I really love you and I just. It was hard for me, I guess, last night." Swallowing tightly, Louis thinks maybe his throat is failing him.
"Harry, no, stop. I- it wasn't like that. Don't think that you were, um- doing that at all. I just- I love you too, you know? And, fuck, Harry, this is it, you know? And I don't want you to regret a single minute of it." Harry's quiet for awhile, driving in silence. He doesn't look at Louis. Finally, he says, just barely above a whisper.
"I wouldn't regret it, Louis." Louis smiles bitterly out the window, curling his knees up to his chin, wrapping his arms around himself. Harry's so young.
"We'll be okay, H." He reaches out, blindly, grasping for Harry's hand, curling it around his own. Harry sighs, slumping back into his seat, squeezing Louis's hand.
"Yeah." They decide to spend the night in Texola, Oklahoma. Another room that looks exactly the same, but Harry takes them a little further off the highway into the town, to a small motel on the mainstreet. Louis points to a diner.
"I'm starving," he says. Harry nods. They've been quiet all day, barely stopping. Louis stared out the window at the world rushing past them, feeling their time slipping out of his hands too quickly. He wanted to beg Harry to pull over at the curiosity museums, the roadshows, but Harry just drove on, foot heavy on the gas pedal. Now, though, they step into the diner, into a thick cloud of chicken fried steak aroma, gravy and mashed potatoes on every plate. Harry looks at Louis, now, excitement in his eyes.
"Imagine how much fat is in a single dish here," he whispers, and Louis wrinkles his nose, patting his belly.
"Just what I need," he hisses back, sticking out his tongue. Harry rolls his eyes, pulling him to a booth. A girl about their age comes up to take their order and immediately melts as soon as Harry opens his mouth. Louis hides his smile in the menu. Harry eats it up, too, of course.
"Tell me, love," he says, accent heavy and dripping from his pretty lips, "what do you recommend?" and the girl, Krissy, her name-tag says, just about swoons.
"Well, I love the meatloaf," she chatters. "It's my ma's recipe and we've been makin' it forever, but the steaks are all real good, too. Need some potatoes, also, the garlic ones are my favorite-" She's still talking but Louis tunes it out, only hopping back into the conversation when he hears Harry order and Krissy's attention is turned to Louis.
"I'd like the chicken sandwich and a house salad, please," he says, smiling politely at her. She gives him a closed-mouth smile back and nods, taking his menu. Harry winks at her when she makes to walk away, and she giggles, blushing madly. Louis rolls his eyes at Harry and Harry just grins, not at all ashamed.
"Why not use it to our advantage, eh?" he says.
"You're a pig," Louis says, kicking at Harry's ankle. When they ask for their bill, Krissy brings it to them and hovers for a moment, twisting her blonde hair around her finger nervously.
"So, um, I was just thinkin' that my friends and me are gettin' together later tonight? Out past town a little bit, in the field. You just take mainstreet down till you hit the field, it's real easy to find and, like, maybe you guys would be interested in coming?" She's looking at Harry, talking to Harry, but she glances at Louis too, smiling a little more warily. Harry's nodding before she even finishes talking and he glances over at Louis. Louis shrugs.
"Sure, babe," Harry says. "We'll be there. What time, about?" She shrugs her thin little shoulders, biting her lip coyly.
"Whenever, really. Around nine, maybe? It's just like a bonfire and some beers and stuff," she says. Harry looks up at her with hooded eyes and red lips. She looks like she's going to pass out, and Louis understands. The full Harry Styles charm is not something to be trifled with.
"Sounds proper American, love," Harry drawls. "We'll see you there." She giggles, blushing madly, and twirls away, taking their bill. Louis just shakes his head, amused, grinning at Harry.
"You slag," he says. Harry laughs.
"Let's go get ready. Big night out, you know."
They make their way out to the field a little after nine, and they hear it, smell it, before they get there. There's a group of teenagers around a huge bonfire and Louis has a small pang of fear about a brush fire, but shrugs it off. They would know better than he would. Krissy sees them walking up and bounces over, grabbing Harry's arm and dragging him over.
"Hey, y'all," she yells, "these are the English boys I was talkin' 'bout!" There are drunken cheers greeting them, pulling them into the circle. She has a blanket spread out and pats it, motioning for them to sit down. Louis finds a PBR pressed into his hand before his arse hits the ground and he smiles his thanks. Krissy dominates most of Harry's time and attention, which does not surprise Louis in the slightest, so he stares at the fire for awhile, smiling politely at the conversations around him. There are mostly boys, a handful of girls in short cutoff shorts and tiny tank tops, but they're either on the laps of boys or huddled together on the roof of the pickup truck pulled onto the field, coolers filling the bed. A blond boy drops down next to Louis, nudging him slightly.
"So what brings y'all to OK, then? Don't get too many foreigners 'round here, gotta say." Louis laughs a little.
"Yeah, we're doing Route 66. That whole cliche, I guess." The boy smirks, nodding.
"Yeah. Hey, I'm Jack." He holds out his hand.
"Louis," Louis says, smiling back at him. He's alright looking, big and broad in the way Louis has always imagined American boys to be, with short, cropped blond hair and slight freckles across his nose. Louis blinks away. Jack nods over at Harry.
"Your buddy should be careful, there."
"Oh?" Louis says, taking a long drink of his beer, glancing over to where Krissy has draped herself across Harry's back, giving him a massage. Louis tries not to laugh at the slightly trapped expression on Harry's face.
"Yeah," Jack says, snorting. "She's on the prowl, if you get me. Got dumped a few weeks ago."
"Ah," Louis says. "Well, we're out of here tomorrow, so, like. Harry's good at that." Jack laughs knowingly, and then he digs in his pocket, pulling out a glass pipe.
"Wanna toke?" he says, sparking the lighter suggestively. Louis glances down at it, then up at Jack.
"Sure, then, yeah, mate, thanks." He takes a long hit, letting the smoke curl in his lungs, and passes the pipe back to Jack. Jack shakes his head and motions over at Harry.
"Your bro want any?" Louis shrugs and leans over to tap Harry.
"Weed?" he offers and Harry's eyes light up, nodding.
"Brilliant, mate, cheers," Harry says, leaning over Louis to see Jake. Jake laughs.
"Y'all are so English."
"It gets us out of trouble," Louis says with a wink. The pipe is passed around a few more times and Louis is melting into the ground. Jake's pressed close to him, halfheartedly explaining American football strategy. Louis isn't really listening to him, attention more zeroed in to Harry on his other side, delicately fending off Krissy's far from subtle advances. Jake seems to notice, too, because he leans in and mutters.
"So what's up with you two?" Louis blinks. The fire is golden like sunsets and Harry's face reflects it, golden skin and glassy eyes. He turns to Jake.
"Hmm? He's my best mate. Going to Harvard in the fall." Jake nods a bit.
"You- y'know?" Tilting his head, Louis looks Jake full in the face curiously.
"Nah," he says, figuring that's the safest answer. Jake relaxes a little bit, nodding. Harry turns to Louis then.
"It's gone midnight, Lou," he says.
"Oh," Louis says, smiling up at Harry lazily. "Having fun?" Harry lies down on the blanket and folds his arms under his head, staring up at the sky. Louis copies him. There are a lot of stars in Oklahoma, he thinks. "Orion," he says, pointing. Harry nods, nudging Louis with his shoulder. Louis looks over at him. Their faces are too close, but Louis is too high and too warm and too happy to care.
"It's pretty out," Harry says, eyes jumping from Louis's eyes to his lips to his cheeks, roaming his face. Louis smiles softly.
"You wanna go, H?" he says, reaching out to pat at his hip, but something gets lost in the motion and Louis's fingers crawl under Harry's shirt to stroke little circles on the jut of bone. Harry's eyelids flutter briefly.
"Yeah, Lou, let's go." Louis nods and pulls himself up. Jake's looking at him again, this time more guarded. Louis just claps him on the shoulder.
"Thanks for the chat, mate. Great to meet you. Good luck with the football, and all. Come to England, yeah? We'll show you real football." Jake just raises his eyebrows and nods a bit, smirking at him.
"Have a good trip, guys." Louis stands up, nodding at the rest of the lads around the circle. Everyone's eyeing him curiously, but he doesn't care. Harry's making his excuses to Krissy, who's pouting. Rather unattractively, Louis thinks. After a kiss on the cheek that Krissy tries her hardest to turn into a snog, Harry waves his goodbyes around the fire and presses himself behind Louis, a hand firm on his hip, walking them back to the car.
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