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Bravery

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One thing that Niall loved about being in One Direction was the genuine friendship between the five boys—the very real love. Sometimes it was played up for cameras, sure, because not everyone can be on all the time, but the foundation, the basis for the band was true friendship. He loved that even after three years together—three crazy, hectic, massive years—he still loved just being around his mates.

The Take Me Home tour had just ended, and after the band returned to London everyone took a couple of weeks off to relax and see their families. It was nice to finally have some time off, but after a few days Niall started feeling restless, started missing his mates. It was strange, he thought, to be missing four boys that he had spent day in and day out with for months. Any sane person would need a break, some time to themselves, some time away, but not Niall. Those four boys had become Niall’s family, in a way that he never could have expected. It was a gradual shift, but one day Niall woke up and realized that when he thought of home, his mind didn’t immediately jump to Ireland. Instead, he thought of laughter—of teasing, inside jokes, and bright smiles. For Niall, One Direction had become his home. Wherever the other four mad, brilliant boys were, Niall was home.

Niall supposed that the thought should make him a little sad, but instead he was content to feel so content. He had found where he belonged, and even though some days he still had to pinch himself to be sure it was real, he wouldn’t trade it, wouldn’t trade them, for anything in the world.

Which was how Niall found himself at the door to Louis and Harry’s flat barely two weeks after the end of the tour.

“Niall!” Louis exclaimed, opening the front door and letting his friend in. “Long time no see, mate.”

“Hah!” Niall laughed. “I know, it’s been so long. You look so different!” He joked as he greeted the older boy with a hug.

“This is my post-tour, I’m not shaving because I’m not planning on leaving the house for at least three weeks look,” Louis joked, rubbing the scraggly scruff on his chin.

Niall made a face, “you might wanna rethink that look, mate. Dunno how Harry puts up with you.”

“Watch it…” Louis warned, laughing.

“Where is Harry, anyway?” Niall asked, moving over to sit on the couch.

“He went out to do the shopping,” Louis answered. “I would have gone with him, but I can’t go outside, have you seen this thing on my face?” He joked, motioning to his patchy beard, setting Niall off in a fit of laughter.

“As long as you’re not planning on making it a full time thing,” Niall laughed. “You look like someone who should be on To Catch a Predator.”

Louis doubled over with laughter, a broad carefree smile spreading over his face.

“Are you implying I look like a paedophile?” Louis asked between giggles.

“…yeah, pretty much,” Niall laughed.

“God, you’re completely right,” Louis chuckled, eyes still alight with laughter. “It’s been two weeks; it’s probably time for a shave anyway.” He sighed and pulled himself up from the couch. “I’ll be right back.”

“You don’t have to shave right now,” Niall laughed, enjoying the easy banter between them.

“No, no, you’ve already implied that I look like I molest children on a regular basis,” Louis joked. “I think the damage is already done.”

“Fuck off,” Niall said with a grin as Louis headed towards the bathroom.

While Louis was busy in the bathroom, Niall turned on the television, aimlessly flipping channels until he heard a key in the lock. Harry walked through the front door moments later with bags of groceries in his hand.

“Let me help you,” Niall offered, getting up and taking some bags from Harry into the kitchen.

“Thanks. I can never get this kind of help from Louis,” Harry joked, pulling his friend in for a hug once they’d put everything down.

“Well, you can’t count on him much, now can you?” Niall teased.

“It’s terrible,” Harry deadpanned, moving to put away the groceries. “What brings you by?”

“Nothing, really,” Niall shrugged. “Missed you guys, I guess.”

“Ni-allll,” Harry drawled, his face breaking into a huge smile at his friend’s admission. Harry reached out to ruffle Niall’s hair. “It’s weird being separated all of a sudden, right?”

“It is weird,” Niall agreed. “I always expect there to be an adjustment when we go on tour, but it always surprises me that there’s an adjustment to come back, too.”

“Yeah. We’re lucky, though,” Harry said in agreement. “We could hate each other.”

“Yeah,” Niall agreed, although he couldn’t think of a world in which that would be remotely possible. Not with the five of them, at least.

“And you’re always welcome here,” Harry said sincerely. “You know that. Our home is your home. Or well, Louis’s home. I don’t have a home,” Harry joked good-naturedly, making Niall roll his eyes at the absurdity of it all, that Harry still had to pretend like he had moved out.

He’d read somewhere once that life was all about balance—that every action had a reaction; every choice, a consequence. He hadn’t paid much attention to it at the time, but after joining One Direction, it started making more and more sense. He’d found the four best friends he’d ever have, and they’d achieved massive success doing what they loved, but it all came at a price. Privacy was gone, for one. Any sense of normalcy was completely shot to hell. People felt entitled to know every little detail about their lives. And then…then, there was Harry and Louis.

That was the biggest price they’d had to pay, by far. Harry and Louis were two of the kindest, funniest, most genuinely in love people that Niall had ever met. And they couldn’t tell anyone.

 Louis shuffled down the hall and poked his head into the kitchen.

“About time you got back,” Louis joked. “I was beginning to think you’d left me for the cornflakes.”

“Tempting,” Harry laughed, his eyes lighting up as he took in Louis’s appearance. “You shaved!”

“I had to,” Louis said dramatically, moving into the kitchen to give Harry a quick kiss before peeking into the grocery bags to take note of what Harry had purchased. “Niall told me I looked like a paedophile.”

Harry dropped the tin he was holding and burst out laughing, clutching the counter to steady himself.

“It’s not that funny,” Louis scoffed.

“He’s kind of right,” Harry giggled, picking up the tin from the floor and putting it away. As he passed by Louis, Louis reached out and squeezed Harry’s sides in retaliation, right where he knew Harry was ticklish. Harry squirmed and swatted Louis’s hands away. “Get off,” Harry giggled.

“Then take it back!” Louis teased. “My ego has been severely bruised today, I’ll have you know.”

“Oh please, you know you’re gorgeous,” Harry said easily.

Even though Louis made a face at Harry in response, Niall didn’t miss the incredibly pleased look that passed over his face at the compliment.

And Niall wondered how they did it. How they were able to keep something so normal, so beautiful, a secret for so long. It didn’t seem right that they had to suffer all in the name of record sales.

And Harry and Louis never complained once. Not once. They accepted management’s decision with as much grace and understanding as two teenage boys could. They were annoyed, sure, but they made it clear that they never wanted to do anything that would put the band in jeopardy. And if that meant hiding their relationship, then they were willing to give it a try.

It was funny, in the beginning, the things that management would say. Harry, you have to stop looking at Louis like you’re going to rip his clothes off, or, Louis, please stop molesting Harry in front of the cameras. It became like a game, almost, to see how far they could take things before management stepped in to ask them to stop. They even managed to find the humor in it when management made up a story about Harry moving out. Management had even bought a house to preserve Harry’s image, only to have it sit completely vacant. Harry did end up asking for the keys one day, and he and Louis spent a glorious night having sex in every single room.

But then, it stopped being so funny. When management declared that Harry and Louis weren’t allowed to have more than minimal interaction on stage, Louis walked out of the meeting without a single word and Harry didn’t see him again until dinner.

Niall knew that the most recent tour had really taken a toll on the couple. He couldn’t imagine how exhausting it must be to constantly be watching your back for the better part of a year, because there were cameras and people everywhere. The only time Harry and Louis could have a moment of privacy was either on the bus or in their hotel room, which they had to be very careful that no one knew they shared. Niall couldn’t even imagine how difficult that must have been, to continue that charade for months on end. Hell, it was hard for him and he wasn’t even keeping any secrets. Still, they never complained. They never said a word.

Bravery.

That was a word Niall knew was circulated around the couple quite often by fans who refused to believe what management had been trying to spoon feed them.

Bravery.

It was when they were in Australia and management called Louis and said, Louis, for the love of God will you please stop looking at Harry so fondlywhile you’re on stage? And Louis had thrown his phone so hard that it shattered, and Harry grabbed his wrist and pulled him close, whispering quiet words into his ear that only Louis was meant to hear before bending down and helping Louis pick up the pieces. And Niall thought that if a moment could be a metaphor, then surely that was it, as the rest of the band sat and watched sadly while Harry and Louis tried to salvage the pieces that management had broken.

Niall was glad to see how much good a couple of weeks off had done for the couple. Their life together, as hidden and secret as it was, was one of the most normal things that Niall had ever experienced. It was part of why he loved spending time at their flat, because it seemed to be the calm in the middle of a storm. A sanctuary, where everyone could just be who they were and no one had to pretend.

His point was driven home when the three boys were sitting on the couch, watching trashy reality television. It was some docu-drama about teen pregnancy, and Louis groaned as teen mom number three argued with her boyfriend.

“Jesus, please tell me our daughter will never turn out like this,” Louis groaned.

“Never,” Harry agreed easily.

It was little things like that which made Niall grin while his heart slowly broke. It was such a sweet, simple declaration of love and longevity that Niall couldn’t help but grin hearing it. But, it was also a declaration that could only be made there, in the safety of their own home. Because there, and only there, were they allowed to dream, and plan, and love.

Harry got up to make tea and returned a few minutes later, handing Louis a mug crafted to his exact specifications without even having to ask or double check simply by virtue of having done it so often. Louis smiled up at Harry and caught Harry’s hand in his own, bringing it to his mouth for a gentle kiss.

“Thanks, love,” Louis said. Harry smiled at Louis like he was his entire world, which Niall supposed that he was, had always been. Harry took a seat next to Louis, draping one leg over his lap. Louis placed a hand on Harry’s calf out of pure instinct, warm hands gently massaging the muscle while they both turned their attention back to the television.

“You guys seem happy,” Niall noted after a while, smiling fondly at his friends. Harry just nodded, meeting Niall’s smile with a dimpled grin of his own. He didn’t need to say anything, it was written all over his face.

And suddenly, Niall was angry. He was really, really angry. Because Harry should look like that all the time—so happy and peaceful and free. Louis had a relaxed, lazy smile on his face to match Harry’s, and Niall couldn’t even remember the last time he’d seen Louis look so content. And it wasn’t fair, it wasn’t right.

“I’m sorry,” Niall apologized, although he couldn’t say specifically what it was that he was apologizing for. All of it, really. For not being stronger, for not fighting for them, for sitting back and just letting it all happen…for everything.

“It’s not your fault,” Louis said kindly.

“Still feels like we should be doing something, though,” Niall admitted. “We all feel that way. It’s not right.”

“It is what it is,” Harry said softly. “It won’t be this way forever.”

And maybe that was it. Maybe that was how Harry and Louis managed to deal with all of the pain, and stress, and secrets…by looking forward. By refusing to believe in anything other than a future filled with marriage, and children, and complete openness. It was certainly what Niall hoped for them, at least.

Because if there were ever two people who deserved a happily ever after, it was Harry and Louis.

So, when they sat in a meeting a week later and a man in a suit turned a condescending smile on them and said, “Louis and Harry, we’re getting some worrisome feedback. Apparently fans are concerned that you two have had a falling out, and that it’s endangering the future of the band, so we’re going to need you two to act chummier for awhile.”

Harry and Louis just nodded mutely.

“Are you fucking kidding me?!” Niall exploded.

“Niall—” Louis started, getting ready to give him all the usual platitudes, but Niall wasn’t having it.

“No, this has gotten completely out of control!” Niall yelled. “First, they tell you to cool it, then they tell you to completely ignore each other, and now they want you to be friendly?! But not too friendly, right?” Niall spat sarcastically, sneering at the executive. “They’re not your puppets.”

“Niall,” Harry said softly, surprised at his friend’s outburst. “It’s okay.”

“No, I’m not standing for this shit anymore,” Niall said firmly. “It’s completely ridiculous.”

Harry and Louis shared an uncertain look before Louis looked over to Liam and Zayn, trying to gauge their reactions.

“I’m with Niall on this one,” Zayn said quietly. “I’ve never really understood it, to be honest.”

“We’ve discussed the possible ramifications before,” the executive said dismissingly.

“I don’t believe them,” Niall stated calmly. “It might have made sense a year or two ago when we were trying to break the international market, but we’ve already done that. And genuinely, I don’t think that many people would even care. Half of our fans are already convinced that they’ve secretly married each other anyway.”

“It’s too risky,” Louis said softly, looking like it was physically painful for him to speak up. “We’ve said from the beginning, if there was even a chance that it could hurt us as a band then we wouldn’t do it. The band comes first.”

“I am putting the band first,” Niall argued. “This is killing you guys more and more every day. We can all see it. How long before you just can’t take it anymore? Then the band falls apart anyway.”

“Look,” Liam said. “We’re not saying that you have to go and hang a gay pride flag out of your bedroom window or anything. We’re not even saying you have to go public at all. All we’re saying is that it should be your choice what you do. Yours. Not anyone else’s. And it should have been from the beginning.”

“It’s risky,” the executive said, trying to get control back over the conversation. “It’s really a gamble, it could go either way. Our position all along has been to err on the side of caution. We know that five young heartthrobs sell…but five young heartthrobs with two of them in a committed gay relationship? I can’t promise we can sell that.”

“We understand your position,” Zayn said quietly. “But for us it’s not all about sales. It’s about friendship. And maybe that’s stupid and naïve, but Louis and Harry were willing to hide everything for us. I think it’s about time that we returned the favor.”

“I can’t make you do anything,” the executive sighed. “But I will caution you to think long and hard about this before coming to any final decisions. If it’s really that important to you, I would suggest doing a pilot study of sorts. We can have Harry and Louis start acting more normally in public and see what the general reaction is before making any final decisions. That would minimize any potential fallout from a hasty declaration.”

“It’s up to them,” Niall said firmly. “We’ll stand behind whatever they decide.”

They all turned to look at Harry and Louis, who just stared back blankly with dazed looks on their faces.

“You guys don’t have to do this,” Louis said, voice small and hopeful.

“Course we do,” Niall said with a small grin, as if it was the simplest, easiest answer in the world. “It’s what’s right, and we love you.”

Harry’s hand shot out and squeezed Niall’s hand hard, gratitude pouring from his body. Niall looked over and saw that Harry’s eyes were filled with tears, and Niall squeezed back as hard as he could.

“I think…” Louis said, after a moment. “I think that we should sleep on it, just to be sure, but my gut reaction is telling me that I’d just like things to go back to the way they were before. Where we just lived our lives and never answered any questions directly. But I want to be able to sit next to Harry in interviews, and look at him when I’m on stage, and just stop being so fucking terrified that I’m going to say something accidentally that will completely ruin everything.”

Harry just nodded in agreement, emotions still bubbling at the surface.

“That’s a good middle ground,” the executive agreed.

“Then we’ll do that,” Niall said confidently. “And Louis and Harry reserve the right to change this plan at any time.”

The executive just nodded, realizing that he was going to have to tread lightly in order to retain some control over the band’s image.

“Great!” Liam exclaimed. “I think we’re done, unless there was anything else?”

The executive just shook his head mutely, and the boys quickly exited the office.

Once they were in the hallway, Harry and Louis pulled the other three boys into a large group hug.

Thank you,” Harry said sincerely, trying to get a hold over his emotions.

“LET IT BE KNOWN!” Louis yelled, his voice echoing throughout the hallway. “THAT THESE FOUR BOYS…” his voice cracked, and he looked up at the ceiling briefly before continuing sincerely, “…are the four best friends that I could ever have. And I don’t deserve any of you.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” Niall joked, breaking the heavy moment with a laugh. “Do you think we can still go back in there and tell him that we’ve changed our minds?”

When the five boys left the building, they walked out feeling much lighter than they had in months.

And, just like that, as simple (or complicated) as it was, Harry and Louis were finally able to acknowledge each other again in public. It seemed so trivial, but just the fact that Harry could smile at Louis during an interview and that Louis could return that smile with a fond look without having to worry about getting an angry phone call later meant everything to them. For the first time in years, they could walk without constantly looking over their shoulder.

Niall, along with the rest of the boys, was absolutely over the moon for them. He loved seeing his friends so happy, plain and simple. And happy they were. Suddenly, it was as if they were given a new lease on life and everything was exciting again. Whereas before, as much as they had loved being a part of One Direction, a part of them had become so visibly tired. Now, now that they could properly enjoy everything, it was as if every interview, every experience was as fresh and new as it was in 2011.

And, as expected, the world took notice. After they had given the first couple of interviews for their new album, people noticed that Harry and Louis were sitting next to each other, bodies touching as if the no contact rule had never existed. Gossip blogs everywhere erupted with headlines like Larry Stylinson: Together Again? And plenty of people claimed to have an “inside scoop” on what went down. Theories ranged everywhere from jealousy to infidelity to drug addiction. It was complete madness to read, and they all got a good laugh out of every new story that came out.

After a lot of serious discussion, Harry and Louis had decided that they weren’t going to come out, not officially, not with a big declaration. Instead, they were going to live their life the way they wanted to live it, and if people wanted to speculate, then that was perfectly fine with them.  Niall, for his part, was incredibly proud of them.

Niall genuinely took joy in watching the way everything unfolded. Fans often said that he was the biggest One Direction fan, and he supposed that he was now the biggest Larry Stylinson fan as well. He just couldn’t help it, he laughed at everything. Like when a reporter asked Harry if he had found a place to live now that they were back in London and Harry answered honestly, “Yeah, I’m living with Louis again.”

The reporter was clearly surprised with the answer, and fumbled to try and dig for more information.

“Oh? So it’s a big bachelor pad, then. I’m imagining massive parties, am I right?”

Niall couldn’t help but crack up laughing. Harry and Louis threw some great parties on occasion, but the typical Saturday night for them consisted of drinking tea and playing video games. They were so domestic it almost hurt.

“Sometimes,” Harry answered coyly, grinning. “It’s been quiet since we got home, we’re just happy to relax for a while, I think.”

“And Louis,” the reporter questioned, “how do you like living with Harry again? Do you miss having the place to yourself?”

“No,” Louis answered honestly. “I always wanted Harry to stay. I don’t much like living by myself, to be honest.”

Harry looked at Louis and they smiled their secret smile at each other, and Niall couldn’t stop giggling because this was how things were supposed to be.

A couple of weeks later, it became clear that it might not be completely feasible to keep absolutely everything a secret forever. An interviewer asked Harry how he liked living with Louis.

“I like it, yeah,” Harry answered. “We’ve lived together before, and we’re on tour together and stuff, so it’s comfortable.”

“There was a period of time where you moved out though, right?” The interviewer pressed.

“Kind of,” Harry said vaguely. “I dunno, I think I found myself over at Louis’s place more often than not so it just made more sense for me to move back in.”

“So there was never any feud?” The interviewer clarified.

“No, never,” Louis answered. “Just people reading too much into things, I think.”

“And Harry, I know that you had leased a place of your own for a while,” the interviewer started.

“Yeah,” Harry responded.

“Now, you must have heard about the rumors?” The interviewer questioned.

“Oh?”

“There was a lot of speculation that you never really moved in. There are a few documented reports where people have claimed to have looked in the windows and never saw any furniture inside. Would you care to comment on that?”

“Interesting…” Harry said, trying to hide his grin but failing miserably and Niall cracked up laughing.

“How is Harry supposed to live in a house where people are looking in his windows all the time?” Liam answered with a laugh, effectively saving Harry. “I wouldn’t have told anyone where I was really moving either.”

“So it was about privacy?” The interviewer pushed.

“Yes,” Harry answered truthfully. “I think we all just want our homes to be safe spaces where we can go to relax, you know? We can’t live with people looking in our windows all the time. I walk around naked a lot,” Harry joked.

“He does,” Niall affirmed. “He’s naked more than any other human being I’ve ever met.”

“So where were you living if you weren’t in that house?” The interviewer pushed, laughing.

“At Louis’s, mostly,” Harry answered honestly. “I think I’ve said before that I was couch surfing for awhile.”

“Ah, sleeping on the couch at your old flat then?” The interviewer asked with a smile.

“Sometimes,” Harry answered coyly, trying not to smile.

“Naked,” Zayn added helpfully, making the boys roar with laughter.

And just as predicted, people speculated. Some people believed that Harry and Louis had been together since day one and were finally just given more freedom by management; others believed that Harry and Louis had finally gotten together; and others still believed that they were just awesome friends. Either way, it seemed like the public was more or less accepting the change without issue.

Harry and Louis’s families only helped to fuel the fire behind the ever growing rumors of a relationship between the boys. Louis went home for Christmas, bringing Harry along with him, and although they hadn’t explicitly stated that they would be spending Christmas together, Jay’s tweet upon their arrival saying I’m so happy to have my boys home!, caused a fan frenzy that was only further fueled by Lottie instagramming a picture of Louis in the kitchen making a face at the camera with Harry laughing in the background.

And there were Harry and Louis’s tweets to each other on Christmas, which made people start to wonder if they were even trying to hide anything, anymore.

Harry Styles
Some people wake up far too early on Christmas morning.

Louis Tomlinson
Some people don’t appreciate a healthy dose of Christmas spirit.

Harry Styles
Some people give the best presents. Thanks @Louis_Tomlinson! Xx

Louis Tomlinson
@Harry_Styles some people make other people wait a very long time for their presents…

Harry Styles
@Louis_Tomlinson patience!

Louis Tomlinson
@Harry_Styles I take that back. Some people’s presents are also pretty spectacular. Best Christmas I’ve had in a long time xx

Harry Styles
@Louis_Tomlinson Definitely. Love you xx

Then, when Gemma visited the boys for New Year’s, things got really interesting.

First, upon her arrival in London, she tweeted a picture of herself with Harry and Louis each kissing one of her cheeks and captioned it simply My Brothers xx.

That picture only started more speculation.

Then, in the simplest way, Gemma, with the assistance of Niall, accidentally outed her brother.

Harry and Louis threw a big New Year’s Eve party, inviting all of their closest friends. Gemma was going around taking pictures of herself with all of her friends, and posting just a select few silly ones to twitter. She came up to Niall with big, goofy New Year’s sunglasses on her face, and he pulled a face as she snapped their picture. Taking one look at it he laughed—they looked completely ridiculous!

“You have to tweet this one!” Niall exclaimed. “The fans will get a kick out of it.”

If only he had known how much of a kick they’d get.

“Done!” Gemma giggled, already slightly tipsy from champagne.

They didn’t think anything of it until the next morning when Gemma came running out of the guest bedroom and shook Niall awake from where he had passed out on the couch.

“Niall oh my god, we’ve completely fucked everything up!” Gemma said hurriedly, tears springing to her eyes.

“What happened?” Niall asked, concern immediately overshadowing the hangover that he knew was coming. “Is everything okay?”

“Oh God, I don’t know!” Gemma cried. “Look!”

She gave him her cell phone, which showed the picture that she tweeted last night. On the surface, it seemed like a perfectly innocent picture. Gemma and Niall were making faces for the camera, just like he’d remembered. Except, Harry and Louis were directly behind them. Kissing. Fuck.

“Oh no,” Niall groaned. “Jesus. Can you take it down?”

“It’s too late,” Gemma said quietly. “It’s everywhere now.”

“Do Harry and Louis know?”

“No. God, no. I haven’t had the heart to wake them.”

“Is it…are we sure it’s unquestionably them?” Niall asked hopefully. “Plausible deniability?”

“No…it’s most definitely them,” Gemma said sadly. “God, what have I done?”

“We have to tell them,” Niall said softly. “It’s not the end of the world, I promise. It’s clearly a picture of them kissing, yeah, but it doesn’t have to be anything more than that. They can control how much they want to give away, and if they want to play it off as a drunken kiss between friends, then that’s what they’ll do.”

“Yeah,” Gemma agreed sadly. “I just feel terrible. I mean, it’s one thing for them to flirt on twitter, but it’s an entirely different story to have photographic evidence…I guess I’d better go face the music and tell them before they find out from someone else.”

“I’ll come with you,” Niall offered, biting his lip nervously. Gemma was right, this was an entirely new territory that they’d unintentionally walked right into. It didn’t have to be a big deal, but the entire point of the last couple of months had been to give the control back to Louis and Harry. Now, they’d just stripped them of that, however accidental it may have been.

The two of them knocked on the door to Harry and Louis’s bedroom.

“Come in,” Harry called sleepily.

“We have some bad news,” Niall said seriously, cutting straight to the chase. Harry quirked an eyebrow at them, and Louis lifted his head to show he was listening.

“Last night…” Gemma started.

“If you two had sex, I don’t wanna know about it,” Harry said tiredly, running a hand through his curls.

“No!” Gemma exclaimed. “And like I’d tell you, anyway. I tweeted a picture last night. It was of me and Niall, but what we didn’t realize at the time that became very clear this morning based on the thousands of tweets I’ve gotten is that you and Louis are definitely kissing in the background.”

“Oh,” Harry said, turning over and wrapping an arm around Louis who had put his head back down against the pillow. “Gem, it’s like 9:00 in the morning, couldn’t this have waited? I’m going back to sleep for at least another three hours.”

“Harry, I don’t think you understand how bad this is,” Gemma said. “This isn’t just like some dark, blurry picture that may or may not be you two kissing. This is oh hey, there’s Harry snogging Louis’s face off in the background of his sister’s picture who clearly doesn’t seem surprised because obviously this happens all the time.”

“No, I heard you loud and clear the first time,” Harry said with a yawn. “But it’s early, and I’m tired and hungover, and there’s really nothing we can do about it right now, so I’m gonna go back to sleep.”

“Besides, Harry and I said that we’d just live our life and if people speculate, then they speculate. This is just like speculation with a little bit of encouragement,” Louis said rationally, yawning at the end. “But I’m with Harry on this one. Three more hours of sleep, at least.”

Niall and Gemma left the bedroom with surprised looks on their faces. Gemma was clearly relieved not to have gotten into too much trouble, but Niall…Niall was proud. He was so proud of them he could burst. He knew at that moment  that nothing was going to shake the couple…they were going to live their life exactly the way they saw fit, and fuck everyone else. Bravery.

There was curiosity surrounding the picture, of course, but every time it was brought up in an interview Harry and Louis would casually dance around the question, never getting to the real question of whether they were or were not a couple.

Life moved forward, and things were more or less just the same as they’d always been. Except Harry and Louis smiled a lot more, and Niall, Liam, and Zayn became even more protective of the couple than they’d been before. And they smiled a lot more, too.

Then, on their four year anniversary, Harry and Louis finally went public. They were on their stadium tour when it came time for twitter questions.

“Alright,” Liam said to the crowd. “This next question says ‘if you could be part of a celebrity power couple, who would be your partner and what would your couple name be?’ Oh wow, that’s a really good question. Let’s start with you, Louis.”

Louis laughed and grinned at Harry.

“Celebrity power couple?” Louis clarified. “Like Brangelina?”

“Yes, who would be your celebrity partner and what would your couple name be?” Liam answered.

“Well, it’s not really fair to ask me that,” Louis answered evasively.

“Are you too good for twitter questions now?” Liam teased.

“No, it just doesn’t apply to me,” Louis joked.

“And why is that?” Niall asked with a laugh, loving the energy that Louis had been giving off all night.

“I’m already a part of a celebrity power couple,” Louis answered as if it were obvious. “You might have heard of us, Larry Stylinson?”

All of the boys cracked up laughing, and the crowd let out a deafening roar.

“Fair enough,” Liam said with a giggle. “Harry, what about you?”

“Um…” Harry started, trailing off with a dimpled grin that he couldn’t quite hide. “Same answer.”

“How sweet,” Niall cooed while the crowed let out an ‘awww’. “Is this the part where you guys get married?” he joked.

Louis jumped on Niall’s back, pretending to pummel him with his microphone. Harry jumped in to save Niall, laughing wildly.

“That’ll teach you to ruin my proposal,” Louis joked, giving Niall one final shove for good measure before slinging an arm around Harry.

“Wait, we’re not already married?” Harry asked with a laugh. “That’s not what the internet told me.”

“One day,” Louis answered with a grin. And then, just because it was the most natural thing in the world to do, Harry turned his head to give Louis a very brief, sweet kiss.

Niall laughed, joy lighting up every corner of his face.

And the crowd went wild.

Bravery, indeed.