It was just before midnight when Harry knocked on Liam's room door. They had an appointment here, just to finish the evening together. But it wasn't Liam who opened it, it was Louis. A rather tired looking Louis. "Hey, Liam and Niall have just gone to fetch some food," he said, and opened the door a little further so that Harry could enter. "Oh, okay." Harry didn't know why Liam couldn't have gone alone, but he didn't ask. Instead, he stepped inside and started smiling immediately when he saw how incredibly clean the room was. Everything was lying or standing in its place, Liam's suitcase leaning against the closet whose doors were carefully closed. However, there was the tip of a shirt peeking out from underneath, something Liam had certainly not wanted but probably hadn't noticed yet. The bed was made, the book Liam had been reading in lay neatly to the edge on the nightstand, a bookmark protruding between the pages. Liam hadn't come very far yet. His shoes were neatly lined up in front of the heater and the curtains were both drawn back the same distance. Harry did not need to go into the bathroom to know that similar perfection prevailed there. Liam's toilet bag was certainly empty in his suitcase and its contents were neatly distributed around the sink, the towels neatly hung over the heater.
Freak, thought Harry, and without much ado let himself fall on the bed, gave a deep sigh and stared at the ceiling for a moment. Now he had upset Liam's peace and order, but he wasn't here yet to put him in his place and, if you were to be precise, Louis had started. His shoes lay untidy next to the table where he was sitting.
Harry remained on his back for a moment, then he came up slowly and sat down in his favourite position - cross-legged. He put his hands under his legs and looked briefly at Louis, but he didn't look back. He had one arm resting on the table to support his head with his hand, which must be incredibly heavy. He leafed through one of Liam's newspapers, but didn't seem to read anything, just looked at the pictures. He seemed tired and exhausted. "Zayn is still recording." Harry's voice broke the silence in the room, only occasionally disturbed by Louis rustling as he turned the pages.
Louis nodded, but said nothing more. Harry sighed inwardly and turned his eyes away again, looking at the picture hanging over the bed. A very timid smile flitted across his face, which was not necessarily due to the motif. It was rather meaningless and boring, like in most hotels she had stayed in. Harry smiled for a completely different reason, though not for long. "We used to scribble on the back," said Louis, who was now looking at him after all. Harry turned his head towards him, the smile had disappeared. "Any silly sayings or just 'Harry and Louis were here then and there' and we always wondered if anyone ever read the messages." Harry stiffened with every word that left his bandmate's lips, but Louis didn't seem to notice or didn't care and he deliberately rode on the memory. "Yes, long time ago," Harry then tried to end the conversation, but Louis wouldn't let him off the rake. "There was one where you wrote 'Harry loves Lo..."
"Do you know when those two are coming back? I'm really hungry." Fortunately, even then, Harry's stomach was growling and signalling support. After the concert, they decided to meet here and Liam provided food. Harry had rather expected to call room service, but then he had probably made the bill without Liam. Harry was surprised that they had let him go just like that. Actually, they were supposed to stay in the hotel in the evening and not go on any excursions, and certainly not at such times. Probably Paul, their tour manager, had gone with them.
Louis, rather disappointed that he had not been allowed to finish, shrugged his shoulders and returned to the newspaper. That's good. Harry wouldn't talk about what he'd scribbled on a picture years ago. Apart from the fact that it no longer had any relevance and it was completely unnecessary for Louis to even mention it.
Now that they had gone over to keeping quiet - as so often lately - Harry quickly became bored. But he also didn't know what topic he could have brought up. Actually, he had thought that at least Niall would still be here, then he would have had someone to hide the strange atmosphere. But apparently Niall had sensed this and that's why he went with Liam.
Harry drove over his face and gave a sigh. Maybe it would have been better if he had just gone to bed without anything to eat. It was only the third day of their tour and he already had the feeling that he had been on the road for months and when he looked into the faces of his colleagues he knew that they were no different. In the morning they had been to a TV interview for a morning show and afterwards to a radio interview, with a fan meeting afterwards. They hadn't had much time to catch their breath in between or after that. Instead, Harry and Niall had gone to record, while the other three had had a conversation with a journalist at the hotel. In between a small snack, afterwards they had had to go to the concert hall and had only returned from there half an hour ago. Actually it was too late to eat and sit together, but Liam had insisted and if that was the case, then all of Liam's wishes came true.
To distract himself, Harry started to turn the bedside lamp on and off, which soon got Louis terribly annoyed. With a rather clear look he made Harry stop "'sorry. I just thought..." I wouldn't have to sit here alone with you.
Fortunately, Louis didn't insist that Harry finish that sentence. He folded the magazine and threw it in the pile with the others, upsetting them all. Liam would freak. "It was a pretty good show tonight, wasn't it?"
"Yeah." Harry nodded, not knowing what else to say. He generally didn't know how to talk sense to Louis anymore. It was all so superficial and trivial between them, and they made it hard for each other to have a rational conversation. Sometimes it was just embarrassing to listen to them. As they crept around each other, they were careful not to say the wrong thing and tried not to step on each other's toes. Most of the time their conversations broke off after a few sentences and nobody was really sad about it. If they talked, it was only in the group. There they could avoid each other when things got unpleasant. They didn't have to talk to each other by force and still they could get involved in the conversation. They really tried to make it as comfortable as possible for everyone, but Harry knew that it was no less uncomfortable for Niall, Liam and Zayn than it was for them.
Louis let his fingers crack and took a look at his watch. Was he calculating how long Liam had been gone and how long he had been sitting here alone with Harry? Was he as uncomfortable as Harry? Did he also want to just leave? "I would have liked to go away tonight," he said then, began to drum with his fingertips on the tabletop and kept looking at the door. But the door did not open. "You know that's not possible," said Harry with a shrug, looking at the beautiful khaki carpet laid out in the room and going through several escape strategies, one more impossible than the other. "I know. But just having a beer in a pub can't be too much to ask for."
"You can see that."
Louis snorted and fell back into silence. A stuffy silence, his eyes narrowed, his brows almost forming a continuous line. He had even slightly advanced his lower lip. Louis sulked. Only the crossed arms in front of his chest were missing.
"You can get a beer at the bar." Not too long ago, Harry would have suggested that HE go get Louis a beer. I'm sure Louis had similar thoughts, because his face only got darker. "It's not the same thing," he said, simply picking up a newspaper again.
"Then I can't help you anymore." Without another word, Harry let himself fall on his back again, put his legs up and closed his eyes for a moment. He had put his hands on his chest. If only he had worn a hat, he could have sat on his face and shielded himself from the bright light of the ceiling lamp and Louis' piercing gaze, which literally pierced him. So Harry just pinched his eyes as hard as he could and pretended he was alone in the room. He never thought that there would be a time when he and Louis had nothing to say to each other, and when his own presence would cause the other person physical pain. But that's what happened after a breakup, right? You couldn't just get up in the morning and carry on as if nothing had happened. Well, Harry couldn't, because Louis tried everything. But Harry's stubbornness was a colossal failure.
Harry had no idea how long he'd just lay there. But he enjoyed the quiet in the room, even if it wasn't very pleasant. Louis was certainly thinking feverishly about what he could say, only to discard all beginnings of conversation. They didn't speak more than two sentences to each other anyway. So why bother.
While he was lying on the bed, Harry didn't even get rid of the tiredness that had been there all day and that he had never been able to shake off, not even with the help of coffee. Sooner or later he would have fallen asleep for sure. But then Louis began to speak again, only very softly, but since nothing else could be heard in the hotel room, Harry understood him without any problems. Unfortunately.
"Harry?" Louis cleared his throat, sounding fragile as he said his name. Knowing him as Harry did, he was chomping on his lower lip, his hands knotted together. "Why aren't we talking anymore?"
The question caused Harry's stomach to contract painfully. Where did that come from? He wanted to pretend he didn't hear Louis' voice. But that was impossible. The best he could have done was to pretend to be asleep. But that wasn't his style either. "We're talking," he replied, unsure what Louis really wanted to hear.
"No, we're not. You know what I mean."
"No, I don't know what you mean. Enlighten me." Harry raised his head so he could look at Louis. He leaned on his forearms and wished Niall and Liam would finally come. How long could it take to get food?! Louis literally poked his eyes into his and for a split second Harry lost his breath and felt guilty. But then he blinked and took a deep breath. He wasn't allowed to let Louis get that close to him.
Louis had turned completely towards him, his right leg resting on his left, his hands wrapped around his knee. His lower lip was red and slightly swollen. "Since you came in here, we haven't exchanged one sensible sentence with each other. "In the old days, you would have talked me to death and not let me say anything."
"Well, earlier was earlier."
"What? What do you want from me?" Harry had no intention of being so cautious in asking, but Louis always managed to get him up to 180 with ease. "Are you blaming me for not talking to you now?"
"So you admit it's true!"
Harry rolled his eyes and just decided not to say anything more. If only he'd stayed in his fucking room! Then he could have avoided this pointless conversation. Even though it was long overdue. But Harry just really didn't want to talk. Not to Louis. Not to Louis about the two of you. For heaven's sake, he hadn't been avoiding him for so long, so that they could talk to each other now in Liam's hotel room! It was probably no accident that no one had been here when he got here.
"Harry, I just want things to be okay between us."
So he had to snort a bit and laugh. "That's hardly possible, is it? Don't ask me why. You should know that better than anyone.
Louis nodded. He looked like a dog that had been scolded by its master for doing something forbidden. But Harry didn't care, Louis deserved it. He deserved much more than that. Harry wasn't going to let this place make him out to be the one to blame for all this. Because it wasn't. It still took two.
"Can't we at least try? I miss... all this. I miss you and you just standing outside my door asking to sleep over because you don't want to be alone." Harry already opened his mouth to interrupt Louis at that point. He really didn't want to hear that. He didn't care one bit about what Louis was missing. It was Louis who had pulled the plug on their relationship, so now he had to watch how he coped with not having all the things he said he missed! But Harry couldn't bring himself to say his thoughts out loud, Louis didn't even let him take a deep breath, instead he just kept babbling on, unmoved, and made Harry get terribly angry and a bit touched at the same time. "That before every performance you encourage me, tell me I can do this because you believe in me and because you know I'm good. That once we're backstage, you'll hug me and won't let go until we're on the tour bus. That you just always want to be near me and let me take you in my arms, cuddle with me and make everyone around us really mad. God, I miss fuzzying through your hair and your smile. The one look you always give me that makes me feel special."
That's what Louis seemed to have been dormant in for a while. Why he hadn't had the courage to tell Harry before now, he didn't know. But he didn't care either, because Louis' words meant nothing to him. They were just so over that Louis could turn himself upside down and it didn't matter. And yet it upset him. Maybe it was because Harry was a flesh and blood person, and he couldn't let something like that go, no matter how much he wished it could. But he wasn't a stone.
"I'm not 16 anymore," he said. His voice was dangerously quiet. He looked over at Louis, not quite sure what to say. But he'd never been one to think big before speaking. Most of the time, that was his undoing, but that was Harry. He had his heart on his sleeve. "I'm not running after you anymore, hoping to get some attention from you or to be noticed by you. I no longer have to fight to be noticed by you or spend time with you. "
"That's not what I mean!" Louis ran over his mouth, which Harry now sat up straight. He was about to say something back when Louis just kept talking. "And you never had to. I'm sorry Harry, I didn't mean to upset you. I just wanted to tell you that... I miss us. I miss being Harry and Louis. We're... just Harry and Louis now.
And with good reason! Harry looked at Louis with eyes narrowing to slits, he felt the anger inside him start to boil and his pulse to race. "You ended it. You all alone," he whispered, incredibly close to a fit of rage. He had clenched his hands into fists and his heart was beating against his larynx. "I know," Louis murmured and averted his gaze. He regretted having opened his mouth at all.
"And what do you want me to do now, just forget about it and go back to messing with you like I did when I was 16? When things were good between us?"
Louis didn't say anything, but Harry knew that's exactly what he wanted. "I'm sorry, I can't. You're right, there's no more Harry and Louis, there's just you and me." That had done it, because now Louis' little mouse was silent and didn't dare look Harry in the eye for even a second. "Meanwhile, he had already got up and held his shoes. He had really lost his appetite now, but before he even had a hand on the door handle, the door swung open and a good-humoured, laughing Niall came into the room, loaded with two large pizza boxes. Behind him Liam, also with pizza in his hand and rolling his eyes. Probably because Niall had just said something incredibly stupid. "Harold!" exclaimed Niall gleefully, pushing a bag into his hand in which Harry could make out beer cans. "Where did you get the pizza? In Italy?" he asked, grudgingly. His friends had remarkably bad timing.
"No, but you have no idea how incredibly tiring it is to get in and out of a hotel unnoticed." Liam put her food on the table and with a nimble hand movement he arranged his magazines. He could only speak with one mouth over Louis' shoes lying around. No, of course Harry didn't know that. How could he, like he'd ever tried to get out of a building unnoticed? Inside, his eyes rolled, sometimes Liam was really precocious. "What are you standing there like an idiot for, sit down." Niall had also got rid of the pizza and pushed Harry onto the bed, sat next to him.
As Harry didn't want any drama when the others were here, he put his shoes down again and sat down. There was no point in him rebelling now and everyone just asking what was going on. However, nothing was settled for him yet. But he had to put that off until later. Now he got a pizza on his lap. Liam had made himself comfortable on the floor, handed out the beer cans. Next time they might be better off stealing food from the kitchen again, like when Louis and he - "I'll bring something over to Zayn," said Harry, then got up hastily and disappeared from the room before anyone could stop him. But he had to collect himself before he could go to Zayn. He could smell that something was wrong right away. Sometimes Harry thought he had developed extra antennas for something like this. Or maybe it was not at all impossible to react sensitively to certain vibrations if you had grown up with women only.
Harry drove over his face and hair, looked back over his shoulder. What did Louis actually want from him? For them to become friends again? Or that they would be a couple again? Maybe he should have let him finish, then he'd have had an answer. Louis missed him. Harry looked back at the door and now he was tormenting his own lower lip. Had he just been too hard? But why did Louis bring it up now when he was halfway through it all? Did Louis have to keep poking around in old wounds? They weren't Harry and Louis anymore. Couldn't Louis accept that it wasn't like before and wouldn't be like before? Harry shook his head and shook off any thoughts of Louis. He had to stop thinking about it, otherwise he would still be standing here in an hour and then the pizza would be cold and he wouldn't have to go to Zayn anymore.
The room where they were recording was just down the hall on the right side. Zayn and also Julian, their producer and songwriter, were really grateful for the pizza Harry brought them and neither of them seemed to notice that Harry was slightly beside himself. But he also managed to hide Louis completely and just fool around a bit with his colleague. He and Zayn were not the best of friends and told each other their deepest secrets, but when Harry was in a bad mood, he could count on Zayn to make him laugh again in seconds. They had this kind of friendship in which no one demanded or presupposed anything from the other. They could just be together and talk about completely trivial things or they could be silent and just enjoy each other's presence.
Over the years, Zayn had adopted him as his little brother, whom he tried to protect from the press. Harry did not resent his protective instinct. It was actually quite nice that Zayn stood up for him and tried to help him, especially when Harry himself did not know how to deal with certain things.
"Going well?", Harry asked his colleague, quite happy not to have to record more today. Not only had the day been exhausting enough in itself, the conversation with Louis had upset him far too much for Harry to have a clear thought for singing. "Apart from falling asleep standing up." Zayn made a throw-away gesture and grinned crookedly. He didn't really look like he was about to fall asleep, but Harry understood what he meant. "It won't be long now, then we'll be done for today." From Julian came a nod of approval. "After that I'll join Liam so I won't be a party pooper again," Zayn said with a full mouth, rolled his eyes and wrung a grin from Harry. "Either way, you're the Grumpy Cat," he said, and received a blow to the upper arm for the saying. "I am not a buzz kill! I'm a lot of fun, aren't I, Julian?" Zayn looked at her producer, who made a not quite affirmative gesture, which made Zayn look completely outraged and made Harry laugh. "You see, it's no accident." They kept on fooling each other for a while until Julian practically threw Harry out. He and Zayn were going to finish today and Julian was going to go to bed. He would have liked to have stayed, but Harry followed the invitation and finally left. He had delayed it long enough to return to the others anyway. If he sat here any longer, the three of them would probably come and see where he had stayed so long.
Back in the corridor, Harry thought about going to his room for a moment. Then he was spared Louis' sight, which would only upset him again. But his stomach was clearly hungry for something to eat and the few minutes at Zayn's had a calming effect on him. So he sighed his way to Liam's room instead of just turning around, passing their temporary recording studio and being in his own realm three doors later. Before he knocked he took a deep breath and tried to put on a neutral face. He didn't know exactly WHAT Louis had wanted to tell him and he should not think about it anymore. Nevertheless a wave of rage came over him when he saw Louis fiddling around with Niall as if nothing had happened.
The boys had of course almost finished their pizzas and since Harry had handed in his, he simply stole the leftovers from them. Except Louis. He kept as far away from him as possible. Harry could still feel his eyes on him. "How's Muffti?" Niall asked him, handing him a beer can. Actually, Harry wasn't a big fan of getting drunk in his hotel room, but since they couldn't go out and party like normal boys their age, he had to make do with it. "Just don't let him hear you call him that," smiled Harry, who had sat down on the floor with Niall, the bedstead in his back and on the legs of the pizza box. "But Zayn will come by when he's finished," he informed his colleagues and devoted himself to his pizza.
For the next few minutes, Harry was only busy eating and just listening to the others. Liam sucked on his beer can and seemed completely relaxed, while Niall talked with his hands and feet and laughed most about his jokes. And Louis... Louis kept on giving Harry the most inconspicuous looks, but they didn't remain hidden from Harry. Harry looked at him annoyed and hoped that it was over now. He just wanted to eat in peace and not be stared at dead! Louis swallowed something and then turned his attention to Niall, who was just talking about a woman who thought he was Ellen DeGeneres. This happened to Niall more often than any of them would admit. While the comparison was obvious, if you looked closer you could see that Niall was NOT a woman.
"Well, I just signed with Ellen and left. I don't know if she ever realized her mistake, she was pretty upset." Niall grinned and shrugged. It was amazing that Niall always took things so lightly. He was definitely a lot more carefree and relaxed than the others and three times more than Harry. Even if it didn't always seem that way to the outside world, Harry was always worried about everything. Niall just lived for the day and took things as they came. Even when the worst catastrophe came, Niall would still stand there, laughing and saying that they would find a solution together. Secretly, Harry envied his serenity.
Even though he hadn't really thought it, it still turned out to be a pretty fun and beautiful evening and he could guess why Liam had insisted that they all still meet after the concert, even though they were tired and exhausted. Evenings like this welded the band together. Even or just when they were just talking nonsense and leaving all their worries and sorrows behind the door. There was no place for that here today. It was just about strengthening their bond and just being themselves. It was nice not to be Harry the entertainer or alleged womanizer for once. It was just Harry, who was allowed to be in a bad mood or annoyed by things. In here nobody could do anything to them.
If there were a handful of people who really knew him, they all sat in this room and they liked him for what he was and not for what they thought he could be. For these four guys, Harry X-Factor was more than grateful.
"All good?" Zayn, who had joined them at one point, had nudged him and looked at him questioningly. He had just scared Niall away from his seat so that he could sit with Harry, and since then he has been tugging Harry's curls from time to time to keep his mind from drifting off and to annoy Harry. Zayn gave unbelievably great pleasure in his plucking and he really did it at every opportunity. For whatever reason. After four years spent together, you just don't ask "What? Yes! Zayn nodded, tugged a curl again and grinned when Harry tried to pinch him but he was quick enough to avoid it. "Will you please leave my beautiful hair alone? It took a lot of effort to style it like that!"
"Oh, yes, I see every day how much effort it takes." Zayn shook his head laughing and once fuzzled over his head. "Get up, wash your hair, let it dry, done." In response, Zayn got one of the pillows in his face. That at least kept his fingers to himself and stopped teasing Harry.
Satisfied with himself, Harry tried to fix his hair, his eyes fell on Louis, who seemed to have been watching himself, and he let his hands go down again. He still looked quite hurt. His gaze asked Harry all too clearly how he could fool around with Zayn but not with him. He owed Louis an answer and finally picked up the round. It was unbelievably late and when he thought about the fact that they had to get up again in less than four hours, he got a little sick. So now he took over Liam's part and sent them all to bed. Harry helped to get rid of the pizza boxes and empty beer cans and then retired to his room before anyone could stop him. He was still getting ready for bed and was about to go to bed when there was a gentle knock at the door. At first Harry thought he was imagining it, but then there was another knock and Louis' voice came through the door. Harry froze in the middle of the room and looked at the door with wildly beating hearts. Louis had frightened him. Now what was he doing here? Louis could not possibly believe that he was still here at half past three in the morning! - Did he want to talk to him?!
There was another knocking, a little louder this time, but Harry still did not open. The hell he would, but his feet carried him to the door. He put his hand on the wood, pressed his ear against it and tried to hear something. But Louis didn't say anything, he just moved uncertainly back and forth, as his shadow shone through under the door. Harry imagined he could almost hear Louis breathing as he stood there. All he could hear was his own breath and his heart beating fast. He almost wanted Louis to say something more and open the door for him, but Harry stood firm and after another outrageous knock, Louis left. It must have been clear to him that Harry had not yet been asleep. There was still a light on in the room, but he had decided to let it go.
Surely another confrontation would not have ended well. Harry sighed softly and left the door, ready to go to sleep. But instead he put his hand on the handle and pushed it down, opened the door as if he expected Louis to stand there waiting for him after all. But Louis was not there. He must have gone to his room. Almost a little disappointed, Harry made a face. He was beyond help. If he had wanted to talk to Louis, he should have opened the door when he was there and not felt it hours later... Shaking his head over himself, he turned away from the empty hotel corridor. His eyes fell on something in front of his feet, a walkman with a cassette. "Oh, Louis," Harry muttered and bent down to pick up the things. He knew what it was, even if he hadn't seen it in years. The things had passed into Louis' possession when he split up, and Harry hadn't given it any thought until just now. Seeing them again now triggered a wave of feelings he wasn't ready to feel.
Harry turned the tape around until he could read the familiar words he had written on it: 'In case of fight. L&H'. He ran his fingers over the writing, took another look in the hallway. But Louis was still not there. That he had kept the walkman and the tape all this time... whether he had listened to it in between or even taped over it?
Harry finally retired to his room, carefully closed the door behind him and sat down on the mattress. The tape in his lap. They had recorded it then in case of an argument. The tape was full of all their favourite songs that they shared, which in a matter of seconds took them back to special moments and messages from each other to remind them why they were together and why they loved each other. Harry remembered exactly how they had recorded the tape. They had spent a whole day holed up in their apartment, shut themselves off from the outside world and picked songs for their playlist. To this day Harry didn't know where Louis had gotten a walkman and a cassette or how he even came up with the idea, but he liked it. He still did. "We'll just do this one, and if I screw up, I'll give it to you, and if you screw up and want to apologize to me, you give it to me, okay?" The tape was supposed to make them forget their fight as soon as they listened to the songs and in most cases it actually worked. Only now it would certainly not be the case.
Nevertheless, Harry opened the case and took out the cassette. His eyes flitted over the songs that were listed inside and a smile came over his face. He didn't have to read the list, he still knew exactly which one they had chosen and why. If he listened to this tape now... no, Harry did not want to live in the past. He put the things on his bedside table and slipped under the covers. He had to sleep. Tomorrow was going to be a busy day, and he had been up way too long as it was. He shut his eyes doggedly and tried to fall asleep. But surprisingly, that did not work. His brain was much too busy to listen to his tired body and something in him was desperate to listen to the tape. Just one or two songs until Louis' first message. He just wanted to hear his voice, with it in his ear, Harry could certainly fall asleep.
Slowly he turned around again and looked at the walkman, who was lying there quite innocently. It wasn't a crime if he simply gave in to his desire. There was no one in here watching him, no one to answer to. Except himself. Harry bit his lips so hard he thought he could taste blood, then his hand jumped out and grabbed the walkman and the tape. It would be a very short night.
Thank you for reading!
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