title: higher than before
word count: 8,147.
notes: well there’s not really any smut in this babe, but i hope you enjoy it regardless!! (◡‿◡✿)
This late at night, the airport feels like it’s half asleep.
It’s a strange thought, but Louis thinks it. Liam’s already sleeping in the seat beside him and everything is dim, only bright at the edges—the moon beams washing in through the walls of glass and metal cast silver strips of light across the tiled floors, across the rows of waiting airport passengers.
Louis glances around, noticing that everyone around him looks like they’re just about to doze off, and he gets it, he honestly does.
It’s almost ten o’clock, after all, and his college group isn’t being called up for at least another half hour to board the flight, which is unfortunate. He’s already gone through baggage claim and he’s had his ticket checked, and to be honest, he’s bloody exhausted. On any other night, he would probably be wide awake right now, but with a fourteen hour flight ahead of him, Louis seriously just wants to get on the plane and go.
“Hey, mate,” Niall says suddenly, sitting up in the seat across from him. He’s sitting between two people that Louis doesn’t know, and the edges of his face are lit up silver by the moonlight. “We should get some food for the plane, yeah? Reckon I passed a shop earlier.”
“Are we allowed to do that?” Louis frowns, craning his neck a bit to look around the waiting area. No one else has food, he doesn’t think. There’s a little girl with a sunhat and a flower necklace, but that hardly seems threatening. He glances back at Niall. “Won’t they take it off us?”
Niall rolls his eyes, and the wall behind him is all glass, looking out onto the landing ground where planes are sitting and getting ready to take off. It’s dark out, but past the watery image of his own reflection, Louis can make out the lights that run down the landing strip, blinking white and blue in the blackness, little stars.
Excitement stirs in the pit of his stomach, in the tips of his fingers.
He can’t believe he’s finally going to see New York.
“Oh, come on, Tommo.” Niall scoffs, standing up and tossing his duffle bag onto the seat. He stretches, mouth opening up around a yawn as he looks around. “You’re acting like we’re packing bombs.”
“Shut up.” Louis laughs, and then he pats Liam on the shoulder once, just gently. “We’ll be right back, Li. Just gone to get food.”
Liam mumbles, his eyebrows furrowing like he’s mentally telling Louis to fuck off, and Louis grins at that before glancing over his shoulder to where the rest of their college group is seated a few rows down, right in front of the passport check. Most of them are on their cellphones, some of them are sleeping, and the rest are just chatting with manic grins on their faces.
"Alright, let’s go then," Louis sighs, patting his legs before standing up, stretching a bit. "Let’s go," he says again, when Niall doesn’t move.
Niall laughs at that, and then they’re both making their way through the airport, shoulders brushing as they walk. The ceiling is high above them, all glass and metal beaming, and Louis tilts his head up and watches the way that the sky beyond it seems to go on forever, an endless stretch of blue.
“Down this way, I think.” Niall says a while later, tugging at Louis’ wrist. Louis follows him, and then all of a sudden they’re in a long hallway filled with fluorescent blue light. There’s a moving walkway that runs down the middle of it, and the sight of it makes Louis grin. He’s always liked these. They’re like escalators with no steps.
He follows Niall onto it, and they both stand still, letting it carry them down the hallway. They look a bit like twats though, because everyone else is carrying their duffle bags and heavy suitcases while Niall and Louis have their arms crossed over their chest, but who cares, really? The whole corridor is just a stretch of window and metal beams, the blue light casting shadows across their faces, the moonlight casting shadows across the tiled floor.
“We’re such lazy bastards,” Louis grins, and Niall just laughs, leaning back against the rail with a sigh. “Embrace it, mate, just embrace it.”
People pass by them, nameless people with tired faces and dancing eyes, and Louis just lets his gaze follow them. He ends up wondering where they’re going or who they’re going to, because it’s always like that at airports, isn’t it? It’s always people saying goodbye, see you later, I’ll be back in a week, I’ll be back in three years, I don’t think I’m coming back, it’s been fun.
And Louis’ thinking all these things until he catches a piece of someone else out of the corner of his eye—someone moving fast , too quick to place, their features blurred by his tiredness and the hazy blue light.
He doesn’t look back, but then his mind starts running.
Long legs, wild hair, eyes that say nothing. Was that—
No, it couldn’t be. Louis frowns, turning to look back at the place where he and Niall walked in—but it’s too late, the person’s already around the corner, they’re already gone.
Louis frowns, speeding up behind Niall as the blue hallway falls away behind them. And then they’re back in the main airport with the high glass ceilings and the rows of ticket booths, huge wall screens that blink departure dates and the terminal gates.
"Hey, Niall," he says, speaking slowly as they pass a group of people lining up to get their tickets checked. The air conditioning is turned on, and Louis’ suddenly wishing he didn’t leave is hoodie back in the waiting lounge. It’s bloody cold. "Hey, did you see Harry pass by us or am I crazy?"
“Harry?” Niall repeats, glancing back at Louis with a frown. He’s got his hands in the pockets of his sweatpants, and he’s wearing a snapback with some team logo that Louis’ never seen in his life. Typical. He shrugs, speaking over his shoulder. “Don’t think so, mate. Reckon you’re crazy.”
Louis nods at that, smiling a bit, but he’s still not sure.
It’s just—he doesn’t think there’s anything in the world that would ruin this trip faster than Harry Styles being on it. Anything.
When Niall goes into the gift shop, Louis just waits outside the doors and watches the people walking past him, the wheels of their suitcases rolling over the tile. They’re constantly moving, constantly pushing to get somewhere, and for some reason that makes Louis start thinking about Harry again.
He really hopes he’s just imagining things.
They haven’t spoken since they were both in high school, and Louis had no idea that Harry was even planning to attend Doncaster College, right—because it was never something they talked about, back when they were close.
And they were always too close, weren’t they?
He thinks that might have been the problem.
"Whatever happened with the two of you, anyways?” Niall asks suddenly, walking out of the gift shop with a bag of skittles and a carton of chocolate milk. He frowns at Louis, the blue of his eyes seeming deeper beneath the dim airport lighting. “I mean, I thought you lads used to be like, good mates.”
“Used to being the key phrase there, Niall,” Louis says, and then after a moment he adds: “He’s a prick, you know. He really is.”
“Is he?” Niall asks, frowning a bit as they start to walk back towards the waiting lounge. “I dunno, mate. I mean I’ve never spoken to him much, but he’s always seemed like a pretty cool lad. Always smiling around campus whenever I see him.”
"No, he’s a bloody twat. Believe me.” Louis assures as they move back into the hallway of glass and blue light, following in behind a line of people heading towards their plane. They don’t take the moving sidewalk this time—they just walk beside it, and Louis trails his finger along the glass of the wall, watching the watery image of his reflection there. He looks tired. He feels tired, too. "You know, he snogs every fucking thing he comes across, too. It’s pathetic."
Niall just laughs at that, nudging Louis with his shoulder. “But he is fit, right? You’ve got to admit he’s pretty fit.”
"No." Louis answers flatly, and he doesn’t even turn to glance at Niall—he just watches his finger trail over the cold glass window, liking the way that it’s all drenched in blue light. He can still feel Niall smiling beside him though, so he adds, "I’m serious, Niall, he’s really not."
It’s eleven o’clock when they finally get onto the plane.
With his hoodie tossed over his shoulder and his carry-on bag in his arms, Louis makes his way down the aisle, ducking low as he leaves the first class section and heads back into coach. It’s all dim lighting and rows of seats, and the people sitting there are all blurred out—the features of their faces tired and drawn down, lost in the dark.
Louis finds his seat somewhere in the middle.
After tossing his luggage in the overhead compartment, he shuffles in and sits down in his spot near the window, glad that whoever’s seated beside him isn’t there yet. It’s always quite awkward, being the one to show up last.
Sighing, Louis crosses his arms over his chest and glances around.
He can’t really see over the top of the seats in front of him, but across the aisle, there’s an elderly woman who’s fast asleep and two blokes from his college that he doesn’t really talk to. Figures.
It’s a moment before a figure steps into view, and Louis’ eyes are still on the person’s waist, but moving upwards—small hips, a long torso, broad shoulders, and then, and then—
“Oh, for fuck sakes,” Louis breathes, shifting in his chair.
Harry’s looking down at him from the aisle way, his mouth quirking into a stiff grin, a half-assed sort of smile that Louis doesn’t care for. “Guess this is my seat, then,” he says, gesturing to the space beside Louis.
“Guess so,” Louis answers, and then he rolls his eyes because he can’t even help it, because of course it’s Harry’s seat. Out of everybody in the world, it just has to be Harry’s seat.
Out of everybody on the whole bloody plane.
Jesus. He hasn’t seen Harry in years, not since it happened, and yet here he is. Here he is.
“You sure they won’t let you switch?” He asks after a moment, when Harry hasn’t said anything. The words fall out of his mouth before he can stop them and—just like that—Harry’s small smile is vanishing, and he’s all hard edges again, he’s all frowns and faded eyes.
Just like Louis remembers him.
“Oh, that’s nice.” Harry spits back, making a face as he reaches up to pull open the overhead compartment. He stuffs his bag inside and Louis can almost feel the anger rolling off of Harry’s body, red hot and electric. “Real mature.”
“Thanks, pal. Glad you think so.”
It’s an awful comeback and Niall would probably hang his head in shame if he heard it, but Louis just crosses his arms over his stomach and looks away, stares straight ahead at the back of the seat in front of him. There’s a television screen on it, the default screen shining red, white text spelling out Manchester Airlines, andhe keeps his eyes on those letters. He stares at them until they’re nothing but a blur.
And he doesn’t even turn his head when Harry sits down next to him, but he notices—out of the corner of his eye, he notices Harry sitting down, his whole body shifting towards the aisle like he wants nothing more than to get the hell away.
Well, shit. Good. Louis wants him to get the hell away, you know, so that works out great. Works out perfectly, actually.
Still, Louis’ brows furrow deeper and he pulls his crossed arms tighter to his body, because he feels it, too.
He feels Harry beside him now, his whole body spilling warmth
Five minutes into the angry silence, all the passengers are seated and the seatbelt buttons are turning on, the aisle lit up by flickering yellow lights. A voice spills out through the intercom saying, “Please fasten your seatbelts, the pilot is now preparing for takeoff.”
Louis goes to reach for his seatbelt, but then Harry’s doing the same thing beside him at the same bloody time, and their arms are brushing, all warmth and closeness, and it’s enough to make Louis freeze, it’s enough to make him pull his arm back and whisper a harsh, “Fucking watch yourself, would you?”
Harry stills, and then he’s turning his head and looking straight at Louis, his green eyes drenched in shadow and dim light. When he speaks, his voice is quiet, his voice is tired. “Alright, Lou.”
Louis blinks, and he’s not sure what to say so he just says, “Don’t call me that,” and then he’s turning away, because screw Harry, you know?
When the silence comes, it stays for a while.
Louis notices that it’s gotten dark on the plane—the blackness lit up by the blue and white lights that run down the aisles, washing the edges of everybody in silver—and the air seems full of static, full of excitement.
Louis gets that. They’ll all be in New York in fourteen hours.
In fourteen hours, he’ll be somewhere new, somewhere he’s never been before with his two best mates. He imagines the bright lights, the traffic, all red and yellow and green. He imagines taxi cars that stop at the side of the road when you put a thumb up, and he imagines buildings that touch the sky.
It’ll be amazing, this trip. It’ll be magnificent.
Louis shifts, angling his back towards Harry and looking out the small, oval shaped window beside him. The night outside is a deep blue, so deep that it’s almost black, and the runway’s lined with white lights. It’s nice to look at, really—it’s almost like looking at little fallen stars, or silver glitter thrown across the dark.
Blinking against a sudden wave of tiredness, Louis leans his head down against the window, and the glass is cold against his temple.
He sits like that for a while, tucked up in his seat beside the window, and he’s all too aware of Harry sitting right beside him, right there, the warmth spilling off of him making Louis’ shoulder feel numb.
He’s not sure how that works, but that’s what happens, and Louis glances at Harry’s hands, the way they’re sitting on the lap of his thighs like that.
When his eyes drift shut, he thinks there might be a voice speaking on the intercom again, but he’s not sure. The words just blur together and shift like static, and then he’s already gone, sleep rising over him like a dream and pulling him down.
Except, he doesn’t fall asleep.
He can’t, not with the plane humming and flying through the air like that. Instead, he just surfs on the coast of it—he just drifts in and out for a while, swimming through a sea of shifting dreams.
Eventually, though, he wakes to soft laughter.
Louis makes a noise, because he hates when people wake him up, but considering he’s on a plane full of people he can’t even really be all that upset. And, well, there’s always the fact that he wasn’t really sleeping.
Shifting in his seat, his blinks his eyes open.
His gaze settles on the blackness outside the window first, on the way his reflection floats across the glass. His hair’s messed up, all tousled from the way he was resting on it, but he doesn’t care enough to try to fix it. So he turns towards the laughter.
Of course, it’s Harry.
It’s still dark on the plane, still hours away from morning, but Harry’s all lit up by the small light overhead. He’s washed out orange and gray, laughing at something on the mini television screen. For a moment, Louis watches the soft slope of his nose, the small pout of his lips. They’re pink, and that makes Louis think about how Harry used to bite them.
But the way Harry’s smiling pisses Louis off for some reason, so he says, “Do you mind being a bit quieter? Jesus.”
Harry hears Louis even through his headphones, and he turns to face him with a scowl. “Oh, whatever, Louis,” He says, and his voice is tired like he doesn’t get why Louis keeps talking to him, like he doesn’t get why Louis even bothers. Why does Louis bother? And why does Harry’s voice make Louis’ name sound like that, like it’s covered in a blanket? “It’s not like you were even sleeping.”
“I was, actually.” Louis says. “I was trying to.”
Harry rolls his eyes, looking back at the screen. “Yeah, okay.”
Louis scowls, too, but his heart’s beating too fast and he doesn’t get why. And then five minutes pass—time passing like bricks fitting together, silence filled with anger—he’s speaking again and he doesn’t know why. “How’d you even get on this trip, anyway?” Louis asks, and he says it like he’s begging, or at least he thinks he does, because it sounds a lot like why are you in my life again? “I thought the you freshman were going to, like, Hong Kong this year or something.”
“Amsterdam,” Harry corrects after a moment of silence. He doesn’t look away from the screen, but he’s not laughing anymore, he’s not smiling. “I sent my form in late and got booked on this one instead.”
Louis nods, because yeah, “That’s shit.”
Harry gives him and sideways glance, but Louis just looks away because he can’t handle that, that kind of silent questioning. A moment later, Harry says, “Yeah, but screw it, right? Shit happens.”
He looks at Harry again, nodding. “Yeah. Screw it.”
And then they’re both looking away, falling into another lapse of silence.
Harry doesn’t laugh again.
The plane is all dim shadows and a low hum of voices making conversation when Louis blinks awake a while later—apparently he fell asleep again—and slowly sits up in his seat. For a moment, he’s lost, but then he remembers that he’s on a plane to New York City. Outside the window, he can’t make out anything other than a stretch of black space, a darkness that goes on forever.
So, it’s still night time, then. Okay.
Louis wipes at the back of his eyes, shaking off the tiredness.
And he forgets that Harry’s still beside him until he shifts in his seat and finds Harry looking back at him, just looking, like he’s allowed to do that.
“What?” Louis snaps, but his voice worn out with sleep. All of the edges are softened.
Harry just shrugs, and Louis notices that his curls have gotten curlier. “Nothing. Just thought you’d grow out of the snoring thing is all.”
And then Harry looks away, back at the small television screen on the back of the chair in front of him. Louis can’t really make out what’s there, but he bets it’s some crappy lifetime film.
Yeah, he bets Harry likes shit like that.
Rolling his eyes, Louis turns away with a muttered, “You’re such a fucking prick.”
It’s strange, thinking that Harry knows how he sleeps—that Harry knew it even before Louis fell asleep just now, because that’s a memory that belongs to Harry, and because that’s a memory that he has because they used to be best mates.
Louis rises a little in his chair, folding a leg beneath him and looking over his seat at the rest of the people sitting behind him.
He spots Niall a few rows back, off to the right beside Liam. A small light is turned on over their heads and it paints them orange, makes the edges of their faces seem soft. They’re both smiling and laughing quietly about something on their television screens, and it makes Louis sigh as he lowers himself back down into seat.
And again, the thought crosses his mind:
Of all the bloody people in the world, he just had to get stuck with Harry Styles.
If it were up to him, he’d never have spoken to Harry again, not even to tell him that he’s a prick. Not even for that.
Like this, time seems to pass slowly, and Louis watches as the seconds change the colors of the sky—blue becoming gray, becoming black, becoming nothing.
The minutes seem to drag behind each other and he hears them pass the way you hear bricks fitting together—it’s obvious. One after the other, again and again and again. He’s just counting the forty-fifth minute when Harry’s voice falls into Louis’ lap.
“Look,” Harry sighs, and his voice is low, steady. Shifting away a little, Louis turns is head to meet Harry’s gaze, and Harry’s eyes are dark green in the dimness, but they still shine like they used to. There’s a feeling in the pit of Louis’ stomach, but he pushes it away, his fists tightening where they’re propped on the arm rest. Harry says, “I know you hate me or whatever, Louis, I get that, but you shouldn’t.”
Louis makes a face, because fuck Harry. “What kind of logic is that?” He asks, almost scoffing, because seriously, who the hell does Harry think he is? “You think I’ll just stop hating something because you tell me to? Don’t think that’s how it works, sunshine.”
The words make Harry’s eyes harden but the change is so small that it’s almost lost, but Louis sees it—he hears the way Harry’s voice comes out a little stiffer the next time he speaks, when he says, “Well, I don’t really think you’ve got a good fucking reason, so.”
Louis smiles, and then he leans forward to whisper, “Well, then it’s a good thing that I don’t give a flying fuck what you think, isn’t it?”
Harry blinks, and he looks angry, he looks so bloody angry, and Louis’ noticing for the first time how close they are—just inches apart, so close that someone looking on might get the wrong idea. Harry’s eyes flicker down to Louis’ mouth, just for a moment, and well, fuck.
Louis backs away, flushing red, but Harry’s words follow him.
“You’re not my type, you know, if that’s what you’re thinking. I still am…that, but, what, what happened—Jesus, we were drunk, Louis—”
Louis clenches his jaw, moving away from Harry, but that just makes Harry speak even faster—
“—Oh, come on, it’s not like I’ve scribbled your name down in notebooks and hung up pictures of you in my room. I was drunk. That’s it.”
That’s it, like: you’re a bad taste in my mouth.
That’s it,like: I would never do it again, so don’t even worry.
And yeah, Louis remembers. He remembers the warmth of Harry’s lips on his, the darkness of his bedroom, the feel of skin on skin on skin, the way he felt like he was floating. Two mouths, tasting. Two mouths, laughing. Before it happened, they’d been laughing like two people that knew each other well, two people that were supposed to be together. The night had been light and hazy, filled with too much of his mum’s champagne.
Yeah, He remembers. And he remembers the panic when Harry touched him and it felt good, the I’m not gay when he was really thinking I just like you, the I need to leave when he was really thinking can I stay?
And fuck, does he ever remember the feeling in his stomach when Harry listened to him, when Harry let him go, when Harry believed him.
Louis mutters something like, “Whatever,” and then stands up, because he just needs to get away from Harry’s eyes, the damn green of them. He doesn’t give Harry time to say anything else—he just edges into the aisle, walks past rows of sleeping passengers and heads back towards the rear end of the plane, to where Niall and Liam are still awake and laughing in whispers and hushed sounds.
Niall’s lit up yellow by the light and he smiles widely when he sees Louis, sitting up a bit in his seat. “Hey, mate. Enjoying the ride?”
“No,” Louis mutters, leaning against the edge of the seat in front of Niall. Luckily, the person seated there’s sleeping, all hunched up next to the window.
“Yeah, it was a bit shaky at first,” Niall replies, just as Liam frowns and looks up at Louis with furrowed brows. “Hey, what’s wrong?”
Louis leans down a bit even though he’s far enough from his seat that Harry won’t hear—you know, just in case. “You lads won’t even guess who I’ve been seated next to.”
Niall and Liam both give him a look that means they have no idea, so Louis just makes a face. “Oh, come on, Niall, you should’ve had this one,” he says, and then he frowns. “Harry Styles.”
Liam’s eyes widen, and he asks, “What? Is he here?” at the same time Niall asks, “What? The one we were talking about earlier?”
“That’s the one,” Louis says.
“So, it’s not all bad.” Niall grins, his head resting back against the window as he looks up at Louis. “You did used to have a thing for him, after all.”
“What the hell are you on about?” Louis hisses, looking over his shoulder to see if anyone heard. Which is ridiculous, because no one on the plane even knows who Harry is, but still. His eyes flicker to Harry’s seat a few rows up—and he just catches the back of his head, hair all brown and curly, and relaxes a bit. Except for the fact he’s not relaxed at all, he’s really not. “He’s a prick, Niall, I told you that, and I’ve never had a thing for him.”
Niall’s chuckling as he eats a string of licorice that Louis didn’t even know he bought. “Mate, you picked him out of a crowd—,” He turns to Liam to add and I mean crowd, “—seriously, you knew he was there the second he passed you.” He grins, biting off a chunk of candy, “Little strange, isn’t it?”
Louis frowns. “I’m good with faces.”
But a bit of him thinks, yeah, it’s strange that he felt it, when Harry passed him. All he had to see was a small piece of him and the whole puzzle came to mind, the whole picture.
It’s always been like that.
Niall rolls his eyes and pats Liam on the chest, “Li, tell him it’s weird.”
Liam shrugs a bit, then explains quickly when Louis narrows his eyes. “Well, like, yeah. The whole thing’s a little weird. You guys were like best mates and then suddenly you weren’t, you know? Suddenly you hated each other for no reason.”
“I have a reason,” Louis points out, mostly in defense, because yeah, hearing it out loud makes it sound weird.
Niall’s still grinning like he knows something Louis doesn’t, though, and it makes Louis’ shift, his fingers circling around one of his wrists. “I told you, he’s a twat.”
“Liam,” Niall says again, patting Liam on the shoulder.
Liam looks torn but he shrugs a little, “He’s a nice guy, Louis.”
“Aye,” Louis says, narrowing his eyes at Niall, “You’re shameless, you know that?”
“And you don’t hate Harry. Not one bit.” Niall laughs and Louis, well, he needs to get the hell out of here.
“See, this is why I don’t talk to you two.” Louis shakes his head, but he gives them a small smile so they know he’ll always love them. It’s more for Liam, because Liam’s known to get sad and confused real fast.
Louis passes a flight attendant on his way to the washroom and she smiles at him, and her eyes are green so he starts thinking about Harry.
And then he tells himself to stop fucking thinking and just smiles back at her, because when he starts thinking all he can think is that he doesn’t want this anymore. All he can think is that he wants to go back to the hazy night with the mouths in the dark and skin on skin on skin.
And he can’t be thinking things like that.
Not now, when Harry doesn’t think the same. Not when Harry said, flat out, you’re not my type, like Louis’ some stain on the rug that he can’t get rid of.
The washroom’s too small and the light is too bright, all yellow and blurry, making Louis feel like he has to squint. He stares at his reflection in the mirror as he listens to the hum of the plane flying in mid-air, and then he presses his palms against his cheeks and pulls down, his eyes growing wide.
He takes a piss and washes his hands before heading back out.
The walk back to his seat seems longer, somehow, then it did when he left it. The aisle is dark and all all lit up like a runway, small circles of blue and white light running down the ceiling, but Louis still has to feel his way back in the dimness, his hands trailing over the headrest of each seat that he passes.
When he gets back to his seat, Harry’s got his eyes closed and his chin tilted down towards his neck. He’s wearing big, black earphones and it makes Louis think of space for some reason, of astronauts lost in a sea of stars.
Louis swallows, hands rubbing at his hips. He edges past Harry to his seat, careful not to touch him, and seats down, letting out a breath. They’ve been on the plane for at least three hours now, but it feels like it’s only been a split second, a chain reaction, nothing but Louis facing the truth about Harry and then trying to kill it.
Because that’s the truth, isn’t it?
He liked Harry’s mouth, back then. Still likes it now, just looking at it.
And he’s thought to himself I didn’t like it in so many different ways, so many different phrases, but whenever he thinks about Harry—really thinks about that night—it’s always the same thought: if you kissed me again, I wouldn’t leave.
But then there’s that time, three weeks after the kiss in the dark and three years ago from this moment right now, when Louis was walking home from school and he’d passed by a portable and yeah, there he was—Harry pressed up against the side with some of bloke tasting into his mouth the way Louis should have been.
What Louis remembers most, though, is the way Harry was kissing back.
And Louis didn’t hate him before, no, but he sure did then.
It was like whiplash, really—a sucker punch. It was like one of those old western shoot-em-up’s where the boy always ends up dead, his broken heart bleeding out onto the floor beside him.
Jesus. Louis would’ve given his bleeding heart to Harry, he would’ve given it to him and said, “You did this, so fix it, alright? Just make it stop hurting.”
But to do that he also would’ve had to say, I liked your mouth and what it did to me, what it made me feel—fireworks, colors and sounds and universes exploding, stars at the bottom of bellies, erupting, erupting, erupting—and Louis couldn’t do that.
Not then, at least. Never then.
Time passes on, and Louis learns again that Harry doesn’t snore.
When Harry sleeps, his breath leaves his mouth softly and it reminds Louis of a baby or a kitten, something soft. His eyelashes leave lines of shadow across his cheekbones, and all of his hard edges and anger are gone away. His fingertips twitch like they want to be held.
Yeah, Louis’ fucked up, but he thinks about this stuff.
Shifting lower in his seat, Louis turns his face towards the window. The sky is still pitch black and he watches it for a moment before closing his eyes and falling back into a blackness that’s all his own.
He blinks awake again when the sky is purpling around the edges, and the time on the television screen in front of him is saying that it’s four o’clock in the morning.
Shit. He can never just sleep on planes, can he? It’s always this in and out crap that leaves him feeling like he’s being drowned.
And seriously, the whole plane is stuck in this static sort of silence—the only noise coming from the humming of the engine, the hushed sound of laughter floating up from first class. Figures.
Sighing, Louis leans his face against the window, breathing in. The glass is cool, and he’s not even aware that Harry’s awake until there’s a voice breaking up the quiet—the words hit Louis like a punch, the kind of punch leaves that bruises. That makes you see stars.
Harry asks, “Do you ever miss me, though?”
Louis stills, sitting up in his seat and turning to meet Harry’s stare with narrowed eyes. He shakes his head, because he can’t trust himself to be okay when he’s still half in a dream and half out of it, when he feels like the walls of the plane could fall away and he would still be floating, just floating. “Don’t—”
“Just tell me,” Harry says, and his voice is tired, about to break. He’s all washed out in the darkness, but Louis can still make out the edges of him, he can still feel the warmth. “I try to act tough like you do, you know, like I don’t care much, but I do, I care, so could you just—please.”
Louis stares at him for a moment, and then he shakes his head, the blue of his eyes locked on the green of Harry’s. “I don’t miss you.”
It’s a lie, and he knows it. It’s a lie spilling straight through his teeth.
Harry looks like a mix of angry and confused even in the dimness and the skin between his eyebrows is furrowed when he shrugs off the denial, his next words sounding strained, helpless. “Why not?”
Louis blinks and almost laughs, because Harry is being ridiculous, and Louis’ starting to wish that he had stayed asleep.
“Why what?” He asks, faking curiosity. “Why don’t I miss you?” Harry flinches a bit at the question, but he nods, and so Louis just keeps talking. He keeps talking because here, in the shadows tainted blue, Harry’s eyes seem like the kind of green that could kill loneliness, and Louis really doesn’t need to be thinking things like that right now. He says, “I don’t miss you, Harry, because there’s nothing to miss.”
Harry stares at him for a moment, shaking his head. “I don’t believe that.”
Louis shrugs. “Believe what you want, mate. It’s a free country.”
Harry smiles a little at that, but it’s not the kind of smile people have when they’re happy, Louis thinks. It’s a smile that’s a little sad, a little broken. “Nah,” Harry says, speaking slowly. “I remember you. The way you were with me.”
“The way I was with you?” He repeats, spitting the words back at Harry. His voice is a harsh whisper and his heart’s beating too fast and he can’t let himself think about what that means. “Are you alright, mate? I wasn’t shit with you.”
Harry laughs, resting his head back against his headrest, tilting his neck. Louis doesn’t look at it, the pale line at it. He doesn’t think of the bruises that his mouth could leave there. “You were happy,” Harry says.
“Yeah, before you messed it up.”
“You can’t really believe that,” Harry says, and his voice is soft this time, like he’s not sure if Louis is telling the truth or not.
Louis pauses, his eyebrows furrowing. “Why can’t I? It’s the truth, isn’t it? We were fine until you went and kissed me.”
Harry’s mouth tilts up, but he looks sorry, guilty, and Louis hates himself for that. “Louis,” is all he says, but it ends up sounding like stop that, please.
But Louis can’t stop. He just can’t.
He just keeps thinking about Harry and that older bloke pressed up against the portable behind their high school, and it makes him feel shitty, like he’s lost a fight that hasn’t even happened yet.
Louis lifts a hand, wipes at his mouth. “Why are you doing this?”
“No, why are you doing this?” Harry asks, and then he grins, just a little. “Oh, so are you still in denial about wanting to shag blokes, then?”
“Oh, fuck off.” Louis sighs, facing him with narrowed eyes. The space between them feels thick with stars. “I’ve grown up, alright? I’ve fucked guys and I’ve liked it—in fact, I’ve fucking loved it. I’d do it again a thousand times over. That what you wanted to hear?”
Harry doesn’t say anything, he just looks at him, and Louis can’t deal with that right now.
“Yeah, I thought so.” He says, and he’s aware of how loud they must be against the hushed silence of the plane, so he lowers his voice, but it’s still sharp around the edges. “See, because this isn’t about me being gay or me not knowing I was gay back in high school—this is about you, alright? This is on you. I wasn’t the one out snogging other people a week afterwards, but I bet you already know that.”
Harry shakes his head, his green eyes shining in the dark.
"You know what I think, Louis?" He asks, and he doesn’t even wait for Louis to answer. “I think you’re a fucking prick for what you did—and so I kissed someone else, but fuck, Louis, at least he kissed me back. Least he told me how much he liked it.”
Louis blinks, “That’s not—”
“Just listen, Louis. You were my best bloody mate and you just blew me off, and for what?” Harry says, his voice a whisper, barely there. “Because I wanted you? Because I thought about kissing and sucking you off? Because I thought that that’d be something that you’d like?”
Louis can’t breathe, and it’s getting harder not to look at Harry’s mouth.
Harry shakes his head. “I’m not sorry for that. I wish I was, Louis, but I’m not. I’m not sorry for still thinking about your mouth or your hands or wanting to touch you even while you’re sitting in front of me telling me that I didn’t mean shit to you.” Harry pauses, licking his lips, and Louis feels his heart pounding on his tongue, “I do feel a bit sorry for you, though.”
Louis’ head is reeling, and he can feel Harry’s warmth radiating from the seat beside him—an orange glow that Louis could get lost in, that he’s gotten lost in once before.
Harry thinks about his mouth. Harry wants to touch him.
The plane is dark except for the light over Harry’s head, the lines of blue light running down the aisles, but Louis’ on fire.
He’s feels split-open, cracked down the middle, and he wonders if Harry can see the blue of his heart like this. He feels like it’s lying between them, saying, strike me. Shoot me dead.
Harry’s just staring at him, and his eyes are cold, but somehow they warm Louis up. He thinks about what Harry asked him: Do you ever miss me?”
“Yeah, I do.” Louis says, scrubbing a finger over his eyebrow. “I mean, I think you’re a twat, but yeah, sometimes.”
Harry looks confused for a moment and then Louis sees it—the exact second that Harry finally understands, his eyes lighting up as he nods and leans back against his seat but doesn’t look away. “Okay.”
“Okay,” Louis says.
They’re flying through the night sky, through an ocean of stars, and they’re looking at each other, just looking. Untouchable.
Seconds pass, and then minutes trickle by, and then the corner of Harry’s mouth is quirking up. He blinks once, his eyes heavy with sleep, and Louis just watches him. He feels like his heart’s sitting between them again, open for Harry to break, but Harry doesn’t.
And then there’s that sea of dreams again, asking Louis to come back, making his eyelids flutter and body sink down, down, down.
He dreams of Harry’s mouth on his in the dark and the second before he opens his eyes, the first thing he thinks is—it’s so warm here.
There’s something tickling his cheek and there’s warm breath falling against the side of his mouth, making heat curl in his stomach before he remembers where he is, who he’s with. On a plane to New York, beside Harry’s Styles.
The heat in his stomach grows and then all of a sudden he’s burning.
Shit. Louis opens his eyes and slowly, things start to fall into place: the way the fold out tables attached to the seats in front of them are open, a Styrofoam plate of pancakes and sausages sitting on it. The way the sunlight is falling in through the small windows, casting orange light across the rows of seats, and the way that the plane is full of laughter and early morning conversation.
His head is resting on Harry’s shoulder and Harry’s got his head angled downwards, his mouth brushing against Louis’ skull.
But Louis shifts away because he knows he has to.
So he puts his head back against his own headrest, but Harry’s still facing him, half asleep. This close, Harry’s features are softened by the sunlight that washes over his face, all golden and bright, sparking matches on the curls of his hair. His mouth is pink and partly opened and that’s enough to make Louis’ fingers tighten on the armrest, his stomach bottoming out with desire.
He’s never wanted to kiss anyone so badly in his life.
It’s like a craving that runs through every part of him, and it’s a bit harder to deal with when he’s just woken up. He feels clammy, all hot like everything’s too close to him, but he really wouldn’t mind if Harry got a bit closer.
Louis counts the minutes, and again, he hears them pass.
On the fifteenth minute, Harry shifts awake.
He had still been sleeping half-on Louis’ shoulder, so the first thing Louis feels is the removal of warmth, the replacement of cold. Louis keeps his eyes on the seat in front of him, but he hears Harry’s murmured, “Sorry.”
Without even meaning to, Louis catalogues it.
When Harry wakes up, he sounds broken. Louis wants to feel his mouth. Louis wants to feel all of him, maybe.
Instead, he just looks over at Harry and gives him a small smile before realizing that he hasn’t smiled at Harry in over three years.
Harry must be thinking the same thing though, because even after the smile quickly slips off Louis’ face, Harry’s still staring at him.
There’s little pink creases on Harry’s cheek from how he was sleeping and Louis has to drag his eyes away, has to try to force some hardness into his voice when he asks, “What?”
The word comes out too gentle and Louis swallows but doesn’t say anything else.
Harry shakes his head, but there’s a softness in his eyes that Louis hasn’t seen since that night all that time ago, when everything was hazy and his tongue tasted like Harry and champagne. “No, nothing. Nothing.”
He looks away and Louis watches the side of his face for a moment before looking away, too, out the window. The sky is bright orange fading out into pale blue, so he thinks they must be close to New York by now. New York, where he’ll lose Harry to crowds of new people they’ve never met, to new places they’ve never been together.
That makes a sick feeling settle in his stomach.
Nah, screw that.
Louis furrows his eyebrows when he realizes what he’s about to say, but by then, he’s already saying it. The words are already leaving his mouth. “Three years ago,” He starts, and then he waits for Harry to look at him before he starts again. “How drunk were you?”
Harry stares at Louis and the sunlight flooding in through the window strikes his face orange, it makes him shine. Any other day, if Louis asked him this, Harry would’ve been angry. But Louis sees that Harry notices something’s changed—because Harry shakes his head and when he answers his voice is so low, Louis doesn’t think he would’ve caught it if he weren’t watching his lips. “I wasn’t that drunk.”
Louis swallows and there’s a flare of want inside of him, so sudden that he can’t even take it. It’s shit having Harry so close, and that makes him think about why he’s been able to lie for so long—it was so easy when Harry was somewhere else, so far away that he could’ve been another planet, but now he’s here, he’s right here. And look, they’ve been on this plane for thirteen hours and Louis’ already broken for him, he’s already done for.
When it’s been quiet for a moment and Louis can still feel Harry’s gaze burning into the side of his face, he turns to face him. “You were my best mate,” he starts, finding that the words are coming out easier than he thought they would. “And I liked it when you kissed me.”
He didn’t notice until now, but they’ve been inching towards each other all this time, and now they’re close enough that Louis feels Harry’s breath on his mouth, on his tongue, and it’s like waking up.
Harry tilts his head up a bit, mouth falling open a bit like he’s saying taste me. “And if I kissed you right now?” He asks, and Louis’ seeing stars. Fuck, he’s seeing universes expanding. “Would you like that?”
Would you like that, like: you’re a good taste in my mouth.
Would you like that, like: I want to do it again, so don’t worry.
Yeah, the sunlight’s spilling in and Harry’s moving closer, his mouth brushing against Louis’ bottom lips. Their eyes are open, and there’s something electric about that. The air is gold and hazy and it’s like being in the middle of the sun. Louis licks out, because he can’t even help it, and Harry lets out a little sound that makes Louis’ chest expand, bigger and bigger and bigger.
And then they’re kissing, they’re kissing in the middle of a plane filled with people and sunlight, and it’s the easiest thing in the world.
Louis keeps his mouth shut after that, and somehow that makes it even hotter, the way Harry just keeps peppering little kisses over Louis’ closed mouth like that, the way he licks over the dip in his top lip.
Louis laughs into the kiss because Harry’s hair is tickling his face, and then his mouth is open and Harry just keeps kissing him, lips moving like he’s trying to remember.
It’s a moment before Harry breaks away, his mouth swollen pink, and Louis suddenly really wants to kiss him again.
But then there’s a voice pouring out through the intercom, flooding through the plane: “Please fasten your seatbelts, the pilot is preparing for landing.”
And there’s also the feeling of hurtling through the time and space and somehow being exactly where you’re supposed to be.
Louis blinks, looking back at Harry, and he suddenly thinks that hotel rooms are for two, and Liam and Niall have already got each other.
“Hey,” he says, his stomach stirring with butterflies as Harry waits for him to speak. “I know you don’t have like, a roommate or whatever, so you can stick by me if you want? Like, we could share a room?”
Harry’s mouth quirks up, and Louis can tell that he’s doing that thing used to do, where he tries to play down his excitement.
As the plane heads down towards the landing, Harry nudges Louis’ shoulder and lets his grin become wide, reckless. “Yeah. Yeah, I’ll stick by you.”