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Meet Me in Montauk

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Louis was running. Running as fast as he could as the icy wind whipped at his face, a warm hand in his.

“Don’t stop running, Lou!” Harry’s voice sounded like home and he was going to forget that. He wouldn’t even know how to miss it once he finally woke up. 

“I want to keep this one,” he whispered to Harry as Harry tugged him along, toward the cliff face where they’d spent their last moments as boyfriends. 

After that they’d been fiancées. Louis didn’t want to forget this part. He didn’t want to forget the way his hand had trembled as Harry slipped the ring onto his fourth finger on his left hand. 

Harry the sneaky bastard who’d proposed just hours before Louis had planned to propose to him. 

There, on the grassy cliffs of that Irish landmark with the fog rolling in and obstructing any view that wasn’t Harry’s forest green eyes, they’d made a promise to each other. A promise to share a life and a future and Louis didn’t want to forget that, not really. 

He heard a thunderous crack as he pushed forward, lungs burning with exhaustion. They’d tried this all night. There were only a few more memories left and then Harry would be gone. He had to stop it. 

He braved a glance over his shoulder and watched as the ground gave way from behind them. The memory was collapsing. There was nowhere left to run but Harry kept pulling him toward the cliffs.

“Come on, Lou, don’t let go,” he pleaded as he tugged Louis closer and closer to the cliff face. 

Louis’ foot caught on a rock and he stumbled, letting go of Harry’s hand. 

For one brief second the world froze and it was just Harry. Harry standing on the edge of the cliff, hair whipping violently as the wind from the angry Irish Sea blew salt across their faces. 

“Hey!” Louis yelled as loud as he could, staring up at the darkening sky “can you hear me? I don’t want this anymore! I want to call it off!”

And then just like that, the earth fell from beneath his and Harry’s feet and they both plunged into darkness. 

Chapter Text

Present Day

 

Louis opened his eyes, arm shooting out to silence his screaming phone. He hated waking up to his alarm. Louis wasn’t good at waking up. He felt pretty certain that there was a time in his life where this wasn’t the case, but he couldn’t quite remember. His brain felt foggy, as it usually did when he first woke up. Louis couldn’t remember the last time he’d really remembered a dream. Maybe he didn’t even dream, but there was always a strange nagging feeling that he was forgetting something that lasted into his second cup of tea. 

It was Thursday. Thursdays Louis didn’t need to be at the shop until noon, so he usually sipped his tea slowly and took his time singing in the shower before he trotted off down the street on his way to work. Louis didn’t mind his job, not one bit, actually. He loved it there, which was a good thing because he owned the place and all.

Louis’ beloved bookstore was named after, apparently, the best beaches in New York. He couldn’t quite put his finger on why it had felt like there was no other possible option of what to name his store, but it didn’t matter. It felt poetic and that’s all that people wanted in their friendly neighbourhood book store, right? So Montauk it was. Montauk, the tiny bookshop with the killer barista with the most piercing eyes in all of Manchester, Louis’ best friend, Zayn. 

Louis wasn’t too shabby of a barista himself, but he reckoned most people didn’t come so much for the perfect Americano’s that Zayn served up, so much as they came to pretend that his polite smiles were specifically for them. 

They weren’t though, because Louis knew the way that Zayn smiled when he really meant it and those smiles were mostly reserved for Louis’ other best mate, Liam. The two had been together as long as Louis could remember. Probably since grade school, it was kind of something that was hard to pin-point the beginning of. For as long as Louis could remember the two of them had been sharing private laughter and goofy smiles and not much had changed since they’d grown up. Now, with the three of them not so quietly approaching their 27th birthday, the only thing that had changed were the matching rings that Liam and Zayn each wore on their fourth fingers. 

Like everything else in their relationship it had happened quietly without the input of the rest of the world. They’d gone on holiday to London two years ago and had come back married. No muss, no fuss. They’d never cared to include the rest of the world in their love-affair and Louis had been okay with that. 

Louis had a strange relationship with the world love…he couldn’t remember why. That was a big part of the problem in Louis’ life. He couldn’t remember ‘why’ for a lot of things. Just like he couldn’t remember his dreams, he felt, sometimes, like there were giant portions of his life that were absent for no real reason. 

Of course none of those feelings were grounded in reality. People just didn’t forget giant portions of their life. Louis had changed. He had changed a good bit from the brainiac kid that sat in the front of the class room though most of uni, to the university drop out that had sold everything he owned, including a strangely empty flat, to buy an old bookstore. He didn’t think that it was a bad thing. It was just…a different path. For most of his life he’d thought he would end up being a surgeon. It was what he’d been studying for up until 3 years ago when a sudden itch over-came him. He wanted to get out. He wanted to get away from everything that his life was because suddenly he didn’t fit. 

His family and Liam and Zayn had been surprisingly supportive of the fact that he’d woken up one morning after a dream that, once again, he couldn’t quite remember, and dropped all of his classes just three weeks before exams were due to start. His professors berated him constantly for the first few months, but then they gave up. Louis wasn’t going back to school and he wasn’t going to be a doctor. 

So he bought the bookshop, learned how to make a mean latte and never looked back. 

 

Louis waved to Zayn as he walked through the front door to the bookstore. Zayn smiled back at him before turning back to sorting through a box of donated books that he was applying labels to. The store was quiet. It usually was on Thursday afternoons. Louis spared a glance down both aisles of the tiny bookstore before he made his way to the back room, hanging up his coat and stuffing his gloves into one of the sleeves. He was groggy, a pretty regular state of being for him if he was honest. It felt like there was something on the tip of his tongue, but he wasn’t quite sure what it was that he wanted to say so he did his best to ignore it. 

He ran a hand through his hair, sighing deeply and vowed to himself to pour through the shelves this afternoon and try to find that one book, the one he really loved with the guy who was a burn victim and the girl who carved gargoyles out of stone. Yeah. He wanted to re-read that one. It was a favourite and he wasn’t sure why. He seemed to have a thing for ill-fated love stories. Ones that didn’t quite give you the answers you were looking for. Those were his favourites. 

The moment he stepped back onto the floor he smelled a fresh brew of espresso. He heard the steamer working and walked to the back where he found Zayn standing behind the counter, pouring the concoction into an old mug with rolling fields of Ireland on it. Before he’d sold his flat, Louis had found a whole box of mugs boxed up in the back of his closet. He couldn’t for the life of him remember where they were from, leading him to believe that they were probably forgotten by whomever he’d bought the place from. They were from all over the globe and it felt like they were something that was important to someone at some point, so it had felt wrong to get rid of them. So they’d become the store mugs. He watched as people sipped their drinks out of them all day long as they poured through books and tapped away on their laptops and it made him happy somehow. He thought that whoever owned the mugs probably would have been happy to see them fulfilling their potential. 

“Morning,” Zayn greeted, looking at the clock on the wall to his right, “well for three more minutes anyway.”

Louis smiled, “morning mate, what did I miss?”

“Oh nothing much, sold some coffee, labeled some books. Business as usual, boss.”

Louis chuckled, he found it amusing when Zayn called him boss. Zayn didn’t need this job. He didn’t need to work at all with all the money that Liam brought in, but Zayn romanticized his job. He said he loved the way the smell of fresh steamed milk blended with the musty smell of old books. Zayn was a romantic at heart, despite how quiet he was about his own life, he had a poetic soul. 

Louis picked up the coffee and headed back into the office, only half shutting the door so he was able to jump in on the off chance it got too busy for Zayn to handle. 

 

Most of the afternoon passed without much interruption. Louis had mostly balanced his books without much interruption. Zayn had puttered away quietly, making the odd drink and dusting the shelves. It was nearly the end of Zayn’s shift when Louis heard the bell above the door ring. He listened for Zayn to greet the customer, and when he didn’t, Louis rose from his seat, peaking out of the office door. 

There, standing next to the shelf of new releases was a soft looking young man, curly hair tousled from the wind outside. He was staring at something and Louis searched his line of vision and landed on Zayn, who was frozen stiff, holding a book in his hand and staring straight at the customer. He wasn’t saying a word. Neither of them were. The whole thing sent a weird shiver down Louis’ spine. 

Eventually, though, the newcomer took a step forward toward Zayn, a dazed look in his eyes. 

“Zayn?”

He said the words like he wasn’t quite certain who he was looking at, and okay, what the hell? Louis and Zayn had been inseparable their entire lives, there was no possible way that there was a person who knew Zayn that Louis didn’t also know. It didn’t make any sense. 

The stranger took another step toward Zayn, confusion in his eyes, “uh, it is Zayn, right? Sorry. Its been awhile…I—I’m sorry.”

Zayn full out dropped the book in his hand, “I uh, yeah, yeah it’s me.”

The stranger smiled, “it’s been…it’s been awhile, eh?”

Zayn nodded, a smile slowly taking over his face, his voice sounding off. It seemed like there was something in his throat, like he couldn’t quite speak around it, “I—yeah, Harry. It’s been awhile.”

Chapter Text

New South Wales | Travel Vlog | feat. Lou <3  by trav3lwithharry

 

1,257,607 views

 

Published on June 1, 2014

 

Harry sat down in front of the camera and waved, a smile set on his face. Behind him was the hotel room he was currently staying in. 

“Hey,” he whispered, “my name is Harry and welcome back to my channel! I’m here in my hotel room in Sydney and I just wanted to check in and let you guys know what Louis and I have been up to since we landed!” He kept his voice quiet as he spoke, “this is our second night in this hotel, and someone hasn’t quite recovered from jet lag just yet. I won’t name names.” He winked at the camera and his grin widened, “but even with the grumpy jet lag, I’m so happy Louis’ here with me. He was so busy this past semester I thought I’d never get to see him again.”

A figure appeared behind Harry and Harry turned his grinning face to see Louis standing behind him. Quickly, Louis wrapped his arms around Harry’s torso and placed his chin on Harry’s shoulder, staring at the camera. 

“Good morning, love,” Louis spoke before placing a soft kiss against Harry’s cheek. 

“Morning Lou!” Harry said in his big, over-done Youtube voice that Louis relentlessly teased him about. “Say hi to everyone, you know they love you.”

“Hi everyone,” Louis parroted, giving the camera a cheeky grin. 

“Tell them what you think of Sydney so far!” Harry encouraged, pulling Louis onto his lap so they could both fit into the frame. 

“’s beautiful,” Louis reported happily, “no one else I’d rather see it with than you, Haz.”

“Aww,” Harry cooed, running his fingers along the stubble dotting Louis’ cheeks, “he loves me, he really loves me!”

Louis looked straight into the camera, “and you know it’s true love when you don’t even find them embarrassing. Christ—sorry—Crikey, I’m in over me head!” Louis said in the very worst imitation of an Australian accent ever displayed on the internet.

“Lou!” Harry scolded just as Louis reached out to turn off the camera. 

 

The screen then cut to Louis doing a foolish jig outside of an emu enclosure and Harry laughing hysterically, “that’s my man! He announced, I know you guys love him almost as much as I do!”

 

 

Present

 

Harry stared at Zayn and wow. Wow. That was really Zayn. Harry hadn’t had a moment like this in a long time. It had been just shy of 3 years since the accident and it felt like he had remembered pretty much everything there was left to remember and then he’d walked past this little book shop with the intent to scour the place for a new cookbook and BAM! 

Just like that—Zayn. 

Harry could hardly breathe and Zayn was just staring at him as if trying to figure out what was next. God, Zayn. Zayn, Zayn, Zayn Malik. Right there in front of him and Harry knew who he was. A rush of emotion overtook him then, tears flooding his eyes and falling without permission, because this wasn’t sad! This was Zayn! One of his best mates for…well, years. There was nothing sad about this revelation. After all this time, Zayn was standing right there and Harry knew who he was and maybe they could pick up wherever they left off. 

Harry began to rack his brain. Had Zayn been there? Had Zayn been one of the faces in the sea of people around him that he hadn’t remembered all those weeks he was in the hospital? Fuck. What if he had been? How could he forget Zayn, of all the people in the world. 

“I’m sorry,” the words fell from Harry’s lips just as Zayn began to bee-line for him and Harry reached out to wipe away his tears.

Quickly Zayn pulled Harry against him, crushing him to his body, “you remember me,” Zayn said, his throat sounded thick with the words, like this was something he’d hoped for. 

And how could Harry have forgotten him? How could life have been this cruel to him?

“I remember you,” Harry confirmed, wrapping his arms tightly around Zayn and crying onto his shoulder like it hadn’t been any time at all.

When they pulled apart Harry snorted a little as he wiped the tears from his eyes. This was such a good day. God, he never thought he’d be so thankful that he’d decided to wander through the door of this little book shop.

Zayn’s smile was huge, his eyes glittering as he laughed awkwardly at Harry. Quickly, though, he regained his composure and wrapped an arm around Harry’s shoulders, leading him further into the store. Zayn’s laughter sounded…well, exactly how Harry remembered it sounding. There was a lightness in Harry’s chest as Zayn encouraged him to sit down at one of the tiny tables next to the coffee station. Zayn slid behind the counter and threw together the first drink he could think of as he stared at Harry.

Zayn carried over two mugs and slid one in front of Harry. Harry smiled at the gesture as he picked up the mug and lifted it to his face. There was an outline of a city-scape on it, with the word Madrid printed across the top. Harry smiled at Zayn and sniffed the chocolatey drink, moving to take a sip.

“’s good,” he hummed happily, taking another sip of the steaming hot cocoa. 

Zayn smiled, lifting his own drink to his lips. Something on Zayn’s hand caught the light and Harry gasped, putting his drink on the table and reaching out to grab Zayn’s hand. His fingers landed on the band on his left hand, a smile on his face. 

“You got married.” And god, this day was just so good.

Zayn’s smile was dazzling, “I got married,” he confirmed. 

“I—is, is it…?” Mumbled Harry, not sure how to ask the question. 

“Liam,” Zayn confirmed, sensing where the question was headed. 

“When?” Harry said, taking another sip of his drink. 

“‘bout two years ago,” Zayn said quietly. 

Harry let out a dreamy sigh, “wish I could have been there.”

Zayn reached out and placed a hand over Harry’s, which was resting on the tabletop, “I would have loved that,” he spoke honestly, “but you didn’t miss much. The only people that were there was a nice couple from Glasgow that happened to sit next to us on the train. It was…kind of impulsive. Not that we didn’t want it, I just felt like…after some of that shit that had happened that year…we didn’t want to wait anymore.”

Harry swallowed hard, “you mean my accident.”

Zayn’s eyes went glassy before he nodded one time, curtly, “partly, yes.”

They were quiet then for a few moments, each watching the other as if they were unsure if maybe this was a dream. It had been a long time…Harry wasn’t quite sure how long. He never was. There was such a large gap in his memory that his concept of time was…challenged. He knew, though, that it had been too long. He couldn’t take his eyes off of the ring on Zayn’s finger, it was just, Liam and Zayn. They had really gone and done it and Harry had missed it. He hadn’t even know that it was something he’d wanted to see. 

Harry took the last sip of his drink and placed the mug back onto the table, his fingers running over the slightly raised word Madrid. He’d been there. His mother told him. He wished he remembered. 

“I almost got married once,” the words fell into the silence of the shop, Zayn’s features changing into pain. Harry didn’t like it, but every single doctor he’d ever spoken to had told him he had to try harder. He’d never get his memories back if he didn’t try. 

“My mum told me,” Harry whispered.

Zayn’s hand was on his again and it told him everything he needed to know. Zayn knew. Zayn knew whoever it was that had loved Harry. 

“Yeah,” Zayn breathed the word like it caused him physical pain, “yeah. Harry, you did.”

 

 

November 13th, 2016

 

Louis looked around him, boxes littering the floor. His mum was due any minute and he hadn’t finished collecting everything yet. What if he forgot something? What if he left just one thing laying around that he wouldn’t be able to understand? What would happen then? Anne and his mum had been pretty clear. They both agreed this was the best thing for Louis. The chances of there being a change…they were so low that there was just no point for Louis to live his entire life like this. He was in pain. He was in pain for every single breath he took and it wasn’t sustainable. How could he keep living like this?

He stepped into the kitchen, staring at the empty box on the counter. This wasn’t right. This wasn’t what he was supposed to be doing. This wasn’t the life he’d imagined for himself and it wasn’t fair. They were supposed to transcend all things so human. They were supposed to be better than this. They weren’t supposed to be effected by such mortal problems. It just wasn’t right. Didn’t Louis deserve his happiness? That’s what Anne and his mum had said. They said they just wanted him to be happy again and that this was probably they only way it was going to happen. He needed to forget. 

Slowly, he opened the cupboards and looked up at the mugs lining the shelves. They couldn’t stay. They would ruin everything. They would destroy any progress he made. He picked up the first mug, Mumbai was hand-painted on it with a beautifully ornate elephant head. Louis wrapped it slowly, trying not to get lost in the sea of memories that were inside of this cupboard. Next was Los Angles, followed by Tokyo, Rio and Fiji. Abu Dhabi, Rome, Athens, Johannesburg, Madrid. Each mug sent chills down his spine. They definitely had to go. He was certain of this, but as he lifted down Moscow and Paris and idea struck him. He wrapped each one carefully, placing them all inside of a box. An entire life was stacked in there. It hardly seemed fair to pack away someone’s entire set of memories. When he reached the back of the cupboard, the last mug he pulled out was Ireland. 

A tear rolled down his cheek as he taped the box closed. It wasn’t that Louis wanted to sabotage this whole thing, it was just, couldn’t something be sacred? These were their memories. They weren’t just Louis’. He couldn’t just throw them away like they never mattered. These mugs had come from all corners of the world and they were for Louis because someone had thought of him no matter where in the world he was. There had to be another way. 

So Louis picked up the box and carried it to his bedroom, pushing the box into the darkest corner of his closet, burying it in clothes and stacking Christmas decorations on top of it. They would be safe here. Their memories would be safe there and no one could take these ones away. Louis would keep them. 

Chapter Text

Victoria & Vancouver |  Travel Vlog by trav3lwithharry

 

768,539 views

 

Published on December 17th, 2015

 

“Hey guys!” Harry’s cheery voice boomed, his grin huge, “I’m Harry Styles and welcome back to my YouTube channel!”

The camera did a quick pan-over of the park that Harry was currently sitting in, and then focused back on Harry who was holding an umbrella over his head. 

“By the time this vlog gets posted I’m going to be on a plane to New York. I have enjoyed my time in Victoria and Vancouver as you’re going to see from the footage I took—oh! And shout-out to Miranda on twitter who told me I had to go to Revolver. Best coffee I’ve had in Canada to date! Anyway, as I was saying, I’m heading to New York next, in fact my flight leaves in a couple of hours. I’ve had so much fun here but I’m homesick, as usual. Thankfully, though, home is meeting me in New York. Louis’ finishing up his last exam today and is flying to New York to meet me for some pre-Christmas slash birthday celebrations and, guys, I just can’t wait. I spend most of my time on the road, but I haven’t seen Lou since I arrived in Toronto at the end of October. That’s insane. I miss him, and I know you guys do too. Every time Louis makes an appearance in one of my videos it gets more views. I think I’m starting to see which one of us you all like more.”

Harry’s grin could only be summed up with one word: fond. 

“That’s okay with me though, I like him the very best, too.”

 

The screen changed to show Harry holding the camera in the mirror of a hotel room. He waved and smiled as he spun to show the whole hotel room, stopping on his MacBook which was sitting in the centre of his giant white bed. There, on the screen in the FaceTime bubble was Louis. Harry zoomed the camera in and Louis laughed.

“Oi! Haz, I haven’t even got me hair done. I look horrible, I don’t wanna be in your vlog!”

Harry chuckled, keeping the camera pointed at the computer screen, a small picture of him holding the camera showing in the top right of the frame, “but I miss you. They miss you. The people of the internet need their fill of Louis Tomlinson!”

Louis smiled, fondness sparkling in his eyes as he ran a hand through his messy bedhead, “can’t wait to see you, baby. Six more days. Send me pictures from that aquarium, sounds like something I don’t want to miss.”

“I’ll buy you a mug.”

Both of their faces lit up on the FaceTime screen before the video jumped to Harry filming jellyfish floating in a neon tank. 

 

 

Present

 

Zayn’s palms were sweating as he tucked his phone (which was now equipped with Harry’s phone number) back into his pocket. His heart was pounding in his chest because holy fuck. It had been almost three years since the accident and he’d all but given up hope of Harry ever remembering him. It was both magical and terrifying because if Harry remembered him…there was a chance he wasn’t done regaining his memories. There was a chance that more could come back and that wasn’t going to end well for Harry. It just couldn’t. 

It wasn’t fair. Of all the good-hearted people in the world, why did it have to happen to Harry?

Zayn nearly jumped out of his skin when he heard Louis’ voice behind him. 

“Who was that?”

Zayn’s heart hammered against his ribcage because what the fuck kind of loaded question was that? How on earth was Zayn supposed to adequately answer that for Louis? It wasn’t fair. He needed to consult Jay, to consult Liam and Niall. He couldn’t just make this call on his own.

“Uh—” he started, “Ha-Harry. Harry. It was Harry. He’s, uh, he was a friend of mine for a long time.”

Louis nodded once, “hm,” he said with all the nonchalance in the world, “I don’t remember him. Wasn’t aware you had any friends that didn’t pass my strategic screening process.”

And Louis was teasing. Zayn knew that. That was all Louis ever did was tease. But this was too close. This was too hard of a blow and the sick irony of Louis saying ‘hm, don’t remember him’ was probably going to haunt the fuck out of Zayn for the next millennia. Jesus Christ, he needed a better roadmap for this shit. 

“Hard to imagine I ever had a life before you, Tommo.”

Louis grinned with all the innocence of someone who had no fucking idea what sort of nightmare he was even participating in, “it was no life at all, Zayner.”

It was your whole world, actually, Zayn thought to himself. But he couldn’t say that. 

“He seemed nice, though,” and, oh fuck. Zayn knew that shimmer in Louis’ eye and…maybe he could fix this. Maybe things could end how they were supposed to end all along. 

 

 

Zayn hovered over Liam as he stirred the spaghetti sauce, humming some shite Celine Dion song that he couldn’t get out of his head. His hands were jittery. Hopefully Liam wasn’t picking up on that. 

“Hey, Zee, it’s going to be fine, you know. He’s still the same person he always was…he just forgot some stuff.”

And, oh Liam, as fucking wonderful as a husband he was, he was also the master of all under-staters. Harry didn’t just ‘forget some stuff’. He forgot all the stuff. All the stuff that mattered and all the things that made him most happy in the world were wiped clean from his brain…and well, that made Zayn nervous. 

Well, actually, what made Zayn most nervous was the fact that he had somehow remembered his friends. If he remembered his friends…well maybe this whole night was going to be a fucking disaster…

“Yeah,” Zayn exhaled the word with little confidence. 

“Hey, babe,” Liam said as he put the wooden spoon down next to the hob, grabbing Zayn by his shoulders, “I’m worried too. Worried I might say the wrong thing. Mostly I’m worried about how to talk to him without talking about Louis. Even after all this time…it’s so hard to separate them in my head. Couldn’t ever really wrap my mind around it.”

Zayn nodded once. 

“Zayney-Wayney,” sang Niall as he boomed into the kitchen, effectively changing the entire tone of the room. That was just one of the reasons the entire world was in love with Niall Horan, Zayn figured. It was impossible to be upset in the same vicinity as a cheery leprechaun, “hook me up with some plates, I’ll set the table.”

Zayn nodded and turned to the cabinet with the plates, grabbing some and handing them to Niall. 

Approximately 15 seconds after leaving the kitchen, Niall trotted back in with one plate in his hand, “you gave me too many,” he said, no hint of accusation in his voice. 

“No I didn’t,” said Zayn, his heart picking up in his chest. 

Liam’s head whipped around to fix him with a very knowing glare. Liam was about to open his mouth before Niall spoke. 

“Did you invite Gem? She didn’t mention anything to me.”

“No,”

“Zayn Javadd,” Liam’s tone held a warning and Zayn’s skin started to prickle.

“What?” Demanded Niall. 

“Tell me you didn’t invite him,” hissed Liam. 

Zayn stayed quiet. Niall’s gaze floated back and forth between Liam and Zayn, trying to pick up on the silent spousal conversation. The moment he caught on it was evident on Niall’s face. 

“You didn’t.”

Zayn shrugged once, one pair of brown eyes and one pair of blue eyes on him. 

“Tell me right the fuck now that you did not invite Louis Tomlinson over to dinner on the same night that you asked Harry,” Niall’s voice had never been so cutting. Zayn was a little frightened by it. 

“He doesn’t know who Harry is,” he tried to argue, but his voice cracked on the word. Maybe he was making a huge mistake. 

“You better call him right fucking now, Zayn and tell him you have the shits because you are not doing this. Harry has been through enough. They both have. This isn’t you playing sly match-maker, Zayn, this is you fucking with two people we love.”

“They don’t even know each other, Niall.”

“I swear to fuck Zayn, you are playing with fire and you need to stop. They are supposed to stay apart. We agreed. We promised Jay and Anne. This was supposed to be for the best, how dare you take it upon yourself to decide otherwise. What do you think is going to happen if they meet?”

“Nothing, Niall. Nothing is going to happen. Maybe they’ll get on. Would that be so fucking bad, them getting a second chance?”

“YES!” Bellowed Niall, “yes, it would be a fucking nightmare because Harry remembers things! He’s trying every day to remember more. Anne has told him things. He knows about Louis. He has his fucking ring in a box in his flat, Zayn. Harry could remember him!”

“AND?”

“Zayn, it’s a bad idea,” Liam’s tone was even, but Zayn could sense the stress in it, “call Louis. Call him right now Zayn, before it’s too late.”

“Harry could remember him, do you know how much damage that can cause?”

I want that,” Zayn snipped, “I want him to remember Louis. I want them to be the people we used to know.”

“Zayn, that’s not fair. That’s not fair to either of them,” scolded Liam. 

“Louis can’t remember Harry, Zayn, did you forget that fucking fact?” Niall had never been so cutting and, fuck. Maybe Zayn did fuck up. Maybe he wasn’t acting in their best interests. He needed to admit defeat and call Louis to cancel. 

“I just wanted to see them happy,” said Zayn, defeat in his voice.

“But it’s not your place,” chastised Liam. 

Niall shook his head, sadness in his voice, “if Harry remembers…he doesn’t need to know what Louis did. Do you really want to be the person who has to explain to Harry why Louis doesn’t know who he is?

The feeling in the room was heavy. Zayn had fucked up. He nodded once, feeling Liam’s hand on his shoulder as it grounded him, “yeah, okay. I’ll call Louis.”

 

 

Louis’s arm was wrapped around Harry’s waist as he filmed out the window of the London eye. Harry’s chatter was slow and meaningless and Louis found he was most comfortable in moments like this. Harry chattered and Louis never forgot exactly where he was. This time Harry was talking about something meaningless, something Gemma had been complaining about. 

“You know she had the audacity to complain to me that Niall smokes too much pot when she is the one who decided to start sleeping with our friend. It wasn’t even supposed to be a relationship thing. She promised and now I’ve got to look at them all goo-goo over each other every single—what the…”

Harry’s voice stopped and Louis tightened his grip on Harry’s waist, “fuck,” he said just as the sky went dark. Rapidly every section of lights in London started to shut off, one by one. 

“No, no, no!” Louis said just as the car they were in broke off from the rest of the wheel and they plunged to towards the water.

BAM! Suddenly their feet hit the ground and Harry’s hand gripped his. They were standing inside of the restaurant they’d eaten at that night. 

“What’s happening?” Asked Harry, fear shimmering in his eyes. 

“They’re erasing you.”

The roof of the building disintegrated and the faces of the people behind them became unrecognizable. So this was what it was like. They were going to make it as though Harry had never existed. What kind of life was even going to be left for him?

“Why?” There were tears in Harry’s eyes. He didn’t know. This Harry didn’t know anything that had happened. Didn’t know that they weren’t invincible. 

“Because you forgot me.”

“Lou, I could never—”

And just like that, Harry was sucked into the sky and Louis was transplanted somewhere else into his subconscious. 

It had begun. Slowly, one by one, they were going to take his memories. He needed to stop them. He changed his mind. He didn’t want to have all these moments stolen from him. He didn’t want to forget Harry. 

They needed to hide. 

 

 

Present

 

Louis pushed the door open with his back as he juggled the box of wine he was carrying. Nothing but the best for his friends. It had been ages since he’d really gotten to hang out with Niall, and if memory served, the lad could drink. Quantity over quality really was the best bet in a situation like this. As listened as the door clicked shut behind him and felt his phone vibrate in his coat pocket as he began toward the lift. He grumbled as he tried to answer it in time without dropping the box of wine. He sighed when he saw the name flashing across the screen. Fucking Zayn. 

“Yeah?” He asked, a bit exasperated, just steps away from the lift that would put him face to face with Zayn in under a minute. 

“Where are you?”

“Downstairs, nearly in the lift. If you forgot to buy pasta I am not your guy. It’s too late. Go get it yourself.”

Zayn was quiet for a strange moment before he stumbled over his words, “uh—okay. Whatever. Never mind. See you in a minute.”

The line wen dead before Louis even got a chance to consider a response. Zayn was fucking weird. 

The doors slid open and Louis stepped into the lift. He reached out and pressed the number 9 and waited for the doors to close. Just before the doors touched an arm darted between them. They flew back open and by God, there was the lad from the shop the other day. The one Zayn knew. 

He stepped onto the lift, polite smile in place and a box of wine in hand. Louis bit his lip to refrain from grinning. 

“What floor do you need?” He asked, eyes on the curly haired boy. 

“9.”

This time Louis couldn’t bite back his grin and he felt it spread across his face. Fuck. You’d think by making it most of the way to 27 he would be a little bit smoother than this. Then again, Louis was no master with men. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d even gotten as far as liking a guy. 

“Convenient,” Louis said, meeting the boy’s eyes. Green, green, green. 

The door shut and the lift started to make it’s ascent, beeping as it passed the second floor. 

“At the risk of sounding like a total weirdo,” started Louis, “you wouldn’t happen to be heading to Liam and Zayn’s, would you?”

The boy turned this time, meeting Louis’ eyes and Louis felt something prickle at the bottom of his spine. 

“You’re not a stalker are you?” His voice was playful. 

“Up until this moment, I haven’t really found anyone I thought might be worth stalking,” responded Louis. 

And, well, if someone wanted to jar up unicorn tears and puppy farts, well, a great big jar of this boy’s laughter could be up there for twice the price. It was precious. Which was a weird thing to think about the laughter of a grown man, but Louis was a weird, weird person to be fair. 

“That’s quite an unsettling answer, you know.”

Louis smiled, gesturing to the box of wine the boy was carrying, “that for Niall?”

The boy couldn’t hide his grin as he nodded, “think it will tide him over?”

Louis lifted his box, nodding, “I think we came just prepared enough to tame the leprechaun.”

Ding. Floor number 7. They were almost there and Louis didn’t know why some part of him felt bitter that their time in the lift was almost over. 

“I’m Louis, by the way.”

The boy gave Louis one full-out dazzling smile, all dimples and white teeth. Louis didn’t know why, but he felt kind of doomed. 

“Charmed I’m sure,” he said, reaching his hand out to Louis just as they dinged past the 8th floor. Louis reached out, taking the boy’s hand and lifting it to his lips. Boldly, he threw caution to the wind and kissed the back of it, bowing as he grinned up at the boy who was positively beaming at him. 

“Enchanté,” Louis said, letting go of the boy’s hand, their gazes locked, “and what might I call thee, fair sir?”

There was a charming flush to the boy’s cheeks as he spoke one simple word that made Louis feel like he’d been given the secret to the universe, “Harry,” he said as the door to the lift opened.

Louis smiled bigger than he could remember smiling in a long time and gestured to the open door. 

“Shall we, then, Harry?”

“We shall, Louis,” he said, following Louis down the hall.

Louis turned around to catch Harry’s eye, “see, it’s a good name. I think you’ll find it has quite the ring to it. Rolls off the tongue quite nice and all that.”

Chapter Text

 

December 19, 2015

 

Louis stood at the baggage carousel, watching as a million bags that weren’t his circulated. Fucking hell, New York was huge. Heathrow had nothing on JFK. He wondered how Harry was always doing this shit on his own, didn’t he get scared? Louis supposed he just relied on his charm. Few could resist the charm that Harry Styles was able to convey with nothing more than a smile in someone’s direction. 

And oh god, Louis couldn’t wait to see his charming boy. He’d been away for the six year anniversary of their first date, but tomorrow was the six year anniversary of the day that Louis had asked him to officially be his boyfriend and ‘forsake all others’. 

The past six years had been a rollercoaster, but not the terrifying kind. Around every turn was something that was somehow more exciting. Louis couldn’t believe that at just 18 he had landed himself in his dream relationship. Everything had been magic. From the first time they’d kissed, to the first time, after just a few weeks of dating, that they’d hopped on a train to Paris. Life with Harry had been the perfect adventure, their free time spent exploring the globe was the perfect contrast to Louis’ stressful semesters. Sure, he missed Harry when he was gone, but Harry was living his dream. He was proud, and even when Harry was far, far away from Louis he always called. He always said goodnight and he always brought Louis a mug home from every city he visited. 

Yeah, Harry was perfect. They were perfect down to the very last detail. Down to the day that Harry had proposed—the same day Louis was planning to propose. The bastard had beat him to it, and Louis had half a mind to tell him ‘no’ so he could ask him himself, but he wasn’t that heartless. So he’d said yes, laughing and crying at the same time and then, during dinner that night, he’d knelt in front of Harry and asked him the question he already knew the answer to. 

This coming summer, in July, there were to be married. The box of invitations was sitting in their flat, waiting to be mailed out. Louis had addressed all 200 of the envelopes during his study breaks this past week because he was anxious. He was anxious to be married to Harry and he didn’t think that was strange. The wedding was a nice addition, a night to celebrate their love with friends, but all that Louis could think about was watching Harry fill out the paperwork to change his last name. He couldn’t stop thinking about how it would feel to introduce Harry as his husband. To be able to tease him and make him giggle in the early hours of the morning for the rest of his life. Louis had always been excited for his life with Harry, but this, this was something more.

As he watched the bags spin, he remembered the device in his coat pocket. He reached in and pulled out his cell phone, turning it on. Bring on the roaming! He didn’t care. He had a boy to meet, a mum to call. He was in America! He couldn’t wait to post something on Instagram and wait for the comments to pour in. Harry’s fans were adorable. They loved him and everything he and Harry did together was the cause of hysteria among them. It was surreal, but after 6 years together, Louis was almost used to it. Almost. 

As he waited for the phone to power up he spotted his bag. He moved forward to pick it up just as his phone started to chime. It pinged and vibrated probably 16 times before his voicemail notification pinged after it. Jesus. Didn’t people know he’d just been flying across an ocean? He pulled is bag behind him as he began to look for an exit, his phone now in his hand. 11 texts were from Anne and 2 from his mum. One each from Liam, Zayn and Niall. 9 missed calls from Anne…and what the hell? She knew he was heading to meet Harry. Something felt wrong inside of Louis' stomach. The whole thing was unnerving and strange. He opened his phone, jumping right into Anne’s messages. 

 

Anne Twist:

Louis?

Sent 7 hours ago

 

Anne Twist:

Have you left yet?

Sent 7 hours ago

 

Anne Twist:

I’m not sure what time you said your flight was

Sent 7 hours ago

 

Anne Twist:

Louis…

Sent 5 hours ago

 

Anne Twist:

If your phone is still on I need you to call me.

Sent 5 hours ago

 

Anne Twist:

Have you landed yet?

Sent 3 hours ago

 

Anne Twist:

Lou… I’m scared. Please call me when you get this. 

Sent 3 hours ago

 

Anne Twist:

I’m at Heathrow now.

Sent 2 hours ago

 

Anne Twist:

Louis I don’t think I can do this without you, I wish you’d call.

Sent 2 hours ago

 

Anne Twist:

If you haven’t called by the time my flight leaves, I’m going to call you from the plane.

Sent 1 hour ago

 

Anne Twist:

Just, please call. Louis. Please. I need you. 

Sent 23 minutes ago

 

Louis gave his head a shake, stopping in the middle of the crowd, not caring that people were cursing him and bumping into him. Something was wrong. Something was very wrong and the fact that it was Anne blowing up his phone…what if it was Harry. Anne was his emergency contact on his passport. Louis travelled with him too often, so he’d made Anne his contact. Louis wanted to throw up, right there in the middle of JFK in a sea of people. Someone bumped his shoulder and his phone fell from his hands, falling to the ground. He fumbled for it, backing out of Anne’s conversation to read his own mother’s texts. 

 

Mum:

Baby, call Anne. She needs you. I hope your flight lands soon. Call me after you’ve spoken to Anne. 

Sent 5 hours ago

 

Mum:

Baby, if you need me I can get the next flight out. Nan and pop already said they’d watch the girls. Please call me when you land. I love you. I love you so much, Louis baby. 

Sent 1 hour ago

 

Bile rose in the back of Louis’ throat. Why the fuck didn’t any of these texts answer his question? His palms were sweating and he knew he needed to call Anne, but he didn’t know if he could even speak. Quickly he opened Zayn’s text. 

 

Zyan:

I’m here if you need me. Call text, whatever. I don’t care what time it is. Please keep us in the loop.

 

What loop? 

 

Niall:

Gem and I are on our way to London. Getting the next flight. See you soon, Tommo. Take care. 

 

Liam:

If you need us, Zayn and I will be on the next plane, just say the word. Love you, Louis. Let me know if there’s anything at all I can do.

 

Louis’ hands shook as he dialled his voicemail. Somehow it seemed easier to check that first than to call Anne. 

 

First new message: “Louis, it’s Anne. I can’t remember when your flight was supposed to leave. If you’re not on the plane, please call me. I need to speak to you immediately.”

 

Next message: “Louis…” Anne’s voice broke, she was obviously crying and there was just no way—no fucking way that this could possibly be happening, “baby…it’s not good. I need you. Call me. Please call me. It’s Harry. There was an accident.”

 

Next message: “I just got off the phone with the doctors…Louis I need you to get there. Call me, please, please call me.”

 

Final message: “Louis, please baby we need you. Harry needs you. They took him into surgery. They’re doing everything they can but they won’t make any guarantees. They don’t know if he’s going to wake up.”

 

Louis fell to his knees, then. This wasn’t happening. This couldn’t be happening. After all the corners of the world Harry had been to. After walking across lava stones in Hawaii, after base jumping in that country Louis couldn’t remember. After scuba diving every reef possible. After sleeping in hostels in the most dangerous cities across the globe. After more than 6 years of travelling 100 days out of the year, this was it? New York City? Nearly 9 million people managed to live there every single day and Harry, Louis’ Harry? Of all the people in the entire fucking world. Of all the places in the world he’d been, why? Why did it have to happen like this?

 

Quickly, he found Anne’s name at the top of his call list and pressed it to his ear. She answered before the first ring had even finished. 

 

“Jesus, Louis,” she said, her voice thick with sorrow, “finally.”

Louis swallowed the bile in his throat, “what happened?”

“He was texting me, just before it happened,” she started, “he was on his way to catch the train to wherever it was you were supposed to meet him. I guess he didn’t see the car coming—”

No. “No,” Louis said, tears blurring his vision as people continued to push past him, his body still crumpled on the floor, a few metres from the baggage claim. Harry. His Harry. 

“He got hit,” she said, “it’s bad. It’s really bad, Louis. They took him into surgery…they told me they don’t know if he’ll wake up.”

 

 

Louis’ leg bounced up and down nervously. He’d been waiting for hours at the hospital for Harry to come out of surgery. It was taking longer and it felt as if time had stopped completely. He couldn’t talk to anyone and he was glad Anne’s flight was still in the air because there was no way he would be able to speak. A million things were running through his head. A million whatifs?

What if he never got to send out his wedding invitations? What if Harry never got to make it home to England. What if he died right there in New York City without ever knowing that Louis was right there? What if after six amazing years Louis lost it all? What if this was all they got? It would never be enough. There was no way that six years would ever be enough. They were supposed to get married. They were supposed to get a cat, Louis promised after he started his residency that they could get a cat. Worse than that, Harry was supposed to be the father of his children. They were supposed to be those embarrassing dads were made it to every parent-teacher meeting and embarrassed their kids on every field trip. They’d promised. Harry had promised. 

Harry couldn’t just leave him. Not like this. Not without goodbye. 

“He’s in recovery,” said a sweet nurse who was now standing in front of Louis, “you can go in there and wait with him.”

Louis was on his feet before she even finished the sentence. He trotted behind her mechanically. He wasn’t sure that this was how he ever wanted to see Harry, but he’d be there, just like he always had been. They were there for each other, not out of obligation, not like some couples he knew. No, he was there for Harry because there was no other choice. Because Louis without Harry wasn’t possible. It was like being without his limbs. It would be no life at all. There was nothing left for him without Harry. 

Tears brimmed in his eyes when he saw Harry in the hospital bed, eyes blackened and closed. He was asleep, hooked up to all kinds of machines and Louis just couldn’t handle the image. Harry was young and healthy and happy. They were so happy. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. 

 

 

Louis woke up to the sound of coughing. He opened his eyes and it took him a minute to realize where he was. His head was resting on Harry’s hospital bed. Quickly he looked up to Harry, who’s eyes were finally open. It had been hours. Louis had quite literally crumpled in exhaustion. Anne wasn’t there yet. Neither were Gemma and Niall. He hadn’t even called his mum yet. He’d just sent one text telling her he’d made it to the hospital. He was at the very end of his rope. He’d never been this emotionally drained. He’d never felt this way before. His whole word was falling apart. 

But now Harry was waking up. 

Harry was alive and he was awake and Louis wanted to crawl on top of him and kiss him until they were gasping for breath. He wanted to tell Harry every tiny minuscule thing that he loved about him. He didn’t want Harry to think he’d ever take another second of their life together for granted. 

Harry cleared his throat, Louis’ eyes still on him, a million emotions flowing through him. He was okay. Harry was okay and they could get through this. Harry was alive and that was proof that nothing—no thing feared by mere mortals—could ever, ever come between them. They had a life to live and Louis couldn’t wait to get back to it. 

“Wh—where am I?” Harry asked, eyes scanning the room. 

“New York, baby. You’re in a hospital in New York…I—I can’t remember what it’s called…”

“What happened?” Harry’s voice cut in. 

“You got hit by a car. You mom and Gem are on their way. Something happened to your head…they had to do surgery. I—”

Harry’s face held an expression that Louis had never seen before. Not in 6 years. Something sick twisted in his stomach. Something wrong. Something was very, very wrong. He could read it in Harry’s eyes. 

“Why…why are you wearing jeans?” Harry asked, “Are you even a doctor?”

Louis’ jaw went slack, “I—I mean, not yet,” he didn’t know what else to say. No he wasn’t a doctor. Harry knew that. Harry knew that, right? 

Their eyes met then and Louis saw something he never thought he’d see in Harry’s eyes. Fear. Harry was scared and Louis wasn’t helping. Louis wasn’t enough to ease that fear and it didn’t make any fucking sense. 

“Then who are you?”

The words fell into the room, slicing open a whole series of wounds inside of Louis. Surely he’d fall apart at the seams. 

“Louis,” he didn’t even know how he’d found the strength to spit out the word. 

Confusion was evident in Harry’s eyes. There was no recognition. It didn’t make any sense. 

“Louis who?”

 

 

 

Present

 

The hallway was long. Long enough for Louis to happily fill in the walk with a bit of old fashioned conversation. Harry was grateful that Louis seemed to know what to say. Harry was horrible in these situations. He was bad at meeting new people. He blamed it on the accident. He’d forgotten so much of his life, and so many people that it was understandably hard for him to deal with adding even more people into the mix. 

“How do you know Liam and Zayn anyway?”

That was a loaded question, but of course Louis couldn’t be expected to know that. He didn’t know about the accident. He didn’t know that any memory involving Liam and Zayn was hard for him to sort though. He went with what Niall had told him earlier in the week when he’d excitedly barged into his flat babbling about seeing Zayn. 

“Well Niall moved to Manchester when he was 16 and we were in the same classes. We became best mates. Then when we turned 18 and started uni, Niall was on this football team. Liam was on it too and Zayn and I used to sit on the bench and pretend we cared about the game and talk about music and stuff,” Harry paused, “I’ve known them for a long time.”

“Huh,” said Louis, stopping when he reached the door to Liam and Zayn’s flat, “that’s funny. I was on that football team. ’s where I met Nialler.”

Harry smiled, “missed connection I guess.”

There was something about Louis that made his stomach do all kinds of uncomfortable contortions.

Louis smiled and for the first time since Harry accused him of being a stalker in the lift, he really looked at him. Louis’ hair was tousled just-so and his eyes were the most glittery shade of blue that Harry could ever remember seeing. His cheekbones sat high on his face, poised to cut glass and his smile was safe. Safe and kind and welcoming. Harry regretted, somehow, that they hadn’t gotten their timing right. He regretted that he didn’t already know Louis because there was something there. Something that he wished he could be more familiar with. 

Maybe, if he was lucky, if he just played his cards right, he’d get the chance. 

Harry must have been staring too hard, because Louis’ smile changed to a sincere gaze, “what?” He asked, smiling with just half of his mouth for a moment.

Harry felt his face flush and god. It was addictive. “I…”

Louis’ smile was back, hand poised and ready to knock on Liam and Zayn’s door, “ready?”

Harry breathed in deep through his nose, “ready.”

 

 

Harry’s nose and cheeks were pink, kissed from the sun and Louis remembered why. They’d spent the day exploring Amsterdam. This was the second trip they’d ever taken together. They’d met just eight months prior. Harry hadn’t dropped out of uni yet, his channel had barely taken off. It was full of mostly him and Louis walking through the sights of Manchester together and a video of a trip they took to London instead of studying for final exams. Oh—and their trip to Paris. 

Harry was laying back in the boat, eyes closed as the sun beat down on him. Louis wish he had've had the good sense to tell him the put on sunscreen. The sunburn he got that day ruined the next couple of days of the trip for Harry. He’d barely been able to dress and Louis had spent most of the night pressing cool towels against his skin. 

But, why was Louis back here? Why was he on a boat tour in Amsterdam and looking at 18 year old Harry and his sunburned face?

“Louis,” Harry whispered, his eyes still closed, “why are you doing this?”

Louis watched as the bridge ahead of them collapsed into the water. Oh fuck. This again. Another memory that wasn’t safe from his grand fucking plan. 

“Harry, we have to go!” 

The buildings on the side of the river started to blow away, crumbling like sand.

“I didn’t mean to forget you, you know,” Harry said as he sat up, his eyes meeting Louis’. 

“God, Haz, I know. I know that. I wanted to keep you forever.”

The boat hit the shore then and Harry started running, calling back to Louis as he took off, “maybe if we get lost, you can keep this one.”

Louis started to take off after him forcing his body forward even though he was exhausted. He pushed on, following Harry toward an alleyway where the buildings hadn’t yet blown away. A boat fell from the sky, stopping him in his tracks. 

“Don’t stop, Lou,” Harry pleaded, not sparing a glance over his head, “keep this one.”

And then, just like that, Harry was sucked up into the sky and Louis was plunged back into darkness. 

 

..

 

Present

 

Niall heard a knock at the door. Fuck. He couldn’t get a hold of Harry and Louis was already here. Just fucking brilliant, Zayn. There was no way that this was going to play out how it should. Niall was going to have to throw on his coat and wait downstairs for Harry and come up with some kind of excuse that wouldn’t hurt Harry’s feelings about why they couldn’t have dinner with Liam and Zayn after all. Niall hated that. He knew all too well the kicked puppy eyes that Harry was capable of. He was so insecure these past few years. He took everything to heart, apologizing for his very existence. 

Of course, Niall hadn’t lucked out, or anything of the sort. When Harry had first woken up, hell for most of that first year, Harry hadn’t had a clue who he was. Gemma was the only reason Niall was allowed to stick around. Even if Harry hadn’t fully remembered their past, he had at least adopted Niall as a new friend, as his sister’s boyfriend and as a bridge of explanation about the life he had forgotten. Harry relied on Niall a lot, and the hope had always been for this day to come. The hope had always been that at some point he was going to remember Liam and Zayn, but it hadn’t happened for so long that the doctors had given up hope. They doubted that harry would get back any more of their memories. 

That’s what had lead them to that night, nearly two years ago, when they’d sat down as a group. Gemma, himself, Anne, Jay, Liam and Zayn and they’d all told Louis he needed to start over. He needed to give himself a chance at a better life. It had been no way to live, what Louis had been doing. He’d stayed in that flat, immersed in the memories, calling Anne every single day and asking if Harry wanted to talk to him yet. 

The thing was, there was people that could help Louis. There were people out there with the technology to make Louis never hurt again and what kind of friends would they have been if they hadn’t told him he had to do it? What kind of friends would let someone they loved live in the pain that Louis had been in? 

There had been no other choice. There still was no other choice. It had been three years and Harry still hadn’t remembered. 

“I’ll get it,” Niall called as he walked toward the door of Liam and Zayn’s flat. He unlocked the door and peeled it open, a “Tommo!” on his lips. The word died in his throat though, when he took in the sight before him. 

Harry wasn’t even looking at him. He wasn’t even watching for the door to open at all because his eyes were glued to Louis, dimples set deep in his cheeks which were coloured a soft pink. 

Niall wanted to scream, “shit,” he said, probably loud enough for them to hear. 

“Two for the price of one,” Louis announced with a grin, wrapping his free arm around Niall’s and giving him the best hug he could with a box of wine in his hand. 

Niall forgot to hug him back. What a fucking nightmare. He was going to kill Zayn. There was just no other choice. Their friend group had suffered amnesia and Lacuna Inc, the only thing he could possibly do to mix things up a bit was homicide. 

“Here!” Said Louis as he shoved the box of wine into Niall’s arms, “for you, young leprechaun. I seem to remember you like to drink. Curly did, too. Good lad.”

Niall watched with open horror as Louis winked at Harry. 

Harry’s cheeks flushed deeper and he barely even mumbled a word to Niall as he shoved the second box of wine into his arms and trotted off after Louis, who was bringing the active train wreck into the kitchen to show Liam and Zayn. 

Fuck everything. Niall had to do something to keep them apart. 

 

 

Liam and Zayn’s flat had a nice sitting room with a big TV where Niall had wasted many a night playing FIFA. Thankfully, with his upper hand about seating arrangements, he was going to finally be able to put some distance between Louis and Harry. Harry had been following Louis around, laughing at absolutely nothing since the second they’d walked in the door. Thankfully, though, Niall’s horror had been equally matched in Liam’s eyes. Thank fuck, someone was on the same page as him. Thank fuck someone was going to try to help him.

Zayn was already sitting on the love seat when Niall entered the room. Perfect. He looked to the couch where Louis was sitting and threw himself immediately on the middle cushion and watched as Liam sat down next to Zayn. Perfect. Harry had no seating choice left. He had to sit next to Niall and do something other than moon over Louis. 

Harry entered the room, then, eyeing the empty spot on the couch and then looked at Louis. He smiled for probably the millionth time (which was fucked because they’d only been in the flat for 20 fucking minutes). Then, without any sort of grace or class at all, Harry sat down on the fucking floor, staring up at Louis and bringing his glass to his lips, taking a small sip. 

“You have good taste in box wine. I like a cardboard aged chardonnay.”

Louis laughed…he laughed and it felt like a stab in the stomach for Niall. He hadn’t heard that laugh in three years. No one on fucking planet earth found Harry funny—except for Louis. He had this one laugh, this one laugh that made the rest of the people in the room not matter because Louis was paying attention to Harry. He’d always done that. He’d always stopped the rest of the world to let Harry know he was paying attention. 

“Wish I could say the same of you, but this pinot is complete shite.”

And oh god. The teasing. Harry was toast. Niall could see it in his eyes and what was going to happen when these jokes started to feel familiar? 

Niall fixed Zayn with a look. Zayn sunk into his seat a bit, finally realizing what a fucking mess he’d made. 

 

When it was time tp pick seats for dinner, Niall tried being bossy.

“Harry!” He said, watching as Harry pulled out the chair that was next to Louis, “why don’t you sit at the head of the table? It’s been a minute since I’ve seen Tommo.”

It was a last ditch effort. Liam and Zayn were sitting next to each other on one side of the table and Louis was sitting at the far end on the opposite side. The only two chairs that were left open was the one beside Louis and the one at the head of the table. Maybe he could pump the breaks a bit if Niall could just get a bit of breathing room between them. 

Harry shot Niall a glare, which was seriously out of character. He then looked at Louis who patted the seat next to him.

“Don’t take it personally, Nialler lad,” said Louis as Harry took the seat next to him.

It was like watching the fucking notebook unfold in front of them. Niall couldn’t do a thing to stop it because, try as they might have for years to keep them apart, without all the complication and hurt of the memories they shared, all that was left was whatever was there in the first place. This whole thing was going to end so fucking badly. Harry was particularly sensitive since the accident and when he found out about their history…Niall was going to have a ridiculous amount of tears to mop up. Maybe about as many tears as there would be blood to mop up when he fucking killed Zayn. 

 

Niall cornered Zayn in the kitchen when they had finished eating the cake Niall had brought from Sainsbury’s. He fought every instinct he had to shove him to the ground and scream at him that he ruined everything, because Zayn didn’t have to explain this who his freaking mother in law. Zayn didn’t have to be on the receiving end of the wrath of Gemma, because there was no way she would believe that Niall hadn’t played a part. 

“Happy?” He asked, keeping his voice low, lest Harry and Louis somehow magically hear him over their ridiculous giggles. 

“Uh, Niall, no, okay? I’m not happy. I tried to call Louis but—“

“You shouldn’t have invited him in the first place, Zayn. I swear to fuck—“

“Niall?” Harry’s voice came from behind him, “can I talk to you in private for a second?”

“No problem,” said Zayn, awkward smile in place. He squeezed Harry’s shoulder as he walked by. 

Harry waited until Zayn was out of ear-shot before he started his speech, “look, I know what you’re doing, Niall.”

Niall swallowed, turning to face Harry, “what do you mean?”

“Its—I know you’re just looking out for me…but you do this thing. You think you have to protect me all the time…and I appreciate it, Niall, I really do. I wouldn’t even complain usually, it’s just—“ he looked back toward the doorway with a fond expression on his face, and expression that Niall had seen one million times and it had only ever been directed at the same person, “everything in my life has been about the accident for so long and I’m just…Niall, I know you want to protect me, but please don’t tell him? Please don’t tell Louis about the accident. Just for once it would be nice to be the one in control. Let me tell him when I’m ready, okay?”

Ready. 

What if ready didn’t come in time? What if ready never came because Harry was too busy being flooded with memories of the real first time he met Louis? How was Niall supposed to stand back and watch Harry walk into a tsunami and not even say a word?

Harry bit his lip and exhaled once, a smile on his face that he couldn’t even try to fight, “I like him,” he whispered, “is that crazy?”

Yes. The answer was a resounding yes but for some reason the look on Harry’s face made it impossible for Niall to respond how he was supposed to. 

Chapter Text

November 23, 2009

 

Louis was lost in the back of the bookshop, flipping through an antique medical book from 1906 when he looked up and saw the shadow of another person walk by. His gaze shifted to the boy who was staring up at the signs hanging from the ceiling, probably trying to find the section he was actually looking for. It was a rare few people who came to the antique section to look at out-of-date text books. Louis was usually alone back here. He watched as the boy made his way past him, taking in the way he had his messy curly hair pushed away from his face with a purple bandana. He looked…familiar. He watched him as he walked, trying to remember where he’d seen him before. The boy turned then, completely facing Louis and the realization struck. 

Niall’s friend! He was the guy that was always sitting next to Zayn at their football matches. 

For half a second, Louis met his green eyes before he turned and started off down the next aisle over. Louis had a plan—well, sort of. The plan was…talk to the boy. Louis was going to talk to the boy because, why not? He was young and somewhat reasonably handsome and they had something in common. Niall! Bless all things Niall. 

He shut the book in his hand and tried to collect his thoughts. He couldn’t just go walking willy-nilly down the next aisle without some semblance of a plan. There was an attractive boy involved. Louis had to make himself not look like a creepy idiot. Cool. Could do. Louis could be normal. No problems at all…

Ah, fuck it. Louis put down the book and started heading down the aisle. Immediately his eyes fell upon the curly headed boy who was crouching on the ground, his index finger sliding across the spines of the books in front of him. 

“Looking for something in particular?” 

And really? Really. That was the  best that Louis could come up with? Fuck. 

He plastered on his best fake smile as Harry looked up at him. 

“Oh,” Harry bit his lip, “do you work here?”

“Er, no. I don’t. I just spend a lot of time here and it seems like you might need a hand,” Louis followed it up with a smile, hoping to detract from how fucking lame he was being. 

For some unknown reason though, the boy chuckled. He looked away from Louis and down to the ground and when he finally returned his gaze to Louis, his cheeks were flushed a soft pink. 

Oh yes. Ohfuckyes. 

The boy got to his feet then, his cheeks still holding a tinge of their previous colour. He smiled and Louis was fucking doomed because the boy had these dimples. It was all Louis could look at and he forgot all pretence and forgot his grand master plan to initiate some masterful conversation because, come on. It wasn’t fair. A head of curls, a smile that left craters in his face and a voice that Louis could feel inside of his own chest? Well that just wasn’t playing fair. One person shouldn’t be gifted every advantage possible in life. If there was a god, he wasn’t playing fair. 

Suddenly, the boy was standing closer to him, his hand outstretched to Louis, “I’m Harry, by the way…in case you were wondering…”

Louis felt his smile building and he couldn’t contain it. His lips pulled back and he felt his eyes squinting. Harry. Harry, the awkward little greek god standing in the centre of the bookstore looking like the leading man to every movie that Louis had ever cared to watch. Harry. 

Louis couldn’t leave him hanging, not with the blush that was now colouring his cheeks and neck. Quickly Louis reached out and grabbed Harry’s hand. He didn’t shake it, though, because the blush on Harry’s cheeks was telling him everything he needed to know. He raised Harry’s hand to his lips and kissed the back of it, very deliberately making eye contact with Harry’s emerald eyes. 

“Enchanté” Louis said, his best cheeky smile in place. 

Harry hummed in what could only be described as delight and yes. Louis had this. He fucking had this in the bag. 

Harry nibbled on his bottom lip, eyes fixed on Louis. He buried his hands in the pockets of his hoody and opened his sweet little mouth, “umm, you’re Zayn’s friend, aren’t you?”

Louis tilted his head, keeping his eyes locked on Harry’s, “you’re not a stalker, are you?”

And again, Harry’s face split into absolutely beautiful laughter and Louis wanted to tell him one million jokes so that his laughter never stopped. 

“I think the main thing about being a stalker is that you have to be certain about whom it is you are stalking. Up until now, I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who fit what I’m looking for in a stalkee.”

Well, holy fucking shit. It wasn’t even Louis’ birthday for another month but he didn’t need anymore gifts in the world. Harry was letting him flirt, hell he was flirting back and this whole thing might just be ending better than Louis had ever imagined. 

“I’m unsettled by that answer,” Louis said, running a hand through his fringe. His stomach was doing something strange, but he pressed on, “so if I were to hypothetically offer to buy you a coffee and we ended up spending some time together…you’re not going to try to wear my skin or something, are you?”

Harry giggled again. The sound was quickly gaining momentum as one of Louis’ favourite sounds. 

“No,” he bit his lip, “but I probably will want to know your name.”

“Ah, so you are new to the stalking game. You’re not supposed to have to ask that. A true stalker would just know.”

He and Harry just grinned at each other for a moment, until someone else joined them in the aisle. 

“It’s Louis, by the way,” he said, eyes on the intruder, “so, if you like coffee, or some kind of hot beverage, I’d buy you one. I’d even let you walk a few steps behind me on our way there so you can fulfil your true stalking potential. If you’re interested.”

Harry nodded, gnawing on his lips to contain his grin, “but I’d probably prefer to walk beside you, if that’s okay.”

 

 

“So Harry,” Louis said as he placed a steaming mug of hot cocoa in front of Harry and took the seat across from him, “tell me, what was a guy like you doing in a dusty old bookstore like that anyway?”

Harry wrapped his hands around the mug in front of him. He hand nice hands…big hands. Hands Louis wouldn’t really mind paying a little more attention to. 

“My sister loves Edgar Allan Poe and I’ve been trying to find her the first edition of The Raven for Christmas. I’ve been coming up short.”

“Well, I happen to have a thing for musty old bookstores. I find myself in them a lot. I’ll keep an eye out.”

Harry smiled into his mug. He seemed just the right amount of nervous, from Louis’ perspective and it was nice. The smell of espresso and chatter of the people around them was a nice backing track to the soft, calm way that Harry spoke. 

Louis traced the emblem on the mug in front of him, looking at Harry through his lashes. Harry was sipping his hot chocolate slowly, his knee bouncing up and down as he stole tiny glances at Louis. Louis wanted to do something to calm his nerves. He wanted to move the conversation to something lighter so he said the first thing that came to mind. 

“I really like these mugs,” Louis mused, “I have this weird thing for mugs. Think it started with me Nan. She had this whole collection that my great-grandfather bought for her when he was in the navy. Brought her home one from every place he went.”

Harry lifted his own mug to inspect it. It was red and black plaid and written across it was Back On the Grind, the name of the cafe. 

“They’re nice,” he confirmed, a gentle smile in place. He was quiet for another moment before he spoke, “I wonder why Niall never introduced us before.”

Louis sipped his latte thoughtfully, “I don’t know. I’ll have to ask him tonight.”

Harry cocked his head, actually fucking cocked his head like an adorable puppy. Louis wanted to keep him forever. 

“Tonight?” He asked.

“Yeah, Liam and Zayn are having people over for dinner and Niall’s stopping by.”

Harry bit his lip, stifling yet another smile. “Cool.” He said. 

“Cool?” Asked Louis, raising an eyebrow. 

Harry let his smile happen this time, dimple popping, “yeah, I guess I’ll see you there, then.”

Louis got lost somewhere in Harry’s smile and he meant to carry on a normal conversation, but something else slipped out. 

“Your smile is…stunning. It’s stunning Harry.”

Harry’s whole face flushed this time and Louis almost regretted the words because he was probably coming on a little too strong. Hopefully Harry didn’t mind. 

“Thank you, Lou.”

 

 

Present

 

“Hey, Tommo, you don’t have to do the dishes,” Liam said as Louis sprayed down another plate. 

“I wasn’t planning on it, Payno. Have we met? Just giving ‘em a rinse.”

Liam nodded, but stayed hovering behind Louis nonetheless. 

“Get on with it, then,” Louis urged, sensing that Liam was about to give him some grand old speech. They’d been best mates for more than twenty years. Nothing surprised him anymore. 

“Er—I was just going to ask how you’ve been,” started Liam, “You spend all day with Zayn but I feel like we never get a chance to talk just you and I anymore. How have you been feeling?”

Liam was just the same as everyone else in Louis’ life. He was convinced that Louis had gone into some kind of deep depression when he’d dropped out of school, sold his flat and bought the shop. There was no convincing anyone. Louis was fine. He’d always been fine. He couldn’t remember a time when he hadn’t been just fine. 

“I’m good. Great even. I feel like there’s been a great improvement on the company at these dinner parties.”

Liam didn’t say a word. 

“Liam, I’m fine. I’ve always been fine. I have no dark secrets to reveal to you. I’m happy in my decrepit little bookshop and I don’t miss studying the human anatomy—I swear. I’m in a good place.”

Liam nodded once, “because, you know…I care about you. We all do. We just want to see you happy.”

“I know.”

Sometimes being the token single friend when all of his friends were very happily attached was exhausting. They were quick to worry. Quick to assume that he was wasting away his nights crying himself to sleep because there wasn’t someone to go home to. 

“Hey,” said Louis, changing the subject as he dried his hands, “did you know that Harry used to watch us play in uni?”

Liam’s posture tightened, “uh,” was all he managed before Louis kept talking. 

“Just imagine that it took 9 years for us to end up in the same lift at the same time. It’s strange really how things work out sometimes.”

 

 

I didn’t have you pegged for the type to indulge in the Devil’s lettuce.”

Louis turned then to see Harry closing the door to the balcony. He instantly knew where he was. He was smoking a joint on the balcony of Liam and Zayn’s crummy little flat they’d shared their first few years of uni. The one with strange coloured mould between the tiles in the shower and the ugly yellow walls. Louis could never forget that place. 

“I don’t want you to accuse me of peer pressure, but I do share well, if you’re interested.” 

Louis remembered saying those words. He couldn’t stop himself. He’d replayed this moment more times than he could count. This was one of his most cherished memories. 

Harry was standing next to him then, reaching out and taking the joint. He brought it to his lips and inhaled. Instantly he erupted into a coughing fit. 

Louis watched him cough through slightly hooded eyes, not able to help himself from laughing. Once Harry’s coughing started to slow, Louis reached out his hand and captured Harry’s. Harry met his eyes then, covering the last few coughs with the back of his hand. He squeezed Louis’ hand, his cheeks flushed for probably the millionth time that day. 

“I guess it’s safe for me to assume that you are not really the sort to partake in the devil’s lettuce,” said Louis. His face felt heavy in the best way and his chest felt light. He wasn’t sure if it was because of the joint or because Harry wasn’t letting his hand go, but he was happy to be exactly where he was. 

Harry shrugged, “I’ve been known to dabble.”

Oh, god. It wasn’t fair. Louis knew exactly what was going to happen and he didn’t want to lose it. He wanted to stop everything and tell Harry to run, but if this was the last time he could ever come back here, how could he ever stop the memory before it got to the good part? If this was the last time he’d ever get to relieve this, he couldn’t bring himself to change it. 

“I had a really nice time tonight, Lou.” 

Louis could have mouthed the words as Harry said them because he’d run over this scene that many times in his head. He’d gone home that night and screamed into his pillow because his body had been thrumming with excitement. This moment had been their’s and he didn’t want it to go anywhere. He wanted to keep it, even more than he wanted to keep the rest. 

“We can keep having a good time. The world is our oyster, Harry, it doesn’t have to end just because our loser friends want to go to bed.”

Harry giggled, his eyes becoming heavy as he looked at Louis. God, this moment was just so pure. It was everything and Louis could only hope he got to see this memory through to the end for the last time. 

“What would we do?” Asked Harry and Louis could remember the innocence of the question. He could remember the way Harry had gasped as Louis tugged him closer using the hands that were still linked. He could remember how the air from Harry’s lungs tasted. 

“I could think of a few things…” Louis said, his mouth just inches from Harry’s. 

The whole day had been leading them there. Louis had done nothing but stare at Harry’s mouth, wondering how his puffy, pink lips would feel against his. He was scared, somehow, to close the final bit of distance between them, lest he become addicted. He had a feeling that he would never be able to stop himself and he would positively crumble if this wasn’t what Harry wanted. 

And so he had waited. He had waited what felt like an eternity, but now, as he relived the moment, he was weighted down with the realization that Harry hadn’t hesitated at all. 

Harry’s lips met Louis’ and the world plunged into darkness. 

From somewhere around him, Louis heard Harry’s voice. 

“When I got home the next morning, Lou, I knew. I knew I was going to love you for a long, long time.”

Louis felt his heart breaking, searching the darkness for some sort of light. He wanted to see Harry. Wanted to preserve this memory so fucking badly it felt like his chest was going to split open. 

“Haz, I’m sorry. I wanted to keep them all. I wanted to keep all of our memories but they just hurt so fucking bad.”

“Maybe we can hide them somewhere,” Harry spoke, and the light started to flood back in. They were in their flat, Harry sitting next to him on the couch, “come on. Take me somewhere I don’t belong. Take me to another memory where they can’t find me.”

 

 

Present

 

“You want to share an uber home, H?” Asked Niall when Harry was most of the way to the bottom of his wine glass.

He was sitting next to Louis on the couch, their dinner long finished and both boxes of wine nearly drained by none other than Niall Horan. They’d been sitting in the living room for a bit, but for some strange reason everyone in the room besides Louis had been mostly silent. It was probably Harry’s fault for showing up in Liam and Zayn’s lives again with no preamble after forgetting them for years. Things were bound to be a bit awkward, but Harry still felt guilty. They had this whole life that he hadn’t even been involved in because he’d forgotten. He was so sick of being a burden on everyone around him. 

Talking to Louis made him feel…normal. Louis didn’t know about the accident and Louis didn’t tiptoe around his feelings like Niall did. It was a nice change of pace. 

“Um,” said Harry, spinning the wine around in his glass before taking another sip, “I kind of feel like I could use the walk.”

Harry’s flat was only about a block and a half from Liam and Zayn’s. Imagine that. For the past eight months it was really only a matter of time before they ran into each other. Harry had just moved into his own place after living with his mother for just over two years after the accident. She’d taken care of him and helped him every day, but Harry was kind of at the point now where pretending to be normal was important to him. It was nice to have his friends back, too. That helped. 

When he looked up, Louis’ eyes were on him. Everyone else in the room was silent, staring at the ground or each other, so Louis leaned in and whispered in his ear.

“You’re going to let me walk you home, right?”

Harry nodded once, looking up and meeting Zayn’s eyes. He flushed and it felt like every pair of eyes in the room were on him, and really, it was time to go. It was time to end the night and sneak back to his quiet flat.

“I should get going,” he said as he stood up from the couch. 

As he walked to the kitchen to put away his wine glass, he heard foot steps behind him. He turned to see Zayn behind him. 

“I just wanted to say that I’m glad you came tonight. It’s been a rough go without you.”

“I’m sorry. I think about the hospital sometimes. I think about waking up there and there were so many people who cared and I couldn’t remember who anyone but mum and Gem were, and I’m sorry I put you through that. I’m sorry I forgot you, Zayn.”

“Hey,” said Zayn, taking another step closer, opening his arms. Harry landed safely within them and let himself be enveloped, “you’ve done an incredible job. No one expected you to come this far. I didn’t think I’d ever get to see you again. That was scary, to feel like you’ve lost someone that’s still alive.”

“Were you there?” Harry asked, “in the hospital?”

“Yeah, H, I was there.”

“Maybe…my mum doesn’t want to tell me about everything…maybe one day we could sit down and you could tell me about…him? The guy?”

Harry could feel the tension in Zayn’s body as his words settled in. Why was everyone so reluctant to tell him about such a huge piece of his life? 

“I don’t know, H, if I’m the person to tell you about that.”

 

 

Chatty Life Update by trav3lwithharry

 

467,574 views

 

Published on February 25th, 2011

 

Harry smiled at the camera that was balancing on the kitchen table on the shitty tripod he’d bought a few weeks back. 

“Hey guys, it’s Harry! Thanks for stopping by my channel. Today is going to be something different. A lot have you have been tweeting me and commenting asking for a video where I just talk about life and things…and stuff with Louis. Seems like you guys are all pretty interested in Louis, so I thought I’d come on here and ramble a bit and answer some of your questions.”

Harry lifted his mug and took a quick sip of tea before he settled into his chair and grinned at the camera. 

“Life is…great. Life is better than I imagined it could be. When I started this channel I didn’t really have an expectation. I was just a 17 year old kid who wanted to record all the adventures I went on when my mates and I visited London. I didn’t expect the response I’ve gotten, but I wouldn’t change it for anything. I’m just really thankful that because you guys stop by and watch my videos I’ve been able to somehow make a career out of it? I don’t know. I just feel lucky in general. This is the first January that I didn’t go back to school. I didn’t have to because travelling has been really paying off for me. A lot of things just seem to be going right.”

He paused again taking another sip of tea and looking over his shoulder. When he turned back to the camera, his face was brighter. 

“Because of you guys, I was able to move out onto my own. Everyone is always asking me for updates on Louis…and well, we’ve been together for, well it was a year in December. It seems like there’s no possible way it’s been that long, but also it feels like I’ve known him my whole life. Lou’s in school becoming a doctor, so he’s got a lot on his plate, but he’s always there when I need him. That’s why I was so excited about this YouTube thing actually working out. Because of that, I was able to get this flat so that Louis and I could have something that’s just ours. It feels good. We’re in a good place. I don’t think we’re capable of being in a bad place, honestly.”

He paused and sighed, “I think I really am honestly the luckiest person in the entire world.”

“Not possible!” Called a voice from another room. 

Harry turned his head just in time to see Louis appear in the doorway. 

“He’s a liar,” Louis said as he marched into the room and ducked his head into the camera, pressing his cheek against Harry’s, “I know for a fact Harold here is not the luckiest person in the world, because it’s me. I’m the one who lucked out with an amazing boyfriend and this amazing life that he gave to me.”

Louis kissed Harry on the cheek and turned to leave the room. 

Harry’s smile didn’t falter as he stared into the camera lens, “living with Lou…it’s been magical.”

 

 

Present

 

 Harry was sitting on the lawn next to a tipsy Niall while he waited for his uber. Niall had been acting strange all night, and Harry had hoped their talk in the kitchen would have helped, but it didn’t seem to. Niall was still in a mood. Harry leaned into him, bumping his shoulder. 

“You’re a good friend, Niall, you know?”

“Yes, I fucking know. Lucky lot you are, really.”

Harry chuckled. 

“Look,” said Niall, “I know what you’re getting at and just…I just want you to be careful.”

Harry leaned his head on Niall’s shoulder, “I’ve been nothing but careful for the past few years, Ni, I think maybe it’s time to try being brave.”

“I just—” started Niall.

Louis cleared his throat from a few feet behind them, clearly not wanting to interrupt. Harry patted Niall on the back when he got up, smiling down at him. 

“I’m going to let Louis walk me home. I’ll call you tomorrow. Love you, Ni.”

“Just be careful,” Niall muttered as Harry started to walk away. Strange of him to say when Louis was one of his mates. 

“Hi,” Harry breathed softly when he reached Louis. 

Louis smiled and he just looked so good. So warm and comfortable and kind. Harry was surrounded by people who were the embodiment of all of those things, but there was something more about Louis. He had his hands buried deep in the pockets of his jean jacket, eyes never leaving Harry’s. 

“So this is the part where I let you lead the way and follow a casual three paces behind you, since you think I’m a stalker and all.”

When Louis winked in Harry’s direction, Harry was certain that his knees actually weakened. His laugh was rushed and surprised and he just didn’t know what to expect. He never knew what Louis was going to say because he seemed to hop from the utmost sincerity to the wittiest comment so quickly that Harry had no hope of following. He didn’t mind though. 

“If it’s all the same to you,” said Harry, “I’d kind of rather you walked beside me?”

Louis mouth split open into a bright smile and he nodded, “I’d like that very much.”

 

 

Louis’ hands were freezing, despite being shoved so deep in his pockets. They had been walking for awhile. Mostly just commenting on their surroundings and talking about books they’d read. It was nice, simple conversation that Louis was lost in. His nose was freezing and if he had been paying attention to anything other than Harry, maybe he would have been paying attention to how long it was taking to get to his flat. 

“So what do you do, anyway?” Harry asked then, his mitten covered hands covering his own cold nose. 

“Isn’t that the million dollar question,” Louis mused, “what’s the deal with that anyway? Why is everyone so on about what everyone else does? If I told you I scrubbed bathrooms for a living, would that really change things? Is there a right answer to that question?”

Harry never seemed to misinterpret his words. He chuckled, “I guess not, no.”

“That’s…it is a complicated question, that. Everyone in my life seems to think I lost my fucking mind because I used to be in med school. I was going to be a surgeon. I was doing really well and everything…but would you believe me if I told you that I just woke up one day and felt like a different person?”

Harry exhaled, looking over at Louis, “I think I actually might understand that more than most.”

“Well then, Harold, that’s exactly what happened. I woke up one day and I felt suffocated by everything. I had this beautiful flat, this career waiting for me and all I wanted to do was open a bookshop. So I sold everything I owned and bought one.”

“Montauk,” Harry murmured, pulling off his left mitten. 

“Montauk,” Louis confirmed, eyes on the boy next to him. 

Harry reached out, handing Louis the singular mitt. Louis took it with a question in his eyes. 

“You look cold.”

“But you’re only willing to sacrifice one mitt. And they say chivalry is dead. You’re the walking embodiment of equality Harry. My left hand thanks you.”

Harry was giggling again and Louis wanted to hit record on his cellphone so that when he went home that night he could play it back over and over while he was laying awake in his bed thinking about the sweet curly haired boy walking next to him. 

“Shh,” Harry said, “Louis! I have a plan.”

Louis smiled and slipped on the mitten, eyes on Harry as he unwrapped his scarf. Harry stopped walking then, tugging on Louis’ arm to stop him. Harry pulled off the mitten he was still wearing and reached out to wind his fingers through Louis’. This brought on two grins that were impossible to diminish as Harry worked away at tying his scarf around their linked hands. 

“There!” He announced proudly, grin set in place. 

“Pretty and innovative, you really are the whole package aren’t you?” 

“Now I need your help,” Harry said, holding out his mitt. 

Louis’ whole face scrunched up with his smile. He gripped the mitten weakly as Harry fumbled to get his hand inside. When he was successful, he gave Louis’ the dimpliest smile yet and then tugged on their conjoined hands and started walking forward. 

“There!” He said happily, “much better, wouldn’t you say?”

Louis shook his head slowly, pretending as best as he could that he was judging Harry. It was probably useless, though. Harry could probably see the fondness sparkling in his eyes. Damn this boy. 

“So, Harry Styles,” he started, “what is it that you do anyway?”

Harry smiled at him, “a wise man once told me that’s a bit of a cop out. I mean is there really going to be a ‘right’ answer?” Harry scrunched up his face as he stuck out his tongue at Louis. 

Louis bumped him with his hip, “you cheeky little shit.”

Harry just laughed, tugging Louis along down the street. 

“No, really,” he said finally, “I get what you were saying about feeling like a different person…” 

A silence stretched on between them, then. Louis wasn’t uncomfortable, though. It was more of a thoughtful silence as they marched on down the street, noses pink and hands warm. 

“I want to tell you something…but I’m not sure that now is the time,” Harry confessed. 

“I like that answer,” Louis said, “means you have the intention of doing this another time. I’m okay with that.”

Harry gave Louis’ hand a squeeze then, meeting his eyes and nodding. Yeah. It didn’t matter that it was god knew what time, and Louis had to work at 10 tomorrow, he wouldn’t have changed a single part of this night. They walked past a few shops, Christmas lights twinkling in the windows and wreathes hanging on the doors. It was perfect. The whole city was quiet and it was just he and Harry, hands in scarf, walking without any real purpose. 

Except, there was supposed to be a purpose. 

“Where’s your flat anyway?” Louis asked as he made the realization. 

“6 blocks back that way,” Harry said, pointing behind him with his free hand. 

“We passed it?” Louis asked, incredulous. 

“Yeah,” Harry said, “but I didn’t say anything because I just kind of felt like walking with you a little longer.”

Louis was absolutely smitten. In fact, if you looked up smitten in the dictionary there would probably be a picture of Louis standing there with a dopey grin on his face, wearing one of Harry’s mittens, his other hand safely wrapped with Harry’s and cloaked in a scarf.

“Come to breakfast with me tomorrow,” Louis was barely able to make it a question. 

“I would love that.”

“Great,” said Louis, pulling them to a stop, “now come on, you directionally challenged loon, let’s get you home so you can be warm and toasty and ready for an early morning date. I’ve gotta open the shop at 10.”

Louis turned them around, squeezing Harry’s hand even tighter, because he really didn’t want to let go. 

“Date?” Harry asked. 

“Yeah,” Louis insisted, “and you’re lucky, too, because I’m real charming in the morning. Proper night in shining armour stuff. I hope you’re prepared to fall off your ass for me,” Harry was giggling, so Louis pressed on, “something tells me I’m going to be proper good at dating you, too. You really struck gold, Harry Styles.”

Chapter Text

November 13, 2016

 

Louis stared at the outdated magazines sitting on the table, all addressed to Dr. Mierzwiak. He didn’t know if he could do this. This whole thing seemed insane, he couldn’t just erase a person from his life, could he?

His mother’s hand was sitting on his knee, offering the only kind of comfort that she really could in a moment like this. She was there. She’d been there for him every day for the past almost 11 months. She’d let him cry on her shoulder, scream in her face about how fucking unfair this whole thing was, and she’d never wavered. Louis had been dealt a shitty hand, and everyone agreed that this whole thing was the best idea for him. Harry’s doctor had been the one to suggest it. 

Get yourself some closure, Louis. Call Lacuna. Harry isn’t coming back.

And now, here he was, hours away from the procedure with boxes and boxes of stuff stacked next to him, waiting for the doctor to call him into the office. He’d cried on the drive over and his mother had pulled over the car and let him cry all over her nice sweater without the inkling of a complaint. Last night he’d said goodbye to Anne. When this whole thing was over, she’d be gone, too. Everything in his life that had ever been a product of Harry was going to be erased and Anne insisted that it was for the best.

Last night, when he’d stood at the threshold of Anne’s charming little cottage, about to step out of her life forever, he’d cleared his throat. 

“I want to give you something,” he’d said, reaching into his jacket pocket and pulling out an envelope that he’d sealed last night with a drop of wax (because apparently saying goodbye to Harry made him oddly poetic). 

“What is it, honey?”

He inhaled a shaky breath, forcing himself to push on, “since I won’t…since I can’t—um, remember him, when th-the thing is done…” he inhaled again, the air not reaching his lungs. Everything hurt. Every fucking last thing inside of him hurt. 

“Just—if he remembers me some day…can you please give this to him?”

Anne looked like she wanted to say a million things. Louis could guess what most of them were, probably that she was sorry, again. Probably that she wished there was some other way. Probably that she wanted him to know how much Harry had loved him. Probably that, despite how much they both hoped, the odds of him ever remembering were slim to none by this point.

Like Louis needed to be reminded of that. 

 

“Louis Tomlinson?”

Louis was shaken from his thoughts and transported back to the sterile office where a pretty young blonde girl was holding a clip board and smiling at him gently. He nodded once. 

“Dr. Mierzwiak will see you now.”

 

 

Present

 

Harry nearly jumped out of his skin when he heard his phone vibrate on the bathroom counter. He stopped brushing his teeth and looked down at the screen. 

 

Louis Tomlinson:

Here!

 

Harry froze. There was a ball of nerves in his stomach. He looked at the time. 8:09. He’d only just fallen asleep shortly after 4 and had still somehow woken up 10 minutes before his alarm. His head had been spinning as he thought about standing outside on the sidewalk and unwinding his scarf from around his and Louis’ hands and giggling at Louis as he had congratulated Harry for ‘convincing’ Louis to give him his number. They’d agreed to meet up before Louis had to open his shop, but now that it was morning and the sunlight was pouring through the tiny window and Harry didn’t have a few drinks in him…well that felt a little scarier. 

Harry hadn’t dated since…well…before the accident. He had’t dated since the guy. His mum and Gemma had practically begged him for those first few months to ‘please remember him’. Harry had felt the disappointment that they’d felt when he hadn’t been able to remember. He felt like a failure. He’d never have admitted it to them, but he had been holding himself back because he hated that he had made anything more difficult for them. Their whole lives had changed so that they could take care of him and he couldn’t even remember who he’d been so in love with. Who they’d been so in love with. 

So Harry hadn’t dated. His life was complicated enough as it was. He didn’t need to see the look of sorrow in their eyes when he laughed with someone who wasn’t the person he was supposed to be laughing with. So it had been so much easier to just avoid the whole situation. 

But Louis had come flying out of nowhere and dropped himself right in front of Harry and it wasn’t fair. He didn’t know if he was ready, but now he didn’t have a choice. He barely even had a chance to overthink it because Louis was currently standing on the sidewalk outside of his apartment building and he couldn’t back out now. 

Hell, he didn’t know if he even wanted to back out. 

 

 

Harry pushed open the doors to the street and there was Louis, standing with his back against the wall, eyes immediately flickering to Harry. He smiled then, taking a step toward Harry. Harry’s stomach fluttered and he felt his cheeks flush and he immediately knew he’d made the right decision. Fuck sleeping and overthinking every thing in his life. He was going to have breakfast with Louis. It was the right call. 

He watched as Louis pulled Harry’s mittens off of his hands and made to hand them back to Harry, “thanks for giving me a loan of these.”

Harry shook his head, reaching into his pockets and pulling out a pair of hand knitted red mitts that Gemma had made him when she’d been going through her knitting phase, “keep them.”

Louis smiled as they both pulled their mittens on and started down the street, Harry one step behind Louis. 

“I know this little place right across the street from my shop. They make the best eggs benny.”

Harry grinned, “that’s my favourite,” he said, catching up with Louis. 

“Perfect,” Louis chirped as he reached out and grabbed Harry’s mittened hand in his own mittened hand. 

Harry felt his heart do something that couldn’t possibly be healthy in his chest and his shock must have shown on his face, because Louis was quick to comment. 

“Hey, Harold, you started it. This is a thing we do now,” he punctuated his words with a squeeze of Harry’s hand. 

Maybe Harry had died and gone to heaven. 

 

 

Louis looked around the room, taking in the commotion around him. There were people buzzing around him. It stuck him as strange that he was sitting on the floor, starting up at people that seemed just a little too tall. He looked at his feet and saw tiny shoes. He held his hands on front of his face and it struck him then, as a nurse brushed past him, where he was. He was in the hospital and he had to be 6, almost 7. What was he doing here? It didn’t make any sense. 

Behind the curtain blocking out the rest of the room he could hear his mother. This was the day Lottie was born. He remembered it because his life had never been the same after that day. But what the hell was he doing here? A nurse walked into the room then, Louis turned and met a familiar pair of green eyes. 

“Harry?” He hissed in a whisper, “what are you doing here?”

Harry crouched down to Louis level, whispering into his ear, “how should I know? You brought me here, you must think it’s safe.”

Well, maybe it was. There was no way that Louis would ever be able to forget the day that Lottie was born. Harry could hide here and Louis could save him for later. Some day when he woke up and thought about this day, he would see Harry and things would just have to make sense again. This whole thing was a fucking mess and being faced with all the memories he was no longer going to have…it was the literal definition of pain. There was no other way to describe it. Parts of him had been breaking for the better part of a year, but now this whole decision to just erase Harry like he’d never happened? 

That was fucking crazy. Louis must have lost him god damn mind. 

“Louis, baby, come meet your sister,” he heard his mother’s voice come from behind the curtain. 

“Where are we?” Whispered Harry, “why are you so young?”

“We’re at the hospital. My mum just had Lottie.”

He stood then, walking behind the curtain, seeing his mum and Mark cooing over a tiny wrinkly little thing in a pink blanket. Louis remembered this moment well. It was the day his whole life changed. He’d been so happy being the sole recipient of his parent’s attention. He hadn’t asked for this. 

“Louis, honey, this is your sister, Charlotte.” 

Louis felt himself pouting, tears falling from his eyes, “I don’t want a sister!” He said angrily storming away. 

What a little brat he’d been. 

Good thing his mum had never bothered to listen to him and went on to give him three more sisters. Louis had always excelled at being a brother, despite his initial reaction to the whole thing. He was grateful, now that his mum hadn’t listened to him. Was grateful, still, that Lottie was one of his best friends. Even when Harry was gone…well he’d still have his family and that had to count for something. 

“Louis!” Hissed Harry from the other side of the room, “come on, we need to hide me somewhere.”

Louis wiped away the childish tears that had come with his tantrum and followed Harry down the hallway, hand in hand. It was a strange vantage point to look up to Harry as 6 year old kid, but he could only question so many things at once. They passed a janitor’s closet and Harry pulled them to a stop, cranking open the door and shoving Louis inside. He shut the door behind them, kneeling on the floor so he was eye-level with Louis. 

“Baby,” he said, “what if this doesn’t work? What if we can’t hide here? What if we really lose each other?”

“Shh,” said Louis, running his tiny hands through Harry’s curls. The motion had always calmed him. Harry was his safe place and he didn’t know who he was going to be when he woke up. Everything sacred in the world was currently locked in a janitor’s closet in a memory from 1998. Their whole life was fucked. Louis had made such a bad decision. How could he back out now? What if all he could get now was a goodbye? A proper goodbye to his boy so that Harry knew. Harry had to know that he was Louis’ entire world, didn’t he?

Hands still buried in Harry’s hair, he leaned his forehead against Harry’s, “I kept the mugs.”

He swallowed hard and he could feel the tears in the back of his eyes and why? Why had everyone in his life decided that this was best? It didn’t feel the best. It felt like he was cutting out his entire heart and lighting it on fire. 

“I wasn’t supposed to keep anything that might remind me of you…anything that might raise some sort of question, but I had to keep them Harry. I had to at least try to remember how good we had it.”

“Louis Tomlinson,” Harry’s voice held a warning. 

“Shh, Harry,” he said, continuing on, “I need to tell you this. We didn’t get a proper goodbye, you know?”

“Don’t you dare try to say goodbye to me, Louis. We can fix this. Keep me here.”

Louis heard a crash from outside of the closet. Their time was almost up. He could sense it. He tightened his grip on Harry’s curls. 

“I never thought I could love something like I loved you, Harry,”

“Stop,” begged Harry, and Louis could feel the tears rolling down Harry’s cheeks, their foreheads still pressed together.

“I just want you to know that I never blamed you. You would never have forgotten me on purpose. You loved me, I know you did. I felt it. I can still feel it in our flat, but I just miss you so much all the time, Harry I can’t take it. I can’t take life without you. Nothing has ever been the same and this was my last shot. I regret it now. I should have kept you. I’m sorry, Harry. I’m so fucking sorry.”

The light above them flickered, but still Louis didn’t dare open his eyes. 

“I wrote you a letter—“

The lights went out and the room around them crumbled, sending them falling through the floor. How many more chances were they going to get before it was too late? Louis needed to figure out how to stop this. 

 

 

 

November 13, 2016

 

“Hello Mr. Tomlinson,” the doctor said as he walked into the room. 

Louis was sitting with some machine attached to his head that was supposed to track his brain activity. He was horrified, his palms were sweating and his mum had to wait outside. He was just hours away from the procedure and there was hardly any time left to turn back, to change his mind. 

He knew he shouldn’t though. He knew, somewhere inside of him that this was the only way he would ever be okay again. This was the only thing he could do to give himself a real shot at life without Harry. Harry had lucked out. He’d been the first to forget, and he would never, ever know what Louis had done. He would never need to know what it was like to live without half of himself. Louis could have that. He could forget that he’d ever lost Harry. It was so big and so final, but what choice did he have? He would never be able to move on. He would never have a life because as long as he knew he’d had Harry nothing else would do. Nothing would ever come close to the life he’d lost. 

“I’m going to show you some of the things you brought in and we’re going to take some readings of your brain,” the doctor spoke steadily, with a sickening sort of detachment, “all memories have an emotional core. Our job here today is to find the core of,” he looked down at his clipboard, “Harry Styles and your memory of him. Once we find the core, I’m going to prescribe you some sleeping pills and then tonight one of our technicians will come into your home and complete the procedure. By this time tomorrow, you won’t remember him.”

Louis just nodded mechanically, because yeah. He guessed that’s what he wanted. 

“My goal for you, Louis, is to get you some reprieve. I understand that what happened to your boyfriend—“

“Fiancee,” Louis corrected, “we were supposed to get married in the summer.”

The doctor nodded solemnly, “what happened to your fiancee was very traumatic for you. With this procedure I can offer you relief from that pain. I can make it so that you don’t even remember getting hurt, and I know that’s a big concept, but I think you’ll agree that it is your best shot at carrying on.”

Louis nodded once. It was the most he could give. 

“Good. Let’s get started,” Dr. Mierzwiak leaned over and pulled out an item from one of the boxes Louis’ brought in. He held up a picture of Harry and him standing on the Cliffs of Moher, just moments after Harry had proposed to him. Louis chest felt tight. 

The doctor’s assistant started tapping away on the computer, “heavy activity in the amygdala,” he mumbled as the doctor nodded and took out the next item. 

He held up a pair of socks that Harry had knitted him for their first Christmas together. God, everything hurt. There was a part of Louis, one that was gaining speed, that could hardly wait for the moment that every single thing in his life would stop hurting so fucking bad. 

“You’re doing great, Louis,” the doctor encouraged as he held up a Christmas ornament that Harry had found in a shop in Germany. 

 

 

Present

 

Harry had his chin resting on one of his hands, leaning across the table with the biggest dorkiest grin on his face. His other hand was in Louis. Everything inside of him felt pleasantly warm, like he was glowing on the inside. He had never felt like this before. If he had, he would remember. There was no moment in his life that he could deem comparable to this one. Louis was…something else. Harry wasn’t sure what that something else was just yet, but he was willing to put in the time to figure it out. 

“Siblings?” Louis asked, taking a sip of his tea. 

Harry nodded, “just one. She’s older. Her name is Gemma.”

Louis slammed his mug on the table, meeting Harry’s eyes, “Gemma Styles is your sister?”

“You know my sister?” Harry’s eyebrow raised as he started at Louis’s blue eyes. 

“Of course I know your sister. She’s been with Niall for what, a million years?” He chuckled, “she’s a right little shit, too, you know? Quick with the wit and even quicker with her tongue. Good match for Ni, he needed someone with a head on her shoulders.”

Harry nodded, eyes not leaving Louis. He stayed quiet, not sure how to voice what he was feeling. He couldn’t think of a word to explain just how…settled he felt on the inside. 

Louis squeezed his hand then, a soft smile on his lips, “what is it?”

Harry exhaled a happy sigh, “I just—I guess I just can’t believe…”

“How long it took?” Louis said, half of his mouth turned up in a cheeky grin, “the universe just wanted to give us our perfect moment, I guess. Wanted to make sure we were really ready.”

 

 

“I’m thinking about going back to school,” said Harry, taking a bite of his eggs, which he’d absolutely doused in ketchup. 

“What do you want to do?”

Louis was hopelessly enamoured with the boy across from him. They had to leave the restaurant in the next 40 minutes if he was going to make it in time to open the shop. The expiry date on this date was taxing. He didn’t want it to end. He didn’t want to stop hearing Harry’s soft little giggles, and most of all he didn’t want to sentence his poor hand to a full day of absolute loneliness. It had gotten too used to Harry’s hand. 

“I think maybe I would like to teach primary school. I’m not sure though. It’s a lot to figure out and I’m kind of behind schedule. Most people have some clue by now.”

Louis shrugged, “life’s hard. Sometimes you think you’ve got it all mapped out and then—BOOM—you buy a bookstore and drop out of school. I get it.”

Harry smiled, reaching across to Louis’ plate with his own fork. He stabbed a piece of the avocado there and stuffed it into his mouth, a sly smile in place as he chewed. The action was so…intimate. It was striking. Louis might already be in love, if that was possible.

“Ahh,” he said, “now it see it. You are Gemma’s sister, you little shit. What is it with you Styles’? No food is safe in your vicinity, is it?”

Harry shook his head silently, a smile still on his lips. 

Louis winked, ‘“’s okay because avocados happen to be the most disgusting food on the planet.”

Harry pulled his brows together, “that is the first thing you’ve said that I can actually say is a strike against you. Like even worse than the stalker thing. I was willing to look past that…but a man that doesn’t appreciate a good avocado? That might not be redeemable.”

“Pfft,” was all Louis managed to say as he pushed his plate against Harry’s, using his fork to push the remainder of the avocado onto it, “the way I figure, you lucked out on all accounts. You’ll never have to fight with me over that weird green vegetable…thing.”

“I think it’s a fruit,” noted Harry. 

“Regardless, I’ll never fight you for one. That’s luck, Styles, last time I checked.”

Harry smiled even bigger then and took a bite of the avocado off of his plate, his eyes not leaving Louis’, “yeah, I guess it’s luck.”

 

 

November 24, 2009

 

It was just after 4 in the morning and Louis was more than half pissed as he and Harry wobbled down the street, destined for Harry’s mum’s house. It hadn’t even been a full 24 hours since they’d met…but Louis was starting to become a firm believer that fate really was a thing. It was foolish how comfortable he felt with Harry. They were a lot drunk and a little bit stoned and they’d spent hours on a park bench chatting in between snogging sessions and if Louis didn’t still live at home with his mum he might have invited Harry to spend the night. It wouldn’t even have been cheeky, either. He would have been proper sweet and memorized all the sounds that Harry made in his sleep and teased him about them the next morning. Soon. Maybe soon they could spend the night together, but for now Louis was trying to best to be a proper gentlemen by walking him home. 

“Zayn told me tonight was a set up,” Harry said, bumping his hip against Louis’ and almost making them both topple over. 

This of course made them both erupt into a fit of laughter. Louis pushed Harry against the wall of the bakery they were walking past. He kissed him sweetly and softly at first and then teased Harry with his tongue, making the sweet green-eyed creature moan in the most delicious way. Louis bit Harry’s lip gently, pulling back to grin at him. 

“You’re an absolute menace,” he announced, “trying to knock me on my arse and then seduce me on the quiet public streets. Who are you, Harry Styles? Were you sent to ruin my life?”

Harry leaned forward, planting a quick kiss on Louis’ cheek, “only in all the best ways, darling.”

Louis pulled back and grabbed Harry’s hand, tugging him back on the sidewalk and leading them back in the direction of Harry’s place. 

“You seductress, I will not fall for your charms. It’s me who gets to do the woo-ing in this relationship, Harold.”

Harry was all grins and giggles, not saying a word. 

“Was it something I said?” Asked Louis, linking their arms together and resting his head on Harry’s shoulder. 

“Yes,” said Harry, burying his lips into Louis’ hair, “as a matter of fact it was.”

They were just barely moving forward, Harry clearly just as unwilling as Louis was to end their night. 

“What did I say?” Louis whispered. 

“Relationship,” Harry echoed the word from a few sentences ago.

Louis’ grin was an impossible thing. Impossible in the sense that he couldn’t fight it, “well, Styles, if the shoe fits, well I think we ought to try it on then, don’t you?”

“That’s a really round about way to ask a simple question.” 

Louis pulled them to a stop then, holding Harry’s shoulders and grinning wider than he had in his entire life, “fine, let me rephrase that.” Louis knelt down on the cold sidewalk, grasping onto Harry’s left hand. He grinned up at him, “Harry I-don’t-know-your-middle-name-yet Styles, this has been the best night of my life and I think the only way that any night might ever top it would be if you were with me. So I guess what I’m asking you is, would you be interested in maybe going on a lot of dates with me? Like a really gross amount with lots of kissing and telling you how beautiful you are and maybe getting the privilege of introducing you to my mum and sisters as my boyfriend?”

Harry laughed, tugging on Louis’ hand, “get up you fool!”

Louis was still laughing when he stood up and Harry pressed their lips together. This time they snogged softly, tongues gliding against each other and heat building in Louis’ tummy. He’d never kissed anyone like this. He’d never wanted to kiss anyone like this. Harry’s hands were in his hair and Louis didn’t think he cared if he ever breathed again. This might be better. Harry pulled away then, cupping Louis’ cheeks in his great big hands and letting out the most enticing sigh. 

“We sure showed Zayn, didn’t we?”

“Hmm?” Asked Louis, his eyes still locked on Harry’s perfect lips. 

“He was trying to set us up, but you got to me first. The universe didn’t want to keep us apart.”

“You are such a sap,” said Louis, once again leading Harry forward. 

Harry pulled him around a corner onto a quiet residential street, and stopped walking forward. He pointed to one of the tiny cottages near the end of the street. 

“That’s my house,” he whispered, pulling Louis forward again. 

Louis was still a lot drunk and a little stoned as he wobbled forward, Harry tugging him along. It was bittersweet because Louis knew he really needed to get home to bed, but he also dreaded saying goodbye to Harry. 

“Psst, Styles,” said Louis, still whispering for whatever reason. 

“Lou?”

“Give me your cellphone. I need to put my number in it so you can call me when you wake up and want to go for breakfast.”

Harry didn’t even attempt to brush off the suggestion, he just reached into his pocket and handed Louis his phone. Louis grinned as he typed in his number. This was it. This was the start of something big and Louis never would have guessed when he’d woken up that morning that this was going to be where his day ended. He wouldn’t trade it for the world. He wouldn’t trade Harry for the world. He handed the phone back to Harry and watched as Harry looked down at it and chuckled. 

“You saved your number as ‘boyfriend’.”

Louis grinned, leaning into Harry’s side, his arm wrapped tightly around his boy’s waist, “and what’s the problem? You didn’t say no.”

Harry’s cheeks were flushed an enticing pink and he giggled as he kissed Louis’ forehead, “but I didn’t say yes.”

“No, what you did say was ‘the universe didn’t want to keep us apart’. Pretty sure that’s better than ‘yes’.”

Harry tugged Louis' hand until they were standing on the front step of his house. He wrapped his whole body around Louis, just pressing himself as close as possible and fuck Louis really didn’t want to leave. He didn’t want this night to end—ever. If he had to live in some sick nightmare where one day was on repeat for the rest of his life, let it be noted that Louis wanted to request this one!

“Can you wait here for a minute?” Asked Harry, “I want to give you something.”

“If it’s another kiss, I’d rather not wait.”

Harry kissed his cheek and turned to walk into his house, “I’ll be right back,” he whispered. 

True to his word, Harry snuck back out the front door half a second after Louis had plunked his drunk arse on the stairs. He felt Harry settle in next to him and looked over to see him holding his hand behind his back. Louis beamed. 

“Let’s have it, then.”

“It’s nothing…like its not anything big…I just—I wanted to get it for you—and,”

Louis reached behind Harry’s back to procure the object in question. He fumbled with it for a moment, ignoring Harry’s pout. It was…a mug. As he looked closer he recognized the buffalo plaid pattern with the words “Back on the Grind” across it. It was the mug from that afternoon. The one Louis had said he liked. Harry had gone back and bought it and maybe that was the sweetest thing that had ever happened to Louis. 

“I just…I liked the story about your Nan and how your great-grandad bought her mugs from all those places and I just thought it would be nice to get you that one. I don’t know. Maybe it’s silly.”

Louis pressed the mug to his chest and met Harry’s gaze, “this is the furthest thing for silly. You went back and got this for me.”

Harry nodded, nibbling on his lip nervously. 

“I knew it!” Exclaimed Louis. 

“Knew what?”

“You like me,” Louis pressed the mug closer to his chest and leaned in to kiss Harry softly on the cheek, “lots. You like me lots and you want to be my boyfriend. For better and for worse and all that,” Louis hiccupped once, making Harry laugh, “full disclosure: this is my worst. I’m absolutely trashed and I’ve probably just said a whole bunch of embarrassing things I’ll regret in the morning when I’m staring at my phone waiting for you to call, but maybe you’ll call anyway?”

Harry just nodded, leaning in to kiss Louis and take all of his breath away. 

This was the best night. 

 

 

Present

 

Harry was dragging his feet next to Louis as they trudged through the freshly fallen snow. The air was still cold, but thankfully Louis had a very smart pair of mittens to keep his fingers warm and a quiet and sweet boy next to him to warm his insides. Harry hadn’t said a word since they left the diner, but the silence wasn’t uncomfortable. It was more contemplative. They were only about a block away from the shop and Louis was scrambling in his head to try to find a reason to invite Harry out again. 

“I really like you,” Harry voice came crashing in out of nowhere, the statement seeming a bit strange for the moment. 

“Why do I feel like you’re about to give me a ‘but’? I really like you, but,

Harry huffed, a small laugh escaping and thank fuck because Louis probably would have lost his damn mind if there had been a ‘but’, “no ‘but’,” said Harry. 

“Well then, I really like you, too, Harry. Really. Like, really a lot. For real.”

Harry was laughing again and it was the best feeling in the world when he leaned into Louis and wrapped both of his arms around Louis’ and rested his head on his shoulder. “It’s not a ‘but’…but do you remember when I said there was something I thought I should tell you?”

“Oh shit,” said Louis, “you’re a Christmas prince from a made-up Netflix country betrothed to another, aren’t you? Damn it, why does this happen every time I like a guy?”

Harry was laughing, “close,” he said, tightening his grip on Louis’ arm, “actually, maybe this whole thing is even more unbelievable.” 

“Try me,” said Louis, slowing their walk ever so slightly, because fuck it. Work could wait. 

“I was in New York about three years ago and…there was an accident.”

Harry was quiet for a moment, so Louis chose to fill the gap (as he often did), “New York, eh? Look at you in New York and I don’t even have me passport.”

Harry just hummed a non-committal sound, before speaking again “um, well, apparently that was my thing. Apparently I went a lot of places…but since that accident I told you about…I kind of forgot.”

Oh. Oh, shit. This was big. There was no room for humour here. 

“Harry, I’m sorry—”

“It’s okay,” he assured Louis, “it’s called retrograde amnesia. I pretty much forgot everything aside from my mum and Gemma. My doctor said there’s a pretty good chance that I’ve gotten back all of the memories I ever will…so there’s still a lot of parts of my life I don’t remember. When I walked into your shop…that was the first time I remembered Zayn since the accident. He and Liam were my friends for so many years, but I just couldn’t remember them.”

“Harry, I’m so sorry.”

“Yeah, yeah. I’m used to that. People are always sorry for me. I apparently had this great life and then I woke up and it was all gone. So much of my life for the last three years has just been looking at my mum and sister and seeing the sadness in their eyes whenever they mention someone or something I can’t remember. I just—I guess I’ve felt like such a burden on the people who love me for such a long time that it’s nice to be around someone who doesn’t know about everything I forgot. You make me feel normal.”

“I mean, aside from your affinity for avocados, as far as I can tell you are pretty normal.”

Louis could see his shop, the plain black and white sign staring him in the face. Being an adult sucked. He wanted to be a teenager again or something so he could take Harry to dances and stay up all night and all day just giggling about nothing in particular. 

“Sometimes, when I get hung up on not remembering the really important stuff, it makes me so angry, you know? I’ve let my whole family down and I forgot my friends and there’s no worse feeling in the world then having everyone you love look at you like you’re the saddest thing they’ve ever seen.”

They were only a few steps from the shop, so Louis pulled Harry to a stop, “hey,” he breathed quietly, while Harry stared at the ground, “I don’t know your family, but I can assure you, Harry, that you didn’t let them down. They were there for you because they love you and they wanted to make sure you were okay. Sure, maybe things changed, but change isn’t a bad thing, is it?”

Harry bit his lip and lifted his gaze to meet Louis’, “I guess not.”

“Besides, we all disappoint our parents at some point. My mum thought she was going to have a doctor for a son and now she’s got some weird book-nerd turned barista that practically lives in a place that smells like the embodiment of everyone’s nan’s basement.”

Harry smiled, but he still looked a tad uncertain. 

“Aside from all that, sometimes it’s nice to start again. Sometimes it’s nice to just feel a new kind of normal.”

Harry smiled wider this time and nodded his head, “come on then, Lou, let’s get you to work.”

Harry wrapped his mittened hand around Louis and tugged him the last few steps toward the shop. 

 

 

Not one single person had stepped foot into the store yet and Louis felt resentful as he heard the bell from the church down the road toll, signalling that it was noon. Thankfully he wasn’t alone thinking about Harry. Thankfully Harry had stayed and offered to keep him company while he waited for a customer to show up. Harry was sipping a hot chocolate that Louis had made for him and talking about all of his favourite songs. Louis had told him to plug in his phone and Harry’s song selection played quietly through the store as Louis relentlessly teased every line they said that didn’t quite make sense. Harry had strangely eclectic music taste. It jumped from the Rolling Stones to indie bands to Shania Twain and somehow had most recently landed on Crocodile Rock. Harry was enjoying himself and it had Louis feeling strangely sentimental to see him so comfortable in Louis’ little musty shop. 

“What’s your favourite book?” Harry asked as Louis plunked himself down across from him. 

“That’s a loaded question,” said Louis, “forever it used to the The Catcher in the Rye but I found a new book awhile back that I think I like better. It’s called The Gargoyle. I think I have a thing for irredeemable main characters. They’re both less than likeable.”

“I don’t think I’ve read either of those,” said Harry honestly. 

“Blasphemy,” Louis whispered, getting up from his seat. He walked to a shelf to the left of the coffee area labeled ‘staff favourites’. Louis tugged two books down and slid them across the table to Harry. “You have homework now.”

Harry smiled, “I don’t think I’ve ever been on a date that resulted in homework,” he raised his eyebrow.

Louis grinned, “I like to stimulate the mind of all potential mates,” he wiggled his eyebrows and watched Harry’s entire face flush.

Louis heard the bell above the door jingle and pushed out his chair, rushing to greet the customer and give Harry a moment to recover.

 

 

After that first customer had shown up, half a dozen more had poured in looking for drinks. Louis had been stuck making coffee after coffee for the better part of the hour and he felt guilty when he looked over to Harry, who’s mug was empty and who’s nose was stuck in a book. Catcher in the Rye. He smiled despite himself. Harry looked up then and caught his eye. Was it wrong that Louis wanted Harry to waste his entire day sitting in his shop, keeping Louis company? 

Louis handed off the final coffee and rejoined Harry at the table. 

“Sorry,” he said, wiping his hands on his apron, “it got really busy there for a minute.”

“’s okay,” said Harry, turning the book over on the table to save his place.

Louis reached across the table and grabbed Harry’s hand. Harry flushed, but squeezed back, “thank you for hanging out today, it’s been really nice just having you around.”

“I like it here,” Harry said, looking around the room.

“I like you here.”

Harry’s smile was everything that Louis needed to see, “having said that, it’s probably boring for you, so I won’t even be a little bit offended if you wanted to leave. So long as you promise to come back.”

Harry looked at the clock on the wall and nodded, “I am supposed to go to my mum’s for tea…”

Louis grinned crookedly, “’s okay Harry.”

They stood then, walking toward the back room to relieve Harry’s phone of DJ duty. Louis listened as the lyrics softly played through the speakers. He’d never heard this song before. I’ll be your, I’ll be your, forget, forget me not. 

“This is one of my favourite songs,” Harry whispered to Louis as they slid into the back room.

The piano played softly and Harry’s eyes were on Louis. The room felt warm and safe and there was something pulling at Louis. Something he didn’t want to question. He reached out and grabbed Harry’s wrists, stepping close to him and draping Harry’s arms around his neck. He pressed their chests together and held on to Harry’s hips. 

“What are we doing?” Harry whispered as Louis leaned his head into the crook of his neck. 

“Dancing, what does it look like?” Louis asked.

If memories are shadows, we best not waste the light.

Harry pulled Louis closer, resting his cheek against Louis’ hair, “aren’t we supposed to leave room for Jesus?” 

Louis snorted, rocking them back and forth slowly, hugging Harry as close as he could do without violence. “Pfft, this is gay. This is a very, very gay dance. So many gay undertones—and overtones—so, no. No room for Jesus here. He wants no part of this, I promise.”

They continued to rock as the song played and Louis’ mind was racing a million times a minute. He wanted so fucking many things. All of them were Harry.

He heard Harry’s voice then, and of course, of fucking course, he had the sweetest singing voice in the world. 

“And you will forget, forget, forget me not.”

Louis had never heard this song before in his life, but he suddenly wanted it on repeat forever. Preferably, Harry’s version. 

They swayed back and forth as Harry softly sang the words against Louis’ ear. This was every moment Louis had ever wanted. God, he’d never known this part of himself. He’d never known how much he wanted this kind of romance in his life. Hell, he didn’t even know he could be romantic. He’d never felt the need before.

I know you’re not quite here, but you’re not quite gone. Sometimes the night gets darkest before the dawn,” Harry’s voice was making Louis’ head spin. Everything was so fucking perfect that it just didn’t seem fair. He hadn’t even known Harry for 24 hours and he’d already changed everything. Nothing could be the same as it was before he’d gotten in that lift the night before. 

Louis could feel the song coming to a close, but Harry wasn’t letting him go. He was still holding him close as the last notes of the piano played, “thank you, Louis,” they were standing still now, arms still wrapped around each other, “thank you for the best date. For making me hot cocoa and for the books. My favourite part was the dance, though.” 

Louis felt Harry’s lips on his hair then. Harry had just kissed the top of his fucking head and oh my god, Louis was going to melt though the floorboards. Everything was fucking perfect. He wanted to snog the fuck out of Harry and cry and run down the street screaming that he’d finally found him. It was all perfect. God, he finally understood that dumb look that Liam had always fucking had when he and Zayn were swinging together when they were kids. That look that Liam had always reserved for Zayn. It made a stupid amount of sense now because Louis was in way over his fucking head. All he wanted…was pink lips and curls brushing against his face and staying up all night laughing and laughing. There was so much he wanted that he’d never known he wanted. 

He pulled his head back then, their chest still pressed close, he met Harry’s eyes. Like he could read Louis’ mind or something, Harry’s hands drifted from Louis neck and cupped Louis’ face. He smiled, feeling his face flush but it was okay because Harry’s cheeks were pink, too. The room was warm and Harry’s body was calling to Louis like he was a fucking siren or something. Bravely, Louis leaned forward. It felt like there was no other possibility. They would kiss and it would be perfect and Louis would finally know exactly what he wanted out of life. He’d been waiting so long for this moment, for this person. 

Their noses brushed just as Harry’s phone started to scream its ringtone, making them both jump apart. Harry rushed to unplug it from the sound system and Louis suddenly felt empty and cold. 

“Just my mum,” Harry said, looking at Louis over his shoulder, “I can call her back—” 

The bell at the cash register rung out through the shop just a second after the bell at the door warned them someone had come in. Fucking store. Louis pouted and Harry smiled at him. 

“I’m gonna go…” he said, heading over to the doorway. He paused as he passed by Louis and leaned in to kiss his cheek, “again—thank you. I had a lovely time,” Harry gave Louis’ hand a squeeze before he whispered in his ear in that perfect singing voice, “forget, forget me not.”

And with that, Harry left the back room and Louis was forced to rejoin reality as he stepped back out onto the floor. He watched as Harry walked toward the door. 

“Harry!” He called out. Harry turned to look at him, “call me. Text me. DM me. Email me. Snapchat me. Add me to Facebook!”

Harry grinned, “bye, Lou.”

 

 

 

The shop was finally quiet and Louis was finally able to collect his wits. He pulled his phone out of his pocket as he unloaded the dishwasher and smiled down at his phone. There was a stupid amount of happiness in his heart as he took in the notifications on his screen. There was one missed call from Harry, one text, also from Harry that simply read ‘what’s your email?’. There was a Facebook notification: Harry Styles wants to be your friend! There was a notification from instagram that said: harrystyl3s wants to send you a message! Lastly, there was a notification saying that Harry had added him to Snapchat. It couldn’t be healthy for…like, his face muscles to be smiling this much. Surely he was causing them some sort of strain. 

Louis unlocked his phone, first accepting Harry’s friend request. Then he added Harry to Snapchat. He opened instagram and checked the DM Harry had sent: U up? Followed by the eggplant emoji and holy shit. Harry was a fucking fool. He was so embarrassing and Louis loved every fucking second of it. He opened up his texts and tapped out a quick response to Harry’s email question. 

Louis:

Actually, this is kind of embarrassing but its: XXLcock6969@coolmail.com

 

Harry:

Oh wow. You are the most embarrassing person on the planet. 

 

Louis chuckled and then saw that he had received a snap from Harry. He hurried to open it and saw a picture of his boy with a dramatic pout on his face. It was captioned: At mum’s. Miss you. xx

Louis was just about to respond with an even bigger pout and way more x’s when he heard the bell over the door chime. He put down his phone and watched to see his mum walking through the door. 

“Boo Bear?” She called. 

“At the back, mum. You want a tea or something?”

She made her way back to the coffee counter and smiled at him, “I’d love that chai thing you make.”

Louis pulled down a mug that read ‘I <3 NYC’ and started making the drink. “What are you up to anyway, mumsie? Wasn’t expecting you ‘round today.”

“I was just finishing up my shop and I thought I’d stop in and invite you over for dinner. The twins are cooking a roast. I honestly don’t know where they learned those cooking skills from, but I’m grateful every night.”

Louis laughed, he and his mother were both helpless in the kitchen, “sounds nice,” he said. 

“You don’t have any plans then?” She asked just as Louis heard the chime for Snapchat again. She caught him glancing at his phone and cocked her head a bit, “who’s that?”

Louis just shrugged as he measured the milk for his mum’s latte. 

“Louis William,” he said, slamming her hand on the table, “I haven’t seen you look like that sin—what’s going on?”

“Muuuuum,” he whined, “can’t you just let me make your drink in peace?”

“Who is texting you?”

“Actually, sorry mum, I can’t make it to dinner. I forgot I’d rather gouge out my own eyeballs then have you berate me all night.”

“Hey, now, honey, let’s not be dramatic.”

Louis grunted as he attempted to finish his mum’s drink without saying another word. Unluckily for him his phone went off again. This time it was a text.

“Who is it?” She asked again, like she really expected an answer.

“Don’t know, mum, haven’t even looked at the bloody thing. Don’t you have other children you could be harassing on this fine Sunday?”

The thing was, as much as Zayn and Liam were his best mates, his mum was, too. They had always been close, despite the minor hiccup when he’d initially rejected Lottie’s arrival, they’d been inseparable his entire life. If she kept asking he was going to eventually tell her. She knew that. He didn’t keep secrets, not from her at least. 

“Why would I want to bother when when there’s obviously something you want to tell me?”

Louis slammed her mug down on the counter and marched to one of the tiny tables and sat down. His mother sat across from him, a sly smile on her face. 

“What’s going on?”

He shrugged, “I don’t know…what do you think is going on?”

“I don’t know. You seem…giddy, weird. Good weird.”

Louis chuckled darkly, “good weird,” he mocked, “yeah well, I guess I am good weird. Had a good night last night and a good morning, too.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.” His mum was practically vibrating in her seat, “just say it, then. Whatever it is you’re thinking.”

She grinned, “you met someone.”

Louis groaned and dramatically slumped back in his chain, covering his eyes with his forearm. “I met someone,” he confirmed. 

His mum leaned across the table a tugged his arm out of his face, “Aww boo, what’s his name?”

Louis took a second to decide if he wanted to respond. “I don’t want to jinx it,” he said reluctantly, “so don’t do that thing you do where you put too much pressure on everything and stalk his life on social media, okay? I only met him last night. Give me a chance to figure it out.”

She nodded, raising her mug to her lips, “promise.”

Louis let out the longest exhale his lungs would agree to and then dropped the name into the silence of the shop, “Harry. His name is Harry.”

His mother erupted in a coughing fit, choking on her ‘chai thing’. Louis laughed at the distress in her eyes, “happy now, you nosey shit?”

Jay coughed a few more times, hiding her face behind her hand. All she managed was a nod. Louis shook his head with fondness. She was a pain in his ass but he wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Chapter Text

VII

 

December 31, 2009

 

Somehow, despite the thick crowd that was lined up all along the River of Thames, Louis had managed to push their way through the crowd to procure a spot right along the river. He gripped onto the fence in front of him, the black mittens Harry had made him for Christmas keeping his fingers warm and the body pressed up against his back was keeping the rest of him warm, which most importantly included his supremely sappy heart that just could not get it’s shit together with Harry involved. 

Big Ben read 11:46, meaning they were just moments from London’s famous fireworks show. Louis couldn’t wait. He’d spent all of his Christmas money on their train tickets and hotel room. They were only in London for two days, but that was 48 straight hours of nothing interrupting Harry-time. Harry-time was sacred time and he resented the shit out of anything that dare interrupt it in their day-to-day lives. Thank god they were still off from uni for another week and a half. He needed to spend every waking second he could manage with his boy before everything crashed back in and ruined it. 

Tonight was important, too. It was the first of what Louis could only imagine would be many, many New Year’s Eves together and Louis had something very important that he had to tell Harry, too. He’d talked it over with him mum after Harry had left his house on his birthday. If his mum thought it was a good idea, then he figured it probably was. His mum had fantastic intuition. 

Harry pressed closer against him then, his hand sliding underneath Louis’ coat and shirt to rest on his tummy. Harry’s lips pressed against the back of his neck, kissing him softly in a straight line until they stopped at Louis’ ear. It was freezing out but there was a heat in Louis tummy that made it feel like he was standing on a beach in Mexico. 

“I have something to give you,” Harry whispered into his ear, leaving another soft kiss behind his ear. 

Harry turned him around then, pressing Louis’ back to the fence, a great big grin set in place. He reached into his pocket and pulled out an envelope and Louis grabbed it, excitement rushing through his veins. It had only been a month and a half…was he supposed to feel like he could see his entire future in his boy’s eyes already? Was that even normal?

“Open it!” Harry’s eyes were glittering. 

Louis ripped off his mittens, handing them to Harry. Grin set in place, he peeled open the envelope and pulled out two train tickets. He raised his eyebrow at Harry before reading the destination: Paris. 

“Pair-ee!” Harry exclaimed, “the most romantic place in the world!”

Louis beamed, shoving the tickets in his pocket and throwing his arms around Harry’s neck. He pressed himself as close as possible, tucking his head in his favourite place in the word, right in the crook of Harry’s neck where he could feel his heartbeat. He wanted to scream. 

He squeezed Harry as tight as he could, “this right here,” he said, poking Harry in the chest, “this is the most romantic place in the world. Paris has nothing on you, baby.”

“Lou,” Harry cooed, and maybe Louis’ mum was right. There was fondness laced in the word and maybe Harry felt the exact same thing Louis was feeling. 

Harry tilted Louis chin up then, leaning down to kiss him. It was slow and soft, Harry had this perfect way of conveying everything he wanted to say in a kiss. It was something else. Louis never quite knew what to do with his boy, so naturally he kissed him back, deepening the kiss. 

Louis kept kissing him until he noticed the silence in the crowd around them. With reluctance, he pulled back, craning his neck to look at the giant clock. It was 11:59. He only had a minute to quietly say what he had to say before the fireworks would start. Harry was staring at him like he was the only person in the crowd. Maybe for Harry, he really was. That was a nice thought. 

“Hey, Haz,” he whispered, as Harry spun him back around to face the river. 

“Louis,” his lips were at Louis’ ear again, sending all kinds of shockwaves through him. 

Louis turned his neck to look at his boy, people around them were counting down the seconds as the hand made it’s way around Big Ben. How did he even get here? How was Louis this lucky to have this for even a second? Harry was everything he would have picked if he was going to draw up the perfect guy and somehow he’d just fallen right into Louis’ lap and hell, they were still kids. Harry hadn’t even picked his major yet. Everything in their life was underscored by a lack of certainty, but Louis was certain about one thing.

“I’m glad we met,” he said, which was a cop out. He was more than glad. ‘Glad’ was hardly the word to capture the gratitude he felt for the universe giving him everything he ever dreamed of. 

“So glad you found me in that bookstore, Lou. I’d still be so lost if you hadn’t found me.”

Louis smiled, “it was the universe, baby, remember? It didn’t want to keep us apart.”

Harry grinned and the world stopped spinning and the lady next to him screamed out “10!” At the top of her lungs and Louis was 9 seconds away from losing his moment, so he spoke as quickly as he could. 

“Harry, you were right, though,” he said, his hand splayed on Harry’s chest despite the cold that was nipping at it, “I don’t think there’s a force in creation that could have kept us apart. Before I saw you crouched down on the floor in that bookstore, I never believed in fate. It never made sense to me, but now everything makes sense to me. You changed my whole life Harry and I just want you to know,” he exhaled, a smile on his lips, “I’m in love with you. I’m so fucking in love with you and I can’t wait to see Paris and your gran’s house and the backroom at any dive bar or wherever it is you want to take me because it will always be perfect with you.”

Harry grinned and just as the crown screamed out “HAPPY NEW YEAR” he read Harry’s lips, I love you, Lou.

They kissed then, fireworks exploding along the river. Their tongues tangled and somehow, deep within his core, Louis knew that he would love Harry for every day he remained on this earth. There was nothing that could take that away from him. He’d always find his way home: straight into Harry’s arms. 

 

 

Present 

 

“Earth to Harry!”

Niall’s voice boomed across the room, startling the phone out of Harry’s hands. Louis’ smiling face landed on the carpet, still staring up at him. Harry couldn’t quite look away from the soft picture. Louis was grinning, his arm wrapped around a curly, golden haired dog. The caption read: Mum’s dog is cute. Not as cute as you though. 

Harry reached down and picked up his phone, daring to take one more glance at his phone before he looked over to Niall. 

Niall was on the other end of the couch, playstation controller in hand and looking completely unimpressed. Harry held up his phone, snapping a quick picture of Niall and adding: playing Fifa with Niall as a caption and sending the snap to Louis. Niall narrowed his eyes. 

“Are you going to put the fucking phone down and finish this game or is that too much to ask?”

Harry shrugged, locking his phone and placing it next to him on the couch. He picked his controller back up and made his player kick the ball down the field. He heard the Snapchat sound again, and resisted every urge inside of him to pause the game again to check his phone. He heard Niall groan from the other end of the couch and suddenly the game froze. Niall tossed the controller on the table. 

“Are you being careful?” Niall’s tone was short. Harry couldn’t for the life of him understand why Niall was being so difficult. 

“Um, Niall I hardly think you’re the person who ought to be giving me the safe sex talk. You’ve been shagging my sister for years and I in no way want to acknowledge that.”

“You know what I mean, Harry.”

Harry exhaled dramatically, “I’m not as fragile as you think I am.”

“I don’t think you’re fragile Harry, I just don’t think you should throw yourself at the first guy who pays attention to you.”

“A) I’m not ‘throwing’ myself anywhere, that’s ridiculous. B) He’s your friend. He can’t be a bad guy and C) he’s not the first guy who’s ever paid attention to me—why don’t you ever want to talk about that. Why doesn’t anyone ever want to talk about that? Am I supposed to just keep waiting the rest of my life in hopes I might remember whoever he was? Look, I get it Niall. You’re all hurt because you all liked him…but Louis is…” Harry sighed, “I’m sorry I ruined whatever I had before but I’m not sorry about this, okay? I think after everything, maybe I deserve this? I feel good. I feel so fucking good right now, can you please stop trying to guilt me out of it?”

It was Niall’s turn to sigh, “Harry…it’s not what you think. I don’t want to stop you from feeling good—”

“You just want me to remember the other guy…I get it. I get it, okay? But it hasn’t happened and I don’t know if it will. I’m so tired of being sorry about that. I know mum and Gem and you and everyone else in the world just wants me to go back to normal, but maybe this is normal now. What’s so bad about a new kind of normal?”

 

 

Once Niall had left (after a long apology that glossed over everything they’d actually been through in the past 3 years), Harry collapsed back onto his couch. He reached for his phone where he found three Snapchat notifications from Louis and one text, also from Louis. Harry beamed as he raced to unlock his phone and check the Snaps, the oldest one an hour and a half old. 

The first one was a picture of Louis, pouting again captioned: nice of you lot to invite me! The second picture was Louis in a flower crown: But then, you probably both know I’d kick your arses. 

Harry grinned at just how fucking cute Louis was. He resisted every urge inside of himself that told him to screen shot the picture because what sane person with a functioning set of eyes wouldn’t find Louis Tomlinson in a flower crown the absolute most endearing thing on earth? 

The last photo was only 20 minutes old. This one was a selfie taken as far back as his arm could reach to make the frame large enough to fit in the two heads that were resting on either side of his lap. It was captioned: I can not longer move. Send help. 

Harry felt horrible that he hadn’t responded, but it had somehow felt important to give his attention to Niall. He closed Snapchat to check the text from Louis. 

 

Louis Tomlinson:

I thought that sending another snap after three unanswered ones might make me look desperate. So, naturally I opted to text. 

 

Harry grinned, tapping out a quick response

 

Harry Styles:

Sorry. I was desperately trying to kick Niall’s ass, but turns out video games aren’t my thing. Are you still being a human pillow?

 

The three dots appeared almost instantly at the bottom of Harry’s screen. He was stupid and giddy, rolling onto his stomach and burying his face in the nearest throw pillow while he waited for the text to arrive. The second he heard the sound he lifted his grinning face and read Louis’ words. 

 

Louis Tomlinson:

Nah, mum busted in and broke up the party. I’m just walking home now.

 

Harry didn’t think about the action and before he knew it, his phone was pressed to his ear. He heard the phone ring only half a ring before he was greeted by Louis’ voice. It was exactly how his mind had preserved it and it had been just way too many hours. 

“Well, well,” said Louis, “if it isn’t the man who was too busy to send me a Snapchat back and left me hanging all night. I had half a mind to ignore this call.”

“It didn’t even finish the first ring,” argued Harry and everything inside of him was squirming. 

“Are you accusing me of being too eager? Because that’s not me at all. I have no idea what you’re talking about. My mom didn’t bitch at me all night about not being able to put away my phone or anything of the sort.”

“Mmm,” hummed Harry, curling into the armrest of his couch, “I miss you.”

The line wasn’t even quiet for half of a second before Louis spoke, “when can I see you again?”

“Whenever you’d like.”

Louis hummed, “well, I’m not opposed to taking the long way back to my place. What do you say to meeting me downstairs in, I don’t know, five minutes or so? I have something I forgot to give you earlier.”

Harry giggled, actually fucking giggled and he would have been embarrassed if he hadn’t been lost in the Lala land that Louis had created in his head, “but I’m in my trackies.”

“Perfect,” sang Louis, “I’ll be there soon. Meet me on the steps.”

With that, Louis hung up the phone. 

Harry picked up the throw pillow and screamed into it, grinning like a lunatic. Then he scrambled to his feet, dashing for the washroom to brush his teeth. 

 

 

Harry’s nose was cold as he stood on the steps of his apartment building. He held his hands over his nose and exhaled warm air in an attempt to warm himself. He’d been standing there for approaching one minute. Louis must have been absolutely freezing if he’d been walking in this. It was unusually cold for November. He wasn’t sure where Louis’ mum’s house was, or where Louis’ flat was for that matter, so he glanced down the sidewalk in each direction. To his left he saw a figure in a jean jacket that looked very familiar. He tried his very hardest not to smile like a raging psycho, but the closer that Louis got the wider his grin became. 

Harry was absolutely fucking knackered. Since he’d shown up to Zayn and Liam’s the night before, he’d barely slept, but he could not find a part of him that cared in the slightest. He was willing to forego sleep for the foreseeable future if the figure that was currently approaching him was involved. And, come to think of it, Harry could see Louis being the cause of a lot of sleepless nights. He probably wouldn’t hold it against him, though. 

Before he could think about how nervous he was, Louis was standing three steps down from him. Harry’s gaze found his new favourite shade of blue, just as Louis reached out and grabbed Harry’s hand. He tugged Harry down the steps until he was standing in front of Louis, who was wearing the most perfect sly smile Harry had maybe ever seen. 

“Hi,” Harry breathed out quickly and Louis pressed their chests closer together. Harry could feel his heart in his throat and he’d never in his life been more willing to be this terrified. Everything happening in his chest was welcomed. 

Louis didn’t say a word, he just stared at Harry, his hands resting firmly on Harry’s hips. Oh fucking, god, Harry was dying. He was actually dying and it was a really sad moment because Louis made him want to be alive more than he could ever remember wanting to be alive. 

Without saying a word, one of Louis’ hands crept up Harry’s back, his breath tickling Harry’s neck and sending shivers everywhere. The intensity was enchanting and Harry couldn’t look away from the ocean in Louis’ irises. He felt Louis’ hand tangle in the hair at the back of his neck and thank fuck he’d had the good sense to brush his teeth because Louis mouth was on his then. 

Fucking finally. 

Finally, they were kissing and why the fuck had they not been kissing for the past 24 hours? The chill in Harry’s body was replaced with lava, hot, flowing lava that was moving it’s way through all of his veins. He growled from somewhere deep inside of himself, dipping into something primal and untapped. He swung his arms around Louis’ neck and opened his mouth to lick into Louis’. He was panting, trying to get deeper still. Louis’ nose brushed against his, his hands simultaneously tugging at his hair and pressing his body closer and closer, still. Harry’s hands slid against the stubble covering Louis’ cheeks, groaning at the feeling of his skin against his palm. Everything that was Louis was everything that was good in the world. Everything around them could have been crumbling and Harry would never have noticed.

The kiss ended then, too abruptly. Any stretch of time would have been too abrupt. 

Louis’ hand moved to cup Harry’s chin, reaching out the thumb over his bottom lip. Louis’ eyes were locked onto Harry’s. 

“I meant to do that earlier,” he said, a tempting sort of rasp in the back of his throat that made Harry’s mind (and body) perk up. Louis smiled then, “I told you there was something I forgot to give you.”

 

 

Louis was staring out of a window, watching as a giant plane landed. There was commotion all around him, but he was focused. He could remember being focused because that was Harry’s plane. Harry who was fucking finally coming home from Rio. He’d been gone for three weeks, which wasn’t unusual, but it was always hard. Their time together had never damped Louis’ desire to spend every waking second of his life next to Harry. 

“Lou?” Harry’s voice came from behind him.

Louis turned to meet his eyes, his arms instantly opening up and preparing for their hug. Louis always picked him up and spun him around two times whenever he picked him up from a flight. It was tradition. 

This time, though, Harry’s hands gripped his shoulders, “there’s no time, Louis, it’s running out. It didn’t work. We need to get off the map.”

The panic in Harry’s eyes made Louis insides turn. He was right. They were running out of time. There were only so many memories that they could hide in, and this wasn’t one. 

“Take me somewhere we never went, Lou.”

Louis nodded, the panic in his chest turning into pure fear. How much longer could they fight this? How much harder and how much faster could they run before it was all gone?

They had to try, though. 

Louis grabbed onto Harry’s hand, “this way,” he yelled, tugging Harry toward the departures sign. They ran as fast as they could. Louis only spared one glance over his shoulder to see the airport crumbling behind them. He pulled Harry harder. He needed to save him. He needed Harry because whatever life was going to be waiting for him when he woke up…it wasn’t what he wanted. He’d been wrong. He’d been so fucking wrong. When he woke up he was going to call Anne and he was going to beg Harry for the rest of his life to remember him. If that didn’t work, well then he’d start over. He’d build their life from the ground up all over again, because what else could he do? He couldn’t let go. He couldn’t forget. It wasn’t the proper ending. 

Louis pulled them to a stop in front of one of the ticket counters. The lady working the desk turned to him, her face nothing but blank skin. She wasn’t there. Everything was crumbling and nonono. This couldn’t happen. 

“Louis,” said Harry, tugging on his hand and pointing to the terminal they were closest to. The announcement was calling for all passengers to board the flight leaving for Athens. 

They took off, then, throwing elbows to push past the faceless people trying to board the flight. Louis didn’t dare let go of Harry’s hand. 

“What if I remember you some day?” Harry asked, a question that Louis had gone over in his head a million times. 

It was close to impossible. That wasn’t how amnesia like Harry’s worked. He was probably never going to remember and the entire world agreed that Louis was right to operate under that assumption.  

They were flying down the hallway that would take them to the plane. Louis’ insides were rotten. How could he answer a question like that. 

“I’m going to find you,” said Harry, pulling them to a stop. He gripped the sides of Louis face, his gaze boring straight into Louis’ soul, “I’ll find you, Lou and I’ll make you remember me. I promise. I could never love someone else like I love you, Louis. I promise. I promise.”

Tears poured down Louis cheeks, “I’m sorry. I have missed you every second, Harry and I can’t live like that. I can’t live in a world where you aren’t you. Come back to me, yes. Find me. I was made for you, Haz, there’s no one else.”

Harry kissed him then, slow and deep and Louis could hear everything around them falling apart. It was too late. This one was gone too. They hadn’t escaped. 

Harry disappeared then and Louis’ eyes shot open. He was standing in the middle of the empty airport and just before everything turned black, he heard Harry’s voice. 

“Forget me not.”

 

 

Present

 

Harry was practically skipping down the streets, which made him stand out like a sore thumb against the rest of the people around him. The rest of the world didn’t greet a Monday like this—but the rest of the world didn’t spend the weekend meeting Louis Tomlinson, either, so they could be forgiven. It was just past 10 and Harry was half a block from Montauk. He hadn’t told Louis he was coming because he wanted to surprise him. He’d stopped off and bought two ornate cupcakes from a shop he’d passed by for no other reason than their icing being roughly close to the colour of Louis’ eyes (they weren’t quite the same colour, though, because nature couldn’t possibly have ever made that shade twice. It existed only in the irises of the most handsome man in the world—Harry was positive). Harry was also positive that he had somehow become the most disgusting and obsessive person on planet earth. 

Hopefully Louis wouldn’t mind. 

He flung open the door to the bookshop maybe a tad too eagerly. He glanced to the back of the store where he expected to see Louis making half a dozen coffees, but he wasn’t there. Harry was just about to start searching the aisles when he saw Louis poke his head out of the room behind the cash register. It took him scarcely a second to realize that it was Harry standing in the doorway. His grin was just a touch too excited and that made Harry feel way better about how eager he was feeling. Louis bounded from behind the counter and stopped in front of Harry, goofy smile set in place. 

“Hi,” he hummed. 

Harry held up the bag he was carrying, “I was in the neighbourhood doing some shopping so I thought I’d stop in.”

Louis smiled with half of his mouth, snatching the bag from Harry’s grasp. He peeked inside and chuckled. 

“You were ‘out doing some shopping’ yet all you bought was exactly two cupcakes. Seems fishy if you ask me. I’m surprised you survived on your own this long. This is hardly how a grown adult should be eating.”

“Alright,” sighed Harry, “you caught me. I wasn’t out shopping.”

“You were coming to see me, weren’t you?” Louis grin was magnetic. 

Harry bit his lip and shrugged. 

“Well, I for one am glad that you decided to stalk me for a change.”

Louis leaned in then, giving Harry a soft kiss. Louis grabbed Harry’s hand then, guiding him to the back of the store. He put the cupcakes down on one of the tables and wrapped his hands around Harry’s hips, leaning in close to his face. 

“What kind of drink are you in the mood for? I’m thinking matcha lattes all around.”

“Perfect,” said Harry despite the fact that he had had matcha lattes approximately zero times in his life. 

“Well come on then,” Louis said, tugging him behind the coffee station, “if you’re going to keep coming here for the free drinks, it’s time you earned your keep. Let me show you how to make yours and then you can make mine,” Louis said with a wink. 

He reached up and pulled down two of the unmatching mugs that Harry was starting to realize were synonymous with this little hidden coffee shop. 

“First we steam the milk,” said Louis, pushing Harry in front of a very intimidating looking machine. Harry watched as Louis filled up a metal cup with milk and then handed it to Harry. He slid behind Harry then, guiding his hands to steam the milk. Harry giggled and nearly dropped the metal cup in his hand when he felt Louis’ lips on his neck. 

“What?” Mumbled Louis against his skin, “it’s like that scene in Ghost, all romantic like. ‘oh my love, my darling, I’ve hungered for your touch’,” sang Louis. 

“I don’t get that reference,” Harry pointed out. 

“Ugh, how have you not seen that gem? Do you, like, not have a thing for cheesy 90s romance movies because I don’t know if this whole thing is going to work out if you don’t.”

Harry put the steamed milk down and turned to wrap his arms around Louis. He kissed him once, pulling back to smile, “does this mean I have more homework?”

“Mmm,” said Louis in agreement before he leaned in to kiss Harry, just a little longer this time. 

Yeah, Harry could get used to this. 

“Now, go sit down you absolute menace. You are clearly not cut out for the barista life. Too easily distracted.” 

“Shame,” said Harry, nipping at the skin between Louis’ jaw and ear, “I thought you might enjoy a good distraction every now and then.”

“I’m trying to run a business here, you siren. Go sit down.”

Harry kissed his cheek and laughed as he made his way to the table. He watched Louis as he finished the drinks, his chin resting on his hand and a perminant smile on his face. When he saw Louis lift the two mugs to bring them over to the table, Harry opened the bag and pulled out the cupcakes, sliding one across the table to Louis’ spot. He grinned as he slid over Harry’s drink. 

“And what made you think that cupcakes at half ten in the morning was the kind of day that today was going to be?”

Harry chewed the inside of his cheek, “would it be cheesy if I said they reminded me of you?”

“I would say ‘what right do you have to speak of cheesy when you haven’t even see Patrick Swayze at his absolute cheesiest?’”

Harry giggled, “all right then. I have absolutely no story to tell you about the cupcakes at all, then, Louis Tomlinson.”

There was a moment then, where something inside of Harry lurched, making the room spin. There was no distance that could possibly have been close enough to Louis. He felt, as he stared across the table at Louis, like their souls were wound together. Like there was a piece of him that was forever caught up on Louis and it all made sense, then as he looked across the table.

Louis had his mug lifted up to his mouth, the Cliffs of Moher depicted across the mug and this wasn’t the first time that Harry had seen this. The room was all wrong, but he’d seen this moment with that mug and those blue eyes dozens of times before. He was going to be sick. Something was right—but something else was very, very wrong. 

“Louis,” he choked out the word, but it was garbled and scratched his throat on the way out. 

Louis. Louis. LOUIS. 

Holy fucking shit. Holy. fucking. shit. 

Harry stood up, feeling light headed. This wasn’t right. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. Everything felt wrong. Harry's legs wobbled as he took a few steps back, watching Louis put down his drink. 

He couldn’t hear anything. There was no sound but he could see Louis’ mouth moving. He was asking what was wrong. HA! What was wrong? 

What was right?

There was nothing right about that moment. He was standing right there, staring at Louis who was only a few feet from him…but he was a stranger. There was something wrong, because that? That was not his Louis. 

“It was you.”

Yeah. It was him. It was him. He was the one that everyone so desperately wanted him to remember, but now that he did, somehow he was still a stranger. 

So Harry bolted. He ran. He had to keep running so the burn in his lungs would distract from the pain in his chest because this wasn’t fucking right. 

Chapter Text

Present

 

The world was spinning right before Harry’s eyes. Nothing was right. Everything was so fucked and he just didn’t get it. Nothing made any sense. In the three years since the accident, this was all that anyone had wanted. He remembered. He remembered pretty much everything, but the onslaught was overwhelming. There was just so much. Harry had spent years imagining how it must have felt to be so in love with someone that he’d wanted to marry him—but this? This was so much more than he could have possibly imagined. There was so much.

He tugged open the door to his mother’s house, slamming it hard behind him. She appeared in the doorway right away. There was a question on her face right until she met Harry’s eyes. She went to him then, scooping him into her embrace. Harry gripped onto her as hard as he could, fear in the pit of his stomach.

“It was Louis. It was him. It was him,” he was mumbling, sobbing into his mother’s hair. 

“It was Louis,” she confirmed, her voice shaking. 

Well, here it was. Here was the moment that she and everyone else in the world had been gunning for, but Harry was falling apart because this wasn’t how it was supposed to go. 

Harry didn’t know how long he’d been in his mother’s embrace before he pulled away. He was hurt. He didn’t understand what the hell was going on, but it wasn’t right. Something had broken along the way. There was one question that he just couldn’t fathom an answer to. 

“Why doesn’t he know who I am?”

His mum swallowed visibly. She wiped at his tears, seeming to run it over in her mind a million times. She didn’t know how to answer the question without tearing something inside of Harry. He could tell and there just was no good way to answer that kind of question, was there? 

Why doesn’t the love of my life know who I am?

Harry had taken a three year brain vacation only to wake up and find that the person he wanted to be there—the person he needed to be there—was gone. Louis wasn’t…was he pretending? Was this just some elaborate plan to make Harry fall in love with him again? Was he pretending? The idea was positively poetic. 

Harry was crying again. Of course. It all made sense. Louis, his Louis. Of course he would set aside his hurt to make Harry fall in love with him all over again. Of course. God, his boy. His boy was…everything. It would have worked, too. Harry would have fallen all over again and they would have been happy because at his core, he knew there was no one else. He could fall in love with Louis a million times and it would always work because they were meant to be. 

“He’s pretending,” Harry said. He was certain now. 

“Come on, honey, let’s sit down. There’s—there’s a lot I should tell you.”

Harry let himself be led to the couch, but he was right, wasn’t he? Louis had to be pretending because there was just no other option. Louis didn’t forget him. That wasn’t possible. Harry was the one who’d broken them, but Louis was the one who was fixing it. It all made sense. 

His mother stared at him for a moment, she looked like she was deciding where to start. Harry didn’t blame her. He’d lived his life for three fucking years without knowing what he’d been missing and now he knew. How was she supposed to broach that? 

She exhaled slowly, taking his hand in hers, “I didn’t think this day was going to come.”

Harry nodded. There was nothing else he could say. She had all the answers he needed. He needed her to speak. 

“It’s hard to know where to start,” she breathed, “do you…do you remember the videos? I should let you watch those.”

Harry didn’t know what she was talking about. He shook his head in the negative. 

“I think they might answer some of the questions you have…”

“I need to know about Louis. Why is he acting like he doesn’t know who I am?”

“Harry Edward Styles,” her voice was thick with emotion, tears threatening to pour down her face. But she was his mum. She would pretend to be strong no matter how hard things got. He was eternally grateful for her support these last few years, “you and your sister are the loves of my life, you know that right?”

Harry nodded. 

“Just…whatever happens. Whatever I tell you, I need you to know that I’m here. Spend the night, spend the year. Mum will always take care of you, okay?”

Harry was impatient, “why is he doing this?”

His mum stood up from the couch then, “I’ll show you something…I never thought this day would come Harry, I’m so sorry.”

What the hell was going on? His mother left the room and Harry was left on the couch, his head spinning. 

His mum returned a moment later with a tiny card in her hand. How was that supposed to explain everything? What could that card possibly say that could make everything better?

“There’s a lot of things that happened since your accident…” his mum began, “and a lot of those decisions were really hard ones to make. You know I love you and none of us would have made a decision like this if we didn’t think it was the best option for you both. What happened to you…it was no one’s fault, okay? We all tried our hardest, but we ultimately had to think about Louis, too. We wanted you to remember, but there was so much going on, so many things we were throwing at you and none of it was sticking. For those first eight months Harry…he tried so hard. None of this is your fault. I know you would have remembered if you could have. I know you wouldn’t have wanted to hurt him…but we couldn’t just watch him like that. Your doctor was the one who wrote the referral for Louis. He said it was the best decision to give him some closure and he didn’t want to do it at first. I remember the night he came to say goodbye…I think that night I almost understood how hard it must have been for him to say goodbye to you. Maybe it wasn’t the same, but I loved him. I loved him enough that I didn’t want to see him suffer anymore. God, he loved you Harry.”

She handed Harry the card then, and as he read the words something tugged at the base of his spine. 

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“I don’t understand,” were the only words that Harry could manage. 

Anne took the card back and pressed it to her chest, “he doesn’t know who you are.”

Harry laughed, an undercurrent of anger behind the gesture, “that’s impossible. Of course he knows who I am. You can’t just erase someone.”

“He didn’t think he had a choice, Harry. The doctors all agreed that the odds of you coming back were so slim—”

“This is a fucking joke,” he said and his laughter was angry, didn’t his mum understand? Louis was fooling them. He was trying to win Harry back and it had worked. Harry had remembered him. They could all stop pretending now, “he knows who I am. I just spent the last two days with him.”

“Harry, baby, I’m sorry. He wouldn’t have done it if he knew there was a chance—”

“He made me remember him. I remember him, mum. I remember him. It worked. His plan worked—”

“He didn’t have a plan, honey. We were supposed to keep you apart. Zayn thought he knew what was best, but baby you were never supposed to know about Lacuna.”

Harry laughed again, “ha! Ha! Mum, you can drop it. You can’t just erase someone. I know Louis had a plan, it’s okay. It worked.”

Harry’s step-father, Robin appeared in the entrance to the living room then, a heavy expression on his face. Harry’s eyes met his and he noticed a card in his hand. He handed it to Harry, whispering about how sorry he was. The card was the same as his mother’s, except it was addressed to Robin. 

“This isn’t funny,” Harry’s hand was shaking. 

“I’m so sorry, Harry,” Robin’s voice was thick and his arms wrapped up Harry in a tight embrace. 

He broke, then, because what if this was real? What if this was really happening? Tears rushed down his face. He’d been gone for so long. Nothing was the same as it had been, but this didn’t make sense. Harry had forgotten Louis, but did that really mean that Louis would choose to forget him, too? That couldn’t be real. This felt like science fiction. This felt like a book on the shelf of that bookstore Louis was running. And that. What was with that? When had Louis stopped going to school? How had so many things changed in the past three years? Since when did his Louis even know what the hell a matcha latte was? Nothing made any freaking sense. 

“It’s a procedure,” he heard his mum’s voice speaking softly, but he hid in the safety of Robin’s embrace, “a voluntary procedure to help people cope with the loss of someone they loved. I think, for Louis, the moment you looked at him and had no idea who he was—that was worse for him than if he would have lost you for real. He couldn’t live like that, Harry. He loved you and you didn’t know who he was. There was nothing left for him without you. You were his entire world and it wouldn’t have been fair of us to ask him to live like that. We wanted to give him his best shot. You weren’t supposed to find out. None of us thought you’d just meet and start over…I guess that’s just a testament to how much you loved each other.”

Harry’s whole body was shaking. The pain rocked through him because this was real, wasn’t it? Louis completely believed that the moment in the elevator was the first time they’d ever spoken. Louis had no idea about the first time they’d spoken in that bookstore, just hours before Zayn had planned to set them up. Harry had already been half in love with him before that night and had bought him that first mug. Louis had no idea. Every single second they’d ever spent together was…gone. 

Could he get them back? Were they just buried in the back of his mind? Could Harry make him remember the way Louis had made him remember? Everything hurt. The people who were supposed to love him the most had taken Louis from him. They had erased their entire life. How was it even possible for them to think for a fucking second that it was for the best?

“You let him do that?”

Harry pushed back from his family. Everything inside of him was screaming ‘run’, but where was he going to run to? These were the people he’d trusted. These were the people who had ‘taken care’ of him since the accident. His family was supposed to do the right thing, but they’d taken everything from him in the process. Who was there left to trust? Everything was fucking gone. Louis was fucking gone. 

He had nothing. 

 

 

There was nothing left inside of Harry. He was completely hollowed. He couldn’t even feel the pain anymore. He was aware, somehow, that he’d left his cellphone on the table next to his matcha latte before he’d run for his life from the love of his life. He’d spent most of his afternoon crumpled on the floor of his childhood bedroom. People had circulated in and out, Gemma, Robin, his mum. Hell, his mum had even offered to call Louis’ mum over. Like that would help anything. 

Like it would change anything. 

They had made Louis forget him and nothing that Harry did could change that.

No matter how hard he tried, Louis would never remember how to touch him just there. He’d never make a joke about ‘that one time when we were in uni’. He’d never remember all the corners of the world where they’d held each other. He’d sold their flat. The flat that Harry had bought for them with his first big advance of money from Youtube. Louis had let go of every single memory they’d made and Harry couldn’t change that. 

Hours ago, it had hurt so much more than it did in that moment. Now, though, Harry was numb. He’d hurt for so long that he’d exhausted the feeling. Now there was nothing. 

He was sitting in his room at his mum’s in front of his iMac, staring down at a piece of paper that his mother had given him. It was the login information to the Youtube channel he used to run. She told him she’d set it to private six months after the accident, but it was all still there. A giant chunk of his life, just sitting idle on the internet remembering all the things that his mind had failed to remember for him. It was kind of horrifying, the idea of watching them back. His mum and Gemma had told him a million times about his channel, about all the people who had loved his foolish travel vlogs and had somehow let him make a career out of uploading them to the internet. 

It was a strange concept to him, now. That was how he had once lived his life and now he had nothing. He was just a sad forgotten man who had lost three years of his life to his own inability to remember. The whole thing was so fucked up he almost wanted to laugh about it. 

Eventually, though, his curiosity did get the better of him. He typed in the login information and was faced with his channel. 678 videos just sitting there, shielded from the world and waiting for him to remember. The latest uploaded was from April 9th, 2016. It was a thumbnail of his mum’s face and Harry knew this was where he needed to start. 

 

An Explanation from Anne by trav3lwithharry

 

1,638,613 views

 

Published on April 9, 2016

 

The video had been filmed right in the chair he was currently sitting in. The quality wasn’t great, leading Harry to believe that it had been filmed with just the iMac’s webcam. His mum was sitting in front of the camera, her expression solemn. She didn’t want to be there. How many times must she have wished that Harry had just died? She’d had to help him learn how to live all over again and wouldn’t it have just been easier if he’d been gone for real? 

She cleared her throat and spoke softly, as she always did. 

“Hello everyone, I don’t know if you know who I am, but my name is Anne Twist and I’m Harry’s mum. Louis and I decided that I needed to make this video so that you all had some kind of explanation about Harry’s absence these past few months.”

She ran her hand through her hair, eyes focusing somewhere behind the camera. Louis. Harry instantly knew. 

“In December, Harry was in New York City and there was an accident. Thankfully, he lived. I think my stars every single day that he lived…but it’s been a challenge. Harry is suffering from retrograde amnesia. Aside from myself and his sister and step-father—“ he voice broke, “Harry doesn’t remember much. He has no recollection of this channel, or of the people who watched these videos and supported him. His prognosis isn’t good. I felt I owed it to you all to explain the situation.”

Again, her eyes focused behind the camera. Harry felt a familiar pain in his chest. 

“Harry has forgotten a good portion of his life and I’m uploading this in hopes of setting the records straight, but also asking for your help. I know you love meeting him, that you like seeing him out and about and taking photographs with him, but I’m asking you to share this video. People need to know that he can’t do that anymore. He has no idea about this channel or about any of you, so I’m asking for your help. Support him by giving him the privacy he needs to get through this.”

His mum stopped filming then. The screen went blank. Harry held his breath, scrolling down to the comments section.

Over and over some variation of the same question appeared: What about Louis? Does he remember Louis?

Harry swallowed hard. 1.6 million people had watched this video. Thousands had commented about Louis. So many people had been invested in them and Harry had forgotten them and Louis. He’d broken all their hearts. 

He looked at the clock in the corner of the computer. It was past two in the morning and apparently Harry no longer needed to sleep because he was obsessing. He needed to remember it all. He needed all the details. 

He clicked back to the first page, in search of the beginning. There were three uploads about London, his first vlogs from when he’d gone to watch Niall play in a footie tournament before they’d even started uni. There were so many answers buried in these videos, so many memories at his disposal. He skipped the London vlogs and clicked on the one uploaded just after them. 

 

Random Unrelated Life Update by trav3lwithharry

 

34,563 views

 

Published on November 30, 2009

 

“Hey guys!” 

It was Harry’s 18 year old face and it was strange to see. He was grinning an impossible amount and Harry felt chills down his spine because he knew that grin. Everyone knew that grin. 

“I just thought I’d jump on here and talk about something that’s been…on my mind a lot,” another smile. His cheeks were coloured slightly pink, “I know this has nothing to do with my channel or anything…but I think my friends might be sick of listening to me, so I just had to share.” 

A cell phone chimed in the background and Harry’s smile grew. He knew who it was. Present Harry knew who it had to be, too. Why did everything hurt so fucking much? 

“So…” Harry sighed happily, “I met him.”

He leaned forward, closer to the camera, resting his chin on his knuckles, “I know that sounds crazy…but I met him. I just know he’s the one. It hasn’t even been a week…how crazy is that? Even my mum said she can tell I’m in over my head. He’s…funny. He’s really freaking funny and I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard in my life. He makes fun of everything, but he’s like…so supportive of everything. I told him about this channel, about how I want to travel the world some day and he doesn’t think it’s silly. He said I shouldn’t be in uni, I should be out living my dream. He doesn’t think I’m crazy at all, do you know how few people would support someone starting a Youtube channel? I just—I really think that this is the start of something great. We’re going to be happy for a long time, I can feel it. I sound insane, but hear me out: He fits.”

Harry pushed back from the camera, running a hand through his hair, “he’s studying to become a surgeon. I mean, a freaking doctor! He’s literally the guy of everyone’s dreams, but like that wasn’t enough, he’s so fucking beautiful. He has these eyes—“

Harry swallowed around the lump in his throat, pausing the video. Tears burned the back of his eyes because he remembered. He remembered that party at Zayn and Liam’s, the way Louis had kissed him on the balcony and then walked him home drunk and stoned and charming. He remembered what it was like to fall in love with Louis—but worse than that, he remembered what it was like to fall over again. He remembered blushing in the elevator at the bold stranger who teased him like they’d known each other for a million years. He remembered walking home—again—in the cold November air, nine years later, wrapping their hands in a scarf and wanting to tell him everything. He remembered Louis. Every version of Louis all at once and it was a lot.

He clicked back to his main page, needing to escape the memories. Everything hurt. How could they just take Louis away like that? How could anyone have believe that this was for the best?

He clicked on the video just before the one his mum had uploaded. 

 

New York City Night One | Travel Vlog by trav3lwithharry

 

1,162,967 views

 

Published on December 19 2015

 

“Hey guys! This is Harry and welcome back to my Youtube channel!” All around Harry were sparkling lights, the sound of traffic thick in the background, “and as you can see, I am not in my hotel. Today was my first full day in New York so, naturally I took you along with me! Stay tuned to see what I ate and where I am spending the night!”

The camera shot changed then and Harry was climbing the stairs leading to the Plaza hotel. 

“No, friends, your eyes do not deceive you. I am staying at the Plaza Hotel. They’ve kindly offered to put me up for the night and I wasn’t going to argue. I’m planning on channeling my inner Kevin and ordering all the room service!” 

Harry did a tour of the room then, and it was strange, seeing himself like this. This was the very last thing he’d done before his entire life changed. He’d spent the day exploring the city and trying to find places that he hadn’t been the firs three times he’d been in New York. He could remember, now, filming right until the end of the day and staying up way too late that night editing the video so he could post it. He remembered being so eager to get it uploaded because it was going to free up time—time that he could spend with Louis. The next day Louis was landing and they were meeting up and Harry’s biggest concern was making it to their hotel first so he could set it up exactly how he knew Louis would like it. It had been a stupid amount of time since they’d seen each other…and now all Harry could think about was how little he’d known at the time. A month was nothing. Nothing compared to how long it had actually been since he’d really seen Louis. 

Three fucking years. 

Three fucking years of wondering who that person he loved possibly could have been. Three years of not understanding just how intense it could be. Three years and all it had taken was one conversation in an elevator to make him ready to do the whole thing over again. 

Music played in the background as Harry filmed himself walking down random streets and talking about the meals he ate. True to his word, he had ordered a foolish amount of room service and happily reported to the camera that it was definitely worth the spend. 

He’d left the hotel after his meal, though, in search of the perfect shot. He couldn’t possibly go to New York without hitting Times Square. The beauty of it was too hard to pass up. He’d wondered, shooting the scene around him and picturing how his reunion with Louis would go. On the way back to the hotel, he filmed himself hitting a store and buying the nicest bottle of red they had on hand because Louis had really good taste in wine. It was a strange quality to be sure, for a boy who’d grown up half his life in Yorkshire, but it was a quality he possessed nonetheless. Harry didn’t mind the splurge, though, he never did when it came to Louis. There was nothing he wouldn’t have done for that boy. 

He stopped at a bakery and filmed the glass display before ordering a croissant for breakfast. He was catching an early train out to the beach the next day. He wanted to be ready for Louis’ arrival. 

The screen then settled on Harry’s face. His cheeks were still red from the cold New York winds, and he had he tripod sitting on the desk, the bed visible behind him. 

“Guys, today was a lovely day in New York. Sometimes its just so nice to explore a place without a plan. I had no idea what I was doing aside from spending the night at The Plaza and feeling fancy as hell. Maybe it wasn’t the most interesting day to make a video about, but I’m sure you’ll all forgive me.”

He smiled then, that smile that was synonymous with the train of thought he was about to explore. 

“Actually, I just got off the phone with Louis. It’s like 7 in the morning there and his flight leaves at 4 and would you believe the bugger hasn’t packed a thing yet? He was up all night doing laundry and addressing the invitations to our wedding!” Harry laughed, “that boy, I swear he’s the inventor of procrastination. I mean who gets on an international flight without at least making a list of what to pack? I mean, honestly, Lou.” 

Harry ran his hands through his hair, his smile growing even wider as he leaned closer to the camera. 

“Anyway, tomorrow is the day I finally get to see my boy and—“ his voice broke a bit and Harry could practically feel the tears that past Harry was fighting to hold back. “it’s just that it’s been so long. Any day without Louis is long but I think the older I get the more I realize, maybe I can’t do this forever. Being away from him like this, for a month and a half? It’s madness. I don’t think I could ever put into words how much I miss him and I can’t believe I finally get to see him. I just—even the old shirt of his I brought with me barely smells like him anymore and it was a shitty stand-in anyway.”

Harry picked up the camera from its spot and walked over to the bed, jumping on it and smiling into the camera all the while. His hair was a mess and spayed all around him on the white duvet. 

“I rented us this place right on the beach…and I know it’s cold but I just can’t wait to walk it with him. I can’t wait to get a little tipsy on that bottle of wine, because sorry for spilling your secrets, Lou, but you’re the cheapest drunk when you’re jet-lagged. I can’t wait. I can’t wait to pick you up off the train and kiss the face off of you. God, I’ve missed you so much, Louis.”

Harry sat up then, eyes focusing straight into the camera. He whispered four words that ignited a fire in the base of present-day Harry’s spine. 

“Meet me in Montauk.”

Harry blew a kiss to the camera and the screen went black. 

Present-Harry was pretty sure everyone in the house heard him scream. 

Chapter Text

Present

 

Louis felt something turn in his stomach as he placed his mug back on the table. Harry looked like he was going to be sick and Louis didn’t have a clue what was happening. One second they had been laughing and the next second, Harry’s face had drained of all its colour. Harry was standing, just a couple of feet from him and staring at him like…well, like he was terrified. Louis had been so confident. He’d gone into this whole thing feeling so fucking good. Harry had been so receptive of everything, he had forgotten to be careful. Was it something he’d said? Was he coming on too strong? Dammit, Louis. This was the last thing on earth he wanted to fuck up. 

Harry took a couple of steps back then, eyes on the mug that Louis had placed on the table. He was white as a sheet. Was he sick? If he wasn’t feeling well, Louis would happily lock up the doors to the shop and drag Harry back to his flat and make him all the tea and soup he could eat but there was something in Louis’ gut telling him it was more than that. 

“What’s wrong?” He asked cautiously. 

The words didn’t even seem to register, though. Harry’s eyes were locked on the table and his expression didn’t change. Louis didn’t know what to do. Should he go to him, or would that just make everything worse?

What had he done?

“It was you.”

The words left Harry’s mouth and had barely settled into Louis’ ears before he was darting off toward the door. Louis stood, then, asking the same question ‘what’s wrong?’ But Harry was already out the door. Louis watched through the windows with a sickness in his stomach as Harry literally ran down the street like the building was on fire. 

Something wasn’t right. Immediately he wanted to text Harry, to ask him what had happened, but as he looked back down at the table he saw Harry’s phone sitting next to the untouched matcha latte. 

 

 

It was half past five when the bell above the door chimed to alert Louis that someone was there. He’d been cleaning the espresso machine, trying to scrub out his frustration over how shit his day had turned out to be. It wasn’t the first time that day that he heard the bell and felt his heart pick up its pace, hope fluttering in his stomach. This time was no different than the others though, because the very female figure that had entered his shop was not Harry. He put down his rag and walked to meet her, trying to summon up the ability to pretend he was just peachy. 

When he got closer, he realized that the figure was vaguely familiar. It was Niall’s girlfriend, Gemma. Harry’s sister. 

“Hi,” she said when they were only a few feet apart. 

“Hey,” his voice was soft, it had been a long time since he’d seen her around. Probably since the last time he’d gone ‘round Niall’s and that had been a long time. Niall very rarely had him over.

“I don’t know if you remember me,” she bit her lip.

“Gemma,” he said, “I’ve been in your flat, if you’d recall.” 

He was trying, god he was trying because the rest of the world didn’t need to know just how disappointed he was that he’d fucked up the best thing he’d felt in longer than he could remember (in less than 3 days). That had to be some kind of record. 

She smiled a bit timidly, “yeah, sorry.”

Louis knew instantly why she was here. She had come to get Harry’s phone, because obviously Harry didn’t want to see him. That feeling settled into his gut next to the other horrendous feelings and made Louis feel like a steaming pile of garbage. 

“So, how have you been?”

She was as nice as he’d remembered. Making small talk before getting straight to the point. She must have sensed Louis’ hurt and he appreciated it. He was on the cusp of making some crack about how he was just busy ruining the lives of all the boys he liked, but he thought better of it. 

“Good. Things have been good. Just living the dream, you know, selling books and making coffee for the people of Manchester. Nothing to complain about. How about you? Still working at the hospital?”

Gemma nodded, a smile set in place. Louis had a good memory and the ability to use it to charm the pants off of just about every person he met. He remembered that Gemma was a nurse, an admirable profession in his books. 

“I reckon you didn’t come to catch up, though,” said Louis, a big fake smile plastered on his face. Everything inside of him was aching. 

“I’m sorry,” she said almost instantly, “Harry’s having a bad day…I just wanted to help him out.”

“‘course,” said Louis, the fire in his gut spitting embers all through his organs. God, this was the worst feeling in the universe.

He turned to walk into the back room and grab Harry’s phone. He held it tentatively. He’d obsessed over it for most of the day. Hoping that it would magically ring and that the voice on the other end would belong to Harry. It hadn’t happened, though, and now he could be sure that it was nothing more than a pipe dream because Harry didn’t even want to see him long enough to pick up the damn thing. He’d sent someone else so he wouldn’t even have to face Louis. 

When he reentered the store, he met Gemma’s eyes. There was pity in them and what the hell was that about? She didn’t know him from a hole in the ground, really. There was no reason that she should be feeling bad. 

He handed her the phone, his eyes settling anywhere but her. 

“Thank you,” she said, lingering awkwardly in the store and Louis didn’t know what to do with that. Why was she still hanging around. She was stretching out this whole thing and it was so quiet today that Louis just wanted to close up the shop and go home to his couch and maybe melt into it and become a part of the furniture. That certainly felt like a better idea than being a human in that moment. 

“Look,” Gemma’s voice startled him out of his furniture day-dream. He looked up to meet her eyes, “my brother…” she sighed, “he has a lot on his mind.”

He didn’t want to hear some awkward speech about Harry. He really didn’t. 

“It’s okay,” he jumped in to stop her.

She nodded, looking down at the phone in her hands, “I’m spending the night at my mum’s. Text Niall? I feel like he might appreciate the company.”

“Right,” said Louis. Maybe he’d actually take her up on that, too. He didn’t really want to be alone with his thoughts anyway. 

“Okay,” she gave him a tentative smile, “it was good seeing you again, Louis. See you around?”

Louis barely had anymore pleasantries in him so he have her a thumbs up, “sure thing.”

 

 

Louis had his feet resting on the back of the couch, his head nearly on the floor. The blood was rushing to his head, but he didn’t mind because the sensation was something different than the disappointment and dread he’d been drowning in since that morning when Harry had literally run full-tilt to put distance between them. Niall was paying the delivery boy and Louis could smell the pizza. He hadn’t eaten anything all day. He’d thrown the cupcakes in the bin when he’d locked up, after leaving them on the table all day with some sort of stupid hope brewing inside of him that Harry might come back. Obviously he hadn’t. 

Now, Louis was locked up in Niall’s flat trying his absolute hardest not to be weird. He knew it was stupid to be so hung up on something that had only been happening for three days. He knew it was stupid to have any sort of expectation after such a sort amount of time…but he’d felt so sure. Of course Harry had every right to take off running if he wanted to. They had barely anything invested, aside from the exchange of a pair of mittens and a couple of books. It was stupid to care so much, so he refused to let the rest of the world see how fucking pathetic he was. 

Niall tossed the pizza box on the coffee table and Louis flipped himself right-side up. He was a bit woozy, but the pizza smelled delicious. He dove in and took a piece. 

“Want to watch something on Netflix?” Niall asked, the telly remote in his hand. 

Louis nodded, “yeah, your choice. Nothing sappy though.”

Niall laughed, “you think I’m so bad of a friend that I’d try to make you watch a romance movie after you got your poor little heart stomped on?”

Louis made a non-committal sound. He sure as hell wasn’t talking about that. 

Niall turned on some blue planet knock-off and grabbed himself a slice of pizza.

“How’s things at the shop?”

Louis shrugged, “it’s been quiet that last couple of days. Usually is, though, on Zayn’s days off. It’s not that he makes better coffee or anything…”

Niall laughed that good hearty laugh that Louis could never resist, “its just that he looks better doing it.”

Louis couldn’t stop his own laughter, he never could with Niall. His cheer was infectious which made him the absolute best person to spend the night with. 

“I’m not sure if I should be offended by that.”

Niall shrugged, “I wouldn’t take it to heart. Lad’s 50% greek god, I think you’re just immune because you met him in the sandbox when he had those dorky glasses.”

Louis laughed, “so did Liam, though.”

“Yeah,” said Niall, “lad’s always had his head too far up Zayn’s arse to see anything else, eh?”

Louis nodded his confirmation, “it’s gross and frankly kind of unnatural.”

Niall was silent for a second while he chewed his pizza. 

“Are you going to tell me what happened today?” 

“I woke up, got dressed. Went to work. Saw Gemma for a minute and then dragged my ass here for Netflix and pizza.”

“Louis, just talk to me for fuck’s sake.”

Louis groaned, “I don’t know. I have no idea what I did and it’s stupid that I care this much when I just met the guy a couple of days ago…he just, like, fit or something.”

Louis sighed, putting his pizza down on the table and turning to face Niall. 

“I just don’t get it. We were literally laughing, having just this great conversation—the conversation is always great—and then he was just running for his fucking life. I have no clue what I did.”

Niall exhaled slowly, “Harry…he’s been through a lot…I don’t think it's necessarily your fault.”

“He told me about his accident.”

Niall cleared his throat, “oh, yeah? Already, eh?”

Louis nodded, hiding his face in his hands. This conversation was…hard. Unreasonably so. He exhaled, frustrated with the whole thing. 

“I genuinely thought he liked me.”

“Look, Tommo, I’m probably too close to both of you to really give you any advice here, but I can pretty much assure you that it isn’t a question of liking you or not. I’ve known Harry a long time, even before his accident and…yeah. He likes you. I’m pretty sure that I’ve never seen him look at someone like he looked at you.”

“Then why did he run?”

“Look Tommo, Harry’s sorting through a lot of shit. Maybe, just give him a chance to do that?”

Louis nodded, because, really, what else was there to say? 

 

 

December 30th, 2016

 

Zayn and Liam were in the next room, bickering over how to pack up Louis’ silverware in the most effective way. Zayn was team “throw it in the fucking box, Li, it’s a goddamn fork” and Liam was team “you can’t just throw cutlery in a box, Zayn, the knives will tear a hole”. Funnily enough, when Louis walked out to diffuse the situation, they were in the middle of tossing everything into the box, not wrapping any of it. Louis bit his lip to hide his laughter. He’d known them a long time—forever, really—and this was not an uncommon end to a fight. Liam took the high road most days. 

Louis liked to imagine what it would be like, sometimes, to have something like they had. They bickered, ran up and down each other for every little thing in the world, but Louis couldn’t ever remember really hearing them fight. He guessed, if someone forced him to idealize a relationship, it would probably be those two. 

They were so casual about everything, too. Nothing really bothered them. Their mums had been bothering them for probably a solid five years about getting married, and Louis for the life of him couldn’t understand why neither of them had asked the other. It was obvious that was where things were going. The whole fucking wold would probably end and the last surviving couple in history would be Liam and Zayn, and yet they’d made no mention of a wedding. 

That was until their trip to London a couple of weeks before Christmas. They’d come back, out of the blue, married. When Louis had questioned them ‘why in the fuck’ he wasn’t invited, they’d simply said they hadn’t known. Neither had asked the other because it had to be an ‘organic and natural decision they made together’. Seriously. Louis would probably vomit if he wasn’t so used to their ridiculous way of speaking. 

And so, yeah, Liam and Zayn were there, acting like the pinnacle of relationship goals and maybe that explained why Louis had remained single all these years. He really honestly, no matter how hard he thought about it, could not remember the last time he’d dated someone. Damn them for setting the bar so high. 

“You done in the bedroom then, Tommo?” Asked Liam as he tossed another handful of forks into the box. 

Louis shrugged, “nearly, just the closet left. I had to come out here and make sure you two weren’t killing each other.”

“Pfft,” said Zayn, brushing him off, “like I would ever kill Liam. First person they investigate is the spouse. I’d never take that kind of risk. Contract killer is the only option. This face wasn’t made for prison.”

Liam threw something at Zayn and laughed when it made contact with his cheek. 

“Excuse me, Liam Payne, did you just throw takeaway chopsticks at me?” Zayn huffed, turning to Louis, “do you see what I’m dealing with?”

“Don’t look at me, lad, you married him.”

“Yeah,” said Liam, sticking out his tongue, his eyes crinkled with humour, “you married me.”

They started to moon over each other then. They’d been doing that a lot recently. Louis had walked out of many conversations that went something along the lines of ‘okay husband’ ‘oh yes, I rather like the sound of that, husband’. This was no different. Louis took his leave, reentering his bedroom. 

Louis had lived here a long time, he knew that, but the complete lack of emotional connection to the place? It was a bit alarming. He’d lived there for…well he couldn’t quite remember exactly how many years, but it had been quite a few and yet…it was just a place. Just a place that he could barely remember spending any time in. Sure, it was privileged as hell of him to think about that, because a 20-something med school student who owned his own flat was rare. He was thankful that his mother had used his inheritance money to invest in property…

But that didn’t stop the itch. One day, about a month before that, Louis had woken in a panic. He’d been dreaming about seeing the world, about living his whole life and when he was awake all he could think about was how he’d barely even left Manchester. He’d barely gone anywhere and he was signing up for a lot more years of never really doing much. If he was going to be a surgeon…he had so fucking much more school ahead of him that it was suffocating. He was 25 and had barely lived a day in his life. All he’d done was study…and that was great, but he had other dreams. 

His panic had taken him to the streets. He’d been trying to clear his mind when he’d walked past that old bookstore. The one with the section in it that had all those textbooks from the 1800s that had fascinated him so much in his first year of uni, and when had he lost that? When had he given up his love of books for all things practical and clinical and when had he become the most boring fucking person in the world? 

The closer he got to the store, the larger the sign in the window became. 

And so, with the restlessness in his heart and the ‘For Sale’ sign in the window of that little shop, Louis somehow found a way to break out of the mold he’d made for himself. He’d met with lawyers, real estate agents, and it turned out that with nothing more than sheer determination, it was possible to sell your flat and purchase a bookstore all within a month. And that was that. There was no time for turning back because Louis had made his decision. 

Now, he was packing up his flat, moving out the next day and then celebrating New Year’s with Liam and Zayn in his new tiny flat above a card store four blocks away from his new business. After that, the renovations would start to add a cafe to the back corner and Louis felt pretty darn confident that his life was going to turn out just fine. 

 

Louis hefted open the closet door, then. He kind of hated himself for his obsession with all things Adidas about half way through the third box of hoodies. Maybe he should have had the good sense to declutter. The task seemed unending as he piled shirt after shirt into box after box. How much shit could one person possibly stuff into the back of a closet, anyway? There was a framed picture of Lottie without her front teeth that had collected enough dust to be considered officially ‘antique’. There were broken hangers and a box full of toys he’d had before the age of ten. Jesus. Didn’t he have a mother who was supposed to hoard this stuff for him? There was an awful and heavy pile of textbooks stacked on top of a box labeled ‘Christmas shit’. He moved them all individually and tapped the side of his head fondly. What a good brain he had, so full of knowledge, because Jesus fucking Christ that was a lot of textbooks. He was thankful, oddly enough, that he wasn’t going to have to buy those anymore. 

He pulled out the box with Christmas Shit in it and unburied something he didn’t recognize. Most of the crap in the back of his closet were his hoard, but that was decidedly not his. It was sealed up without any sort of labelling on it at all. 

Curious by nature, Louis dragged it out and sat down on the floor, peeling back the tape. He opened the flaps and peered into the box. There was a piece of paper sitting on top of a whole pile of newsprint. He raised an eyebrow, picking up one of the balled up pieces of newsprint, only to feel that something was inside of it. He pulled the paper off to reveal a mug. It had ‘I <3 NYC’ printed on it. Louis put it down beside him and picked up another piece, unwrapping it and revealing another mug, this one depicting the Cliffs of Moher. Huh. Where in the hell had this come from? He unwrapped another couple, each revealing the name of a different city. These weren’t Louis’ mugs, but they seemed to be someone’s collection, but where in the hell had they come from? How had they found their way into the back of Louis’ closet? He peered into the box again, grabbing the piece of paper that was folded on top. He wasn’t really sure if it was an answer, but in writing that felt hauntingly familiar to his own, were the words: Meet me in Montauk.

And well, call Louis a sentimental old soul, but this box felt important. Everything inside of it had meant something to someone. Someone had bought a mug from nearly every city imaginable and packed them all neatly into a box they’d forgotten in the back of a closet. So, with the sentiment at heart, Louis decided it was wrong on a number of levels to throw away the mugs. He could feel the love behind them, and he had a coffee shop to run. He also had a bookstore to name and Montauk had an eerily great ring to it. 

Liam and Zayn looked at him like he had six heads when he’d dragged the box out to the living room and announced his plan, but then again he was getting used to that. Nearly everyone thought he was insane by that point, so he was taking it in stride. 

 

 

“When was the last time you had a haircut?” Harry’s voice came from behind Louis. 

Louis looked away from the computer then, turning to see Harry standing in the centre of their bedroom, eyes on Louis. Louis’ hands went to his hair, running his fingers through it. It had been…well since before he’d left for New York. That had been…almost 6 months ago. 

“It’s been awhile,” Louis spoke. Why was Harry here? 

Louis looked back to the computer screen, the video in front of him still playing. Harry had just thrown himself on the bed in the hotel room and he was just about to say the words that Louis had rewound and played about 6 million times by that point. 

“Meet me in Montauk.” 

Harry’s voice was in stereo, Louis heard it from the computer and from the lips that were right by his ear. 

“How many times have you watched that video, Lou?”

Louis turned to Harry then, “today?” He said, unable to stop himself from turning back around and skipping back to the part again. It was the last words that Harry had said to him. By the time he’d posted the video, Louis had fallen asleep. They hadn’t spoken since. It had been six months. Six fucking months and all Louis could think about was watching Anne and Gemma lead Harry through JFK and loading him onto the plane. Their seats were so far apart because Louis was a stranger. It wasn’t supposed to have stayed like that, though. Harry was supposed to remember him when they got home. 

Instead, though, Louis had watched as Anne lead him into their flat and he’d looked at it like he’d never stepped foot in the place. He’d picked up his clothes and looked at them with confusion. There wasn’t a single item inside of their flat that Harry had recognized and Louis had watched it happen.

Louis was well aware what the definition of pain was. It wasn’t breaking up wth someone you loved, no that would have been nice. That would have been fucking peachy and Louis would have liked to have broken up with Harry 100 times. He would have relished it. 

But no, the definition of pain was having the person who was your entire world forget every single thing you’d built together. 

So yeah, Louis was a mess. He’d taken a break from school. He’d taken a break from regular showers and yeah, he’d sure as shit taken a break from regular haircuts because he fucking hurt. He fucking hurt in every imaginable space inside of his body and how dare Harry come into his mind and judge this memory? Yeah. Louis had spent countless hours on Youtube watching video after video of he and Harry together, and yeah, he always came back to this one because it was right fucking there. The last words Harry had said to him before he’d forgotten who the fuck he was. So fucking sue Louis for wanting to remember those words over the ‘Louis who’ that haunted his dreams. 

“Do you really want to forget me, Lou?”

Louis stood, then, facing Harry in the centre of their bedroom. In the centre of the room they’d made love in so many times that Louis wanted to bleach out his fucking eyeballs so he could stop fucking seeing it. 

“I want it to stop hurting.”

“I have an idea,” said Harry, “to stop it. There’s still some memories left. There’s still time.”

“God, Harry, you don’t know what it’s been like.”

“Louis, stop. I need you to focus, now,” Harry was serious, but this memory was too dark. Louis could hardly fight it. He could remember how he’d felt after watching that video on repeat probably 20 times that night. He remembered why he’d gone home and done that, too. He’d gone to speak to Anne, to plead with Harry, but he wouldn’t see him. Harry had always said ‘no’ when Anne had asked if he wanted to see Louis. He had always said no, and Louis knew there were a lot of pretty valid reasons for someone suffering amnesia to turn down time with a complete stranger…but it still hurt him every fucking time. 

“You have to wake yourself up,” Harry said, “they’re in our flat now, erasing me. All you have to do it wake yourself up and tell them that you don’t want it anymore. Tell them you want to keep me.”

Louis’ eyes were filled with tears, “god, it hurts so fucking bad, Haz. You never wanted to see me.”

“Louis there’s no time for that. You have to wake yourself up.”

“Every single day I went to your mum’s and every single day you said no.”

“Louis William Tomlinson, you need to wake yourself up. Stop. Just stop. There’s no time.”

“All I wanted was a chance to see you. Even if it didn’t work out. Even if you called off the whole thing—I just wanted to see you, Harry.”

“And I was so fucking scared, Lou.” Harry’s voice was short, frustration evident, “I was so fucking scared that I couldn’t be the person you had loved. I lost so many years of my life, Lou. What if I wasn’t the person you wanted me to be anymore? What if I didn’t know how to love you like you loved me? Everyone kept telling me that I loved you…but I didn’t know who you were! Do you know how much pressure that was? ‘Hey Harry, silly you, you forgot, but this man is the love of your life, now just pick up where you left off’. Fuck, Louis, I was scared. I was fucking terrified we weren’t going to fit like everyone wanted us to. Now stop crying and wake yourself up!”

Louis turned away then, his hand moving back to the mouse, skipping back to the last line of the video. 

“God, I’ve missed you so much, Lou. Meet me in Montauk.”

Louis turned to Harry then, eyes heavy with tears, “I don’t want to miss you anymore, Haz.”

Chapter Text

Present

 

Harry heard a knock on his door. The last thing he wanted in the entire world was to speak to anyone. He’d barely slept, haunted by the words he could now remember whispering into the camera. The words that he’d said to Louis before their whole life had been thrown on its ass. The most haunting part of it all, by far, was the knowledge that somehow, amidst the confusing and erasure of his memories, Louis had clung onto those words. Somehow those words, the last ones, had stuck and Louis had named his fucking bookshop after them. 

Harry thought he’d been through it all. He thought for sure that suffering amnesia the way he had for the past 3 years was hard enough. He thought that slowly remembering bits and pieces of his life was difficult, but…this? This knowledge that now that he was back only to find that Louis was gone?

Not just that, but that he was gone at the recommendation of the people he loved. The people he’d trusted blindly for the last three years had been hiding this giant secret from him and now nothing could ever be as it was. Now they could never speak about their life as they once had. Harry could finally remember all of it, but it was useless. Louis was gone and he was never coming back. 

And so, the very last thing in the fucking world Harry wanted to was to be interrupted by Gemma or Robin or his freaking mother again. Maybe he should have left the house and gone into lockdown in his own flat, but there was something about being really alone that scared the shit out of him. Sure, he didn’t trust any of them anymore, but he couldn’t bring himself to leave. 

“Go away,” he grumbled, eyes still locked on the hundreds of thumbnails of his adventures. He’d been watching the videos off and on all night and it really wasn’t helping anything. 

“Hey, Harry, can we maybe just talk for a bit?”

It was Niall’s voice. Niall, his best friend in the entire world who he would have trusted above everyone…Niall who had also stood back and watched Louis forget him. Was there no safe place?

Despite this knowledge and the way it made his chest ache, Harry found himself opening the door to his room. 

Niall took a few steps in, closing the door behind him. Harry didn’t even want to look at him. The absolute betrayal inside of him was burning deep and he didn’t know where to go from here. He didn’t know how he could ever trust the people around him again. He sat back down at the computer, resuming a slow scroll through his videos. 

He heard Niall slowly sit down on the bed, clearing his throat.

“Gem says you won’t talk to her.”

Harry’s eyes locked onto a video with he and Louis in the thumbnail, titled Bora Bora 2014 Travel Vlog| Feat Louuu <3.

“She would be correct.”

Niall sighed, “its not her fault, Harry. That’s not fair.”

“Oh really? It’s not fair because it’s not her fault?” Harry couldn’t remember ever feeling this angry, “then who’s fault is it, then? Mine I suppose. I guess it’s all my fucking fault. I’m the one that ruined his life, so I don’t get to be upset about it, then do I?”

“No,” rushed Niall, his voice firm, “that’s not it at all. Of course you get to be upset. You get to be upset for as long as you need to be. It isn’t fair.”

“No,” said Harry, his voice cracking, “no it isn’t, but for some fucking reason, you all thought it was. One for one.”

“Yeah,” said Niall, and his agreement sparked just enough of a reaction in Harry for him to turn around and train his glare directly on his best friend. “We thought it was fair for Louis.”

Harry kind of wanted to hurl himself at Niall. He wanted to just wail on him until his insides stopped hurting and he felt nothing but angry because that was so much easier. 

God, Harry could feel the selfishness of the question before his petulant little mouth even spit it out. 

“What about me?

“Yeah, Haz, we did think it was fair to you. Louis…he tried to see you every single day when you got back from New York and you were already going through so much…it upset you every time one of us asked you if he could come and talk. Him hanging around like he was, killing himself over the whole thing, it wasn’t helping either of you. You didn’t want to see him.”

Harry didn’t want to believe that. He didn’t want to believe that there had ever been a time in his life where he had rejected Louis…but he could remember it. He could remember the crushing feeling of all the things he’d forgotten on top of him at all times in the beginning. He could remember the rotation of faces he saw but didn’t recognize. He remembered the clothes he didn’t know, the strangers in the street tugging on him, asking him for pictures. He remembered how fucking stressed out he was by the world. Everyone was pulling him in directions he was unsure of. Everyone wanted something from him, wanted him to remember something that was gone and he couldn’t handle it. 

But he remembered the thing that had scared him the most. 

It had been Louis. 

Hearing second hand from every single stranger he met and every single person he remembered, how much he loved Louis was jarring. Their entire life together—six years—had been erased. Harry wasn’t sure how they’d met, how they’d fallen in love. He wasn’t sure how they decided on their invitations or who had asked who to marry the other and it was overwhelming. Harry had no idea how to be in love with someone the way everyone told him he was in love with Louis. 

Fuck it all. Maybe Niall had a point. 

Because now he remembered. Now, he knew within every single cell in his body how much Louis had loved him…

Harry’s rejection would have done so much more than sting. It would have dismantled Louis slowly. It would have torn him apart bit by bit every single day that Harry had said he didn’t want to see him. 

But, he knew Louis. He knew Louis on every level someone could know another person. Louis would have put aside that hurt every single morning he woke up and he would dust himself off and try again. Of course someone would have had to step in and tell him to stop, because there was just no way that Louis would have given up on him. There was just no way he would have ever admitted defeat and carried on with his life. 

Yeah, Harry had lost a lot of things that he’d once cared about, but he’d had the good fortune to not know in his soul what those bits were, but Louis? Louis remembered it all and had it torn from him without explanation. 

And so, maybe now, with knowledge of Louis forgetting him, Harry had some glimpse into the pain Louis had faced. 

“Look, Harry,” Niall’s voiced broke Harry’s train of thought. 

Harry met his eyes, then, and the pain came rushing back. There was no more anger to shield him. 

“You have to understand that Louis didn’t do it to hurt you. If he thought for even a second that in twenty years or something insane like that, that you might remember him for one fucking day, he wouldn’t have done it. He loved you. He loved you so much he was killing himself about it. It wasn’t good for him. Your doctor…he told us all it would never happen, you would never remember him and what kind of friend would have been if I told him he didn’t deserve to feel something other than pain for the rest of his life?”

Niall sighed, then, patting the spot on the bed beside him. Harry stood, sitting next to Niall and falling straight into his arms. The tears came pouring from his eyes, then. 

“It’s okay to be mad, Harry. None of what happened was fair for either of you.”

Harry wanted to say a million things but he couldn’t figure out how to express any of it. There was so much swirling around inside of him. It was all painful. 

“Haz, I know this whole thing is a lot to take in,” he pulled Harry closer as he spoke, “but Louis doesn’t know about any of this. For him you’re just this amazing guy he met who stormed out on him without any explanation. You know Louis better than anyone. He’s beating himself up over it. He’s devastated. He think’s he did something wrong. I know you’re caught up in the past right now and in the things everyone else did…but you can’t just ignore him.”

 

 

Louis didn’t feel well. His guts were swirling, and he didn’t want to do anything other than curl up around the toilet and expel every bad thing from inside of him. Harry was stroking his hair softly, whispering some soothing words. They were in their hotel room, the night had fallen and Louis hadn’t even made it to dinner. He had been too sick. He’d promised to sleep it off so that he could go with Harry on the dog-sled and watch The Northern Lights. It was important. They had flown all the way to Alaska and if there was one freaking thing that Louis wanted to do it was kiss Harry under the Northern Lights while sipping hot cocoa on a freaking dog-sled. The idea was magical. 

But apparently his body had other plans for him because he was pretty sure something inside of him had died. 

“You should go anyway,” Louis had said, knowing that Harry wanted to film it for his vlog. 

“I didn’t want to go without you,” Harry said, breaking from the script of the memory. 

Louis sat up in the bed, then, confusion painting his face as he looked to Harry. 

“I wasn’t mad that you were sick. I just wanted you to feel better so we could spend the night together. I wouldn’t have gone without you if you hadn’t insisted I needed it for my dumb vlog. I hope you weren’t mad that I went.”

“Of course I wasn’t mad. I wanted you to see the lights.”

Harry sighed, “they were pretty, Lou, but I would have been just as happy to watch them curled up in bed with you.”

“I felt so bad for ruining the trip.”

“You didn’t ruin anything, though. I was just happy to be with you. I was always so happy when you came along.”

Louis stared out the window. He remembered this trip so well. It had been such a nice time in their lives. They’d just gotten engaged four months before that, and this trip was the first one they’d gone on together since. Louis could remember the guilt he felt for feeling so sick and Harry had only really left his side for long enough to go watch the Northern Lights after Louis had begged him to go. 

Now, though, as he stared out the window, looking at the steam from the hot springs, the sky was dark. There were no stars and none of the Northern Lights and Louis felt pretty confident he knew what was about to happen when he heard a thunderous crack outside. 

“They’re here,” he said to Harry, “they’re here to take this one away, too.”

Harry looked devastated, his voice coming in a soft whisper, “what if you came with me this time? Or what if I just stayed with you? Maybe we can change it and they won’t know where to find us.”

Louis got to his feet then, grabbing Harry by the hand. He lead Harry out of the hotel and toward the forest. They were running then, feet sticking in the snow and stumbling along. Louis didn’t want to stop. He didn’t want to lose this memory. He didn’t want to lose any of them. All he felt was regret because this wasn’t right. Even if he never got Harry back, he had to keep what they’d had. He was lucky that Harry had been his at all. Losing him had changed his life forever, but this wasn’t the answer. Some day Harry was going to be okay again, and Louis wasn’t going to be there. 

That wasn’t right. 

He tugged Harry harder, trying to bury him deeper in the Alaskan forest where no one could touch them. Tears clung to his cheeks as they fell, turning to ice. This was all wrong. He needed to change it. 

Harry pulled them to a stop as they reached the clearing. Louis sopped beside him, pressing himself against Harry and tucking his head against his chest. It was supposed to be his safe place. Nothing was supposed to ever touch him when he was with Harry. Harry pointed to the sky, but Louis’ eyes were locked on his boy. Why would he ever want to get rid of this? Sure, the pain of knowing these were just memories made him feel like he was suffocating…but the thought of not having them? Not being able to look back and feel the love that Harry had shown him? Not being able to reach into the back of his mind and remind himself that no matter how shit he was at everything around him, he’d been really freaking great at loving Harry. 

“Lou, look,” Harry whispered, shaking his shoulder. 

Louis looked up, then. The purple and green lights dancing across the sky were breath-taking and Louis immediately regretted missing it the first time. Harry held him close. 

“I love you, Louis. I hope you know that. I hope somehow that you’ll always know that. You gave me something I never had. You gave me purpose. You were the reason I ever succeeded at anything.”

“Harry,” Louis’ voice broke because he was so tired of goodbye. He was so tired of his own stupid decision. He was sick and fucking tired of trying to escape this, he needed to get them out for real. He needed to keep Harry, “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry I wasn’t there when it happened…I should have been with you but I was busy pissing away my time in school. Haz, I don’t want this. I don’t want to lose you, not for a second.”

“It’s okay, Lou. We’ll figure it out. We’ll get you out of this.”

Louis pressed himself closer, eyes still on the dancing lights in the sky, “I never thought I could want anything the way I wanted you.”

The sky started to fall, then. They weren’t safe. Even in this new place where they had never been together, they weren’t safe from the people who Louis had hired to erase them. It was disheartening. He didn’t know how many chances they had left. Maybe they’d run out. Maybe there was no way to stop things now that they had started, but Louis was certain of one thing: he’d made the biggest mistake of his life ever walking through the door to their office. He was losing the memories of the best thing he’d ever known and what kind of life could possibly be left for him when he woke up?

 

 

Present

 

Harry stared at the phone in his hand. Niall had passed it to him before he’d left his room hours ago. There were no messages waiting for him, and maybe that was the most disconcerting part of the whole thing. Whatever he’d done to Louis when he’d stormed out of the bookstore…it had been enough to scare him so completely he wasn’t even trying to make contact. 

The scariest thing about this whole situation was, well, Louis. He was so different in so many ways. Harry could hardly believe that he’d quit school. Louis’ dream his entire life had been to be a surgeon. He’d worked so hard for so long…and then he’d just walked away. He’d just woken up and changed his entire life. Harry didn’t recognize that side of him. He had been completely unaware that Louis had been harbouring some sort of romantic notion of owning a bookstore. How had Harry never known that part of him? How could there possibly have been a part of Louis that Harry didn’t know about?

And…did it have to be that bookstore? Did it have to be the one where Harry had been crouched by the shelves nine years ago, only to look up and see everything he’d never known he wanted—needed? 

But, maybe most unsettling of all, was how much the same Louis was. He was exactly the person he’d always been with Harry. He was funny and charming and bold and outspoken. Every moment they’d spent together…it had been the same. Harry saw that now. Maybe the place inside of him he’d always thought he’d carved out for Louis hadn’t been carved out at all. Maybe it had always been empty. Maybe he hadn’t learned how to love Louis at all. Maybe it had been the universe’s grand plan all along. Maybe they were simply two halves of a whole, meant to find each other no matter what was thrown at them. 

That was a romantic ambition. 

But no matter how much it felt real, Harry couldn’t erase the fact that he knew. He already knew how to love Louis, but Louis didn’t have a clue. He’d never know about all the shit they’d been through and that was terrifying. How was Harry supposed to navigate this? How was he supposed to pretend that everything was brand new, when he already knew every corner inside of Louis? He knew every dream he’d ever had. He knew every person in his family tree, he knew how to make him scream, squirm, smile. He knew every place to touch him and he knew every desire he’d ever had. He knew Louis wanted the opposite of his own family—just one kid. He knew Louis wanted to see Johannasburg more than anything else since Harry had shown him the pictures. He knew that he would rather live in trackies than to ever put on a suit (but he’d been so excited about the suit he’d chosen for their wedding). He knew Louis sucked at doing the dishes and would always leave behind bits of food on every pot. He knew the way his sweat tasted and the way his mouth tasted.

He already knew it all, but Louis didn’t know any of it…

What was he supposed to do with that knowledge?

He heard a knock on his door. 

He didn’t want to talk to anyone, really. His conversation with Niall had left him raw. The memory of pushing Louis away was still singeing his insides. He didn’t like any of the things he was being faced with, so what was one more?

“Come in,” he said, turning over in his bed so he could see who would walk through the door. 

His eyes fell on his mum. It was the first time he’d let her through the door since he’d decided that anger was the easiest way to deal with everything. She looked relieved. 

“How are you feeling honey?”

Harry just rolled his eyes and turned over in the bed to stare at the wall. He didn’t want to attempt to explain to anyone the complexity of what was swirling inside of him. 

She sat on the edge of the bed, just as she had for so many days when he’d first returned from New York. She’d been so steadfast that it was hard for Harry to accept the part she’d played in changing his and Louis’ lives. It was hard to take the kind and loving woman next to him and somehow mix in an exorbitant amount of betrayal. 

“I’m glad you spoke to Niall,” she said, he hand finding its way to his back. 

“Please,” said Harry, tasting venom on his tongue, “don’t touch me.”

His mum’s hand disappeared then, but she pressed on, not phased by his anger. 

“I know you’re still trying to sort through everything. I know it’s a lot to take in. Hell, Harry, I know you’re furious with me. I feel that, but this isn’t what any of us had expected to happen. We didn’t think you’d remember—“

“So you just thought you’d keep us apart forever. You thought that would be best?”

“At the time—“

“Yeah?” Snapped Harry and he turned over in the bed to train his glare on his mother, “and what about this time? What about now when I remember and Louis is fucking gone? You didn’t think about that, did you?”

“He did.”

His mother’s words made the anger inside of him still. “I—what?”

His mother didn’t speak, and that’s when Harry realized that she was holding an envelope in her hands. Another spark of pain hit him when he saw the word ‘Harry’ scrawled across the front of it. He knew it was Louis’ writing. 

“On the day before it happened,” his mum spoke slowly, “he came to say goodbye to me. He still asked me that day…if you’d changed your mind. If you might want to see him. He loved you right up to the last possible moment, Harry. He gave me this when he was leaving,” she handed him the envelope, “he asked me to give that to you if you remembered him some day.”

Harry was quiet then, looking at the item in his hands—a tangible piece of the puzzle inside of his head. Maybe, buried in the words inside there would be an explanation that was sufficient. Maybe Louis—the Louis he knew like the back of his hand—could somehow make him understand this whole mess. 

“Of course he thought about it, Harry. It was all he wanted, for you to remember him, but we had to be realistic. People with amnesia have gone on to live their entire lives without remembering anything—he didn’t want to live without you, Harry. That only left him with this option. Just—baby, the pain you’re feeling now…imagine what it must have been like for him?”

Harry turned the letter over in his hands, running his finger across the wax that was spilled across the opening. It hadn’t been opened. For two years, his mother had kept it hidden, and now it was in Harry’s hands. The answer he needed might be inside. 

His mum got to her feet then, “I’ll leave you to it, then.”

The door clicked shut behind her and Harry was left on his own in his room with a letter from Louis. A letter that the Louis he’d met a few days ago would never know about. He sat up thumbing over the spilled wax. Somehow Harry was transported back to their flat, imagining Louis sitting at his desk, trying to write a letter that could possibly sum up everything they had gone through. He could imagine how many drafts there had to have been before this one, because Louis had been saying goodbye. Louis would probably have believed as he wrote the letter that Harry would probably never read it. It would probably get shoved into the back of his mum’s things and forgotten about. Or maybe Louis thought Harry’s mum would be the one who ended up reading it. 

Either way, there were answers that Harry was dying for and he couldn’t hesitate. He needed to hear Louis’ thoughts. He needed to know what the hell he was supposed to do from here. Tentatively, for fear of what he might find, Harry ripped open the envelope. There were several pages, clearly torn from one of Louis’ infamous Moleskine notebooks. God, there was so much Louis inside of that envelope that he was already suffocating. 

 

Harry,

 

I’m not sure, really if this is an explanation or an apology. Maybe it’s a bit of both, because if you’re reading this it means that you deserve both of those things. 

 

So, Harry Edward Styles, love of my life I am so, so sorry we got here and let me try to explain what happened. 

 

Someone, some nameless, faceless stranger driving a LandRover in New York City took you away from me. I think, the very worst part of the whole thing has been trying to accept that you might not come back. It’s amazing to me how many times I could hear your doctor say it before it even began to sink in.

 

Eventually, it came to a point where everyone in our lives told me I didn’t have a choice. I mean, it was your doctor first. He told me there was a place I could go to have it erased and I laughed in his face, Harry, because why would I have wanted that? You were supposed to come back to me, I wan’t supposed to have to make a decision like that. It sounded like science fiction. You can’t just have one person erased from your life. It didn’t make any sense to me. 

 

But then time went on. You weren’t getting better. You didn’t want to see me, and I know. I know you and I know how you are, and if you are reading this now you’re going to blame yourself, but it wasn’t your fault Harry. I know that. It wasn’t anyone’s fault really, it was just the way the cards fell. Of course I know you wouldn’t push me away if you knew—but you didn’t know. You didn’t know who I was, you didn’t know about our life. You didn’t remember how much you loved me and how could I change that? You didn’t want to see me because you were scared. I know you were scared. The whole thing must have been so overwhelming and I’m sorry, baby, that you ever had to go through that. I wish there could have been something I could have done. 

 

And, so, here we are. Here is my explanation: 

 

I realized that this was the only option for me when I really started to feel like I didn’t want to be alive anymore. Maybe that’s not the nicest thing to hear, but Harry, I didn’t want to do it without you. You made my world so much better by just being there, and then all of a sudden without any explanation, without any sense, that was just gone. That isn’t who I am. I am not the kind of person that doesn’t want to be alive, and so that scared me. So I went to the place and I talked to the doctors and they said, yeah, no problem, easy as pie apparently. They can just go in and make it like you’d never happened. You have to understand, though, that I don’t want that. I would never want that, but it hurts so fucking bad all the time, I just don’t see what else I can possibly do.

 

And, so that’s kind of an explanation. This whole thing is a mess, like, how can I just write down on a piece of paper that you might not even get to read, why I decided to do what I did? I can’t. Not really. No coherently. 

 

Meet me in Montauk. 

 

Those were the last words you ever addressed to me before everything went to shit. I’ve watched that video a million times, even after your mum and I set your account to private. I’ve been killing myself trying to make the pain stop. I stopped going to school. I’m supposed to go back next semester…but everything is so up in the air right now. I just feel like I don’t know who I am without you. That’s not healthy, is it? I mean sure, it was healthy when you were here with me, making me better, but now you’re gone and I think it’s time that I face the fact that I don’t like who I am. I don’t like the person I’ve become because I lost you. Losing you has started to control every single part of my life and of myself…and it scares me. 

 

Harry, my darling, it has always scared me to be without you, but before it was just a joke. Just something I’d say when I knew I was being difficult, ‘bet you wish you’d never come to the coffee shop with me that day, now you get to put up with this’. But I know you never thought that, and maybe that’s the worst part. Of all the couples I’ve ever known, our love came the easiest. We never had a real row, not the way our friends did. You never slept on the couch and I never cried about it to my mum because, Harry, we were perfect. 

 

You were perfect. You were exactly the person I needed you to be and when I grew up, so did you. You changed when I needed you to change and everything between us just grew. 

 

And this is all so foolish to me, desperately trying to write a letter to the love of my life the night before he’s gone forever, trying to explain just how much I valued our time together. How could I possibly sum up what you meant to me in one night in some stupid notebook? Of course it’s not possible. I’ll never be satisfied with what I write because there isn’t any sort of language out there in the world that could ever sum up what we had. We were everything, Harry.

 

I try to imagine what you’ll be like, if you ever read this. I’m trying to imagine how long it will be. When will you remember me? Or will you ever? How many years has it been since I wiped the slate clean? How many years have I just been puttering through life, alive, not in pain, but I certainly can’t be fulfilled, can I? I’m not naive enough to think that not remembering you will make my life great. Of course it won’t. My life was already great and maybe that’s what I need to keep telling myself to get through this whole thing. I already had everything I ever wanted when I had you and most people don’t even get that. But just understand, Harry, that this whole thing, this erasing thing, it’s not because I want to start over—its because I don’t want to hurt anymore. 

 

Harry Edward Styles, the most important thing I can write down in this letter are two simple words: Thank You. 

 

Thank you for going for coffee with me that first day after I so obviously stalked you down that aisle. Thank you for letting me walk you home all those nights when we first met. There was something so magical about getting to return you to your mother those nights we went out and got into all sorts of trouble. Thank you for all those goodnight kisses that first year. Thank you, too, for buying me that mug on the first day you knew me. I don’t know how you already knew me so well, but you did. You fit yourself right into me, filled up all my empty spaces and made me fall in love with you and with life. I never knew the world could be such an amazing place and thank you for showing that to me. Thank you for dragging me to all kinds of places and thank you for bringing me back a piece of all the places you went without me. Thank you, Harry for loving the girls and my mum just as much as I did. Thank you for supporting my dreams and putting up with my bitchiness during all those exam weeks. Thank you for every single second we spent wrapped up in each other on the couch in the flat you bought. Those were the moments I’m going to miss the most. Thank you for teaching me to value the quiet moments just as much as the grand gestures. 

 

Most of all, though, thank you for being in love with me. I know there’s no-one else out there in the world cut out for that job. I’m a lot to handle but there was never a second of the years we spent together that I ever had to question your devotion. You loved me like I never thought I deserved to be loved. I hope you know, even now when you’re reading this, that we are rare. What we had isn’t sold on the shelves of every supermarket. What we had was something deeper and stronger than most writers could ever hope to imagine. What we found in each other was our other halves. You are my soulmate, Harry. Nothing could change that. Time could never touch that. Memories, erased or forgotten…whatever it was that happened to us along the way—it stands the test of time and I think you would agree with that. 

 

So, I hope, if you’re reading this that you’ve caught on to my grand master plan, because Harry, of course I have a plan! 

 

Find me. Find me in the aisles of some grubby old bookstore or find me in the halls of a hospital or find me in Zayn and Liam’s flat or, Christ, I don’t know, find me in a nursing home. The point is, Harry, find me wherever in the world I am and make me feel it. Make me remember what it was like to be loved by you. I’ll always come back. I’ll always fit, somehow I just know that. Maybe I can’t remember the first time…but make me fall in love with you a second time. Let’s do it all over again, because that’s it. That’s the only choice we have. We were supposed to be together, Haz, and I don’t think there’s any sort of reality that could change that. I know in my heart that you belong in my life. If you wake up one day and you’re you again—find me.

 

Just like you whispered those last words to me, I’m whispering this to you, too, Harry my love. 

 

Meet me in Montauk, Haz. Meet me on the beach of our dreams, teach me to love all over again. I’ll be waiting for you. 

Chapter Text

Present

 

Harry’s palms were sweating as he walked down the street. The cold wind seemed to have no effect on his nerves. It had been two days since he’d walked down that street, destined for the same place he was heading now, but somehow a lifetime of memories had flooded him since then. Somehow the entire earth had moved and the orbit had shifted and Harry’s world had quite literally been turned on its ass. 

Louis, the Louis he’d spent six years of his life loving, was gone. In his place was a stand-in that had no idea just who Harry was. He had no idea about the life they’d shared. This Louis didn’t know how the story was supposed to end. He didn’t know what Harry knew, and there was something hauntingly dark about that realization. 

But, more than that, perhaps the reason Harry changed his mind when he’d woken up the morning, this new Louis was…the same. He was funny and charming and charismatic. Harry had been smitten in just moments of being in his presence, and that just had to speak for something. There had been something, from that first moment in the lift, that was pulling him toward Louis. Maybe it was a thousand somethings. It felt, in a way, like Harry had no other choice. He had to teach Louis to love him, because there was nothing else. He’d lived his life without him for three years and nothing had changed, really. There was just a gap inside of him that he knew exactly how to fill. In three years nothing had gotten better, and that had to say all there really was to say.

And Louis…he hadn’t replaced Harry. That had to mean something in the grand scheme of their love story.

And so, even with his head swirling in confusion and anger and frustration at just how unjust this entire thing was, Harry knew there was only really one option. Maybe things would never be the same…but a life lived absent of Louis would be no life at all. He knew that, and somehow, thanks to Zayn’s meddling…he had a second chance. He had a chance to woo Louis all over again…or be wooed by Louis all over again, and what kind of fool would he be if he didn’t take that opportunity and press it to his chest and never, fucking ever, let it go? 

He didn’t know what he would say…didn’t know how to be around Louis now that he knew what had happened. Fuck it, though. He’d gone in the last time without any semblance of a plan and had walked out with a soulmate. He’d find Louis a million times if he had to—just for a taste of what they’d had…what he’d been missing for the last three years of his life. 

He was inly a few feet away from the shop now. The word Montauk looming over him. It was so big. Everything was so heavy and there was still, even after everything they’d been through, somehow even more to lose. Harry felt it in his bones. He had to fix things. He had to remind Louis how to love him. There was just no other option for him. There was no other way he could ever possibly be happy. 

Harry sucked in a deep breath, his heart hammering in his chest and his brain racing to find something worthy to say to Louis. Something to explain, without really explaining, why he’d stormed out of the shop and not spoken to him for two entire days. There wasn’t really a way to say ‘I had amnesia and forgot I loved you so you erased me from your memories, but now I remember and want to live happily ever after with you’ without sounding like a lunatic. 

Harry couldn’t tell him the truth…not yet. Not until he was sure that this Louis could love him. Not until he was sure of the true depth of their connection and its ability to persist through anything the world threw at it…because this was a lot. This was a lot for Harry to handle and he couldn’t imagine forcing it on Louis…not yet. 

Harry took one last breath of chilly winter air and closed his eyes, reaching out his mittened hand to pull open the door of Louis’ shop. The bell rang above his head and a sudden onslaught of nerves took him over. How was he supposed to face the love of his life, knowing everything he knew and somehow not say a word about it? How was he supposed to train himself not to talk about the life they’d shared? How was he supposed to pretend that he didn’t have a clue how to love Louis just the way he liked? This whole thing was fucking unfair. Harry could have gone his entire life without remembering Louis, and wouldn’t that have been easier? Wouldn’t it have been fair to start from scratch when neither of them knew about the past life they’d shared? It wasn’t fair that Harry had to shoulder all of this and that he had to make Louis fall in love with him again. The first time had been so perfect, what if this time didn’t measure up?

Immediately his eyes flickered to the first sign of movement he saw behind a shelve of books. He was nauseated. He was going to get sick all over the carpet and have to explain yet another stupid fucking thing to poor Louis. God, why was it like this? 

He noticed then, as the figure turned to face him that the eyes were decidedly not blue, but in fact a shade of brown. Somehow, even though Harry knew he couldn’t run forever, a sigh of relief came to his lips. It was just Zayn. Harry looked around, but there didn’t seem to be any movement anywhere else in the store. He shouldn’t have felt relief. That was hardly even fair. He shouldn’t have been so fucking scared to face the person that meant literally the world to him…but he was absolutely terrified. 

Zayn was so much easier. 

“Hey, Harry—hi,” Zayn stumbled over the words a bit like Harry was the last person on the planet he’d expected to see. Maybe that was true. 

Harry’s eyes were still wandering the shop, not convinced that Zayn was alone. 

“Louis’—uh, he’s not here. He doesn’t come ‘round until the afternoon, usually on Thursdays.”

Harry bit his lip, nodding and rocking awkwardly from his heels to his toes. Why was this so damn hard? 

“You could, uh, wait, if you wanted? I think he’d like to see you.”

Harry nodded once, not seeming to be able to find the words he should have been saying. 

Zayn filled the silence. “Look, Harry, for what it’s worth…I’m sorry. I know that doesn’t make up for what I did—fuck I know it doesn’t, but I am sorry, Harry. Genuinely. I know I fucked up, and you can yell at me or whatever it is you want to do and I’ll take it, but I only wanted what was best for you. Maybe it was wrong of me—”

“Thank you.”

Zayn paused then, walking toward Harry. Harry pulled off his mittens, running his hands through his hair. 

“Thank me?” Zayn’s voice held curiosity. 

Harry nodded, “thank you. In a really fucked up way…you were somehow the most honest person in my life. Everyone else was shielding me and lying to me and trying to protect Louis and—thank you. You knew what we both would have really wanted…and I appreciate what you did for me. I appreciate you giving me hope at a second chance.”

Zayn didn’t hesitate at all and swept Harry up in a tight hug, “I just wanted to see you happy like you were before. You were both just stumbling around, you know? Nothing had changed…not really. There was just this place inside of you were he was supposed to be. You didn’t see it, but I did and everyone else did and no one seemed to be willing to take the risk and show you what was missing. I know it was way out of line. Liam has barely spoken to me in two days, but I couldn’t just sit here in this shop every fucking day with that hollowed out version of my best friend. You changed his whole life in just a couple of days, Harry. If that’s not some soulmate shit…I don’t even know what is.”

Harry pulled back from their hug, a seemingly impossible smile curving just the corners of his lips, “thank you,” this time it was a whisper. He took Zayn’s hand and squeezed it between both of his, meeting Zayn’s eyes. “What time are you done today?”

“I’ll probably head out around three.”

“Okay,” Harry’s voice was quiet, “I’ll come back after that.”

With that Harry took his leave, the book in the breast pocket of his coat burning a hole in his pocket. He would find the closest coffee shop and finish off what remained of the book Louis had given to him. He’d build the strength he needed to have the conversation he needed to have…the conversation that would ultimately dance around the glaring fact that Harry couldn’t really say the things he wanted to say. He would take the time to try to make himself believe that he didn’t need to say them. 

He turned around before opening the front door and caught Zayn’s eye again. 

“Don’t tell him I stopped by."

 

 

Louis was staring out at the ocean, the waves floating back and forth reflecting the perfectly cloudless blue sky. This was actually paradise. He was certain of it. His exam period felt like a distant memory of a past life. He barely even remembered cramming sessions and the anxiety that went along with it. Leave it to Harry, his perfect boyfriend, Harry, to erase all the stress and worry from his life and transport him off to paradise. 

Speaking of Harry, he thought, as he felt a pair of strong arms wrap around his waist. Harry’s lips were pressed to his neck instantly, his palm splayed across Louis’ tummy. 

“Missed you, Lou baby.”

Louis chuckled, tipping his head back to capture Harry’s lips with his own. Harry kissed him back without hesitation, his hand dipping lower on Louis’ stomach. A laugh stumbled out of Louis’ mouth straight away. 

“Jesus Christ, Haz, you’re not after another shag, are you? I think you might have a problem. Sex addiction is a serious issue you know. Plus my dick just hasn’t got it in ‘im I’m afraid. We went all night and you woke me up at an ungodly hour this morning. Our poor neighbours, I mean honestly, Harry.”

Harry growled, an incoherent word slipped in there for good measure. Honestly, he was too much. His lips were back against Louis’ neck in a second, pressing himself flush against Louis’ back. Again he dared to play with the waistband of Louis swim trunks. 

“Can’t help it, Lou. I just want you all the time. Just love you so much.”

Louis hummed happily. Harry didn’t push his luck this time. He kept his hands to himself, his lips moving in a much more casual manner against Louis’ neck, “I’ve been thinking,” and it was really hard for Louis to think when Harry’s warm breath was tickling his skin, but he tried to pay attention. “We should have a baby.”

Louis let out a surprised laugh, “uh, I don’t think either of us are equipped for having babies, love.”

Harry tightened his grip on Louis, “I’m serious,” he said, “I want to have a baby with you.”

Louis remembered this moment. He and Harry were in a ridiculously fancy resort in Bora Bora and this had been the first time they’d seriously discussed the prospect of children. Louis could remember brushing off the idea, saying he needed to finish school and that they ought to get married first, since that would look better on their applications. Just a year after that, they’d each proposed. Somewhere in the conversation, Louis could remember saying ‘we’re young. There’s no rush. We have our whole lives ahead of us’. 

Ha. 

The irony of that statement, now, was daunting. Now Louis was being transported back to this memory for one reason and one reason only: it was the next one in line to be erased. This realization sent a chill down his spine. 

Harry’s lips were at his neck then, “swim with me,” he said, breaking the script. 

Louis turned, Harry’s arms still safely around him. Louis loved this boy. He loved every version of this boy, and this one, in the summer of 2013 with his hair more than a little too long after a solid three months of travel, well this one was no less lovable than the rest. Louis didn’t want to say goodbye to this one either. 

He leaned in and kissed Harry like it was the last time. The desperation must have been obvious in the gesture because Harry pulled back, his eyes electric. 

“Stop trying to say goodbye to me.”

“I don’t want to,” Louis said, his voice cracking on the words. 

“Then don’t.” Harry pinned Louis arms to his sides, his gaze boring into him, “I love you, Louis Tomlinson. I don’t imagine that there is a reality that exists on this earth where  I would not love you. I am not going to say goodbye to you. This can’t be the end. You can’t just erase me. I’ll find you. I’ll find you again and again because that’s how love works. This isn’t goodbye. I will never say goodbye to you, Louis.”

With that, Harry let go of Louis and climbed over the railing, hurling himself into the ocean. He resurfaced a moment later, a smile on his face, despite the fact that they both knew what was coming. 

“Swim with me, Lou. One more time.”

Louis didn’t hesitate. He climbed over the railing and launched himself toward the open space next to Harry. 

Except…this time he didn’t land. The sensation of falling remained and when Louis opened his eyes, the world around him was black. 

“This isn’t goodbye.”

Harry’s voice rang out around him, but no matter what direction Louis reached in, Harry wasn’t there. And just like that, another memory was gone. Louis would never be able to find his way back. 

 

 

Present

 

Louis felt he was doing a pretty impeccable job of hiding how he was really feeling. He’d been positively killing it these last couple of days. Maybe he’d missed his mark. Maybe he was never supposed to be a surgeon or whatever the hell he was now. Maybe he was supposed to be an actor. He was making every single person he came into contact with think he was just fucking peachy…mostly because the alternative was that he’d let some boy he’d known a collection of hours steal his heart. He wasn’t supposed to be this hung up on Harry. Rationally, Louis knew that. No one can waltz in and change your entire life in three days. It just wasn’t possible. Louis had allowed himself to create a fantasy in his own mind and he’d bought into it. He’d made Harry into something much larger than he actually was. 

So it had fucking hurt when he’d bolted out the door Monday morning without a word. And, again, it had hurt when he continued to say not a word for the rest of the day. It had hurt when he’d sent his sister to recover his forgotten phone and it had hurt when Louis had been forced to accept that maybe Harry wanted absolutely nothing to do with him. And then, it had hurt that first night when he’d gone to bed and made a whole host of forgivable excuses about why Harry had bolted. He’d created a million tiny fantasies of ways that Harry would reach out and apologize. 

But he’d never apologized. He’d never given him a single excuse. That first night had resulted in a textless morning which gave way into two more textless mornings and now Louis had been faced with the realization that Harry didn’t want to text him. He didn’t feel he owed Louis any sort of explanation. He’d seen the pity in Zayn’s eyes and Niall’s when they’d dropped by and he knew. Louis was a lot of things, but he was no fool. Harry had given up and it was intentional. He wasn’t going to reach out. 

So Louis had perfected the art of acting and he’d been pretending that it didn’t really bother him for the past couple of days. He’d jumped down Zayn’s throat when he’d tried to ask about his feelings. I barely even knew the guy for ten minutes, Zayn, ‘course I’m fucking fine. 

But he was a liar, because Louis was, in fact, not fine at all. His feelings were hurt. He felt like a child and he wanted to throw a tantrum because that was all that he could do. Nothing was going to change that sad state of affairs. Louis had liked a guy, like really fucking liked a guy, for the first time in 1.2 million years and he’d blown it in less than half a week. 

But, as hurt as his poor little feelings were, he wasn’t going to let it stop his life. He’d left Harry’s mittens sitting on his kitchen table and walked the block to his shop with freezing cold hands and he was just fine. Just fine, like he’d always been. Louis had always been just fucking fine and he would continue to be. There was no other option. Louis had a lifetime of ‘just fine’. Maybe it was too romantic to hope for something more than that. Stability and moderate success should have been enough. Most people didn’t get the privilege of being ‘just fine’. Louis was being selfish to expect that there could ever be a time in his life where he could be more than that. 

He pulled his hand out of his jacket pocket and pulled open the door to his shop. Instantly, the smell of espresso hit his nose and he was at home. This was his place. There was a strange itch under his skin all the mornings he wasn’t there. This little store had become an extension of him in just two short years. He immediately saw Zayn at the back, making drinks for a couple who were wrapped in each other’s arms and chatting happily to him. Louis smiled despite the pang of guilt that was completely fucking unwarranted and made his way into the store. He dropped his jacket off in the office before joining Zayn behind the counter. The couple was sitting at one of the tables by then and Zayn had moved on to unloading the dishwasher. 

“What did I miss?” Louis asked. 

Zayn looked up him and there was something strange there, “not much,” he muttered before returning to the dishwasher. 

Louis raised a brow but decided he didn’t want to ask, for fear Zayn would give him those guilt eyes again. Louis didn’t want that in any way, shape or form. 

“Uh, there’s something I wanted to talk to you about,” Zayn’s voice sounded strange again and no thanks. Louis didn’t want to go down that road. 

“I’d rather not talk about it thanks.”

Zayn snorted, “you’d rather not talk about me asking you for some time off?”

“Oh,” huffed Louis, picking up the Amsterdam mug and placing it back on the shelf, “sorry. The king of self-absorbpstion stands corrected.”

Zayn let out a small chuckle, and somehow Louis’ muscle tension eased and he started to feel a little bit more like himself. 

“When do you need?”

Zayn straightened as he closed the dishwasher, “uh,” he started, sounding strange, “the rest of the week. Maybe some of next week.”

“Oh,” shrugged Louis, “yeah, okay, sure. No worries. I’m sure I can hold down the fort. Bit late notice, though. ’S a good thing you’ve got an in with the boss.”

Zayn didn’t laugh, though and that left Louis wondering. Zayn was acting really strange and it was stupid of him to think that Louis wouldn’t pick up on it. Louis had known him pretty much as long as he could remember. They’d once bit opposite ends of the same worm Liam had dared them to eat because neither of them were brave enough to try first. They did everything together. The only thing they didn’t do together was keep secrets. 

“What’s going on?” Louis asked, “get on with it, then. Why do you need time off? Can’t sneak off to get married again so why not tell me why you’re acting like a weirdo?”

Zayn sighed, “Liam and I are driving down to Brighton tomorrow.”

“Brighton? In December? Why?”

Zayn scratched the back of his neck, “well, um, Liam and I are…we’re going down to pick up our son.”

Louis felt his heart fall directly out of his chest, “excuse me, what did you just say?”

“Um, we’re driving down to Brighton to pick up our baby.”

Louis felt like he didn’t know what planet he was residing on anymore. His two best friends in the universe who had quietly dated most of their entire lives had snuck away on him two years ago and turned up married, and now? Now they’d been a mere day away from sneaking off to pick up a fucking child without saying a word. And here, Louis couldn’t even figure out how to date someone in a way that wouldn’t send them running at top speed in the other direction. 

“Since when do you have a baby?” Louis was stunned. He was absolutely incredulous. 

“Well, since yesterday. He was born yesterday.”

The look in Zayn’s eyes was…well, fond and beautiful and he looked like he was absolutely just as astounded by the concept as Louis was. 

“Well fuck me!” Exclaimed Louis, throwing his arms around Zayn and planting a big, fat kiss on his cheek, “you’re a dad! I didn’t even know you wanted to be a dad you fucking loon!”

Zayn laughed then, a watery laugh, but he was hugging Louis back, “I’m a dad.” He said the words like he was testing them out. Testing to see how they felt out there in the world. 

Louis pulled back then, struck by the emotion he saw on Zayn’s face. Zayn, who always tried to be so fucking casual about everything. Zayn who had done nothing but shrug a few times as Liam had announced their marriage to Louis the first night they’d gotten together after their trip. Zayn, who had always been the first one to brush off the idea of romance in any sort of way, favouring to keep all the secrets in the world between he and Liam. That Zayn, his best friend in the whole wide world, was glowing. He was actually beaming and there was no other way to describe the look on his face other than 'pride'. 

Louis smiled then, “where did he come from? I didn’t even know you two were looking.”

Zayn bit his lip, “yeah we have been…for a few years. Since before we went to London and got married and all that. We didn’t mention anything because…we were trying not to get our hopes up. We, um, we met this girl on a website. She’s only sixteen. We’ve been talking to her for a few months, went down on a weekend awhile back and met her and…yeah. Now he’s here.”

“Well fuck me,” Louis couldn’t think of anything else to say. He was really honestly speechless which was a feat in and of itself. Louis was never without speech. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

Zayn shrugged, “we were nervous…these things fall through a lot. Our lawyer warned us of that…we didn’t want to get everyone excited if things weren’t going to work out. Besides, you’ve been upset. You’ve been busy—”

“Busy, what? Getting dumped by a guy I knew for two and a half days? Oh come off it, Zayn! This is amazing, you should be so excited you’re screaming it from the rooftops. Take all the time off you need but I expect pictures like every 12 minutes or so for the entire time you’re off.”

Zayn smiled then, big and certain and Louis was just so fucking happy for him. He was so fucking happy for them both. Zayn reached into his pocket to grab his phone. He unlocked it and fiddled with it for a moment before he turned it to Louis, a picture of a tiny, pink, wrinkly baby on the screen. Louis’ heart absolutely melted. He snatched the phone from Zayn’s hand and stared down at it. Well, holy shit. Louis hadn’t even known this day was coming, but right there on the screen before him and Zayn and Liam’s baby. They had a baby! Louis was an uncle! 

“Send me that picture immediately,” he demanded handing Zayn’s phone back to him, “uncle Tommo is going to need to show that to every single person he walks past for, like, the next 18 years or so.”

Zayn sputtered a laugh, “uncle Tommo, eh?”

Louis nodded, “yes. I’m not having a repeat of Dais and Phoebs, they called me LouLou for half their lives. Louis’ too hard for a baby. I reckon Tommo is easier to handle.” Louis paused then, “wait. What am I calling him? What’s his name?”

“Oscar,” Zayn said without hesitation. 

Oh god. They were so cute! His own best friends. With their own actual baby and Oscar was his name! Louis couldn’t even handle all the joy he felt inside of his chest. A real fucking baby. It had been way too long since Louis had been around a proper baby. He missed it. He missed when all the girls were young and he was way more than ready to do it all over again. The more babies the merrier. That had always been Louis’ take on the world. 

Louis couldn’t wipe away his grin, “and is he a Payne or a Malik?”

Zayn chuckled before speaking, “Malik-Payne.”

Louis whooped another great laugh, “still not budging on the name thing, eh, Zayner? What’s it about being a Payne that you think would be so bloody awful? Liam can’t change his, he’s a doctor for Christ sake.”

“Cold day in hell when my name will be Zayn Payne.”

Louis roared another laugh—yeah. The rhyming. He’d forgotten about that. “Alright, I see your point.” He conceded. 

 

 

Louis was sitting at one of the tables in the back of the shop, mindlessly flipping through the pages of Shakespeare’s sonnets. He’d read every single word in that particular book about a million times, but the feeling of flipping through the pages on the tattered old copy he’d been carrying around since sixth form was a sort of grounding technique. He was thinking about a lot of things. First and foremost he was thinking about Oscar. He was trying to work out what kind of dad Liam was going to be. Was he going to be a helicopter parent? Liam liked to have control of most situations and Louis was no expert in the field, but it didn’t seem like parents too often had control. 

Zayn, on the other hand...Louis knew exactly what to expect. Zayn would be a giant bag of emotions. Contrary to the image he tried to project to the rest of the world, Zayn was going to be kind and patient and he was going to cry at the drop of a hat in any given moment. Louis knew they would both shine. They would assume the roles of 'dads' without a single stumble along the way. Louis felt certain of this. 

It was exciting. The whole thing. He was glad as hell for them...yet something inside of him felt tainted. It wasn’t really fair and it wasn’t what a good friend would feel. Louis knew that. 

It was just that Louis had forgotten just how many things he used to want. He’d forgotten about the dreams he’d had when he was younger, and how did a person do that? How did someone just forget the ambitions they’d always had? Louis wanted to be a dad. He’d always wanted to be a dad, but somewhere along the way he’d forgotten about that dream. He’d forgotten how much that desire was implanted into his heart until he was faced with his best friends chasing his dream. 

It was wrong to be jealous. It was hideous and wrong and Louis would never ever in a million years let them know the way he was feeling. 

Louis had forgotten about himself. He’d forgotten who he was for a really long time. That wasn’t normal. 

So, Louis was flipping through that old book, inhaling the scent of nearly 100 year old pages and trying desperately not to let his mind wander back to green eyes and curly hair and the reminder that, yeah, Louis did have dreams. The reminder that, yeah, Louis wanted to have someone to share those dreams with. He also really wanted to drown the reminder that, yeah, he was probably more than half way in love with someone he’d only gotten to know for a few short days. 

It was half four and Zayn had left a couple of hours ago. Once Louis had finished expressing his excitement and asking more than all of the appropriate questions, Louis had forced him out the door and demanded pictures and FaceTime the moment they got to their hotel in Brighton. 

And now Louis was alone. A chilling reminder that even though he had the best friends in the world that would be there for him in a heartbeat...they went home to each other and Louis went home on his own. That stung a bit more than usual today. He was far too emotional for his own good. 

Louis was so wrapped up in his own thoughts that he barely even registered the quiet ring of the bell as someone slowly opened the door, shutting it softly behind them. Louis shook his head, scrubbing his hand across his face and getting to his feet. He closed the book in front of him and looked toward the door. Suddenly he felt his heart beating in his throat because, even though there was a black toque on his head, the curls poking out at the sides were still there. As were the muted green eyes. It was Harry. Harry was standing in front of him.

Louis took a moment to stare in bewilderment as Harry slowly walked toward him. A million thoughts were racing through his mind. He couldn’t think of a single thing that would dispel the hope that fluttered in his stomach when he met Harry’s eyes. There was no rational reason for Harry to be there. He just had to be there for Louis. There was no other explanation. 

Harry was standing just a couple of feet from him with a book in his hand and an absolutely inexplicable look on his face. Louis really wanted to speak. He felt like maybe that was the best move, but he couldn’t open his mouth. He was paralyzed with fear of saying the wrong thing. He didn’t want that. Harry was standing right in front of him and he didn’t want to risk ruining that. 

So he waited. 

Harry’s eyes were on him and he looked like his head was in a million places, but somehow in his irises, Louis thought he could see an apology. God, Louis was so fucking happy he woke up that morning and dragged himself into work. 

Finally, then, without looking away from Louis, Harry lifted the book in his hand and Louis saw the familiar photograph of the tattooed angel wings. Then, Louis finally got to hear Harry’s voice.

“Do you think Marianne died at the end? Like, after all that, all those years, she just lets go?”

Louis cleared his throat and tried not to get too wrapped up in the fact that even though Harry hadn’t spoken to him in days, he’d spent his time buried in Louis’ favourite book. 

“Well, I don’t know. I suppose it would depend on if you think she’s crazy or actually 700 years old.”

“I don’t know what I think,” Harry paused, not looking away from Louis, “do you think that two people who are supposed to be together would keep finding each other?”

Louis shrugged, eyes locked on Harry and looking for any sort of clue about what he was thinking. “I think so, yeah.”

“I think so, too.”

Harry’s words came out like a whisper. 

There was a beat of silence before Harry stepped forward, placing the book next to Shakespeare on the table. And then Harry was standing directly in front of Louis. Louis felt his stomach fluttering at the proximity. 

“I owe you an apology,” Harry’s voice held a tone of guilt and Louis didn’t like it. “Things in my life got pretty complicated pretty fast and I don’t want you to feel like it was something you did.”

Ah, so there it was. The age old cliche that Harry’s life was ‘pretty complicated right now’. Louis was good at cliches, though. He knew how this one ended. It didn’t end with his and Harry’s happily ever after. It ended with a gentile let-down. A way for Harry to ease his own guilt by making sure that Louis knew it wasn’t his fault. Louis felt gross. Everything inside of him felt wrong and icky and he kind of hated himself for feeling hopeful just seconds before that. How could he be so fucking naive?

“Yeah,” said Louis and he thought he was doing a pretty good job about keeping the bitterness he could taste on his tongue out of his voice, “I get it. I know where that cliche leads, I’m afraid.” 

“Cliche?” Said Harry, sounding surprised by Louis assessment, “I wasn’t trying to be cliche,” his words were rushed, now.

“‘S okay, Harry, you don’t owe me an explanation.”

“But I do,” Harry insisted, “the most important part about being with someone is transparency, isn’t it?”

Louis shook his head in confusion, “being with someone? You mean you aren’t here to let me down gently?”

“Let you down? You think I want to let you down? No. No, of course not, Louis!” 

Harry’s words were a panicked rush now and Louis was doing everything in his power to continue to take Harry seriously and not break out into uncontrollable laughter.

“I don’t want to let you down, not like, ever. Not in any sense of the word. Why would you ever think I’d want to let you down?”

“Dunno. Radio silence, maybe?” Louis bit the corner of his lip, then, trying to fight his smile. He felt the sides of his mouth curve up despite his efforts. 

Harry took notice instantly, the day breaking on his own face. Louis wanted to be the source of a trillion more of Harry’s smiles. 

“Yeah, I guess I could see why you’d think that, but that’s not what’s happening here, Lou.” 

The word was so intimate. It made Louis’ heart race in his chest. Lou. No one called him that. Everyone called him Tommo. That little nickname gave Louis all the hope in the world. 

“I was being serious about things being complicated. I told you about the accident and…I’m still processing things and it was wrong of me to shut you out. And it was even more wrong of me to let you believe you did something wrong. You didn’t do anything, wrong, Lou. You did everything right, even right now, making me laugh when I’m trying to drown myself in my own guilt.”

“Aww,” cooed Louis, “you poor martyr. Should I yell at you some? Throw a grenade so you can jump on top of it? I suppose, then, that you absolutely do not want me to forgive you. I should probably kick you into the cold streets of Manchester and let you have a good think about what you’ve done.”

Harry laughed then, moving closer. He took both of Louis’ hands in his and kissed the back of each of them, “I’m sorry,” Harry said, Louis’ hands still in his, “and I would really, really like it if you forgave me and let me take you out for dinner.”

Louis grinned, “thought you’d never ask.” 

Louis felt Harry tighten his grip on his hands and yeah, this was still exactly what he needed. Harry was a breath of fresh air in his stagnant and boring life. Louis had been wandering through life without any real purpose for years and somehow, without really looking, he’d found it. He’d found all the purpose he’d ever needed in the green eyes in front of him. Louis’ life maybe have been a boring succession of waking up and falling back to sleep for as long as he could remember, but that wasn’t his future. His future was bright and exciting and an adventure that he wanted to take, preferably with this boy by his side. 

“And in the interest of transparency,” Louis said, leaning closer to Harry, “I missed you.”

Harry pulled Louis’ body to him, then, wrapping his arms around him and squeezing tightly with the promise of not letting go. Louis' head rested on top of Harry’s heart and he felt Harry’s lips in his hair, his breath warm and enticing. 

“I missed you. I missed you so much more than you can ever know, Louis.”

Chapter Text

XII

 

Present

 

Louis’ laugh echoed through the nearly empty park and something he couldn’t quite manage to put a name to was happening inside Harry’s chest. The thing was, it had always been like this. Harry had made horrible jokes for most of his life which had typically resulted in people laughing at him…not so much the joke. But Louis had always laughed at his jokes—sure, he’d take the piss, but the bottom line was that he’d always found Harry funny. 

And now, here they were in this strange situation, where Harry knew everything…and Louis thought this was just the beginning. It was a mind boggling place to be, but in the same breath Harry was swept up in it in all the ways he’d always been swept up by Louis. 

“Just so you know, a flower’s petals have nothing to do with their ability to ride a bike. Honestly I think it has something to do with the lack of legs,” Louis was still laughing, though and Harry’s grin was impossibly large, “honestly, Harry, that was probably the worst joke I’ve ever heard. I didn’t think it was possible to be second-hand embarrassed, but Harold, you’ve done it. I feel embarrassed for you.”

“You laughed, though,” Harry noted, bumping his hip against Louis’. “You think I’m funny.”

“I was laughing at you, Harry. Honestly, if those are the sort of jokes you tell on a regular basis, I’m surprised you aren’t used to having people laugh at you.”

Something stirred inside of Harry’s chest, because this wasn’t the first time they’d had this exact same conversation. There wasn’t another person on this planet that teased him the way Louis did and honestly, there was so much love behind the action Harry felt dizzy with it. 

“You think I’m funny.”

“Shut up,” said Louis, a smile he was trying to mask on his lips. 

So yeah, things were strange. Louis had closed up the shop early and they had stopped at a chippy and were now walking through the park. It was somehow both exactly as Harry had remembered and brand new at the same time. Harry grappled with the concept that everything happening was a contradiction. Louis would never know that, though. He would never know how many times they’d strolled through that very park on breaks during university. He would never know how many times they’d eaten chips together and he’d never know that Harry had told him that exact joke and received the exact same reaction nine whole years prior. 

Harry wanted, more than anything on earth, to sweep Louis up and never let him go. There was a hole inside of him, one that had persisted for three years and somehow, he finally knew how to fill it. He knew all the places inside of him where Louis belonged and maybe that was a lot of pressure to put on to someone that he didn’t really know, not anymore…but there was something there. There was something that had always been there and Harry suspected that there was nothing on planet earth that could change that underlying connection. 

He was keenly aware that he needed to play things safely. He couldn’t come on too strong and scare Louis off. He needed to rebuild their foundation. He need to proceed with caution and consider every move he made. The pressure was immense. He had to start from ground zero and make the love of his life fall in love with him all over again. The stakes were high because Harry knew exactly what there was to lose. 

“Hey,” Louis said, breaking Harry from his reverie. 

Harry looked to his left and caught Louis’ eye, the glint there stirring something in his stomach. He wasn’t close enough. There was no such thing as close enough (it had been too fucking long). 

“You get so serious,” Louis noted, munching on a chip between his thoughts, “this whole thing is supposed to be fun, you know. You’re not supposed to overthink it. You’re not meant to be thinking about if you want to let me charm you or not. You’re supposed to just let my charm work its magic.”

Harry smiled, because here Louis was, just the same as ever, reading him like an open book. Even stripped of all the context that once existed between them, Louis saw him. 

“I want to be charmed,” Harry said quietly, catching Louis’ eye. 

For the first time since he’d seen Louis in the lift on their way to Liam and Zayn’s, a flush took over his face. Harry wanted to collect him in his arms and kiss his cheeks and bathe in that flush, because he knew how rare it was. Louis was comfortable in 90% of the situations he got into, so Harry relished this. He’d affected Louis. He’d affected this new Louis. 

They still worked. 

Louis’ gaze fell to the ground, a smile still curving the sides of his mouth, “talk about putting pressure on a guy.”

Harry chuckled lightly, reaching his pinky out to Louis’ empty hand, twining their smallest fingers together. His grin was permanent and he couldn’t believe that he got to do this all over again. Falling in love with Louis had been some of the best times in his life, and now he had the opportunity to do it all over again in a way no one else could possibly imagine. 

Harry tugged on Louis’ hand, pressing their hips together as they slowly moved forward. Louis looked up at him, then, beautiful blue eyes squinting happily at him. 

“Easy there, prince charming. You’re kind of stealing my thunder here, I’m bordering on being charmed and I thought I was supposed to be the charming one.”

Harry smiled, meeting Louis’ gaze again. He let go of Louis’ hand, then, “sorry,” he said, moving forward, ignoring the puzzled expression Louis was now wearing. “From now on you’re in charge,” he said, walking ahead of Louis. 

“Right then,” said Louis as he caught up. Immediately he reached out and took Harry’s hand in his, winding their fingers completely together, “first order of business,” he explained.

Harry beamed again, Louis cold fingers lighting a fire in his chest.

Harry could see it—a glimmer of the people they used to be together. He had all the hope in the world. 

 

 

TOKYO + MOUNT FUJI | Travel Vlog by trav3lwithharry

 

520,896 views

 

Published on February 20, 2012

 

“Hey guys, I’m Harry and welcome back to my youtube channel!”

Harry was standing on a set of stairs, leaning against a railing and gesturing to the image behind him. There was a foolish grin on his face, like he was making the best joke of all time. 

“Behind me, you can see the incredible Mount. Fuji, revered for its size and beauty.”

Behind him, though, there was nothing but a thick fog, obscuring any sort of view that might have existed on a normal day. Louis’ laughter came from behind the camera. 

The shot cut to Harry and Louis sitting on a blanket, the foggy view remaining behind him. Laid out in front of him were a collection of snacks. 

“Louis and I decided to do a taste-test of some of the snacks we picked up this morning in Tokyo before we left to see this majestic mountain.”

Harry held up a package, “I have no idea what this is,” he said, shrugging and tearing open the bag. He laughed as he peered inside, leaning close enough to Louis for him to take a look.

Louis squealed, “nope, not touching that shit, Haz.”

Harry reached into the bag, pulling out a tiny dried fish and held it up for the camera to see, “there’s nuts in here, too,” he explained. 

Louis had moved on, tearing open a green Kit-Kat and shoving a bite into his mouth and shooting a thumbs up to the camera while he chewed. 

Harry shrugged and popped the tiny fish into his mouth, chewing cautiously. He shook his head in the negative to the camera, “not good,” he mumbled, swallowing what was left and turning to Louis. 

“You’re disgusting,” Louis said, grin on his face. 

“I’m brave, actually,” said Harry, reaching back into the bag and pulling out another tiny fish and attempting to hand it to Louis. 

“Never in a million years,” Louis said, shaking his head. 

“Come on, Lou, live a little.”

“If eating dried fish that still have their eyeballs is living then I promise you I do not mind dying one bit.”

Harry laughed, leaning closer, “you wimp,” he said, trying to leaning for a quick kiss. 

Louis put his hands on Harry’s cheeks, holding him back, “nuh-uh, sir, no thank you. I don’t want any part of that fish-breath.”

Harry jutted out his bottom lip, “but you love me,” he whined. 

“Sometimes, love is telling someone you won’t kiss their fish-breath.” 

Harry pounced, then, knocking Louis onto his back and climbing on top of him to place the biggest kiss he could muster on his lips. He sat back up and grinned at the camera proudly. Louis sat up, brows knitted together, making a show of wiping off his lips with the back of his shirt sleeve, scowling at the camera. 

“You’re vile,” he said, playful smile on his face. 

The shot changed to Harry holding the camera, Mount Fuji still not visible behind him. He grinned, nonetheless.

“Lou and I are heading back to Tokyo in a few minutes, but I just wanted to take a moment to express something while Lou is gone to the loo,” Harry smiled at his own awful pun, eyes glittering into the camera, “we woke up too early, all jet-lagged and tired and dragged our asses out of the hotel to see Mount Fuji. It took us two hours to get here and…we couldn’t see a thing. We’re only in Tokyo for 4 days together. Louis’ literally only here three nights while he’s got a little break from school but I’ve been in Thailand for the last three weeks and after he leaves I’m off to Malaysia for a bit and…” he sighed, “our relationship is hard sometimes when I have to travel for so long without him…and it’s like, this little thing, you know? Four days together in Japan and I asked him what was the number one thing he wanted to do and it was see this mountain—and the fog literally hasn’t cleared and we never got to see a thing. I tried to apologize to him, you know? And all he said was that he didn’t give a fuck about some dumb mountain. He said he wouldn’t have changed it for the world, because he probably had more fun taking cheesy photos in front of the fog than he would have had seeing the actual mountain, and I guess…” Harry sighed again, “yeah, I guess it’s just moments like today that I realize just how lucky I truly am. I have this amazing man who loves me and honestly, even when things go wrong I have more fun with him than I’ve ever had without him. I think that’s how you know you’ve found the person for you, when they make even the disappointments shine.”

 

 

Present

 

Harry’s cheeks were pink, flushed from the second glass of Pinot Grigio he was drinking out of the Cliffs of Moher mug. He was struggling to breathe, laughing at Louis as he told the story of the young lady that came in every morning to flirt with Zayn. 

“I’m telling you, Harold, you don’t know what resentment looks like until you see the looks she gives me when he’s off.”

Louis couldn’t take his eyes off of Harry. He was glowing…and maybe, just maybe it wasn’t just the cheap bottle of wine they were sharing on the floor of his shop. The temperature had started to drop outside and they’d sought refuge inside of Montauk, locking the door behind them and sitting the relative darkness with just the glow of their iPhone flashlights and the light drifting in from the street. 

Louis was wrapped up in the feeling of it all. He’d been waiting his whole life for this. He’d never felt this way before. He’d never been simultaneously completely comfortable and completely self conscious of every move he made before. There was just something about Harry. He felt like he knew him…or like he wanted to know every part of him. What he was feeling was…very strong. The problem was that Harry had already run for the hills once and Louis didn’t want to be too much. He didn’t want to scare him off with confessions that were too premature to really make. He couldn’t rightfully tell Harry what was happening inside of him because he knew instinctually that this wasn’t how it normally happened. This wasn’t the pace that normal people fell for each other. 

Harry reached up onto the shelf beside him, cheeks still pink and grabbed a geology book. He opened it and began reading from a random page in his best impersonation of a teacher. 

“The water feeding hot springs enters faults in the earth, where it is gently heated because of the high geothermal gradient. The water then emerges from the earth as a hot spring, often located at the base of mountains,” Harry slammed the book shut, “funnily enough, I actually knew that.”

“Oh, wow. Look at you holding out on me with all that insanely interesting geology knowledge. I can’t believe that wasn’t your romantic opener. Do tell me more.”

Harry’s laughter roared through the empty store, “you’re a dick,” he said, “I learned about it in Alaska. A tour guide told me.”

“I wish I could go to Alaska. I always wanted to see the Northern Lights.”

It was true. Louis had given it a lot of thought, especially when he drank his coffee out of the Anchorage mug that changed colours to show the Northern Lights when it was filled with hot liquid. It seemed like a place that people should dream of seeing, and here was his Harry, spinning tales about all the places he’d been. Louis wished instantly that he’d been able to tag along. Why had it taken this long for them to meet if they’d had the same mates all a long? Was it just the universe’s cruel trick, or had they just not been ready for each other until now?

Whatever it was…well Louis was ready for it now. 

“I wish you’d seen them, too.” Harry’s voice held a strange tone to it. Louis didn’t care for it. He liked it better when the mood was light and Harry’s face was crinkled with laughter. 

“I’ve been lots of places, too,” Louis said sticking his tongue out. 

Harry smiled, “oh, yeah? Tell me about it.” He challenged. 

“I’ve been…to Wales.”

Harry snorted, reaching out to smack Louis’ shoulder, “Wales is part of the United Kingdom. You live in the United Kingdom, that doesn’t even count.”

“‘Course it counts. Technically it’s another country and they have their own language. Basically I’m a well-versed world traveller. And what have you got? Tales of the Northern Lights?” Louis pretended to scoff, “I pity you, you know.”

Harry’s eyes sparkled as he took another sip of wine and stared over at Louis’. There was something in the air. There was an itch just under Louis’ skin and he couldn’t put his finger on it. When Harry leaned over to him, his gorgeous face just millimetres from him, though, Louis understood the itch. 

Softly, Harry covered Louis’ lips with his, kissing him gently and slowly and Louis idly wondered how he’d survived this entire night with Harry without this. They should have been kissing all along, shouldn’t they? Louis buried his fingers into Harry’s curls, parting his lips agains the perfect boy across from him. It was slow and steady and safe and everything that Louis didn’t know he’d wanted. The way Harry kissed him…it was breath-taking both literally and figuratively. It tasted like Pino Grigio and like promises that Louis didn’t think he fully understood, but he was more than willing to accept them. 

When Harry pulled back, Louis felt drunk. His head spun with the emotions running rampant in his bloodstream and he smiled at the boy across from him, an obvious blush on his face. He didn’t mind the feeling all that much, but he hated it a bit, too, because he usually played it so cool. Seriously. Louis was usually the coolest guy you would ever meet, but there was something about Harry that made that demeanour vanish. Harry could see right through him and he wasn’t sure how he felt about that. It was hard to be charming when his emotion—and attraction—was written plainly across his traitorous cheeks. 

Harry reached out then, running the back of his thumb across the blush, making Louis’ face heat up even more because, dammit, he saw it. There was a fond smile on Harry’s face. 

“We should go somewhere together,” he suggested, “just, like, run off and not tell anyone where.”

Louis smiled back, leaning closer and nudging his nose against Harry’s. Fuck he was beautiful. He’d turned Louis into a sloppy, love-sick puppy, drunk on emotions and all hot, flushed cheeks. He swore that a week ago he never would have recognized himself. 

“Every part of me wants to say yes,” Louis said, brushing his lips softly against Harry’s as he spoke, “but I have this shop to run.”

Harry grabbed onto his hand, “so let Zayn be in charge. Run away with me.”

Uh. No doubt about it, Harry was a siren. Louis would have followed his voice straight into oncoming traffic and died happily. He wanted nothing more than to oblige every request Harry had. Why, oh, why did he have to show up with Louis was 27, trying to be a proper adult with the responsibility of owning his own business? Why couldn’t he have shown up when Louis was young and reckless and more than willing to jump head-on into spontaneity? 

“Zayn and Liam are in Brighton, absolutely decimating our chances at being spontaneous. I’m sorry, love.” 

Louis kissed Harry, then, deeper than before, because why not? He parted his lips and absolutely drowned in the scent of Harry is it overwhelmed every sense he had. Harry was the personification of sensory overload. There could never be enough. Louis couldn’t remember the last time he’d wanted someone like this and when Harry climbed onto his lap, lips trailing along his jaw Louis thought he was probably going to spontaneously combust with the desire that was brewing in the pti of his stomach. 

Every rational part of him was screaming at him to take it slow because Harry’s emotions were so clearly all over the place when it came to everything but him…but that was everything but him. Harry nibbled on Louis’ ear lobe, sending shockwaves of desire down his spine.

Harry pulled back, still seated on Louis’ lap, the green in his eyes barely visible around his blown-out pupils. How in the fuck had Louis managed to affect Harry like this? How was it even possible to have so much fire between two human beings? 

“I have been somewhere you’ve never been,” Louis said, surprised by the growl in his own voice. 

Harry tilted his head, asking a question without saying a word. 

“My flat,” he said, and yeah maybe it was a bit cheeky…

Harry snorted, whacking Louis’ shoulder, “is that a line? Louis Tomlinson, did you just give me a chat up line?”

Louis shrugged, feeling his cheeks flame again (he was getting pretty fucking sick of that happening), “I—I don’t know, to be honest. Does it need to be? Do I need a line, or can I just ask you if you want to see my flat without it sounding cheap, because honestly, it’s not cheap.”

 

 

December 14, 2009

 

Harry’s mum yawned from her place on the rocking chair, picking up the remote to the telly and handing it to Harry. Louis was curled against Harry’s side, his head resting on his chest and his breath tickling Harry’s neck. It had only been a month since they’d met, but somehow this had become second nature. Harry and his mum always had movie nights on the weekend and since the first time he’d visited, Louis had secured himself a permanent invitation to every movie night from there then on. From the second Louis had crossed the threshold into their house, he’d fit there.

On Fridays, Louis babysat (now with Harry’s assistance) and on Saturdays they watched movies with Harry’s mum, sometimes leaving late to get drunk with their friends. They’d established a pretty solid routine for two people who’d only just managed a month together and Harry treasured it. There was no such thing as too much Louis. Normally he’d walk Louis halfway home, kissing him until his lips were sore, outside of the supermarket a couple of block’s from Louis’ place. He would laugh into his cell phone when he answered it not 30 seconds after they’d finally parted and chat to Louis the entire way back to his place. 

But tonight was different. Louis was sleepy, having stayed up most of the night the previous evening to study for the exam he was spending all of his time worrying about. Harry didn’t want to walk him home. He didn’t want to say goodbye. 

“I’m heading to bed, loves,” his mum said, getting up from her chair, “see you in the morning, Harry. Goodnight Louis.”

“Night,” Louis mumbled from Harry’s arms. 

Harry channel surfed until he heard his mother’s bedroom door close. He turned the telly off immediately. Louis pressed closer to him, placing a soft kiss against his neck. 

“Guess its that time, then,” he mumbled, pulling back from Harry, “better head home before I get too comfy.”

Louis got to his feet then, rubbing his eyes and smoothing out his jumper. Harry grabbed his hand, tugging him back down onto the couch. 

“Wait,” he said softly, pulling Louis in for a kiss, one that lingered on his lips as he spoke, “what if you just stay?”

Louis grinned, his eyes shining at the proposition, “what would your mum say? Are you allowed to have attractive men sleepover?”

Harry laughed, “she wouldn’t mind. She likes you and she trusts me. What about your mum?”

“Pfft,” scoffed Louis, “my mum wouldn’t dare say a word because she owes me for the like…ten million pounds I’ve saved here in childcare over the years.” 

He kissed Harry, burying his hands in the curls at the back of his neck. He pulled back and grinned, “plus, I think you might have weaselled your way into favourite status. Seriously. I think she likes you better than all of her real children. I should be offended, but…” Louis ran his hand down Harry’s chest, sliding his hand under the hem of Harry’s t-shirt, “I kind of see the appeal.”

Up until then, Harry and Louis had probably spent more hours making out than they had spent casually teasing each other—which said a lot because there was a lot of teasing—but aside from the pair of sloppy hand jobs in the stairwell of Liam and Zayn’s flat one night when they’d been absolutely obliterated…it usually stopped there. Harry didn’t mind that, honestly. He was happy to keep taking things slow with Louis…but it didn’t seem like Louis was opposed to something more, and well, Harry certainly wasn’t. 

Louis’ hands felt like fire against his skin. He leaned in and kissed him and relished the feeling of Louis’ nails digging into his hips. Harry pushed Louis down onto the couch, crawling on top of him. Louis’ hands stayed on his skin as their tongues tangled, the temperature in the room rising higher and higher. Harry straddled Louis’ hips and they continued kissing, Harry’s skin prickling every time Louis dragged his nails across his back. It took him until he felt Louis’ hands dipping below the waistband of his joggers and massaging his bum before he noticed how hard he was. He groaned into Louis’ neck, nibbling at the skin, thrusting against Louis and finally realizing the rhythm that was already there. Louis was hard, too and they’d been grinding against each other and Harry couldn’t take it for another second. He needed to taste Louis, to make him scream, squirm and well…come. He couldn’t handle this chaste sort of passion for another second without exploding in on himself. 

“Can we…” his felt his breath hitch as Louis’ hand, which was still in his kickers, creep toward his throbbing cock, “can we go upstairs? Please, Lou. God I want you.”

Louis kissed the request off of his lips, nodding against him, “please” he mumbled, removing his hand from Harry’s pants and pushing them to their feet. 

 

The next morning, Harry had woken up in Louis’ embrace and that had been a game changer for him. He officially no longer wanted to participate in any morning that didn’t involve Louis. He turned over and gazed at the way the late-morning sun made Louis’ cheek bones cast shadows on the lower half of his face. He grinned, reaching out and running his fingers across the planes of Louis’ face. Louis’ lips twitched a smile threatening to break through, but he fought to keep his eyes closed. 

“What are you doing, you menace?”

“Just…have I told you how like…insanely beautiful you are?”

This time the smile came full-on, blinding Harry more than the real sun ever could. Louis partly opened one eye to look at Harry, “as a matter of fact, you have. but go on.”

“Okay,” said Harry, feeling Louis pull him tighter against his body. Harry fitted himself into Louis’ side, resting his head on Louis’ chest, “Louis, you’re insanely beautiful.”

“You’re just saying that because I’m a good shag,” Louis teased. 

“And a modest one at that. How’d I get so lucky?”

“Dunno,” said Louis, lightly running his fingers against the curve of Harry’s hip, “hit the boyfriend lottery I guess.”

Harry was just about to say something when he heard his mum’s voice from the kitchen.

“Breakfast!” She called. 

Louis kissed the top of Harry’s head, “go on, then. Put some clothes on you slag. I’ll sneak out the window.”

Harry laughed, “my mum won’t mind if you have breakfast with us. I’ll even help you study after.”

Louis kissed the top of his head again, running the palm of his hand over Harry’s bum. There was a dull ache there from the previous night, a pleasant reminder of how things between them had changed. “But what if I’d rather be distracted?” Louis whispered, “I reckon you could be good at that part, too.”

 

Harry knew the moment they’d arrived in the kitchen and saw that his mum had put out three plates that things were only going to continue to change for the better as long as Louis was involved. 

 

 

Present

 

Louis gestured to the building, just a couple of blocks away from his shop and met Harry’s eyes, “well, this is my flat. Coming up?”

Harry looked, once again, like there was a grand debate on his face. Maybe Louis was ruining it again. He really was kind of coming on strong. Maybe he needed to tap the breaks a bit and bring things back to a more PG level. The last thing on planet earth he wanted to do was make Harry uncomfortable. 

“Hey,” he whispered, taking both of Harry’s hands in his and pressing their chests together. It was somewhere close to five in the morning and remarkably, they’d managed to waste the entire night over a really unremarkable bottle of wine, “you don’t have to, it’s late. But I would really like it if you spent the night with me. That’s not a line, though, promise. My bed is really comfortable and your flat is a bit of a hike, so why not sleep here? I won’t even try any funny business.”

Harry smiled, his whole face lighting up with it. He didn’t say a word, just nodded. 

Louis wasn’t sure what part of what he said was the selling point, but he really hoped it wasn’t the ‘no funny business’ part because…well it was Harry. Harry—the man built like a god with a chiseled jaw line and pecks that rippled beneath his thin t-shirt and Louis had a good imagination…but not so good that he didn’t want to compare it with reality. 

He smiled happily at Harry and nodded, “right, then. This way, Prince Charming,” he said as he unlocked the street-level door, “hope you’ve got your hiking shoes on because I’m three floors up and this place predates lifts.”

Harry was quiet, reaching out to twine their fingers together and following Louis up to his flat. When he unlocked his front door he said a silent prayer that he had done his dishes for once in his life, because he couldn’t remember. He had never been the best housekeeper. Zayn had been harping on him about it for years, but Louis had never listened because “who cares, Zayn?”…but now he cared. Now Harry was going to see him for who he truly was. 

Thank fuck though, because when he opened the door and did a quick scan, there wasn’t a dish in sight. Yes! Past Louis was the best. 

Harry was quiet as he scanned the tiny flat. There wasn’t much to see, really. The kitchen and the living room blended together almost completely. There were who doors on the east side of the flat, one to his bedroom and the other to the loo. They were both closed and Louis did a second prayer that there wasn't too many clothes on the floor. 

“Uh, so here it is. Casa Louis,” he said. 

Harry was staring at the bookcase taking up most of the fall wall of his living room, “surprised you have so many books at your place. Figured you have enough at the shop.”

Louis shrugged, watching as Harry made his way over the the shelf to run his finger across the spines, “those are mostly just old textbooks from uni,” Louis explained. 

“Wow,” said Harry, “that’s a lot of textbooks.”

“Well, it was nearly 8 years of my life.”

Harry nodded as Louis came to stand beside him, “do you ever regret leaving it behind?” He asked quietly. 

“Honestly?” Louis countered. Harry nodded, so he continued, “I think I was working so hard for so long for something that at some point I just kind of forgot what the point was. I can’t remember, anyway. I can’t remember why I wanted it so bad. Maybe I should have just stuck it out, I was good at it. I could have made a lot of money…and maybe the whole bookstore thing was just me looking for something that was missing…but hey. Maybe that’s not a bad thing. Maybe by looking for it I might actually find it, you know?”

Harry bit his lip, reaching out and taking Louis’ hand in his again, “I like you. Like, really, though. I like that you’re funny but I like that you’re smart, too, you know? And vulnerable. I like it when you’re honest like that and that you aren’t afraid to admit that something was missing. That’s brave.”

Louis shrugged, “I guess. Brave or stupid. To be determined.”

“Brave,” Harry affirmed, “definitely brave because I know a thing or who about trying to find what’s missing and it takes bravery to try and chase it.”

Harry kissed him then, slow and certain. When he pulled back there was no playfulness in his eyes. He was serious. He was trying to convey his feelings and instinctually Louis got it. Harry wanted to be here. Maybe, after his accident, things had been missing for Harry, too. Maybe Louis chasing his pipe-dream of owning a bookshop made him feel less like an outsider. Louis didn’t know the full story, but something had hurt Harry. He could feel that, but he could also feel the desire in Harry to move passed it.

Harry pulled back, then, his lips puffy, “I’m tired,” he whispered.

“Me too,” said Louis, kissing Harry’s cheek. He wrapped his arms around Harry, holding him close and rocking him back and forth, “will you sleep in the bed with me?”

“Will you cuddle me?” 

Louis chuckled against Harry’s neck, “do you want me to cuddle you?”

“Very much.”

“Alright then, Harold, prepare yourself for the tenderest holding of your life. I’m basically going to coddle the absolute shit out of you. Butterfly kisses as I gently brush the hair from your face. Do you want me to watch you while you sleep, because I can do that. That’s a romance level perfectly within my gasp.”

“You’re insane,” Harry laughed as Louis took his hand and pulled him toward his bedroom. 

“But you fancy me. Admit it. There’s no point to hold out, now, Harold because after you spend the night with me my plan will have worked and I will have swept you completely off your feet and you will absolutely be drowning in my charm and wit.”

“That sounds mildly violent,” Harry argued as Louis pushed open the door. 

‘Accidents ambush the unsuspecting, often violently, just like love’,” Louis said, a grin on his lips, “that’s the opening line to my favourite book, you know, the one you just read? I’m ambushing you and the violence is part of the beauty of the whole thing, isn’t it? The fact that you can’t control yourself as you continue to fall head over heels for me.”

“You’re relentless,” Harry laughed as Louis turned down his sheets (yes, his bed was made. Harry had hit him on a good day—laundry day to be exact).

“But that’s part of the charm, isn’t it? I mean would you really have me any other way?”

“Absolutely not,” confirmed Harry in a strangely serious voice, despite the bright smile on his lips. He was a goner. Louis was a goner, too. They were both goners, really. Gone completely mental over each other. Louis would happily plead insanity, though, if it landed him in the same asylum as Harry. 

He jumped into his bed, holding up the sheet to let Harry in. He patted the spot next to him, “come have a cuddle then,” he cooed as Harry crawled in next to him. 

Harry pressed his back against Louis, sighing contentedly as Louis’ arms fell around him, pulling him closer. Louis pressed a soft kiss to the back of Harry’s neck and felt his giggle ripple through his chest. God, Louis was so fucking done for. Harry wound his fingers through Louis’, guiding his hand underneath Harry’s shirt and laying it to rest on his tummy. Skin on skin. Louis could have probably died happy in the moment. 

“Lou?” Harry’s voice was tired and distant. 

“Mmm,” he said, breathing against Harry’s neck. Louis wanted to bottle his scent and keep it forever. 

“Thank you for letting me take it slow. I just—I want to do it right with you.”

“Fast, slow, medium—I don’t care, Harry. As long as I’m doing it with you. I’m just happy to be here. I don’t mind taking it slow, and honestly, I don’t think you’re going to be able to hold out on me much longer, anyway. Not if you feel what I’ve been feeling.” 

 

 

Louis opened his eyes to see Harry already staring at him, smile set in place. Sometime throughout the night they had shifted and they were now facing each other, legs tangled together and sharing Louis’ pillow. Louis smiled back, reaching out and brushing an errant curl out of Harry’s eyes. God, he wasn’t even trying to be funny, like he’d been last night, trying to calm Harry’s nerves. He’d made a joke about holding him tenderly and brushing his hair from his face…but the feeling behind it? It was no joke. Louis was absolutely mad over this boy. 

“Hey,” he said, “how’d you sleep?”

“I didn’t,” whispered Harry as he moved closer, pressing their noses together, “I was thinking…about you.”

Louis searched for something witty to say, but there was something different in the atmosphere of the room. He couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but Harry seemed perfectly in control. 

“I have never felt this way about someone else,” Harry said slowly, “and I know what I said last night…but I changed my mind.”

Louis was about to ask what he meant when he felt Harry’s lips on his. There was no sense of hesitation behind the gesture. There was only certainty and Louis could feel it as he felt Harry’s tongue slide into this mouth. He didn’t have to think about it, everything unfolded exactly as it was meant to. He felt Harry sling a leg over him and the next thing he knew Harry was sitting on his lap, his teeth against his collar bone and his hands roaming, lower…and lower still until they stopped at his trousers. Harry tilted his head, then, a silent question in his eyes. 

“Yes,” Louis heard himself speak before he even had a real chance to process the question. He’d never been certain of anything like he was certain of this. 

He felt Harry’s hands pushing down his trousers then and maybe if it had been anyone else in the world Louis would have wasted a second of his time in a self-conscious panic, but it was Harry. Instead, he lifted his hips so Harry could remove his trousers easier. The second he felt air against his surprisingly hard cock, he heard Harry groan in the back of his throat. 

“God, Lou,” he whined, sending all the extra blood Louis needed to harden completely shooting to his cock. That whine—that fucking whine. Harry wanted him. He wanted Louis to fill him up and just the thought of doing just that…it was nearly enough to push Louis over the edge like a horny 14 year old. 

Harry didn’t waste a second though, leaning down and putting his pretty face right in front of Louis’ cock. Louis had never been religious a day in his life but there was something that felt spiritual about the way Harry looked up at him through his lashes, asking permission. Louis’ hands found their way to Harry’s hair and he guided Harry to his cock. Harry didn’t say a word, just gave Louis’ cock a few little kitten licks, that same whine escaping again. God, Harry wanted him. Harry wanted him so bad he cold barely hold it together enough to give him a fucking blowjob and Louis was drowning in that knowledge. He couldn’t stop imagining what it would feel like to press into Harry. He couldn’t even imagine the sounds he’d make while Louis filled him up. Louis shivered as he felt Harry take him fully into his mouth, the mewling finally coming to a stop as he hummed against Louis’ cock. 

It happened fast then, Louis orgasm started to build in his stomach and the world around him started to disappear as Harry worked him expertly. Just as he began he prepare himself to come ribbons down Harry’s pretty throat, Harry pulled off of him. He held Louis’ cock in his hand, staring up at him. 

“I want to feel you inside me,” he whispered, climbing out from between Louis’ thighs. 

And then, like he’d been there a million times, he crawled out of the bed and dug through Louis’ night table pulling out a bottle of lube. He placed it on the bed and made quick work of pulling off his own trousers. Then, Louis finally got to see him in all his glory, hard cock on display. Louis was salivating. Everything he had ever thought to want was standing right beside his bed. 

Harry picked up the bottle of lube again, looking over to Louis, “do you want me to…? Or do you want to—”

Harry didn’t even get to finish the sentence before Louis tugged him back onto the bed, “don’t you dare,” he growled, “that’s my job.”

He guided Harrry’s hands to the headboard, making him kneel with his perfect ass on display for Louis. Yeah. They were doing this. God Louis was happy that Harry had shelved that whole taking it slow thing…because he wanted to taste every part of him. 

Louis leaned down, spreading Harry’s perfect cheeks. He looked at the bottle of lube on the bed, but ignored it for the time being. Instead he leaned closer, tongue darting out to lick at Harry’s hole. The whimper came back then and Louis’ cock hardened as Harry pressed his ass back onto his tongue. Louis moaned against him as Harry’s whimpers sent pulses straight to his cock. God fucking dammit he was going to lose his mind. 

Within minutes Harry was practically screaming against the headboard as Louis inserted one finger, then a second and now a third. He worked him slowly not wanting to push him too hard, but Harry had other plans, the fucking fiend. He kept pushing hard against Louis, whining that he was ready.

“P-please, L-lou, please,” he said for the millionth time and Louis wasn’t one to deny a fantastically sexy naked man his cock. It just wouldn’t be right. 

Just as Louis lined himself up with Harry’s hole, Harry gasped, “wait,” he said, turning around, “I-I want to see you.”

Harry laid on his back then, propping himself up on a couple of the pillows. As Louis climbed between his legs Harry whined again, “oh, god, Louis,” He said as Louis cautiously pushed into him. 

He bottomed out and started to move slowly, Harry’s body clenching around him. It was overwhelming. It felt like…coming home. It felt like everything he’d been missing hitting him all at once. He’d been stumbling along alive, but certainly not living, and now he had this. He felt tears burn the back of his eyes, but he couldn’t cry. Not like this. This was the best moment of his life. Harry filled up all the places inside of him that he’d never known were empty. This wasn’t sad. This was it. Harry was it. Maybe it was too soon to say it, but he knew it wasn’t too soon to know. Harry was what was missing and finally he had a tiny glimpse at what he’d been missing watching Zayn and Liam all those years. It was this connection beyond all reason. They fit together in ways that Louis hadn’t even thought to want. 

Louis had found his home. It had happened fast. It had ambushed him in all the most unexpected ways, violently and without reason and Louis knew somehow that he was exactly where he was supposed to be. 

 

Chapter Text

Present

 

Harry was sitting behind the cash register, spinning back and forth on his chair, trying to find something about Holden Caulfield that he liked. The more he read, the less he found. He guessed that it was kind of the point. Since the day he’d met Louis, 9 years ago, Catcher in the Rye had been his favourite, but Harry had never gotten around to reading it. It still surprised him that this new version of Louis had found a book to share the place in his heart, but Harry wasn’t wasting any time anymore. If there was something that Louis wanted to share with him, dammit, he was going to do everything in his power to explore every facet of it and get as close to him as possible. This was a second chance and he wasn’t going to waste a second of it. 

Harry was just about to give the whole thing some more thought but his focus was lifted from the page when he heard the bell above the door. Harry’s eyes shot up, hoping to see Louis, takeaway in hand and bright smile on his face. It was stupid, given that he’d only been gone for about 10 minutes, but now that everything he felt for Louis had come rushing back full-force, even the thought of mere minutes without Louis was daunting. Harry was clingy. So sue him. He was making up for lost time and missing Louis with all intensity that he should have been for the past 3 years. 

When he looked up and saw the long dark hair and a pair of blue eyes that matched Louis’ perfectly, he felt his heart jump into his throat. He stiffened in his chair. Jay. Louis’ mum was standing in the doorway, her eyes falling on Harry and no hint of a smile on her face. He was terrified. Maybe he should have already reached out to her. Maybe he should have made his intentions clear to Jay before ever jumping back in. 

For a long moment the room was nothing but silent. Jay’s eyes didn’t leave his and Harry didn’t care look away. Neither said a word. 

And then it dawned on him. She was giving him the same look that people in his life had been giving him for years. She was afraid to speak first. She didn’t want to assume that Harry knew anything. 

“Jay,” his voice felt hoarse, and this whole thing was strange and awkward and he’d never felt this way with Jay before. 

She took a deep breath, not taking her eyes off of him. Her voice came softly, but she did not use his name, “what are you doing here?”

It didn’t feel like an accusation, but it might well have been. What are you doing here when Louis doesn’t even know who you are? He certainly owed her an explanation. 

“Uh,” said Harry, standing up and leaning on the counter in her direction, “Louis went to pick up some dinner so I was just holding down the fort,” Harry swallowed hard, “but, um, to answer what you’re really asking… I’m here because I need to be, because there’s nowhere else in the world that I belong.”

Jay blinked a couple of times, thinking of what to say next. She took a step closer, keeping her voice low, “you know who I am?”

God this whole thing was so hard. What he really wanted to do was run around the counter and hug her because that’s who they’d always been. She’d been a second mother to him for nearly six years. She’d kept all of his secrets and called him on every trip he’d ever been on, just to chat. They weren’t like this—they weren’t two strangers. Jay drew everyone in, her lot in life had always been to be everyone in her vicinity’s mum and Harry didn’t want to pretend that things had changed. 

“Jay,” he said, “Louis’ mum. You have a new dog, Louis sent me a photo,” he smiled, trying to set her at ease. “I’m sorry, Jay—for all of it. I’m sorry I hurt him like that.”

Jay’s eyes lit up then and she reached across the counter to grab his hand, “you have nothing to apologize for, Harry.”

She had finally said his name and everything just felt so fucking huge. 

“What happened to you…the choices Louis had to make…you can’t blame yourself for that. It wasn’t your fault. Nobody blamed you, Harry—least of all Louis.”

“I lost him for three years. I hurt him more than he could possibly understand—of course I need to apologize. That’s your kid, Jay, your kid and the love of my fucking life and I just—I’m sorry. I am. I dealt with the whole thing wrong.”

Jay squeezed his hand tighter, “you dealt with it how it made sense to you. Louis didn’t hold it against you, it was never like that. He dealt with it the only way that made sense to him. I’m not putting blame anywhere, and neither should you. What happened, happened and all you can do now is decide what’s next.”

She let go of his hand, then, looking at him seriously, “have you told him?”

Harry swallowed against the lump in his throat, “no—I would never do that without talking to you.”

She nodded curtly, “will you tell him?”

“I thought about not telling him,” Harry started, “I thought about not telling him because when my mum told me…I felt so betrayed about the whole thing. I felt like I’d been cheated out of years of my life. But I don’t think I have a choice, Jay. I have to tell him. It would feel like cheating if I didn’t. I can’t just…pretend it never happened. If he wants to do this—be with me again, I can’t lie to him. It wouldn’t be fair.”

Jay opened her mouth to say something else, but they were interrupted by the bell above the door. Both of their eyes shot to Louis, who was holding a bag presumably filled with their dinner. Louis slapped on an awkward smile, his eyes falling to his mother. 

“Mum,” he said, walking over to them, “what are you doing here?”

Jay pasted on her best fake smile and Harry could only guess that over the last couple of years she’d become pretty good at glossing over truths that didn’t fit neatly into the forgotten parts of Louis’s psyche. It was kind of chilling to watch, “good to see you, too, love.”

“Er, so, I guess I don’t need to introduce you now then.”

Harry could sense the awkwardness that Louis felt and he wished that he could tell him just how unnecessary the whole thing was. He wished Louis knew just how much Jay already knew him. 

Jay’s smile didn’t falter, “well, anyway, darlings, I just came to see if Louis wanted to pop by later on for dinner. I see you’ve already got plans,” Harry swooned over the flush Louis was wearing after the words. Jay moved toward Louis, pressing a kiss to his cheek and giving his hand a squeeze. 

“Have a good night, darling. Call me tomorrow. Love you,” she said before making her way to the exit. She turned then and caught Harry’s eye, “good seeing you, Harry.”

The second Jay was out the door, Louis placed the takeaway on the counter and gave a deep exhale. 

“Sorry ‘bout that. You weren’t supposed to be subjected to anything like that until I’d fully convinced you that I’m not a stalker and I had a chance to trick you into pledging to forsake all others for me. I think we should agree now that anything she said shouldn’t and will not be held against me for the duration of this relationship, really it’s for the best. She’s a total pest and if she mentioned once or twice that I’ve mentioned you…she’s lying. I’d never call my mum and chat her ear off about a boy I like. I would never do such a horribly embarrassing thing like that. That doesn’t sound like me at all.”

Louis’ grin was tentative and fake and Harry forgot what it had been like to see Louis Tomlinson scramble for words, filling the gap with speech just for the sake of speech. It was so rare to see him anything less than completely self-assured. 

“She’s sweet,” Harry said, “I’d love to spend more time with her.”

Louis exhaled, a small smile on his lips, “really? That wasn’t weird or anything?”

Ha. If only Louis had any sort of inkling of just how weird it was. 

Harry just shrugged, “she’s lovely. Obviously she adores you. It’s sweet. I love that you’re that close to her.”

Louis’ grin lit up then, “yeah,” he agreed, “it is great. She’s always been my best friend.”

I know. Harry couldn’t say that though, so instead he gave Louis a soft smile and gestured toward the bag on the counter. “What’d you get?”

Louis reached into the bag and pulled out two containers, opening the lid so Harry could see. 

“Salad?” Harry asked, puzzled. Louis Tomlinson had never once, in all the years Harry could remember, willingly chosen a salad. 

Louis shrugged, walking around to join him behind the counter. As he walked into the office to drag a chair out for himself he mumbled, “heard you Snapchatting Niall that since you’d shown up here yesterday you hadn’t touched a vegetable.”

“But you hate salad,” Harry let the words slip before he realized and forced himself to extrapolate, “I mean, last night you said the only acceptable vegetable are peas and only if they’re next to fish and chips.”

Louis plopped down on the chair he dragged beside Harry, reaching out to tug on Harry’s earlobe, “just the other day you pranced in here with cupcakes that you didn’t even have the gull to pass off as dessert. Someone has to be the adult in this relationship,” Louis winked and gave Harry’s earlobe one more quick tug, “now, eat your salad, Styles, before the rabbits come to reclaim what’s rightfully theirs.”

Harry leaned forward, his face hovering barely an inch from Louis’. He could feel that his grin was ear to ear, “I like when you say that.”

“What, when I point out that you're an invasive species stealing from the rabbits' part of the food chain?”

Harry laughed despite himself, somehow still finding Louis’ quirks funny, even after all the years he’d been hearing them.

This plan was coming along swimmingly. 

 

 

Glasgow Pub Crawl Guide | Travel Vlog by trav3lwithharry

 

374, 446 views

 

Published on July 26, 2011

 

Harry was standing outside of a pub, the streetlights along the sidewalk providing barely any light for the shot. He grinned happily into the camera. 

“Hey guys, welcome back to my Youtube channel! As you can probably tell by the title I’m in Glasgow right now. The best part is, everyone is here with me!”

The camera turned then and Harry filmed his friends as they waved to the camera. Zayn and Liam were standing next to each other, Gemma had her arm draped around Zayn’s neck as she waved with the other hand. Next to her stood Louis, who was laughing at something Niall had said. 

“Tonight I’m going to show you how to pub crawl your way through Glasgow. The city of Glasgow has kindly offered to put up my mates and I for the weekend, because what good is a pub crawl without your friends?” Harry grinned, turning the camera to show everyone again. As he filmed them all listening to some story Niall was telling, he spoke. 

“Let’s get on with it, then!” Harry said excitedly, “buckle up folks!”

 

The camera wobbled, Harry’s face visible behind a pint glass. He grinned, wiggling his eyebrows at the cameraman who was across the table. 

“You’re so pretty,” the voice belonged to Louis. 

“Then why on earth are you all the way over there?” Harry pretended to pout. 

“For the camera angle, man! I did it for the gram.”

Harry laughed heartily at that, like he always did when it came to a Louis joke, “but this isn’t going on Instagram.”

“You’re right!” 

Louis set the camera down on the table then, making his way around to the other side of the table. The angle was horrible, showing everything below Harry’s neck, only. Half a second later Louis climbed onto Harry’s lap and Harry erupted in a fit of giggles. 

Liam’s voice came from behind the camera as he picked up the device and turned it onto himself. 

“You would think after a year and a half they might have their shit together, but I swear to you those two are going to be gaga over each other when they’re 90.”

Liam turned the camera on Zayn then who smiled a polite smile, still as camera shy as ever.

“How come you never sit on my lap, then, Zee?” Asked Liam.

“Because I have some tact,” said Zayn with a wink. 

“No its because you’re boring,” chided Louis from across the table, “I’ve never seen 21 year olds who are so fucking married. Honestly, this is the most exciting thing you have done all year.”

Not true!” Said Zayn, a bit more animated than he usually was on camera, “just last month we went to that museum in London! You know the one with the—“

“Case and point,” said Louis, winking at the camera, “you need us because if we didn’t drag you to pub nights you’d be dangerously close to spending nights knitting by the fire.”

“Hey,” said Harry, jabbing Louis in the chest with his finger, pretend pout painted back onto his face, “I knit!”

Louis winked again and placed a kiss on the tip of Harry’s nose. “I know,” he said, whispering just loud enough for the camera to hear, “’s different when you do it though, innit? ’S cute and domestic.”

“I threw up in my mouth for like the fourteenth time today. Thanks lads.” 

Liam pointed the camera to Niall who made a throwing up gesture and moved to get out of his seat, “I’m gonna go find something to eat before all these couples makes me want to claw my own skin off.”

Niall started to walk away then and Gemma got up from her place next to Harry to chase after him. 

“Wait up!” She said, just before the video ended, “I’m hungry, too, Horan.”

 

 

Present

 

Louis was just finishing drying the last of his washing up when he heard a knock at the door. He grinned and said a quick goodbye to Lottie who he’d forced to talk to him while he was cleaning (because Louis fucking hated cleaning and he’d been doing a lot more of it the last couple of days since Harry had become a fixture in his flat). He dried his hands on a towel and ran his hand through his fringe a smile already close to blooming on his face (he knew he was done for because he hadn’t even laid eyes on Harry yet and he was already on the verge of beaming). 

It had been barely 48 hours since the first time Harry had stepped foot into his flat and and now every corner that he’d stood in somehow felt more like home to Louis. His sheets still smelled like Harry’s cologne and his toothbrush was no longer lonely on the edge of the sink. There were a lot of small hints of Harry all over the place now and for the first time since he’d lived anywhere but his mum’s house, Louis actually felt at home. It felt less like an empty place that held all of his stuff and more like a place that felt like a home. Louis had always, for as long as he could remember, been detached from the places he’d lived. There had always been something missing and maybe it was the fact that he’d never gotten to properly share his space with someone. If he kept playing his cards right, though, maybe he’d get to keep sharing it with Harry. He’d like that very much (he’d love it, in fact). 

He opened the door, and there was harry, all bundled up in his coat, a blue beanie and a pair of red mittens he’d proudly told Louis that Gemma had knitted him. He looked like a vision. Or maybe that was just because Louis hadn’t seen him since he’d slipped out of the shop earlier that afternoon so he could have dinner with his mum. Seriously, by that point it had been 6 hours and Louis had sent more Snapchats in those 6 hours than he had probably sent in his entire life. He was kind of pathetic…and kind of, maybe head over heels for the goofy boy at his front door. 

Maybe Louis should have been worried that things were too good to be true, but Harry just fit. He fit in seamlessly into all the places in Louis’ life that he didn’t even realized he needed something. He was soft and caring and honest and so straightforward about his feelings for Louis that it just didn’t feel like there was anything to be afraid of. It didn’t feel like they were living in a bubble that could ever be popped by reality or anything of the sort. They were just good together and maybe his mum and sisters were tired of hearing about it…but Louis kind of doubted he’d ever be tired of talking about Harry. Sue him. 

Clasped between his mittened hands was a tiny pot that housed a fat little plant. Harry grinned, crinkles at the corners of his eyes and leaned in to kiss Louis’ cheek. 

Louis was not blushing. He was not that lame, or weak for this boy (except he totally was).

Harry smiled then and handed the plant out to Louis, “I got you something,” he said, stepping into the flat like he belonged there (he totally did). 

Louis smiled as he closed the door behind him and looked down at the tiny plant, “you got me a cactus?” He asked, following Harry into the flat. 

“Technically it was labeled as a succulent, but you’re not totally wrong. Cacti are a type of succulent.”

Louis pretended to yawn, “sorry I blacked out there for a second. I didn’t catch any of that unsolicited plant knowledge.” 

“Wanker,” said Harry, sticking his tongue out for good measure. 

Louis shrugged it off, moving to place the tiny plant on the windowsill above his kitchen sink, “you like me.” 

“Prove it,” said Harry as he settled onto Louis’ couch.

“Well for starters you bought me a plant. Haven’t you seen How to Lose a Guy in 10 days? She gave him a love fern. This is our love cactus.”

“Succulent,” Harry corrected. 

“Tom-eh-to, tom-ah-to,” said Louis, making his way toward Harry, “point is you gave me a plant that you are now fully responsible for. I’ll kill it, I think by now you know that I lack any sort of domestic skill. You just gave me your commitment. We’re blossoming.”

Harry laughed, lifting up the corner of the blanket that he was under (the gift he’d brought over yesterday, insisting to Louis that a couch was not a couch unless it had some kind of throw blanket). “Come have a cuddle, my little love fern.”

“Oi!” Said Louis, despite the fact that he was snuggling up next to Harry without hesitation, head resting against his perfectly muscled chest, “I’m not little.”

“Right,” agreed Harry, “my petite love fern.”

Louis jabbed him with an elbow, despite the fact that he was laughing (and that was a miracle because if Louis hated something most in the world it was the suggestion that he was short—he was average okay?).

Harry tilted Louis' chin up so he could give him a slow kiss. Louis felt his heart pick up its pace in his chest. There was not a single place on earth he’d rather be than wrapped up in Harry on the couch in his flat under the blanket Harry had bought him. Every single part of it was perfection. 

 

 

“Haven’t seen Zayn in a few days,” Harry mumbled partway through To All the Boys I loved Before.

“Yeah,” said Louis into Harry’s chest (yes he was still safely wrapped up there and the fact that he had to piss wasn’t about to ruin soft moments like this), “’s ‘cause he’s been off. Liam, too.”

“Oh,” said Harry. 

“You haven’t talked to him at all?” Louis asked, thinking about the insane amount of Snapchats he’d been getting of baby Oscar sleeping or snuggled up in Liam’s arms. 

“No, why? Why are they off?”

Louis sighed, leave it to fucking Liam and Zayn to not even tell the entirety of their friends that they had become parents. 

“Not sure I’m supposed to tell you or whatever, since Liam and Zayn are the weirdest couple on planet earth, but they adopted.”

“A puppy?” Harry asked, sounding a bit incredulous. 

“Uh, no. A baby. His name is Oscar, they drove to Brighton to pick him up a few days ago. I honestly can’t believe they didn’t tell you.”

Harry’s posture changed then. Suddenly he was stiff, but Louis didn’t really get it. Louis was over the moon with the knowledge that there was a baby in his life. He figured everyone would be. 

“Wow.” 

That was the only word that Harry managed. Louis’ brows furrowed and he sat up, regrettably removing himself from Harry’s arms. He reached out for the playstation remote and paused the movie. Harry didn’t look at him. Something felt strange. 

“What’s wrong?” Louis dared to ask the question. 

Harry chewed on his bottom lip for a second, still starting at the floor. He seemed to contemplate his words before he dared to say anything. Louis wasn’t sure what to make of the whole thing. 

Slowly Harry exhaled, “I…I think I know why they didn’t tell me. That’s all.”

That’s all? What the fuck?

“Why wouldn’t they tell you?” Genuinely, Louis didn’t understand. 

“Well…back before the accident…before I lost touch with them…” Harry seemed to be choosing each of his words carefully. Louis had always had some sense that there was something more to Harry’s story…but he’d only just started being a part of it. There was only so much he was really entitled to push him on, and things were going so well he didn’t want to risk making Harry bolt again. So he was treading lightly, but this was weird. 

“I think they’re trying not to reopen old wounds.”

The room was silent then, for an indecipherable amount of time. Louis wasn’t really sure what he was supposed to say. Was he supposed to ask what the wound was? Was that too much? He wanted to know, obviously, but Harry had run from him once and maybe it was just easier to let him reveal himself slowly. There was obviously a lot of left over trauma from his accident and Louis didn’t want to poke at it. Harry had a lot on his plate when it came to discussing his past and Louis didn’t want him to get stuck there. He wanted so badly to make Harry live in the moment. He didn’t care who Harry had been, all that he cared about was who they could be. Maybe in order to get there Harry would have to reconcile his past…but who was Louis to push that? All he wanted was tomorrow and all the tomorrows after that. 

“They know I lost something—someone—important to me because of my accident,” Harry’s voice cut through the room like nails on a chalkboard. 

Something strange settled into Louis’ spine and he couldn’t quite place what he was feeling but it felt an awful lot like jealousy. That couldn’t be what it was though. Louis didn’t even know the story. 

“Before I forgot…” Harry was speaking again, “things were different. I cared about a lot of things that I don’t think I would waste time caring about now. I wanted things and I made plans and lists and talked a lot about what I wanted down the road. I had a lot of things I wanted in the future and it was stupid. The future isn’t guaranteed and that’s the number one thing I learned through this whole thing. I wanted kids,” Harry kind of coughed awkwardly after saying the words, “but…I didn’t think the timing was right. I thought I was too young…like there was a certain order it was supposed to happen in, so I just wrote it off as something we’d get around to.” 

We’d. 

Louis didn’t miss that word in the monologue. 

“Zayn is afraid it might make me think about how things used to be.”

Louis swallowed hard, “and how was that?”

Harry let out a long breath, “I was engaged.”

The jealousy clawed at the base of Louis’ spine, then. He could put a word to it because now it made sense. Harry remembered his past and he’d been engaged. He’d been planning to marry someone else and Louis didn’t know what to do with that information. 

“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you that before…I didn’t want to complicate things with you.”

Complicate?

How could it complicate things if Louis was the one wrapped up in his arms? Harry was talking in a way that Louis didn’t really understand. Discomfort settled into his bones. He spoke the words without even really thinking about whether or not they had any place in their conversation. 

“Do you still love him?”

Harry met his eyes, then, and Louis could see all of his pain. God, why was this conversation so fucking hard? 

“Louis,” Harry said his name so softly that Louis could barely even hear it, “I don’t want to get wrapped up in the person I was. What I want isn’t the past. I can’t change what happened and I wouldn’t go back there if I had the chance. What I want, right now and for the foreseeable future is a petite little bookshop-owning geek who makes me laugh and who also makes me thankful for today. I’ve spent three years wrapped up in the past and you pulled me out of that. You make me the person I want to be today.”

Louis digested the words, which decidedly did not answer the question. 

“You called me petite and little. You’re lucky I don’t fire you on principle.”

Harry smiled, then, his face lighting in the way it had been until talk of Oscar came up, “fire me from what?”

“From being my boyfriend. I shouldn’t really put up with that kind of verbal abuse. I’m better than that.”

Harry grinned, then, beaming and tackling Louis on the couch. He kissed him deeply, pulling back with a smile still set in place, “I think you’ll keep me, my little love fern.”

He was probably right, too. Louis would keep him. 

 

 

Harry was sitting across the table, staring at Louis with a smile that he couldn’t possibly keep under control. He looked manic as he watched Louis eat, absently spinning an empty oyster shell on the table. They were in a fancy restaurant in Galway, where Louis had booked them a table before they’d even touched down in Ireland. Louis had wanted everything to be perfect. He’d planned out the day in his mind in a very un-Louis fashion (because he always flew by the seat of his pants) and he’d been so sure he’d thought of everything. 

But then they’d been standing by the cliff and Harry tugged on the sleeve of his jacket begging him to look over at him…and he’d been on one knee with a ring in his hand. 

And he’d absolutely stolen Louis’ fucking thunder. Louis hadn’t been expecting that. 

Louis would have been mad if he hadn’t immediately burst into tears at the sight of Harry down on one knee. 

Yeah, he remembered this night. It was the happiest day of his life and now it was going to be gone, too. 

Fucking brilliant idea, Tommo. 

“Stop staring at me, you lunatic.”

Louis had tried so hard to mean the words, but also he didn’t want to look away from said lunatic. 

“Sorry…just today is perfect.”

“Not exactly,” said Louis, poking at one of his ravioli’s before putting in to his mouth. 

“Excuse me?” Harry’s brows knitted together. 

Louis smiled with one side of his mouth. 

Fuck he remembered that look on Harry’s face. He remembered how hurt Harry looked when Louis had suggested that his proposal had been less than perfect. Parts of Louis wanted to grab Harry’s hand and run with him out of the restaurant but the rational parts of told him to savour the moment. When he woke up this memory would be gone, just like the rest of him. So Louis acted out his part. 

“You stole my thunder, Styles.”

“Your—?”

Harry didn’t get to finish his thought before Louis pulled out the tiny box that he’d been carrying in his pocket. 

“Didn’t you think it was strange that I made us dinner reservations? I mean I haven’t made a reservation in my life, Styles.”

He slid the ring box across the table and Harry’s eyes welled up. 

“What’s that?” He asked, biting on his lip and pawing at his eyes. 

“Well,” began Louis, saying the words from memory, “this, Styles, is the ring I was supposed to give you when I asked you to marry me. Kind of missed the boat, though, didn’t I? I didn’t even know I was in the race, you nuisance.”

Harry shook his head. “Ask me,” the words were barely audible. 

God, Louis didn’t want to lose this. He didn’t want to lose any of it. This was the worst idea he’d ever had. How could he just wake up one day and forget that Harry had ever happened? These had been the best years of his life and living with the loss of their future would have been well worth holding onto these moments. 

If only he had been smart enough to realize that before it was too late. 

Louis smiled, wide and sincere, just as he had the first time, “Harry,” he said, reaching out and grabbing onto the love of his life’s hand, “I know I’m a little bit late to the party, and I think I have an idea about what your answer will be, but I’m going to ask you anyway. Harry Edward Styles, I’ve been in love with you since the first night we met. I loved you in that bookstore, in that coffee shop and on Liam and Zayn’s balcony while you pretended to like smoking pot. You’ve given my life colour and meaning where it was plain and directionless. I want you to be the person I raise a family with. I want you to be the first thing I see and think about every day for the rest of my life. I want to be your husband, but I think given the answer I gave you when you asked me earlier, you might already know that,” Louis grinned then and reached out to swipe a tear from under Harry’s eye, “so Hazza, my baby, what do you say? Want to wear this ring and tell everyone I asked you first?”

Harry laughed, a small hiccup slipping out as he shook his head in the negative, “asked you first,” he stuck out his tongue just as Louis slid the ring onto his finger. 

Louis wanted to scream. He wanted to stay in that moment, in that tiny restaurant. He wanted Harry’s over-the-moon gaze to bore into him for the rest of eternity because that would mean he got to keep it. Fuck. The desperation slipped into his gut and he gripped onto Harry’s hand. 

“I want to keep this,” he whispered across the table, “I want to keep you.”

The lights went out in the restaurant, then, plunging them into darkness. Harry’s hand gripped Louis’ tighter. 

“I’m sorry, baby,” he cried, “I’m sorry I didn’t stay. I’m sorry I broke my promise. I was supposed to stay with you.”

“I don’t want to forget you,” Louis said just as the chair beneath him disappeared and he started to fall again. 

Louis didn’t have a plan and there were only a handful of memories left.

“I’ll find you,” Harry’s voice floated from somewhere far away and Louis could only hope that he was right. Maybe they could start over. Maybe Harry could fix things when Louis no longer knew how.

Chapter Text

Present

 

Harry was standing behind the cash register making change for the sweet old lady he’d been talking to for the last twenty minutes about which knitting book had the best patterns when Louis sidled up next to him. They both smiled politely at the lady as she put the change away and slowly made her exit. When the door finally closed Louis reached out and wound his fingers through Harry’s. 

“You know, if you wanted a job you could have at least brought me a resume,” Louis joked. 

Harry smiled leaning in to kiss Louis’ cheek, “I don’t need a job, though.”

It was true, too. Harry still had a nice little nest egg from his YouTube days. His mum and everyone else in his life had encouraged him to take it easy while he navigated his new life. He’d been trying to decide what the next step was supposed to be…and then Louis had come into his life and thrown that whole concept on its ass. Now all he cared about was figuring them out. He wanted to slot himself into Louis’ life and that had become the most important thing. He could figure out the job thing once he secured the boy thing—the soulmate thing. 

“Then why are you over here running my cash register?”

“I just like it here…with you. Its quiet and warm and you’re here.”

Louis grinned, proper and everything inside of Harry tried to throw itself at Louis. Seriously, his internal organs needed to get it together.

“Besides, Zayn’s been off, so I’d never see you because you’re always here.”

Louis gave him a cocky smile then, “you’d see me at home though, wouldn’t you?”

It had been two weeks since the first night Harry had stayed at Louis' and he hadn't spent a night at his own flat since...oops. 

Harry’s heart picked up its pace as he felt Louis slipping into his usual teasing banter. Harry fucking lived for that shit, “I mean…you have been spending an awful lot of time at my flat. I’m starting to forget what bachelor life even felt like,” Louis punctuated his words with a wink. 

Any why, oh why, was Harry still so weak for that wink?

“Sorry,” Harry said, “I guess I haven’t really been giving you much of a break. Do you want me to give you some space?”

Louis slid his hands into the back pockets of Harry’s jeans and pulled Harry flush against him, “just the opposite actually,” he said, leaning in to kiss Harry slowly. When he pulled back he met Harry’s eyes, sincerity burning inside of his irises. “I was actually thinking…maybe you just want to stay. Like, with me. Indefinitely.”

Harry felt every single one of his organs liquify inside of him. 

Did Louis Tomlinson, the Louis Tomlinson who didn’t know anything about all the years they’d already lived together, really, actually just ask Harry to move in? Was this actually happening—and so soon?

Harry couldn’t fight the grin that made its way across his face. 

“When you say indefinitely, do you mean—?”

“For good, I hope.” Louis kissed him again, “I mean, our love cactus wouldn’t have a fighting chance any other way, see? We need you, the cactus and I.”

“Succulent,” corrected Harry, daring to lean in and kiss the smile off of Louis’ face. 

The kiss deepened until Harry was breathless and lost in the warmth of Louis. He was certain in that moment, inside of the musty bookstore that even though life had thrown them the biggest curveball anyone could care to imagine, they had ended up where they both belonged. Louis was happy. Harry could feel it. Harry made him happy, just as he once had before he’d broken them. There just had to be some fantastic force at work somewhere in the universe that kept pulling them together. Harry kept thinking back to the letter that Louis had written him…find me…wherever I am in the world, find me and make me feel it. 

God, Harry wanted Louis in ways he didn’t think anyone could possibly understand. People didn’t just fall in love like this…it wasn’t this easy for the rest of the world. As lucky as Harry felt for the chance to make Louis feel it all over again…god he fucking wished Louis remembered. Somewhere, locked inside of Louis just had to be a collection of memories from all the years they’d spent together. How could Harry make him remember? What could he do to tap into them? How was Harry supposed to make the love of his life remember that he had always been the love of his life? How was Harry supposed to do that? Because he didn’t know how long he could keep up this charade. He didn’t know how long he could keep pretending that he didn’t know every corner of Louis. 

Louis pulled back, hands still slotted in Harry’s back pockets, his eyelids looking notably heavier and his grin looking cocky…and familiar.

“So, what’ll it be, then? Will you have me and our little love cactus? Will you nurture us and help us blossom?”

Harry nodded, “we’ll need more plants, though, my little love fern,” he kissed Louis’ cheek, “I’ll let you pick some out. We need to improve the Feng Shui of your flat if we want to blossom properly.”

“‘Kay,” said Louis, and Harry could swear he saw the stars in his eyes. 

“But, if its all the same to you,” started Harry, “I’d still like to hang out here with you.”

 

 

WE GOT ENGAGED! | Chatty Life Update w/ my boy<3 by trav3lwithharry

 

1, 296, 446 views

 

Published on June 18, 2014

 

“Hey guys, welcome back to my channel!” Harry said, grin set in place as he stared at the camera. Next to him sat Louis, who was not looking at the camera, but rather grinning over at Harry, “say hi, Lou!” Harry encouraged. 

Louis turned then, his smile reaching from ear to ear, “hey guys.”

Harry leaned his head onto Louis’ shoulder, eyes on the camera, “well, as you might have guessed by reading the title, it finally happened! Soon you won’t be able to call me Harry Styles anymore. We’re here to tell you the story of how we got engaged!”

Harry’s face was aglow with happiness as he lifted his head off of Louis’ shoulder and placed a kiss on his forehead. 

“Actually,” Louis spoke evenly, “I’m just here to tell you about why Harry and I are fighting.” 

Harry laughed, “Louis is…a little bitter about how things played out. Seems like I might have ruined his master plan.”

“Might have!” Louis exclaimed, reaching out to pinch one of Harry’s cheeks affectionately, “you absolutely fucking obliterated it.”

“So,” said Harry, “our best friend, Niall, you know him, anyway, so he’s from Ireland, right? So we’ve both been. I’ve been twice, Louis’ been once but for whatever reason we’d never made it to the Cliffs of Moher,” Harry was no longer speaking to the camera, he was gazing at Louis. “So, I’d been thinking about it for awhile. For like…5 years. Guys, I pretty much knew I wanted to marry Louis by the second time we hung out, but you know, I waited. Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about our future and I didn’t know what we were waiting for. I’m pretty sure strangers could tell you we’re soulmates and I thought, ‘why not get it done while Lou is finishing up school’, you know? The sooner we’re married, the sooner we can have babies"

Louis interjected just long enough to correct Harry with a simple "baby,"

Harry continued, "and, you know, just get on with the rest of it. The rest of our life together. So, I thought that Ireland would be the perfect place to do it. We were there just the two of us…we didn’t really have an agenda or anything and I thought that the Cliffs of Moher would probably be the most romantic place in the world to ask him to marry me, so I brought the ring I’d been holding onto for the last six months or so along with me…and, well obviously, he said yes.”

“He’s leaving out some of the details, though,” said Louis, furrowing his brow, “I didn’t realized it was a race, or whatever. I knew I wanted to marry Harry for a stupid amount of time, so I also thought that Ireland would be the perfect place to ask him. So I brought along the ring that purchased eight months ago,” he turned to stick his tongue out at Harry, “and I made us a reservation at a nice restaurant in Galway and planned to ask him after we’d spent the day walking the cliffs…but as you can imagine, there was kind of a problem with that plan. The problem, obviously being that I planned to ask him after we walked the Cliffs, not during like some bad romance movie,” Louis winked at the camera, “so obviously, the whole Harry asking me to marry him thing really interfered with me asking him.

Harry laughed, grinning at the camera, “so…”

“Long story shot,” interjected Louis, “we’re engaged and we’re fighting because he ruined my plan.”

 

 

Present

 

Harry was unloading the dishwasher and placing the mugs back into their proper spots, trying not to get lost in the memories that they drew for him. To Louis, they were just a box of mugs left over from the last people who’d lived in his flat…but Harry knew. He knew they were memories left over from when he and Louis had lived and loved inside of that flat…and sometimes that was hard to handle. Sometimes he missed the places they’d been, and the place they’d shared their hopes and dreams with each other. He lamented over the fact that they would never get that back…the flat, the foundation that had supported their love for all those years. 

Harry was trying. He was trying really hard to be grateful that he was given an opportunity to create new memories in a new flat…but there was a big part of him that couldn’t help but get lost in the past. A big part of him that couldn’t bring himself to forget just how much Louis had loved him once. 

Louis had loved him enough that the thought of life without him had been so unimaginable that he had no choice but to erase years of his life. He had no other feasible option but to make it so that the pain had never happened. 

Harry got it…he understood it. He really did…

But he couldn’t help but long for nights spent wrapped up in each other in all corners of the world…and all corners of their flat. 

There was so much on Harry’s mind, weighing on his chest, that he didn’t even hear Louis approach. Just hours ago, this Louis who didn’t have a clue that they’d lived together for most of their adult life, had asked him to move in. Officially. He’d thrown caution to the wind and even without the knowledge of just how much power he had over Harry, he’d put himself out there and he’d asked a seemingly ridiculous question. Of course Harry knew that there was only one answer he could possibly give. 

Yes, Louis, of course I accept this second chance. 

Harry’s chest felt so warm…and so conflicted. He wanted Louis. He wanted him now…but he wanted him then, too. He wanted all of Louis and Louis had no idea what that meant. It was Harry’s cross to bare. 

Slowly, as Harry dried the bottom of the mug in his hand, he felt Louis’ hands slip around his waist. He pressed up flush against Harry’s back, hands slipping under his shirt to rest on Harry’s stomach—again, the gesture was achingly familiar to the people they used to be. He felt Louis’ lips against the back of his neck. 

“Just finished locking up,” he mumbled, kissing a line all the way to behind Harry’s ear. 

Harry was frozen, he couldn’t think of a word to say, so he just leaned into Louis and stared down at the London mug in his hand, depicting the River of Thames. Memories of their first trip together bubbling against the surface of his mind. 

Louis placed another kiss on the back of Harry’s neck, his breath hot against the bare skin, “there’s something I should probably tell you.”

Louis’ voice was an enticing whisper. Harry couldn’t think about anything other than the way their bodies slotted perfect against each other, the same way their hearts slotted together, filling out each other’s empty spaces. 

“I’m in love with you.”

Louis’ words were so soft, so sincere they caused an explosion in Harry’s chest. 

Harry turned then, burying his face against Louis’ neck as he wrapped his body completely around Louis’ smaller frame. Harry would do whatever it took to make sure that he never caused Louis the same pain that had lead them to this second chance. 

“Oh, Lou,” he said, trying his hardest to keep tears from his voice, “I love you. I love you. I love you, too. No one else has ever made me feel this way. Only you. Only you.”

 

 

Louis was sat by a fireplace, wood crackling and a cup of warm tea in his hand. Harry made a perfect cup of tea. At first Louis thought it was just the puppy love phase or something but as the months had worn on, he’d confirmed that Harry did in fact make the best cup of tea.

It was funny, being there again. Louis remembered the night like it was yesterday despite the fact that it had been five years. They were curled up, just chatting on the floor of Harry’s mum’s house under a blanket fort they’d spent an embarrassing amount of time constructing the previous day. Harry’s mum and step-dad had left for a romantic spa weekend to celebrate their anniversary in Harry and Louis were enjoying the house to themselves. Since they’d started dating the previous November (it had somehow already been a year?) nights alone were few and far between. They pretty much babysat Louis’ sisters every weekend and that was the opposite of alone time.

Out of nowhere, Harry produced a scraggly looking little joint. 

Louis snorted a laugh, “what, pray tell, may that be?”

“Pot,” Harry answered matter of factly, putting it between his lips and moving to light it with the lighter he’d also produced out of nowhere. 

“Well this is highly irregular,” laughed Louis—and it had been. Louis had been getting high for years before he’d met Harry, but since the first night he’d known him, that had slowed down pretty quickly. The first few times they’d hung out, Louis had offered Harry a hit and he’d always said yes, but it had always seemed like his heart wasn’t in it. And then there had been the night they’d been over at Niall’s watching movies when Harry had been sitting still on the couch without saying a word for 2 hours after smoking that he’d finally admitted he wasn’t really a fan. It had been punctuated by the fact that he’d nearly teared up trying to explain why he couldn’t move his arms because he was “like Ludacris in that one music video”. 

So Louis had kind of given up the habit. He didn’t really miss it at all, either. So, it was very out of character for Harry to be the one to bring it out.

“Well,” started Harry before inhaling and erupting into a coughing fit and handing the joint to Louis, “I was away a lot lately,” and he had been. Harry had started travelling a lot more that year, and Louis liked to think that it was his support that pushed him to chase his dreams. Louis hadn’t seen him at all in the month of August. It had been agony. 

“So I was thinking about that song, you know, the one I like?” He said like that narrowed down the list at all, “Sofa?” 

Louis nodded, because yeah, he knew that one. 

“Yeah, so I was thinking about that song and about how I literally do fly places…kind of all the time lately, but like, my favourite place to be is just on the sofa with you.”

“Jesus Christ,” smiled Louis, the joint still sitting between his fingers, “I’m going to miss this, you know?”

Louis had broken the script and Harry bolted upright. 

“Its not going to work, is it?” His expression was pure devastation, “you’re going to wake up and I’m going to be gone. I don’t think we can stop it, Lou.”

Louis didn’t want to nod. He didn’t want to agree. 

But he did. 

He’d signed the waivers. There were technicians in his house at that very moment, and they were hooked up to his brain and they’d mapped out everything. They were destroying the core of every single memory that he and Harry had made and it didn’t really matter how hard they fought it. It didn’t matter that he had clarity now. It didn’t matter that he’d changed his mind and that he wanted to keep his boy…he’d made his decision and there was no running from it. 

“Haz,” he spoke softly, running his thumb across Harry’s bottom lip, “for what it’s worth baby, this was my favourite thing, too.”

 

 

Present

 

Harry heard the young lady sitting behind the front desk call his name. He got to his feet, his palms sweating. He hadn’t told anyone he’d come here. He wasn’t quite sure why, but this felt like something that Harry needed to solve on his own. Technically he was the owner of this whole mess. He should never have been so distracted walking across the street of one of the busiest cities in the world. He couldn’t blame anyone else for his mistakes, and so he owed it to Louis to fix things. He owed it to Louis to give him the life they’d planned—the life Harry had taken a break from for three fucking years. 

Harry followed the girl into a room with a couple of chairs across from a desk. Behind the desk sat a man who had his hands placed ginelrgly on the top of the desk, a polite smile on his face. 

“Mr. Styles, have a seat.”

Harry nodded, taking a seat across from the man who’d changed Louis entire life. Harry had so many feelings tugging in him so many directions, but was here only for one reason. 

“And how can I help you today?” Asked the man in the white coat. 

Harry wondered briefly how Louis must have felt as he sat in the same chair and tried to explain to this man the pain of losing the person he loved most in the world. 

“Louis Tomlinson,” Harry could barely get the words out, “a couple of years ago, he was one of your patients. I was…we were engaged and um—I had an accident. I-I forgot him…”

Harry placed the card that his mother had given him, the weak explanation for what had happened, on the man’s desk. He didn’t know how to say what he wanted to say. He didn’t know how to plead his case. 

The doctor looked at the care and nodded.

“Harry…I remember Louis, yes. It was a traumatic even for him, losing you.”

Harry swallowed hard, “but, um, I’m back. My memories are back and…his aren’t. I just—I need you to reverse it. I need you to make him remember me because I can’t just lose him. I can’t just lose our life—“ Harry’s voice broke as he fought to keep back his tears, “I forgot him and now he forgets me and that wasn’t how our story was supposed to end. We were supposed to get married, have a family. We still had so much love to give each other and he doesn’t remember any of it and I just—I need you to bring him back to me. I need you to reverse it.”

The doctor crossed his fingers on the top of his desk and nodded in the most condescending way and Harry wanted to rip his own skin off inch by inch. 

“The procedure is permanent, Mr. Styles.”

“I just—I need him, though, you know? I’m better and it took a long time but I remember him and I need him. I need him to remember our life. I need you to give him back to me.”

“I’m afraid I can’t do that,” the doctor sounded like he’d had this exact same conversation a million times. Like he was reading a script, but he didn’t understand! This wasn’t everybody else. This was Harry and this was Louis and their love was beyond reason, beyond logic, beyond stupid medical bullshit. They weren’t like everybody else and Harry needed him back!

“Look, I know you probably made him sign something saying he wouldn’t get it reversed…but I can convince him, okay? I can convince him so you can reverse it. He’ll want his memories back, I know he will. I need him back.”

“Mr. Styles,”

“Stop calling me that…I’m Harry. I’m Harry and he’s Louis and he loves me and he just needs to remember that. I just need you to bring him back to me.”

“Harry,” again, his voice was too calculated. Harry’s blood was boiling, “our clinic provides a service that is unique. Our sole practice is the destruction of painful memories. Do you see the word I used there, Harry? The memories aren’t locked somewhere, they’re destroyed. We find the core of the memory, the source and we destroy it so that our patients can have closure in regards to painful events. There is no way to reverse that Mr. Styles. Louis’ memories are gone and if he doesn’t remember you, or your past that means we did our job properly. There is simply no way to reverse the procedure. Louis knew that.”

No.

No. 

No, no, no. 

He couldn’t get Louis back? No. That didn’t make any fucking sense. This whole thing didn’t make any fucking sense. What kind of hocus pocus clinic was this, anyway? Erasing people’s memories like they were a fucking etch-a-sketch? No. That wasn’t possible. He was in there somewhere. Louis was in there somewhere and Harry was going to find it. He was going to find the parts of Louis that remembered him and he was going to set them free. He was going to get them back to the people they used to be. He had pictures, witnesses, videos.

He just had to be able to trigger his memories. He just had to. 

Louis would remember him. Harry didn’t see that there was another option. 

Chapter Text

Present 

Harry was bouncing his leg up and down as he sat next to Gemma on the couch in her’s and Niall’s flat. Niall was across the room, staring at him. He’d basically run across the city and arrived at their doorstep the second that he’d left the Lacuna building. He didn’t know what he was feeling. There was the weight of the words that the doctor had said to him weighing on his chest and restricting his breathing. The weight of this whole thing had been too much to handle when he was the one who’d lost their past. Now that he knew it all and Louis didn’t…and there was no way to change that. 

But maybe the doctor was wrong. 

He’d never had a patient like Louis, Harry was sure of that. Most people he saw probably lost turbulent relationships or their loved ones to the clutches of death. Louis and Harry didn’t fit into those categories. Surely he’d never been asked to reverse the procedure, but there just had to be a way, didn’t there? You can’t just remove a person from someone’s memory. It couldn’t be possible. Harry had to still exist inside of Louis’ mind somewhere and he just had to find the right buttons to press to bring them all back to the surface. For nearly three years Harry’s memories had been locked in the back of his mind and everyone in his life had been certain that he’d never tap into them. 

And then Louis had happened. 

Louis had broken right through the walls that Harry’s injury had built and now Harry was as good as new. All it had taken was the love of his life, so who was some doctor to say that Harry couldn’t do the exact same thing for Louis? There were some things that just existed beyond the scientific plain. There were just some things that existed and couldn’t be explained—like Harry and Louis. They had a love beyond reason and it couldn’t be explained. Louis had fixed Harry. He had mended every gap inside of him by just being himself and Harry just needed to do the same for him. 

“Harry, babe, what’s going on?” Gemma finally spoke. 

Harry had been hyperventilating on the couch for a long few minutes and she wanted answers. 

“I—“ Harry’s voice broke, “I went to…to the place where they, um, where they erase the memories?” 

Gemma’s face melted into one of concern, sadness painting her features. 

“I, uh, I told them I was back and that I wanted Louis back…”

“Harry,” Niall’s voice broke through the room, like he knew exactly the answer that Harry had received. He moved across the room so he was kneeling on the floor next to Harry, scooping up his hand immediately. 

“I mean,” Harry started again, “like, the whole thing doesn’t make any sense. Its never made any sense, you know? You can’t just get rid of someone’s memories. Even mine weren’t really gone, they were just disconnected or whatever.”

Gemma grabbed onto his other hand, “Harry, baby,” she said before he broke in to speak more. 

“I mean, they don’t know us. They don’t know Louis and I. They have no idea who we were—we who are. He told me they can’t do it. He said they can’t reverse it. He said that the memories aren’t there anymore, that they destroyed them. But like, how can they do that? I wasn’t just some bad thing that happened to him, you know? We had a life together for six fucking years. We were supposed to get married, to have a life together, Gem! How fucked up is that? How can they think they’re helping anyone when all they did was destroy me? They act like they can cure sadness or whatever, but I wasn’t a fucking disease, Gem, I loved him. I loved him and they destroyed our past. They made it so it never happened.”

Gemma’s voice was quiet, “Harry, babe, I’m so sorry.”

Harry snorted, “yeah, yeah. Everyone is so fucking sorry. You all have been since that fucking accident, but no one gets it, you know? No one understands what we lost. It wasn’t just a flash in the pan bullshit relationship, Gemma. He was my soulmate. He was everything to me. You all let him take that away.”

“Haz,” Niall’s voice was soft, “no one can take that away.”

“But you did!” Argued Harry, “you all let him have me surgically fucking removed from his brain. Like I was cancer or something, but no one really knows. No one really knows what we lost—except for me! Even Louis doesn’t know! I’m just supposed to sit back and pretend like I didn’t already love him for my entire fucking adult life? Is that really what you expect me to do?”

Gemma and Niall were silent. Neither of them knew what to say. Harry barely knew what to say. He didn’t know how to sum up his hurt in words. No one could know what it was like to have the most sacred thing in their life taken away without reason. No one could possibly understand the betrayal he felt. Everyone in their lives had betrayed him—most of all Louis had betrayed him.

“I’m so fucking mad at everyone,” said Harry, his voice quiet, “I’m so mad at him.”

Gemma gripped onto him tighter, “Harry I think the part you’re overlooking here is that someone did understand your pain. Louis understood what you’re feeling and he did what he had to do to keep on keeping on. He lost you and if he didn’t do what he did…he might not even still be here.”

Harry was quiet, then as Gemma ran soft fingers through his hair. The world was not a kind place. It was not what Harry wanted it to be. Their love had come so easily—both times. Loving Louis had been the easiest and most fulfilling thing he’d ever done, so why was this so fucking hard? Why did Harry have to fight so hard to remind him of the people they had once been?

“I’m going to get him back.”

Niall was about to say something, but Harry’s voice jumped in quicker. 

“He’s still in there. He has to be. I have to still be in there somewhere, and I’m going to make him remember. I’m going to make him remember me and us and we’re going to get back to being us again.”

“Harry,” said Gemma softly, “you have him.”

“Its not the same, Gem. Its not the same if I remember everything and he doesn’t. We had so many good years together, how can I ever settle for him not remembering those? I need him back.”

“Harry—you know I love you. I love you so much and I don’t want to watch you hurt…but I think you’re focusing on the wrong thing here. You’re clinging on so hard to the past that you’re missing what’s sitting right in front of you.”

“What’s right in front of me is a constant reminder that Louis doesn’t know who I am.”

Gemma shook her head, “what’s right in front of you, Harry, is Louis. He knows exactly who you are. There’s no point being hung up on who you wanted to be when you have the opportunity to do it all over again. You found the love of your life all over again, and yeah, maybe you lost some of it along the way, but that doesn’t change the foundation. You’ve always been made to love him and I think the fact that you’ve moved into his flat after three weeks is proof enough that he loves you exactly for who you are. It’s not about the past, Harry. You’re focusing on the wrong thing. Don’t fuck up the second chance you got by trying to make it the same as before. Treasure what you had, but nurture what you have now. Don’t lose him again because you’re obsessed with the past.”

 

 

Harry walked alongside Louis, his pinky locked with Louis’. Louis was chattering happily about finally meeting Oscar and about how Snapchat hadn’t cut it at all. This was the first time that either of them would be seeing Liam and Zayn’s son. They’d kept pretty much everyone aside from their parents away because Zayn had an insanely heightened fear of the flu and because Oscar had a bad case of colic. Louis had shared countless texts with Zayn, begging for an invite to see the baby, and now they were finally permitted in the flat. Louis was ecstatic and it brought back so many memories for Harry. He could remember all the nights they’d stayed up late talking about what it would be like to have a baby around some day. It was a conversation they’d had countless times in their years together and Harry wished that Louis remembered.

He wished Louis remembered a lot of things. 

It was kind of starting to rule his waking thoughts, but he just kept reminding himself about what Gemma had said. He couldn’t mess up this second chance because he was obsessed with the people they used to be. For the most part, it worked, too. It was easy to be lost in the moment with Louis and laugh with him and forget about everything that was wrong. It was easy to be with him, just as it always had been. 

Louis had been quiet since they’d stepped off the lift and starting walking toward Zayn and Liam’s. Harry looked over to him and Louis pulled them to a stop, just two doors down from their destination. Harry hoped that Louis couldn’t sense his sadness—the last thing he wanted to do was burden this care-free version of Louis with the weight of their past. 

“Hey,” Louis whispered, his lips curving in an enticing smile. He tugged Harry’s hand until their hips were flush together. He wrapped his arms around Harry’s neck and smiled before pressing a soft kiss to Harry’s cheek. 

“Hey yourself,” smiled Harry. How dare he ever be melancholy in this man’s presence? God, he was just everything good all wrapped in a perfectly handsome body with blue eyes that could ensnare anyone in the world—but that only wanted to ensnare Harry. 

“So, there’s something you should know about me,” said Louis as he rested his head against Harry’s chest, “I’ve got a load of sisters, yeah? But like, I remember when they were babies, like all of them. I remember after mum had the twins, maybe they were like 2 or something,” he was smiling and Harry could hear the smile and he wanted them to always be like this, happy and pressed together, “I sat my mum and my dad down and asked them for another sister, made a proper presentation about it and everything. Like, I was obsessed. It literally never bothered me to have so many kids around. I loved babies—still do.” 

Harry buried his face in Louis’ hair, holding him as tightly as he could. 

“Thing is,” Louis started speaking again, “with you around…I’m sort of afraid that seeing him might send me off the rails into baby-crazy-land, you know? I mean, I always wanted a kid. I always assumed I would have one, but I guess I never pictured who I might want to do it with, you know? And having you…and my best friends having  their first—I just think I might get a little hung up on the idea for real this time.”

Harry could feel his heart thudding against his ribs and he hope that Louis’ couldn’t sense the change in him because as soon as he heard Louis speak the words he was thrown into that conversation, on the dock in Bora Bora when he’d whispered in Louis’ ear that he wanted to have a baby. That had been the first time they’d ever seriously discussed a timeline. They’d always planned on having a kid, (singular) one day, but that was the day they’d made a plan. Harry longed for Louis to remember so that he knew just how badly Harry wanted that same thing. 

Don’t lose him again because you’re obsessed with the past.

Gemma’s words echoed in Harry’s mind as he clung tighter to Louis. He could do this. He could rebuild and he could be okay with what they had now. The past wasn’t what should matter because they’d defied all sense in the universe just by finding each other again. He couldn’t ruin that. 

“I think,” Harry breathed deep and tried to ignore the pace that his heart was beating at, “that could be an idea I got hung up on, too.”

He felt Louis’ smile against his collarbone and his knees went weak. Maybe it wasn’t the same, but god damn it, it was great.

“Really?” Louis’ voice was soft and hopeful. 

“Really. Definitely.” Harry assured him, trying to keep his focus in the present. 

 

 

There had been a chaotic few minutes where as Liam opened the door for them, Zayn rushed over with a tiny bottle of hand sanitizer and squirted it in the palms of each of their hands. Liam stood back, watching with a crooked smile on his face as he leaned against the wall. Louis and Harry obliged and answered Zayn’s high-strung question period about when the last time they were sick had been and whether they’d been in contact with anyone with flu like symptoms in the last week. The whole thing was adorable, really. Louis had quite literally never seen this side of Zayn before—hadn’t even assumed it existed. Zayn was bordering on paranoid. He couldn’t help but tease him. 

“Mate, you know the black plague hasn’t been a thing for a few hundred years, eh?”

Zayn glared, squirting the hand sanitizer into his own hands, “ha. Ha,” he said as bitterly as he could manage, “it’s not the plague I’m worried about, thanks very much. Do you know how many children die of the flu?”

“You mean in the 2000s?” Louis raised his eyebrows, wiggling them for emphasis. 

Liam was laughing until Zayn turned to him and shot him a glare. 

“Plenty,” Zayn said, glaring back at Louis. 

“And of those plenty, how many of them had a doctor for a dad? Honestly, though. I’m asking for a friend. This is fantastic research you’ve done.”

“You’re a fucking wanker, Louis.”

Louis shrugged, shooting a glance over his shoulder at Harry who was giggling as quietly as possible. He winked and Harry’s smile grew. 

“Yeah, maybe, but I do it from a place of love,” he grabbed Harry’s hand and towed him into the house, “now, Zayn Payne, where’s my baby? As much as I love taking the piss I was promised new-born snuggles.”

“He just fell asleep like 20 minutes ago,” said Liam, following them into the living room. 

Right on cue Louis heard crying erupt from the room at the end of the hall. He let go of Harry’s hand and made a beeline for the sound. 

“Wait,” chirped Zayn, but Louis was already halfway down the hall. He’d come here for one reason and one reason alone: to snuggle the living shit out of his nephew. Zayn wasn’t going to stop him. 

The second he pushed open the door the nursery, Zayn was behind him speaking quietly, “Lou, he’s really not—he doesn’t really like anyone but Liam and I holding him—honestly half the time he doesn’t even really tolerate Liam.”

Louis pretended he didn’t hear a single word Zayn had said and stared down at the tiny, screaming infant. God, he was adorable. His skin was still pink and his head was dusted with the smallest smattering of blonde hair. Best of all though, he smelled like a newborn. Louis was smitten. He hadn’t even held Oscar yet, but it was love. 

 

 

Liam sat down on the sofa next to Harry and leaned over, speaking quietly. 

“How have things been?” He asked Harry cautiously while they waited for Louis and Zayn to return with Oscar. 

“Honestly?” Harry spoke just as quietly, “perfect. Things have been absolutely perfect. I can actually make a latte now. I’ve masted the espresso machine. Never thought I’d utter those words but like…yeah. Things are really, really great and I constantly feel like I’m going to fuck it up because I love this thing we have…but I miss the things we had, too, you know?”

“I can’t even imagine,” Liam said. Liam was always the one to relate emotionally. He never shied away from the tough stuff and Harry appreciated it, “if Zayn…”

“Yeah. I know. Everyone around us probably uses us as an example of the worst case scenario.”

Liam shook his head and rubbed Harry’s shoulder affectionately, “no, actually. Farthest thing from it. Zayn and I…we talk about it a lot. Its kind of inspiring how you just picked up where you left off. When we saw you together that first night…it was the first time in years I felt like we had Louis back.”

Before Harry could say another word Louis appeared in the doorway with a baby blue blanket in his arms and a shit-eating grin on his face. He walked proudly toward Harry and something twisted deep in Harry’s gut. Just the sight of the whole thing felt so wrong. 

Three years. They’d lost three years together. If things had been different…If Harry could have been better about the whole thing. If he’d only just give Louis a fucking chance. 

Maybe things would be how they were supposed to have been. They would be married and they’d be the ones showing off a baby to their friends. Maybe if Harry had just fucking seen him instead of pushing everyone but his family away. He’d been so adamant about not seeing Louis that first year. He’d been so afraid that he wouldn’t know how to love him, and now he knew that there was nothing in the world that he was better at. Loving Louis was breathing and Harry had been doing it for most of his life without even having to think about it. He’d been so wrong to not see him, and now that first version of Louis was gone. 

Louis sat down on the couch next to Harry and Harry tried to bottle up the feeling of dread in the pit of his stomach. Louis was so happy and that was only the case because he didn’t understand what they’d lost. He didn’t know that it was supposed to be them. They were supposed to be living in their flat which would have been absolutely plastered with pictures from their wedding, and cleaning out the office and making room for their baby. They were supposed to have this same life that Liam and Zayn were living and it was so fucking unreasonable for Harry to be as jealous as he was, because they deserved this happiness—but dammit, so did Louis and Harry. 

“He’s not crying.” 

Liam’s voice sounded surprised, but really, Louis had a way with kids. He always had. Harry remembered just how close all of his sisters had been to him. And it was still the case, Daisy and Phoebe were in sixth form and studying to get into university and Louis helped them every spare second he had. He’d told Harry it was finally his time to shine as a brother, because if he knew anything it was how to study because he’d spent so many years with his face stuck in a book. 

“It’s a fluke,” said Zayn, sitting in the chair across from everyone else. 

Louis snorted and grabbed onto Oscar’s tiny little hand. His smile was something that Harry had never known he’d been so desperate to see. He wished there was some way that he could make that smile permanent but Harry couldn’t erase the feeling in that moment that he was an imposter. He was here looking in on Louis in a way that Louis didn’t understand. He didn’t know that Harry had the upper hand in this whole thing and he suddenly felt sick with the feeling that he was being manipulative. It felt like this whole thing, this thing that everyone around him kept calling his second chance was nothing but a manipulation of Louis. Louis didn’t know anything and Harry knew everything and here he was trying to start all over like the past had never happened. Like he didn’t already have a mental map of every curve and inch of Louis’ skin and where he wanted to be touched. It was sick, wasn’t it? Pretending like things were brand new and that the six years they’d spend together had never happened. 

And what if Louis found out? What if, by some miraculous stretch Louis remembered, how could Harry ever justify leaving Louis out of the loop?

This whole thing was so fucked up.

“I don't get why he isn't screaming bloody murder. He doesn't like anyone but Zayn. All he does is cry,” said Liam from somewhere beside Harry. He’d forgotten where he even was. He was so lost in this whole mess and the guilt for trying to fool Louis or whatever it was he was doing. 

“‘Course he’s not crying, he’s with uncle Tommo, isn’t that right little buddy?”

Oh god. The fondness in his voice—everything they had lost—it was overwhelming. The room felt like it was closing in and Harry couldn’t remember how to breathe. He was trying, but the air wasn’t making it into his lungs and he just needed to not be there. He needed to not be doing whatever it was he was doing to Louis. 

He got up from his place on the couch and made a beeline for the kitchen so he could grip the wall and try to remember what breathing was without everyone’s eyes on him because how could he ever explain what he was feeling to Louis? 

Harry opened the fridge and stuck his head inside, gripping onto the handle with all his might, trying to force the air into his lungs. He couldn’t keep doing this. He couldn’t keep tricking Louis into thinking they were something they weren’t. He couldn’t keep living with the weight of what they lost for the rest of his fucking life—this, it wasn’t manageable. It wasn’t reasonable. It was madness. He remembered the look in Jay’s eyes when she’d asked ‘have you told him yet?’. He should have told him. He should have told him everything and begged for forgiveness. Why on earth had he ever thought that he could keep up this charade? It was disgusting. 

And fuck. It hurt. It hurt so fucking bad that Louis was out there cooing over a baby when it should have been them! It should have been them. 

“Hey, Harry, you alright, mate?” Zayn’s voice floated quietly from the entrance to the kitchen. 

Harry closed the refrigerator door and met Zayn’s eyes, shaking his head back and forth. God, no, he was not fucking okay. He was tricking the love of his life into being with him and he was lamenting over how much Liam and Zayn didn’t deserve to be parents because Louis and Harry hadn’t done it first. Harry was literally the scum of the fucking earth and he couldn’t take it for another fucking second. 

“I can’t do this—this, thing, anymore Zayn. I’m losing my mind.”

Zayn watched him for a moment as he struggled to fill his lungs with air. When he finally got a breath deep enough he unleashed it in a flurry of words. 

“I—it should be us, you know? That’s all I can keep thinking. I always assumed we’d be first. I thought we’d be married and that we’d have a baby but here we are back at square one and he doesn’t have a clue how bad we wanted all of this. He doesn’t know who I fucking am and I can’t do this shit anymore, Zayn. I can’t keep lying to his fucking face, you know? I can’t just keep pretending that I don’t know who he is. I can’t pretend that the last nine years of my life weren’t defined by him. I loved him, I loved him so fucking much and I lost him and now I’m just pretending we just met? I’m tricking him into spending his time with me? Don’t you see how fucked up that is? I’m being dishonest for my own benefit and I can’t take another second of it, but what else am I supposed to do? He’s going to think I’m a fucking lunatic if I try to tell him we used to be together. He doesn’t have a fucking clue and its literally killing me, Zayn.”

“Hey,” Zayn breathed out quietly before pulling harry into a hug, “shh,” he said as he held on to Harry and started to make Harry feel like maybe physically he wasn’t falling apart (mentally, though? Yeah, he was falling to pieces).

“Jay and I,” he said quiet enough for only Harry to hear, “we’ve been talking about it. I know you don’t want to be the one to tell him. We would never ask that of you. I can tell him. I’ll tell him tomorrow if you’re ready.”

Harry made some kind of sound from deep in his chest, “what if—“

“Not going to happen, Harry,” Zayn spoke over him, “Louis would never push you away. I think you know that and I know that. Sure, maybe he’ll need some time to process it…but it’s always going to come back to you, Harry. He’d always going to come back to you. You’re it for him.”

Harry wrapped his arms around Zayn, finally reciprocating the hug. He held fast as he spoke, “Zayn…I could never thank you enough for the things you’ve done for us.”

“You don’t have to thank me, Haz, I just wanted my friends back.”

 

 

Louis was humming to himself as he unloaded the dishwasher and watched the clock on the wall. Harry was over at his mum’s for dinner and Louis had been alone in the shop for most of the evening. It was 8:53 pm and in seven minutes he could lock the door and head off down the street to hopefully find Harry waiting for him. The shop had been quiet most of the day, save from the morning rush and the mid-afternoon pick me up coffees he’d made. He’d just returned the last of the mugs to its place when he heard the bell above the door ring. He looked up to the front to see Zayn walking in. He was confused by seeing his friend who was still supposed to be off for a few more weeks waltzing through the door. 

His confusion heightened when he watched Zayn lock the door behind him and move to pull the blinds. Zayn shut off the lights to the front portion of the store before he began walking back toward Louis. 

“What’s up Zee? I was giving the people the last 7 minutes in case they needed a late night caffeine boost.”

Zayn continued his walk toward Louis without a word. Something strange dripped into Louis’ gut. Zayn was acting weird. He had papers in his had and Louis wasn’t quite sure what on earth he was doing in the shop and why they needed to be locked in. He swallowed. One last attempt at humour was the only thing he could think to get him through. 

“Look, if your kid is exhibiting flu-like symptoms, it wasn’t me, I swear.” Louis raised his hands in a surrender but still Zayn didn’t say a word. 

What the fuck?

Zayn pulled out a chair and sat down at one of the tiny tables, gesturing for Louis to join him. Louis put down the dishtowel that was in his hand and pulled out the chair across from Zayn. He swallowed again, clearly seeing that humour wasn’t going to get him through this. 

“What’s going on?”

Zayn held his hands over the collection of papers he’d brought, masking them from Louis’ gaze. What in the hell was happening with his friend? 

“I—uh, I mean we, your mum and me and everyone else and—Harry,” Louis felt something rock down his spine at the way Zayn emphasized Harry’s name, “um, we think there’s something you should know about.”

Louis’ brows furrowed and Zayn lifted one item from the stack under his hands and slid it across the table to Louis. Louis looked down and saw what appeared to be an invitation. He read the words.

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Louis’ brows knit together and he met Zayn’s eyes with confusion, “I don’t get it.”

It was supposed to be a joke, wasn’t it? Why didn’t Louis get the punchline? Was Zayn making a crack because he thought Louis was trying to move too fast with Harry? Something inside of his gut told him it couldn’t possibly be a joke because it made no sense. But if it wasn’t a joke, then why in the hell was he looking at an invitation to a wedding that was supposed to happen 2 and a half years ago with his and Harry’s names on it? He hadn’t even known Harry a month. It didn’t make any sense. 

“What is it?” He asked, his throat suddenly feeling dry. 

Zayn’s eyes looked more sympathetic than Louis had ever seen them. What the hell?

“Your wedding invitation.”

“I don’t—this date is for 2 and a half years ago, though.”

“Right.” 

The finality to Zayn’s tone set Louis’ heart tripping in his chest. He was missing something, but what?

“You’re not making sense,” Louis whispered the words, but something told him that maybe he was the one who wasn’t making any sense. But he couldn’t make sense of the invitation that had been presented to him. He couldn’t wrap his head around it and it made him feel awkward and scared. What did Zayn know about that piece of paper that he didn’t?

“I’m sorry, Louis, I know you don’t understand. It’s a lot, but I really wanted to be the one who explained it to you,” and with that, Zayn slid another piece of paper across the table. 

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Bile rose in the back of Louis’ throat. Something felt very, very fucking wrong. 

Fiance?

Harry Styles? The boy he’d just met?

Erased?

He was going to be sick. The word fiancé just kept replaying over and over in his head. 

But Louis had never had a fiancé. It had always been just him and his studies and that apartment his mum had invested inheritance in.

Erased. 

“When Harry had his accident,” Zayn spoke slowly, “you were on your way to meet him in New York. You were there with him in the hospital when he woke up. I’ll never forget the way you sounded when you called me and told me he didn’t remember you.”

Louis swallowed against his instinct to vomit, “I’ve never been to New York.”

Zayn slid the last item across the table, then. It was a passport. The maroon booklet looked up at him European Union: United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. What the hell was this? Louis’ hands shook as he reached out to open it to the first page. Part of him wanted to believe that he wasn’t going to see what his gut told him. Part of him still wanted to believe that it was utterly impossible that he had a passport that existed beyond his knowledge. 

He flipped the book open and the first thing he saw was his own face staring back at him. Louis Tomlinson. This was his passport. He had a passport? He couldn’t remember ever feeling like it would be a necessity in his life. He’d never planned to travel anywhere and yet here he was looking at a book that would allow him to do just that. 

Look at you in New York and I don’t even have me passport.

Louis had said those very words to Harry when he’d told him about his accident.

Apparently that was my thing. I went a lot of places, but I don’t remember.

Travelling had been Harry’s thing, but he’d had that accident and he’d forgotten. Both of their names were written on that invitation and Louis had a passport that he didn’t remember and Zayn had a card saying he’d erased his memories of Harry…

What the fuck was happening?

He swallowed hard as he flipped to the second page. There were stamps there—multiple stamps proving that the Louis Tomlinson that this passport was created for had not only left the country, but had done so multiple times. Holy fucking shit. He’d been to France, Ireland, French Polynesia, Japan. Louis hadn’t been to any of those places…had he? He flipped the page one last time to see a stamp closer to the back dated December 19, 2015 from the United States of America. Louis dropped the book back onto the table. 

He never went there. He’d never been to America. There was no way he just forgot. 

“When was Harry’s accident?” He heard himself ask the question, but he already knew the answer. 

“Three years ago, Louis. A few days before your birthday. You were going to meet him there after your exams. You were still on the plane when it happened. They called Anne—his mum—but she couldn’t get a flight right away, so you were alone there when he woke up. You never told me what he said that made you realize that he didn’t know who you were. You said you never wanted to hear those words out loud ever again.”

Louis was silent. There was nothing he could say. Zayn was sitting across from him showing him things from a life that simply didn’t exist. These weren’t memories. They were physical tokens telling Louis that something was missing…and that something seemed to be Harry. It seemed to be everything attached to Harry. 

“I don’t—why don’t I remember? If this is my passport, why don’t I remember?”

Zayn’s voice was steady and soft and Louis appreciated how calming he was trying to be, but nothing inside of Louis felt calm. Everything felt tainted somehow. 

“You don’t remember because you had your memories erased.”

“That’s impossible. I was in med school, Zayn. You can’t do that. A brain injury, like the one Harry had…okay, but erasing? By choice? That’s science fiction.”

“I wish I could agree with you,” Zayn said, looking around the silent bookstore, “I wish I could say I didn’t believe in it either and that that would bring back the memories, but Louis they’re gone.”

“But I just—I just met Harry, right? I just met him in the lift on the way up to yours. He didn’t know who I was.”

“He didn’t,” agreed Zayn, “he didn’t know who you were because of his accident. That’s what started this whole thing, Louis. Harry’s amnesia was too much for you to handle. You loved him too much you couldn’t handle losing him.”

No. What Zayn was saying didn’t make any sense at all. 

“I met Harry Styles in the lift on my way up to dinner at your flat.”

“You met Harry Styles in 2009 in a bookstore—this bookstore actually.”

Louis stood up from his seat. He felt like the ground beneath him was going to give way. Literally everything he’d thought he’d known about his life was a lie. Two years ago he’d woken up from a fitful night’s sleep and decided that he was suffocating. He didn’t want to finish school. He wanted his whole life to change and he’d always joked to himself that it was a midlife crisis. He’d never thought that maybe he the reason he suddenly felt like he didn’t fit in his life was because something had gone missing. 

Louis turned his back to Zayn and gripped the counter of the coffee bar, trying to breathe in through his nose. Zayn had just walked in here and told him that basically everything he’d thought he’d known had been wrong. 

No wonder his life had always felt so empty. No wonder he couldn’t remember the last time he’d dated or had feelings for someone. No wonder it felt like he’d woken up and skipped right from being 18 to being 25. No wonder life had creeped up on him so fast. He didn’t have the full picture. He was missing the most important piece—Harry. 

But still, it didn’t make any sense. He’d never read anything about this in any of his textbooks. 

The whole fucking world was spinning. He felt Zayn’s hand on his shoulder, then. Somehow it grounded him and the room stopped spinning. He shut his eyes as tightly as possible and forced himself to speak. Someone had to make some sense of this because his thoughts were spinning out of control.

“But, why? Why did I do it?”

“Oh, Tommo,” said Zayn, his hand rubbing a circular pattern on Louis’ back, “you did it because it didn’t look like you had a choice. Harry’s doctor was the one who suggested it, maybe a couple of months after the accident. Harry was having a really hard time dealing with his memory loss. His mum and Gemma, they tried to get him to see you but he was afraid. When you were with him in New York, the first moment you realized he didn’t recognize you, that was the last time you saw him. You were killing yourself over it, Louis. Harry wasn't getting any better and the doctors just kept saying how unlikely it was that he’d ever remember any of us—let alone you. So we all sat you down, Harry’s mum, your mum all of us and we told you that we didn’t want to see you going through that kind of pain and if that place could erase everything that had hurt you and maybe you could get some closure? We thought it would be for the best. We only ever wanted the best for you.”

It was you.

Louis could remember the look on Harry’s face the day he’d looked up at Louis from across the very table he and Zayn had been sitting at. He remembered the sick look in Harry’s eyes as he’d mumbled the words and stumbled out the door of the bookstore like he’d seen a ghost. 

Louis had been the ghost. 

“But Harry—he remembered, didn’t he?” He asked it like a question, but he already knew the answer. He knew it deep in his gut. 

“He remembers you,” Zayn’s conformation was a whisper. 

 

 

The second the door opened, Louis’ mum pulled him into her arms. She held him close and rocked him back and forth soothingly like she always had. His whole word had been thrown on his ass but at least there was still this—the safety of his mother’s embrace. God, he wanted to fall apart, but it still felt so foreign. This whole thing didn’t feel real. It didn’t matter that he’d held a passport with his name and seen the stamps inside of it. It didn’t matter that he’d seen the invitation. None of that mattered because it didn’t feel real. These weren’t memories that he could just tap into. Now he had a true concept of what it must have been like when Harry had woken up in that hospital in New York, faced with so many strangers—Louis being one of them. 

This whole thing was a lot to take in in one sitting. Zayn had graciously told Louis he’d drop him at his mum’s and that she was expecting him. Harry was spending the night at his own mum’s so he wouldn’t be alone either. Everyone was in on it. Everyone knew Zayn had told him about the past. Everyone was in agreement that he needed to know. Harry didn’t want to live a lie, Zayn had said. He didn’t want to cheat Louis into anything. 

It hadn’t felt like cheating, though. It had felt like falling. 

When his mum pulled back and met his eyes, she was crying. Louis reached out and dabbed the tears, giving her a crooked smile. 

“What are you crying about you old softie?” 

She bit her lip, shaking her head, “these last couple of years, love, I didn’t think this day would come. Watching you go through this whole thing, watching you change like it had never happened—it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I didn’t want to lie to you, Louis, but I wanted what was best.”

“I know,” Louis whispered the words because…maybe he was starting to believe it. Maybe this insane story was really his life. 

His mum pulled him into the house, “come in baby, I’ve got a lot of things to show you. A lot of things to tell you, too.”

 

 

It was just past midnight and Louis was sitting in front of the computer in his office. His mum had given him 3 more items that were now sitting next to that strange card with Lacuna Inc on it, his passport and the invitation to a wedding that had never happened…because the grooms forgot each other. It was chilling. His mum had given him a picture with ‘my kids-x-mas ’09’ scribbled in his mum’s handwriting on the back of it. In the photo, Louis sitting on the couch next to Harry. Harry was kissing Louis’ cheek and the Christmas lights were twinkling in the background. Lottie and Fizzy were squeezed in on the couch next to Harry, and six year old Daisy and Phoebe were sat on each of Louis’ knees. 

His baby sisters, the ones that were now 15, were six years old and Harry was in the photo. There was no way to explain away that fact. Nine years ago, Harry had been in his life. Nine years ago they’d spent Christmas together on the couch with all of his sisters. It was hard to make any sort of argument against the facts that were being presented to him. 

Aside from the photo, his mother had also given him a USB stick labeled ‘patient: Louis Tomlinson- November 2016’ and a piece of paper with a YouTube user name and password scribbled in writing that he knew belonged to Harry. 

Username: trav3lwithharry

Password: LarryTommo28

It was Harry’s YouTube channel. Long set to private, but their memories had been preserved there and his mother had told him that Harry wanted him to watch them. He wanted Louis to take as long as he needed to.

He pulled up the YouTube homepage and slowly typed the information into the login screen. He hesitated with the mouse over the log in button. Was he really ready to do this? Was he really ready to accept that he’d had a part of him erased from his memory? Harry had fit so well into his life. He’d become such a staple in his little bookstore and it had all been so effortless, but was it because of their history? Had Harry always fit like that? 

He needed the answers. 

He clicked into the videos that Harry had stored. Hundreds of them, but the most recent had a thumbnail showing Harry’s mum and a title stating ‘An Explanation from Anne’. Louis wasn’t ready to watch that one. He didn’t want to face the pain. He wanted to see the good things. He wanted to learn what they’d been like that first time around. 

The second last upload had been a Vlog about New York City, uploaded just hours before the accident that had changed their lives. 

No. 

Louis had to start at the beginning. 

He scrolled all the way back and pressed play on the first video titled ‘Random Life Update’. 

Harry’s face was so soft, so young. Louis immediately wished he’d known this version of Harry. The sweet, sweet innocence in his eyes was enchanting. His voice came in, just as deep as Louis knew it to be and he smiled at the camera. Three sentences in and Louis was there—mentioned in his monologue. 

“So…I met him,” Harry’s smile was impossibly large and Louis recognized the look. The glossed over eyes and the dopey smile that meant he was really happy, really present. He had given Louis that smile that very first night as they’d walked together from the lift to Zayn and Liam’s. That smile hadn’t changed in the past nine years.

“I know that sounds crazy…but I met him. I just know he’s the one. It hasn’t even been a week…how crazy is that? Even my mum said she can tell I’m in over my head. He’s…funny. He’s really freaking funny and—“

Louis had to pause the video because his breathing was a bit out of control. That was him. He was 'the one'. It was hard to wrap his head around it even though, three weeks into what he thought was a brand new relationship he’d already asked Harry to move in and had practically begged him for a baby outside of Liam and Zayn’s.

Okay, so this moving fast thing? It was a trend for them, apparently. Alright. Louis could handle this. He could keep watching these videos and he could figure this shit out so maybe, just maybe they could start having a future together instead of being caught up in two very different versions of the past. 

 

 

Hours had passed and Louis’ eyes were burning as he continued to stare at the screen. He’d jumped back and forth into countless videos. Some had been harder to watch than others, but he still sat there in a stoic kind of state. 

Who could say they’d literally watched videos of them self that they had no recollection of? Who could say they’d been provided with endless evidence that, yeah, he and Harry had done this before, but still couldn’t remember a goddamn thing? It was all completely gone and it left him in a trance-like state as he stared at the screen. He wasn’t really emotional, because how could he be? Yeah, they were memories, but they weren’t really his…not anymore. They couldn’t spark anything in him other than longing. He wished he remembered what it had been like to laugh with Harry in front of the fog that covered Mt. Fuji or what it had been like to ride the canal in Amsterdam while stoned out of his mind. He wished he could so that he might know what to say to Harry. 

What are you supposed to say to the love of your life after you had them erased from your memory? How could he and Harry just pick up where they left off when their memories left off in such different places?

Finally, somewhere around 5 am, Louis found the guts to press play on the last video. 

“Anyway, tomorrow is the day I finally get to see my boy and—it’s just that it’s been so long. Any day without Louis is long but I think the older I get the more I realize, maybe I can’t do this forever. Being away from him like this, for a month and a half? It’s madness. I don’t think I could ever put into words how much I miss him and I can’t believe I finally get to see him. I just—even the old shirt of his I brought with me barely smells like him anymore and it was a shitty stand-in anyway.”

Harry picked up the camera and jumped on the bed, smiling into the lens.

“I rented us this place right on the beach…and I know it’s cold but I just can’t wait to walk it with him. I can’t wait to get a little tipsy on that bottle of wine, because sorry for spilling your secrets, Lou, but you’re the cheapest drunk when you’re jet-lagged. I can’t wait. I can’t wait to pick you up off the train and kiss the face off of you. God, I’ve missed you so much, Louis.”

Louis felt his heartbeat in his throat as Harry stared into the camera and spoke the last words in the video.

“Meet me in Montauk.”

Louis felt his heart stop. He was sure he was flatlining as he stopped the video and cradled his face in his hands. If he’d been completely emotionless and detached through the rest of his jog down memory lane? Well now he was drowning in his emotions. 

Meet me in Montauk. 

The paper that had been sitting on top of the box of mystery mugs he’d found in the back of the closet the day he’d been running from his empty life had said those words. God. His life had just been empty because of the gap Harry had left inside of him. 

Now he understood the look on everyone’s faces when he’d said “I bought that old bookstore, but I’m changing the name” and then looked at him like they’d seen a ghost when he’d said the word.

And they had seen a ghost. They’d seen the ghost of Harry in his words.

God, the pain came rolling off of him in waves. It was all there. Every clue in the world that deep down in his very core Harry was a part of him. He couldn’t remember, but he could feel it. He could feel it in every part of him. Harry was all the very best parts of him and maybe he’d lost him once. Maybe he’d lost himself once, but he wasn’t going to let that be the end of their story. They still had so much more to give to each other. 

 

Chapter Text

Present

 

“Please state your name and the reason you’re here,” said a male voice.

“My name is Louis Tomlinson and I am here to have Harry Styles erased from my memories.”

“What is your relationship with Harry?”

“He was my fiancé.”

Was.

“Can you please provide us with a bit of background about why you want to have your memories of him erased?”

There was a moment of silence, with the sound of papers shuffling in the background. 

“Last December,” Louis’ voice was shaky, “Harry was hit by a car and he suffered amnesia. He doesn’t remember who I am, and he doesn’t want to see me.”

“So your memories of him have become too painful for you to handle. You want to have some closure via the service we offer, is that correct?”

Louis cleared his throat, “I want—I want him back, but the doctors tell me it won’t happen. I don’t see how I can keep going on like this and every person in my life tells me that this is what I should do. I think they might be right. As long as I remember the life we had, it will hurt. This is the only choice I can see.”

“Tell me about the day you met Harry.”

Again there was a moment of dead air, and Louis had to check to make sure he hadn’t paused the recording. Then, he heard his voice. 

“I used to be obsessed with collecting old, medical textbooks when I was a teenager. I had a favourite bookstore and it was a Saturday, I was there just browsing when I noticed Harry come in. I used to play on the uni footie team and I recognized Harry. He was friends with my best mate, Zayn. They always sat together at our games, but for some reason I hadn’t officially met him yet. So naturally, I stalked him down the aisles and then accused him of stalking me.” There was a distinct fondness to the way Louis said the words. It was evident that this memory was a bright one, “and  then I convinced him to have coffee with me and we went to our mate’s party that night and…I guess the rest is history, at least for now. Soon, I guess it won’t be much of anything for either of us.”

The other voice cleared his throat and then spoke again, “tell me about some of your favourite memories of Harry.”

“I—honestly, I don’t have one. They’re all my favourite. Every moment I spent with Harry was the happiest I’ve ever been. That’s kind of why I’m here, you know?”

“Again, Mr. Tomlinson, I’m so sorry we’ve had to meet under these circumstances.” 

Silence again. 

“Will it—will it hurt? I mean, the whole erasing part? Is there a chance of brain damage?”

“Technically, Louis, the procedure itself is brain damage, but no, it won’t hurt. Our technicians will make a map of your brain using the items you brought that remind you of Harry and we’ll destroy them at their core.”

Louis swallowed hard, “what if I change my mind some day?”

“I’m afraid that isn’t an option with a procedure like this. There is no ‘going back’. Your memories will be gone. The destruction will be complete only when we’ve made sure to erase all of the emotional cores. The procedure is effective because we are thorough, and I’m afraid there’s no way to reinstate the memories. When you wake up tomorrow morning, you won’t recognize the name Harry Styles. I’m sorry it had to come to this for you, Louis, but I am happy I can provide you with some emotional relief.”

 

Louis paused the clip, resting his head against the desk. His breathing was jagged, his mind running in a thousand different directions. As insane as this whole thing was, as much as Louis wanted to be able to dismiss it as fiction, the evidence was there. He had a past life. A past life that he couldn’t even get close to remembering, but that the evidence being presented to him made it impossible to deny. 

He’d already loved Harry. 

It was 7 o’clock in the bloody morning and he’d stayed up all night watching videos of himself and Harry and yet this, this audio recording of him speaking to the doctor that had changed his life, this was the thing that pushed him over the edge. 

 

 

Louis ran his fingers through his hair, staring at the blackhole that was his closet. Why did he always do this? His mum was coming to pick him up in an hour to drive him to Heathrow and he hadn’t packed a single thing. He always did this. He hated packing, but this was ridiculous. He knew it was ridiculous. He’d watched as Harry started packing weeks before his trips, and yet every time it was time for him to jet off to meet Harry, he procrastinated like it was his job. 

He shrugged, in roughly 20 or so hours he’d be landing in New York and on his way to meet Harry in the beach house they were renting in some town he’d never heard of. Montauk. 

Without much regard for what he was doing, Louis opened his underwear drawer and started emptying the contents into his suitcase. It didn’t really matter what he packed, anyway. Harry would have all the important bits, shampoo, toothpaste. He just had to show up with a somewhat reasonable amount of clothing. ‘Bring a bathing suit, Lou’, had been most of the direction that Harry had given him, so Louis dug out his bathing suit and tossed it on top of the underwear mountain in the centre of his suitcase. 

Suddenly he heard his phone vibrating next to his suitcase. He picked it up and grinned when he saw the picture of Harry on the screen, all dressed up at Gemma’s uni graduation a few years ago. It was one of Louis’ favourite photos of him. He pressed the talk button instantly and pressed the phone to his ear. 

“Couldn’t stay away, huh? Thought it was your bedtime, Mr. Styles.” They’d only just hung up the phone twenty minutes ago. 

Harry laughed, “you’re not going to be able to call me that for much longer, you know.”

Louis grinned, “speaking of that, I snuck out before me tea this morning and put the invites into the mail. You can’t back out on me now, Curly, our invite list will be utterly devastated. And me. I’d be devastated, too.”

Harry didn’t even laugh at Louis' playful teasing, “nothing in the world could stop me from marrying you, Lou.”

“Nothing? Not even nuclear warfare? What if I grow a third leg because of radiation?”

“Your third leg is my favourite leg anyway,” Harry was being cheeky and Louis was so here for it. 

“Aw, Haz, I love it when you tell me I’ve got a big dick. But my third leg has nothing on yours, baby.”

“I miss you,” Harry mumbled, for probably the millionth time since he’d left for this god-forsaken two month tour across North America. 

“Not as much as I miss you…and your third leg. I can’t wait to see you. I’m so tired of phone sex. Having said that, if you Snapchat me another picture of your cock I wouldn’t be mad.”

Harry laughed, “when’s your mum picking you up?”

“An hour,” Louis said, tucking his phone between his ear and shoulder so he could start tearing t-shirts out of his closet, “so if you’re going to send me that picture, do it soon. I don’t want to scar her or anything.”

Harry laughed harder his time, “honestly, Lou, you’re too much. I can’t wait until you see the place we’re staying. I can’t wait to kiss you.”

Louis looked at his ratty old University of Manchester jumper and tossed it into the suitcase, “can I just tell you that I’m not even being a little bit dramatic when I say to you that I don’t think I would miss one of my limbs as much as I’ve missed you the last few weeks.”

“Really? You miss me more than you would miss your third leg?”

Louis cackled as he tossed random trousers into his suitcase (he didn’t fold things, imagine how much time he’d have missed in his life if he folded every piece of clothing he owned? Honestly, this was emotional economics, he just had better things to do with his time). “Of course I miss you more. To be fair, there is absolutely no point of me having a dick at all unless you’re around. Although, I feel like if I were to lose that limb, maybe I’d be a much less appealing partner in crime for you.”

“Nah,” breathed Harry, and Louis could tell he was curled up in his sheets, all comfy and hoping to fall asleep to the sound of Louis’ voice, “I love a lot of things about you.”

“Oh yeah? Name three.”

“Your laugh. The way you take care of the girls. The way you take care of me.”

Ah—Louis felt the words resonate right in his chest. There was a pleasant burn there, now, and Louis felt like he was floating on top of the world, “so you do love me.”

“More than anyone has ever loved anyone else.”

“Impossible.”

“Mmm,” Harry hummed happily, “I can’t wait for you to get here. I can’t wait to get day-drunk with you and kiss you until you can’t breathe. I can’t wait to buy you a proper New York bagel because, trust me, there’s a distinct difference. I can’t wait to see your smile.”

“Me too, Hazza,” said Louis, curling up onto their bed and grinning like a fucking lunatic, “I can’t wait to marry you. I can’t believe it’s taken us this long. You’re the best thing in my life, you know that, right?” 

There had once been a time in Louis’ life when he liked to pretend he was cool and that he wasn’t a completely disgusting sap, but he never played it cool with Harry. He couldn’t risk there ever being a moment when Harry didn’t think Louis knew he was the actual centre of the universe. 

“I don’t know why I got so lucky, but I’m telling you right now, Hazza, I will never mess this up. I will never let something break us. I’m always going to be here. You are a part of me—the best part of me. We’ve had so many amazing adventures together and I still have to pinch myself sometimes to believe that you are real. You’re too perfect for this world, Haz, but more than that, you’re too good for me. You’ll never change my mind on that, but you give me purpose. I know you could have whatever you want, whenever you want it, but you let me give it to you. You give me a reason to wake up in the morning. A reason to chase my dreams so that I can be the man you deserve for me to be. You’ve given my life more meaning than I’ve ever been deserving of, and I don’t take that lightly Hazza. I love you. I love you more than a stupid four-letter word could ever capture. You’re everything.”

Oh god. 

This was it. 

This was the last one. This was the last time he’d spoken to Harry before he’d left for New York. There were no more memories left and now they were about to snatch this one from him, too. Louis couldn’t let this happen. 

“Harry—“ he croaked into the phone.

“Don’t let them do this,” Harry’s voice came from the doorway. He was standing there, looking exactly as Louis wanted to remember him. His soft curls tumbling onto his shoulders and his eyes greengreengreen. 

Louis closed his eyes. 

Why was he doing this? Wouldn’t it be better to spend the next few decades of his life waiting for Harry to come back to him? Harry was everything. He was the sun, the moon, the stars, the entire fucking milky way galaxy and everything beyond. How could Louis just let that go? 

What could he possibly say to Harry that could make this better? How could he possibly try to tell him that this was for the best? How could he ever reconcile his decision to say goodbye to all the very best parts of him?

 

He opened his eyes, then, panic setting in as he looked down at himself. There he was, laying in the bed that he and Harry had shared for years. Machines were hooked up to him and two men sat at the foot of his bed with a laptop. That was them! They were there, in their flat, erasing his memories. All he had to do was get their attention and tell them to stop. Even if all he had left was this last piece, at least he’d know. At least he’d know that Harry was the answer to every question he’d ever have. 

“Hey!” Louis shouted from wherever he was hovering above the scene, “hey! Can you hear me? I don’t want this anymore! I want to call it off!” 

They didn’t budge. Louis’ voice floated down but they couldn’t hear him. Was he even really there? Was this just part of his dream? Were they going to erase this, too?

“Hey!” He yelled again, as loud as he could, “wake me up! I don’t want this! Hey! Let me keep him!”

Louis watched as his body twitched on the bed, but still the people in the room, the ones destroying his memories, they didn’t hear him. He had to stop this. 

“They can’t hear you,” Harry’s voice came from beside him. 

Louis turned to look at him. Harry’s face was oddly calm for the words he was saying. 

“I don’t think we can stop it, anymore, Lou. I think this is it.”

Louis couldn’t speak. He just felt the bile rising in his throat. He stared down at himself, one last memory of Harry remaining, one last chance to hold on to the empire they’d built. 

Suddenly, he watched as the version of Louis on the bed’s eyes shot open. He bolted upright, startling the people in the room. 

“What’s going on. Louis are you awake?” Asked one of the men. 

Louis on the bed didn’t respond, he just stared blankly ahead. 

“You have to stop! I’m asking you to stop! I don’t want this—I want to keep him!” Louis yelled from above them. 

Still, they didn’t hear a word. 

“Louis, when you wake up I’m going to be gone,” Harry whispered from beside him. 

“No, no, no!” Louis cried, tears pouring from his eyes as he watched the technicians fumble with their equipment, trying to make him fall back to sleep. “I don’t want to wake up if you’re not there.”

“’s okay, Lou,” said Harry’s soft voice, “this isn’t the last you’ll see of me. I’ll find you. I’ll find you as many times as I have to. This can’t be it, Louis. This can’t be the end of our story.”

“Stop!” Louis gave one more feeble cry to the people below him. 

He watched as the version of himself on the bed closed his eyes and fell back down. 

“Found him. He’s right here, in the last memory,” said the second technician, pointing at the laptop. 

“I love you, Louis,” he heard Harry say from beside him before he closed his eyes against the tears, “goodbye.”

When Louis opened his eyes again, he was back to being curled up on his bed, next to a suitcase of clothes. His phone was pressed to his ear and he could hear Harry breathing on the other side. 

“I love you, Louis. Always. There’s no place in the world I’d rather be than wherever you are. You think that I give you purpose, but Louis you give me that, too. I chased my dreams because of the person you let me be. I owe it all to you. Loving you will always be the greatest thing I’ll ever do.”

Harry paused then and Louis listened. Just like he’d watched that YouTube video countless times, he’d run this conversation over in his head as well. This was the last thing that Harry had said to him and this was the last time he was ever going to get to hear him say it. 

“I can’t wait to see you, Louis. Drive save. Fly safe. Just get here in one piece, okay? I love you and I can’t wait to see you. I’ll meet you in Montauk.”

The room plunged into darkness and Louis didn’t know what was going to happen when he woke up, but he knew one thing for certain—he had to find Harry. He had to move mountains and fill all the empty spaces within himself and do whatever it took to return to his rightful place—Harry’s side. 

 

 

Present

 

Louis’ hand felt sweaty as he reached out to knock on the big red door in front of him. He’d been there before. This was a fact, not something he’d ever debate, but it felt new. He didn’t remember who would be on the other side, even though he should. He swallowed as he waited for the door to open. It was only half past 8 in the morning and he hadn’t slept yet. He’d spent the entire night peering into a history that he didn’t remember, but that he desperately wanted to know. 

Slowly, the door opened. There, standing in front of him was kind face, one he should know, but that was a stranger, nonetheless. She had kind eyes and long, dark hair—the same shade as Harry’s. The resemblance was uncanny. He knew exactly who he was looking at, and she knew him, too. Anne Twist, Harry’s mum—Louis recognized her put-on smile from the explanation video he’d watched from Harry’s channel. 

“Louis,” it wasn’t a question. She knew exactly who was standing in front of her. 

“Guilty,” Louis said, slapping on an awkward grin. He reached out his hand to shake hers, “I guess maybe we’ve done this before?”

She nodded. She didn’t grab his hand, instead reaching out to pull him into a tight hug. When she pulled back she met his eyes, a smile on her face, “we have.”

Louis chewed on the inside of his lip, “and…did you like me? Or was it a case of ‘he’ll never be good enough for my baby’?”

“I loved you,” she didn’t hesitate at all with her response and Louis felt his heart lurch in his chest. Why did he already feel so comfortable here when he didn’t even know what things looked like on the other side of the threshold?

This whole thing felt kind of like walking through a dream, but for some reason he wasn’t afraid. 

“Up the stairs, last door on the right,” Anne’s face was soft and Louis felt less like an intruder and more like someone who might like to get used to spending time in her house. 

 

 

Harry let out some kind of sobbing sound when he pulled open the door and saw Louis on the other side. Louis sincerely hoped that it was a happy sob and not a disappointed one. Harry blinked at him twice before Louis spoke. 

“Hi.”

God, the romance in Louis was strong. He was really giving Shakespeare a run for his money. Harry looked like he hadn’t slept and there was a fear that was evident in his eyes. 

“You look like you had a hell of a night,” he said, tapping his foot against Harry’s. He have Harry a cautious smile. 

Harry just nodded once, his head now tipped toward the floor.

“Me too,” Louis said softly, reaching out to tilt Harry’s chin up. He looked deep into Harry’s eyes and all he saw was a sea of a thousand apologies. What one earth could Harry ever have to apologize for. Louis had destroyed them. Worse off, he’d paid a team of people to thoroughly destroy them and all the evidence of the life they’d shared. He was the bad guy here, not Harry. “I reckon I might have had a first-hand look at what it was like for you the night you ran out of my shop like you’d seen a ghost.”

Again, Louis tried to smile and again, Harry tried to tilt his head downward. Louis held onto his chin, forcing Harry’s gaze to stay focused on him. 

“The mugs, the ones in my store—you gave me those, didn’t you?”

Harry bit his lip, one single tear falling down his cheek as he nodded against Louis’ hand. 

Aw, fuck it. Louis wrapped his arms around Harry and kissed down Harry’s cheek, destroying all the evidence that there ever was a tear. Harry sobbed again, a wretched sound from deep in his chest and Louis pulled him closer. 

“Montauk,” Louis whispered, “I was supposed to meet you there, and I did, didn’t I? Took a few years, but we made it, hey? I had to build myself my own Montauk to trap a wild Harry Styles, but I did it, didn’t I?”

Harry’s laugher was more like gurgles that fell out between tears, but Louis would take it. He would take whatever Harry threw at him, because he didn’t go through all of this to not end up with the boy. Boy meets boy, boy has boy horrifically torn from him and then boy finds boy again. There was no other possible ending to their impossible story. 

“I’m sorry, Louis. I’m so fucking sorry I lied to you.”

“Woah, woah,” said Louis, “you didn’t lie to me, Harry. You showed me the truth before I even knew I’d been living without it. You were the first thing that made sense in years. I love you, Harry.”

Harry’s tears didn’t stop. He clung to Louis, “so you still want to do this? Even though you can’t remember why?”

“Hell yeah,” said Louis, pulling Harry back so he could look into his beautiful eyes, “hell, yeah I want to keep doing this. I might not remember, but I feel it, Harry. I feel you in all the places that I’ve been empty. I named my bloody bookshop after you and I didn’t even know it, Curly. I think the real question here is do you think you can settle for a lowly bookshop owner and not the doctor you thought you’d signed up for?”

Harry smiled this time, proper. Louis pressed himself back into Harry’s chest, breathing deeply the comfort of finally knowing exactly what home was. 

“Of course, Lou. Of course I want you. Gonna make you fall all over again.” 

Harry whispered the last words, fingers buried in Louis’ hair. 

Louis pulled back, grin plastered on his face, “too late,” he whispered back, leaning toward Harry’s lips, “I’m already in love with you—still in love with you.”

“I’m still in love with you, too, Lou.”

Harry solidified his words with a rough kiss—just the way Louis (past as present) liked it. Louis didn’t know how many lifetimes he’d lived, but he was certain of one thing: he’d always come back here. No matter how many starts (or stops) he and Harry faced along the way, it would always come back to this. They’d always find each other, in New York state or a Manchester bookstore—Louis would meet Harry wherever his heart commanded. Wherever Montauk was to be. 

 

The End. 

Chapter Text

Five Years Later

 

Louis was scrolling through old posts on his Instagram—another relic left over from a life he’d forgotten that had been set to private until he’d been ready to take another look. He’d been periodically taking a look at the past five years, now. He liked to scroll back into the depths and see the things he’d done in the life he’d lost. He wasn’t sad about it, either. Sure, he’d probably saw off his right arm to properly remember what it had been like to walk Harry home that first night they’d met and kiss him on the front porch, but his life was great, regardless of the parts he couldn’t remember. He loved doing this, looking back through his instagram and asking Harry to tell him the story behind the many photos they had together. Harry was always happy to oblige and regale the tales of their first years together. 

But, as much as he liked looking at the old pictures, he liked posting new ones, too. His account was active again, and there were a lot of posts about his three favourite subjects: Harry, Clifford and Ana. Harry had been active on YouTube again and his following had somehow surpassed the numbers predating his accident. When he’d first started toying with the idea of posting again, Harry had been nervous. He’d talked endlessly about how his career and his time spent travelling was exactly the thing that put them at increased risk for accidents like the one that had happened that had pulled them apart. So, instead of travelling at the pace that he once had, Harry opted for more day-to-day life vlogs and kept his travels to a few times a year (often including Louis and Ana). 

Harry had also become quite the barista (almost rivalling Zayn), thanks to Louis’ fantastic teaching skills. Most days they could both be found making coffees and tidying books. Clifford, their 3 year old labradoodle had also become a fixture in the store. He typically went where Louis went and spent his lays lounging in the sunlight that beamed in from the front windows of the store, lapping up the attention of the regulars that came in mostly to see Harry, Zayn and him. Louis wasn’t too offended, though, he’d filled his shop with people he loved most and it had become arguably more of a home than their actual home. 

Harry was sentimental, did Louis ever mention that? Somehow, after two years of harassing the young woman who had bought their old flat from Louis all those years ago, he’d convinced her to sell it back to them. It was too small for them now, they’d grown after all, but Harry insisted that they stay there and had taken over the office in the bookstore as his own and used it to film and edit videos so that Ana could have her own space. 

Louis’ phone made a pinging sound and he looked at the notification that Harry had posted on his instagram. By the time he opened it there were already 58 likes. God, Harry was just as lovable to the rest of the world, wasn’t he? His following was absolutely in love with every detail of their entire life, especially this particular trip and Ana. 

Louis grinned when he looked at the photograph and the caption Harry had written. ‘Twinning for the big day!’ Harry had written below a photo of one of his hands and Ana’s much tinier ones. They both had their nails painted alternating shades of baby pink and bright Tiffany blue. Harry had used only one hashtag to sum it up, #ana’spick. Louis double tapped the photo and commented a quick ‘@harrystyles you’re both gorgeous xoxo’ before looking up and watching Zayn walk through the door. 

Zayn dramatically slammed his body against the door he’d just closed, pretending to hold back the chaos Louis could hear from down the hall. Unsurprisingly, Louis was completely calm. He was just enjoying the ocean breeze that was coming through the window and sipping a mostly cold cup of tea as he reflected on the last five years of his life. 

Equally as unsurprising, Zayn was not in any way, shape or form, as calm. Ever since Oscar had entered his life, Zayn had become decidedly more awake and more present. By that, Louis meant, much more prone to stress and paranoia. Louis chuckled at the look on his face. 

“Oscar hates his bowtie and he and Ana are having an all-out row about him wearing it. She just keeps clipping it back on and he just keeps tearing it off and Olivia spilled orange juice all over her dress. Why did you think it was a good idea to invite my kids? Remind me?” 

Zayn grinned sheepishly, half joking and half expecting a response.

Olivia was the newest Payne-Malik, just a few weeks shy of her third birthday. She was probably about the calmest baby Louis had ever known, going with the flow like she’d been on this earth longer than them all. Nothing really seemed to bother her—her father however…well, everything bothered him. It was still hilarious to Louis, even five years in. Zayn was the most paranoid parent on the playground without fail and Louis could never get enough of teasing him about it. 

“Bring them in,” Louis said, putting his phone down and taking his last sip of tea. 

“You’re not supposed to be stressed out today,” Zayn argued. 

Louis huffed a laugh, “our children do not stress me out, Zayn. Send them in.”

Zayn nodded and opened the door and slipped back out and down the hall. They were staying in a giant beach house, the spray from the Atlantic Ocean heavy on every breeze. Louis loved it there, and he couldn’t believe that he’d never made it there before that day. This town, this beach, it was probably the place in the world with the most significance for him and yet he’d waited until this trip to finally see it. He was so glad he’d finally made it. 

The sprawling house they were staying in had an astounding seven bedrooms and somehow they’d squeezed every person they loved the most into it. Anne was there along with all 1.5 of the Horan-Stlyes family (Gemma was pregnant, due in just over 3 months and Louis didn't know if she or Harry were more excited, but he was banking on Harry). All of Louis’ sisters had made it and his mum and his dad were in the same room (willingly) for the first time since the girls had still been kids. Zayn and Liam were there along with Oscar and Olivia. Of course, Harry and Ana were there as well. They were all happy and all staying together in the house for a week, invading each other’s space and annoying the living shit out of each other. Louis wouldn’t have had it any other way. They were one giant, happy family and it made his chest burn with fondness. 

The door burst open then, and Ana marched in first, hands on her hips. She huffed in annoyance and…oops. Maybe she might have come by her sass because of Louis’ influence. Whoops. 

“Daddy! Oscar is being bad! He won’t wear his bow!” 

She held up the bow, petulance that only a four-year-old could be capable of in her voice. 

Louis couldn’t help his smile. She was adorable (and he wasn’t even being biased, they could rarely walk the aisles of a supermarket without someone stopping to tell her how pretty she was). Her dress was the colour she’d picked (‘turquoise, like Jasime!’ She’d exclaimed at the store when he and Harry had taken her shopping). It was her big day, too. They’d made sure she knew it, and her sourness toward Oscar showed that she was taking it pretty seriously. 

“Lou Lou!” Shouted Olivia as she ran into the room, right past Ana and dove into Louis’ arms. He grinned and stood up, lifting her off the ground and spinning her in the air. Her white dress billowed around her and she cackled in delight. 

“You look beautiful!” He told her, taking note of the apparently offensive orange juice stain down the front of her. 

He put her back down on the floor and moved to Harry’s suitcase (damn Harry for always being better prepared than him) and pulled out a stain stick. He cleaned up Olivia’s dress and spun her around to show Zayn. 

“All better!” She exclaimed as she ran back to her dad. 

Oscar entered the room, although he was the oldest of the bunch, he was very much the backseat driver to the Ana show. He listened to everything she said, always had. Which was why it was so surprising he was fighting her on the bowtie thing. 

“Uncle Lou Lou, I don’t like my bow!” He said, pout on his face. 

Louis reached out to Ana taking the bowtie from her hand, “see!” She said, “Daddy’s going to make you wear it. It’s our big day—you have to listen to me.”

Louis laughed, “easy there, bossy pants,” he scolded. 

“I’m not wearing pants,” Ana argued, “this is my bossy dress.” 

Zayn joined Louis in his laughter. Louis reached out his hand and spun her around. Her hair was plaited in a French braid, little blue flowers wound through it. 

“Your hair looks beautiful,” Louis told her. 

“Auntie Lottie braided it,” she explained. 

“You know what would make it look even nicer?” Louis asked.

“What?”

“A bow!” He said, clipping Oscar’s bowtie to the bottom of her braid. 

There. Problem solved. Louis was good at this parenting stuff. 

 

 

20 more minutes to go. Harry looked at his watch. The house was strangely quiet compared to the last 3 days they'd spent in chaos with kids running rampant down the halls. He hadn't seen Ana or Louis since that morning. Niall had been hanging around, helping him get dressed and they'd been chatting, but for the most part, things has been quiet. Louis' sisters had taken over getting Ana dressed, but Harry found himself missing her already. Lottie was due to drop her off to Harry any minute. He stared down at his phone, looking at the latest picture he'd posted with a smile on his face.

For a a moment there, he'd really thought he might lose this whole dream. There had been a small part of him that thought that maybe he and Louis would never make it to this day. He thought there might come a day when Louis got overwhelmed with the whole thing. Learning about a life he'd had that he had no memory of must have been a lot to handle, but Louis had done it with grace. He hadn't wavered for even a second. Harry still felt a guilt deep within himself that he routinely expressed, over the fact that Harry had done just the opposite of Louis. When faced with the loss of his own memories, he'd shut down and pushed Louis away instead of letting him teach him about the life they'd shared together.

Louis didn't mind though, or so he said. Harry hoped he meant it.

Harry couldn’t ever fully shut down the part of him that knew that if he’d have been better after his accident, they would never have gotten there. Louis would never have visited Lacuna and would never have had to relearn everything about Harry. So yeah, maybe the whole mess was mostly Harry’s fault, but Louis challenged him every time he suggested it, routinely saying ‘this isn’t a mess, Harry. It’s our life and I got to fall in love with you twice, do you know how lucky that makes me?’. 

Yeah, eighteen year old Louis had been perfect. Twenty year old Louis had been perfect. Twenty-two and Twenty-four year old Louis’ had been perfect, too. But this Louis? This Louis who had changed in significant ways but stayed the exact same at his very core? This Louis who’d willfully walked through fire and brimstone to reacquaint himself with a life lost? This Louis who happily had woken up in the middle of the night to change approximately 100% of Ana’s diapers and who never, ever complained about it once? This Louis who gave his love so freely to Harry without ever considering that he had another option? This Louis who had given Harry a life he’d never dreamed they’d have during those first six years together? Louis who had changed his life’s ambition to fill an empty space, but had somehow filled up all kinds of different empty spaces in Harry by just being himself? 

This Louis, this thirty-something, bookshop keeper turned barista turned father to the most amazing little girl in the universe? 

This was the Louis that eighteen year old Harry could never have imagined. This was the greatest man to ever have walked the planet, and Harry was certain of that. 

And now Harry got to marry him. As if having a life and a business and a daughter with him hadn’t already been reward enough. Now he got to seal the deal, just as he’d intended to do all those years ago. 

Harry was, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the luckiest man in the universe. He was lucky to live with and be loved by Louis Tomlinson. 

A notification on his phone appeared then, stating that Louis had posted on Instagram. He smiled, flicking it open instantly. His smile turned to a full on grin when he looked at the photo. Oscar was standing next to Ana, who was holding hands with Olivia. They were all grinning at the camera, eyes a’glint with happiness. Harry hadn’t seen Ana yet, but she looked beautiful, her blue dress the perfect contrast between Oscar’s black suit and Olivia’s white dress. He couldn’t wait to see her. Harry read the caption, then. 

‘Kids are ready, I’m ready, don’t stand me up @harrystyles!’

Harry laughed, god, he couldn’t wait to see Louis. He couldn’t wait to kiss him, to hold his hand, to toast to this life they’d made. 

He tapped out a quick comment just as he heard a knock on the door. ‘@Louist91 Wouldn’t dream of it. See you in 18 minutes xx’. 

The door cracked open then and he saw Lottie smiling at him. She walked into the room, Ana’s tiny hand in her’s, smile still set in place. 

“You look so nice Harry,” she said and it felt genuine, “white was a good call. I’m sorry I questioned it,” she winked as punctuation, a Tomlinson through and through. 

“Papa!” Ana said as she barrelled towards him, “Oscar wouldn’t wear his bowtie. I told him he was bad, but Daddy clipped it to my hair.” She spun around to show Harry. 

“Anastasia, you’re beautiful,” he told her, lifting her off the ground and smattering her face with kisses.

She giggled, her two hands gripping Harry’s cheeks. “Daddy said he’s excited to see you! Hurry up, Papa!”

 

 

Louis stood at the makeshift alter, his bare feet buried in the sand. He watched as their small handful of guests piled into their seats, waving to each of them. He stood alone, waiting for the loves of his life to appear from inside of the house. Music was playing softly and the cheery officiant, Alice kept patting him on the back encouragingly. She’d told them yesterday, when they’d finally met her after so many emails from overseas, that she’d never met a couple so perfect for each other. Louis wasn’t surprised by that statement, but it still felt nice. 

Finally, when all but three of the seats were filled, the music changed and Louis watched as Oscar walked out the sliding door of the house and made his way through the beach sand, trailed by Olivia who tossed flowers mostly at the back of his head. Everyone chuckled at how adorable they were as they made their way toward Louis. Olivia took her place next to Liam and Oscar handed the ring box to Louis. 

This was it, then. In a second Harry would be coming and they’d finally be doing this.

He watched the doors open again and there he was. There was Harry, Ana holding his hand and they started to walk toward him. His grin was impossible to hide, and there was a time in his life where he might have at least pretended to be cool, but those days were long gone. His grin perfectly matched Harry’s, who walked barefoot toward him, his eyes bright. They were happy. Louis knew this, but there was still something magical about gathering everyone here, to this place of significance and sharing that happiness with them. 

“Hi Daddy!” Ana said when they were only a few steps away. 

Louis grinned, “hi babes,” he said. 

When they reached the end of the aisle, Harry bent down to pick Ana up. He brought her closer to Louis kissing one of her cheeks, just as Louis leaned in to kiss her other one. The crowd around them cooed and Harry put Ana back down and she ran to her spot, nestled between Louis’ mum and Anne. 

“Hi,” Harry whispered as he met Louis’ gaze. 

Fuck it, Louis thought as he grabbed Harry’s wrist and tugged him close enough to be able to lean in and kiss one of Harry’s dimples, which were both on display. This was the best day ever. 

“Easy, there, Louis,” chided their officiant, a smile on her face, “I didn’t tell you to kiss him yet.”

Harry grinned, big and dopey, just the way Louis liked. He leaned over, then and kissed Louis’ cheek, “missed you,” he whispered.

Louis wound their fingers together and turned them to face the woman that would finally be marrying them. 

“Thank you everyone who made it here today,” she started, “friends and family of Louis and Harry, we’re gathered here to join these two wonderful men in marriage.”

As Alice continued to speak, Louis started to zone out. The only thing keeping him focused on the moment was Harry’s hand in his. 

He just couldn’t believe they were finally there. After five amazing years together running a bookstore, raising a daughter that was the embodiment of perfection and raising a rambunctious and wild puppy, they were standing there. Five amazing years that had flown by in the blink of an eye. Five years that he could remember, with six more than he had memorized every detail of backing that up. There wasn’t very many people who could say they’d fallen in love with the same person twice, but Louis could say that. He knew that their marriage, that their life together would survive anything the world threw at them, because how could it not? They were connected on levels that maybe even he and Harry didn’t fully understand.

So it really only made sense that they’d taken the poetry that was their love story and flown their family and friends across the Atlantic Ocean to watch them get married on the beach that neither of them had ever gotten to see.

Meet Me in Montauk. 

So many years ago Harry had whispered those words, and that was a memory that Louis knew he’d kept. It was a memory that he’d understood the significance of when he’d scrawled the words across a scrap piece of paper and placed it on top of the box of mugs he’d hidden in the back of his closet. It was a memory that he’d kept when he’d found that note a month later and felt the weight of importance in the words so much that he’d named his store after them. 

And now, here they were, five more years and a million more challenges later, hand in hand on the same beach that had once torn them apart, getting married. Louis knew that a story like their’s could never truly end, because they would find each other in their next lives, too, but if he had to write down a fairytale ending for them? This would be it. Feet in the sand, daughter and family and friends by their side celebrating all the trials that had gotten them to that place. Every day with Harry was the happiest day of Louis’ life, but this one might just be the happiest.