The airport in San Salvador is small and colourful but nobody looks all that happy to be there. It's all of the worst parts of a tropical climate, the air humid and heavy and hot enough to make everyone sweat, no matter how lightly they're dressed. There aren't many people who look like tourists. Louis steps outside to find the sky a dull, murky grey and even though he'd known that Harry hadn't exactly gone on holiday, he'd been hoping for more of a paradise. He looks around for a taxi stand and finds nothing but a couple of old men leaning on decade old cars. He starts to make a joke about it, but realizes there's nobody to make a joke to, and that's probably the most disconcerting part. It's been years since Louis has done much more than go to the bathroom on his own.
It's an uncomfortable thought, even if the threat of swarming fans is non-existent here. Louis nods at a bloke wiping down a muddy-brown Datsun, shows him the address, and after a stilted negotiation they're on their way.
Two hours into the drive, Louis is genuinely starting to worry. He'd started to fall asleep in the car but then the roads had disappeared, and the Datsun began rocking like the sodding Titanic. They don't pass any other cars. Just sun-ravaged people walking barefoot alongside herds of livestock.
There's an embarrassingly egotistical moment when Louis wonders if the driver hasn't recognized him and kidnapped him. But then the Datsun shudders to a stop, and the bloke points off to the distance at what looks like a fairly modest house atop a small hill.
"That's it?" Louis says, wiping sweat out of his eyes. He respects that after what happened Harry needed to get away from it all, but Louis had been hoping perhaps he'd shacked up in a nice hotel with concierge service.
"Villa Flores," the driver says, nodding. He steps out of the car and the next thing Louis knows, his bag is sitting in the dirt.
"You can't drive me there?" Louis asks.
"No drive," says the driver. "You pay. American?"
"I'm British," Louis says, surprised that it isn't obvious. He hands the driver some cash, not even really sure if it's sufficient, but the bloke seems satisfied. It's hot as hell, but the muggy air is fresher now that he's out of the car. At least he only brought one duffel. He's not used to traveling light, but Niall had talked him out of real luggage. You're just going to bring him back, right?
The driver gives him rough directions to the house, basically pointing out the bits of mud to avoid. Louis shoulders his bag and starts off towards the house. It's quiet at twilight, and a bit windy, but it feels good after being on his arse for the past half-day.
The villa is blocked off by a retaining wall of rock and a mass of fountain grass. There's no discernable path. It took all of five minutes to pin down Harry's location when he'd finally decided he'd respected Harry's request for privacy for far too long, and it's taken a full two days and then some to actually get to him. Louis's tired and grumpy and worried and on top of all of that he can't even find the front door.
He starts to walk around the house, and when he reaches the side everything opens up in front of him, and there's a beach. A brilliant beach, actually, stretching as far as Louis can see in either direction.
There's a couple of kids down by the water, two little girls who see him and point, and for a moment he thinks he's been recognized because their faces light up at the sight of him and they run over. One is in baggy jean shorts and a pink shirt with a daisy on it. The other's wearing a swimsuit and sneakers. They both have long dark hair pulled back into ponytails.
"Hello," he says when they reach him, smiling with far more patience than he feels. "Erm, hola."
"Hola!" says one of the girls, and she takes off in rapid Spanish that Louis doesn’t have a hope of following. Languages were never his best. Niall and Harry were always so much better at picking things up.
"Inglés," says the other girl with an exaggerated eyeroll. "Ari?" she asks, holding one hand up in the air, as if to indicate someone tall.
Louis nods, pleased. "Yeah, love, thanks. He lives here, right?"
The girl nods and beckons him all the way around to the back, and then down some railroad tie steps on the other side, which lead to a rickety wooden porch with a set of sliding glass doors. It's too easy for him to imagine Harry as some sort of quirky pied piper for all of the local kids, and the idea of it makes him smile.
He turns to thank the girl but she's already pulled the doors open and let herself inside. "Wait," he says, then stops himself. He reckons there's not really any reason to wait, not for her at least. Louis draws in a steadying breath and follows behind her, steeling himself for seeing Harry for the first time in months.
He steps into a kitchen that's all dark wood and well-loved. There's fruit sliced on a cutting board on the counter and ugly art above the too-small fridge. The dishwasher is running. Three or four pairs of Harry's shoes are sat side by side next to the doorway Louis just came through. There's marks on the door jamb, height markers. The tallest one near Louis's waist says Carmen next to it.
It appears that Harry's been nesting.
The girl hoists herself up onto the counter, balancing on her stomach long enough to grab two slices of melon. She hops down, juice dribbling down her fingers, thrusts one sticky hand in Louis's direction and raises her eyebrows.
Louis blinks at her for a moment, the frown uncrumpling from his face. "Thanks, love," he says, then shakes his head when she keeps her hand out, stubby fingertips digging into the overripe fruit. She shrugs and stuffs the second piece into her mouth, chomps away happily.
Harry's things are scattered throughout the room, a familiar shirt draped over one of the rickety chairs, his iPod plugged into a set of plastic speakers. It feels lived in, but also bare in a way that's unlike Harry. Still, he's definitely here, and looks like he hasn't got plans to leave anytime soon.
Louis can change that.
The girl laughs gleefully. "Ari!" she shouts, mimicking him.
Louis makes a silly face for her and then steps further into the room. There's a doorway to the right of the kitchen and a stairway to the left. "Harry!" he yells again.
"ARI!" she crows, laughing even harder. Louis wipes at his face, pushing his sweaty hair off of his temple.
"He's not here, is that it?"
She grins at him. Louis looks up at the ceiling, then back down at her. "Harry," he says slowly, "¿no está?"
"Claro que no," she says, followed by a string of unintelligible sentences. Louis shakes his head.
"No comprendo," he says helplessly.
She giggles again, then makes a walking motion with her fingers. "Ca-mi-nan-do," she says slowly. Then she points at the glass doors leading out to the beach. Louis drops his duffel, nudging it against the wall with his foot, and heads out onto the porch.
The seaside is breathtaking. The sand is dark, nearly black in contrast with the pink sunset, and stretches right up to the weather-worn porch that juts out from the back of Harry's place. The shore is calm and quiet, but the surf about twenty meters out is a violent, wonderful mess. What a waste that Harry never liked surfing. He's got the perfect break in his bloody garden.
He cranes his neck to look up and down the beach, eyes straining in the dusk. All he sees are a couple of dogs digging around in the sand. "He's out here?" he starts to ask, but when he turns around, the girl is nowhere to be found. "Right," he says, shaking his head, and heads back inside to wait.
Not thirty minutes later and the sun has set, leaving the house completely dark. Louis doesn't much fancy sitting around in the dark, makes him feel more than a little creepy. He curses when he bangs his shin into a box on the floor as he feels around for a light switch. What the fuck kind of place is this? Remote, Robin had said. Louis can deal with remote. Louis can not deal with no electricity.
Eventually he stumbles back out onto the porch, guided by the light of his phone, which, sod it all, he needs to find an outlet for. There are a couple of big storm candles on the small wooden table though, so he lights them, only to have the wind blow them out seconds later. "Fucking fuck," Louis gripes. He'd come here prepared for a challenge. He'd figured Harry would be right mess. He hadn't really considered that he'd get here and not find Harry at all, and instead end up sitting on a dark porch all night.
He opens his text messages, starts typing out an update to Zayn, only there's no service. Louis laughs quietly to himself. Of course there's no service.
Something rustles above his head and he shines the blue light from his phone around only to see a tiny brown bat flutter away. Louis isn't proud of the instinctive yelp he let's out, and the cartoonish way he recoils. It's just a wee thing, and it's gone. But still. Bats.
Luckily the moon and stars are god damned incredible in the middle of nowhere, and as the night settles in, there's enough light from the sky for Louis to be able to see fairly well around the porch. He finds two big glass tubes, right, for the candles. A few flicks of his lucky lighter and he's got candlelight.
"Sick," he whispers to nobody. It actually is, and if he weren't a bit freaked out that he's alone in a foreign country with apparently no electricity and no means to communicate, he'd rather enjoy the crash of the waves, the reflection of the stars in the tidal pools along the shore, the balmy weather. He should have thought to ask that little girl when the last time she'd seen Harry was. Maybe he is on fucking holiday. Maybe Louis will sit out here waiting for him until he passes out from hunger or dehydration or bloody boredom.
Still, there are worse places he could be. Harry might just as well have fucked off to the arctic circle and Louis might have been sitting on a block of ice warming his fingers with wee like Survivorman. He'd still have gone, mind you, but given the choice, he's much happier here on this beach, under this gorgeous canopy of stars, and oh, hello, there's a hammock.
"Alright, Styles," he mutters as he kicks his shoes off. The hammock creaks when he lies back on it, but it's rather comfortable. It's probably a pretty good place to wallow in heartbreak, Louis figures. He closes his eyes and breathes in the salty air and waits.
* * *
He could use a wee, but Harry's here, just inside, and for some reason that makes him unaccountably nervous. It's ridiculous; Harry's the reason he's here, isn't he? Still, Louis gives himself a minute before he goes inside, taking deep breaths of sea air to calm himself.
He's not sure what he was expecting, but Harry looks much as he usually does. His hair is longer than it was when he left, and he's got it pulled into a ponytail on top of his head. Instead of the skin tight jeans and jumpers he used to favor he's in loose jean shorts and a ragged blue t-shirt with paint stains on it. There's nothing immediately obvious about him that telegraphs that he's become the kind of person who can just opt-out of the world so easily.
It's been ages since Louis has heard his voice, but he sounds the exact same. He's got new tattoos, his left arm almost a full sleeve now, and a few more lines around his eyes than Louis remembers. He's got a tan that looks patchy and well-earned instead of the spray ones he fancied for so long and he's filled out a bit. He looks good.
"How long've I been out?" Louis asks. His voice is rough.
Harry shrugs, not looking at him. "Dunno when you got here. Two hours since I've been home."
Louis scrubs a hand over his face, yawning. "I'm not saying you weren't easy to find, mate, but."
Harry doesn't answer him, keeps his back to Louis.
"Reckon that was the point," says Louis. It's a bit more goading than he'd like to be, but he didn't come here expecting to find Harry cooking dinner and making fruit salads for neighborhood kids. He only brought enough clothes for two days, and he's got a flight booked for the both of them back to London. "Nice digs."
"Beer?" Harry says, gesturing towards the refrigerator. "I picked some up for you."
Louis pads over to the fridge and takes two beers out, twists off the caps and sets one down next to Harry. He takes a long sip and thinks about what Harry's said. "You knew I was coming?"
Harry snorts. "It's not like I was holding my breath. Carmencita told me there was a man on my porch."
"Helpful," Louis says. "Who is she, anyway? Let herself right in."
"I bought this place from her mum. She's got a little sister and an older brother, too."
I bought this place. Louis lets the words settle in his brain before deciding to work around them. "The little one doesn't speak much English."
"Adriana. Doesn't really need to, does she?" Harry asks, finally turning to face him properly. His shoulders are a bit hunched and he's eyeing Louis like a hawk and Louis can't tell if he's being regarded as prey or a threat. He's used to being able to read Harry. "Why were you asleep in the dark?"
Louis shrugs, setting his beer on the counter and shoving his hands into his pockets. It's a little chilly now that the sun's gone down. "Couldn't find the switch."
"Mm," says Harry.
They regard each other quietly until the silence starts to make Louis twitchy.
"That all? Not gonna show me—"
"What're you doin' here, Lou?"
Louis lifts an incredulous eyebrow. "What do you think I'm doing here? No one's heard from you in months. Your dad and Robin—"
"I still talk to them both," Harry says. His voice is oddly bland.
"Well they wouldn't tell me shit about you."
Harry tilts his head. "Is there something in particular you need to know?"
Louis stares at him, waiting for the punch line, but Harry just stands there with his fist clenched tight around his beer bottle, looking mildly interested. Louis looks away and laughs lightly, crossing his arms over his chest. "Mostly if you're ever coming home?"
Harry takes a slow swallow of beer, wipes his mouth. "Why does that matter?"
"Why?" Louis asks, incredulous. "Because we miss you." He gestures vaguely with his hands, unsure what kind of motion would best communicate I can't live without knowing you're okay. "That might possibly be more clear to you if you checked email every now and then."
Harry blinks. "Don't have a computer."
Louis huffs, annoyed. "Who uses a computer for email?" He takes a steadying breath, reminds himself of his goal. "Look, I get that you needed some time. Some space." He looks around. "Some, I don't know, friendly mum to take you in, but—"
"I'm not looking for anyone to take me in," Harry says, turning his face to look out the window at the shore. "I'm on my own, I know that."
Louis flinches ever so slightly. Harry's not—well, he's only on his own if he chooses to be. That's not what Louis wants for him. Harry seems so detached and that's not okay. Louis has to fix this. "You're not," he says softly, "I didn't mean—"
Harry shakes his head, like the thought is leaving him entirely, and turns his back on Louis. "Nobody means anything."
Louis swallows down a lump in his throat, feeling awkward all of a sudden. It's quiet, even with the crash of the waves. Louis has always hated awkward silences, always filled them up with some sort of nonsense. He lets this one drag out, until Harry stops staring out the window and seems to remember that Louis is here. Some of the tension eases out of his shoulders and he backs up. He plucks his beer from the counter and takes a long pull off it, turning back towards the hob again to check on whatever he's put together for dinner. He doesn't speak again for a long moment.
"What do you want?" he asks eventually, voice low and soft.
"You already know."
Harry doesn't say anything to that, just turns and fixes Louis with a considering stare.
Louis sighs, fighting not to roll his eyes. "I want you to come home."
Harry's expression remains blank. "Did you have a meeting about it?"
Louis flushes. "If by a 'meeting' you mean did your friends get together and talk about how worried we all are about you, and how much we—"
"The thing is, this is not a business decision," Harry interrupts. "This is my life."
It's almost funny, how widely that accusation misses the mark. "For fuck's sake, Harry. You're our brother," Louis says, waving his hands in the air. "Fuck business, all right? It's not about that. We want you to come home."
"You're not listening, mate," Harry says, sounding exasperated. "This is home, now."
Louis shakes his head, crossing his arms over his chest. His heart is pounding. "This? What about London? You have friends and family and a life. You can't just up and leave forever because—"
"Because?" Harry demands. His voice is still flat, but his cheeks have gone flushed and splotchy. Apparently he's still in there somewhere.
Louis digs his blunt fingernails into his arms and prays for patience. "Running away isn't going to bring them back."
The words seem to hang in the air, the subject still too painful to discuss. Louis swallows down the lump in his throat, remembering the day he'd gotten the call, the way Harry had looked at the funeral. It's downright unfair, is what it is, and there's not much Louis wouldn't give to somehow fix it, but that's not going to happen. The best he can do is get Harry through this. Get him back home.
"I'm not running away," Harry sighs, leaning against the counter. "I know you think you're doing the right thing. And I know it's inconvenient for you that I'm here. But I'm staying."
Well then. Truth be told, Louis hadn't actually expected it to be easy, but he had actually expected Harry to put up more of a fight. Something he can work with, rather than this weird, numb attitude. He shakes his head and takes a deep breath. "Harry—"
"You don't have to pretend that's not what's going on here," Harry says mildly, gesturing between them with the beer bottle.
Louis raises his hands, palms out. "I won't. You've got it all right. It's extremely inconvenient for me that you're here. For all of us, really," Louis muses. "But mostly for me, because Harry, I," and now Louis's shoulders drop, frustrated. "I love you and I can't look after you from a fucking world away. I can't get secondhand updates, or emails. I need to make sure, see?"
It's all true, all things Louis had been prepared to say, but in the moment he feels unaccountably vulnerable.
Harry blinks slowly, his face impassive. "You can't look after me all the time, Lou."
"I can bloody well try," Louis grits out. "So I don't care if you go to London or if you go to Los Angeles or if you go to Glasgow, I just need you someplace where I can keep an eye on you. And this place is too hard to do that." He shrugs helplessly. "I can't even turn on the damn lights."
Harry snorts at that, amused despite himself. "Just pull," he says quietly, pointing at the metal chain hanging from the kitchen light.
"Okay, alright, there's electricity," he allows, refusing to let his own incompetence distract him from the point. "Still too remote for my liking."
The half-smile drops away from Harry's face. He's not as distant as he had been, but his expression closes up, going from fond to blank in the blink of an eye. "You can leave whenever you like," Harry says, politely.
Louis sighs. "You can as well, you know."
Harry stills for a moment, then nods slowly. "I know. But this is what I want right now. If you're—if you want what's best for me you'll respect that."
Louis tilts his head in acknowledgement, even though he can't really accept that Harry living alone in some remote part of the world is what's best for anyone. He'll let it lie for now. He hadn't really expected to pull off a same-day extraction. He can make two pairs of pants last for a week if he needs to. He nods towards the small hob behind Harry. "Well what I want right now is some dinner that isn't completely charred—"
"Oh fuck," Harry hisses, eyes going wide with panic. He spins around and flips the steaks with his fingers, sucking the tips into his mouth after to soothe the burn.
"See? You're a bleeding mess, Harry Styles." Louis points a finger at him knowingly. "You need me."
The silence that follows is tense, more loaded than Louis had expected from one flippant comment. Harry looks uncomfortable when he gestures with a tilt of his head toward the small dining room table. "Might as well make yourself useful and set the table."
Louis spent eighteen years with this as one of his only chores. He nods. "All right, yeah. Is it just us, or are your little friends joining?"
"Just like old times," Louis says, watching for a reaction. Harry doesn't seem to notice he's said anything at all. Louis frowns.
He sighs and pulls cutlery from a drawer in the kitchen island and plates from the cupboard. The table is nicked and drawn-on and covered in condensation rings, so he doesn’t bother with placemats or coasters. He fills two glasses with water from the tap, and by the time he's set them on the table Harry is carrying over a plate with the steaks and a bowl with enough salad for two.
It's awkward as hell in a way it's never been between them, at least for Louis. Harry seems perfectly content to sit quietly, though, and eat his way through his salad and an orange from the fruit bowl. After ten minutes Louis clears his throat pointedly.
"Niall's got producer credits on the new McFly," Louis tries. Everyone loves Niall. Harry will want to know.
"Mm," Harry murmurs, his tone neutral. He tilts his head and swirls the water in his glass around. The silence rankles Louis but he tries to keep his mouth shut, determined to get Harry to say something. Anything.
Instead, Harry pushes his food around on his plate, keeps his eyes down. All but pretends Louis isn't even there. Louis narrows his eyes at him, gives him a good once over. The cut of Harry's jaw is sharper now, absent any of his usually lingering softness. He's not skinny, really, his shoulders look broad and strong but he's wiry in a way Harry's never been, angles jutting out everywhere. Everything about him seems different, and Louis doesn't like it.
"Eat your steak," Louis mutters, despite his attempts to keep quiet. "Can't just live on oranges, mate."
Harry drops his fork with a sigh and fixes Louis with a sour look. "Stop babying me."
"Stop being such a baby," Louis shoots back, because Harry knows the silent treatment drives Louis insane.
Harry rolls his eyes and pushes his chair back, carrying his plate to the sink. He makes a show of pushing his steak into the disposal and then drops his plate loudly. Louis almost wants to laugh, but he chews on his lip instead.
Harry leaves the room and for a moment, Louis thinks he's not going to come back, but he does, carrying a bundle of bed linens and a pillow. "There's a bed in there, I think," he says, voice still pleasant but it sounds a bit forced now. He nods his head towards the door on the other side of the kitchen and thrusts the linens out towards Louis.
Louis snorts and shakes his head, standing to face Harry. He doesn't take the bedding right away. "You're a shit host, you know that?" he says, tilting his head.
"You're a shit guest," Harry says in a sudden rush, before he can think better of it. He shoves the linens into Louis's chest. "Showing up uninvited."
Louis doesn't even blink when he draws his hands up and shoves the bedding down abruptly, forcing Harry to drop them to the floor. Harry shakes his head slightly, huffs as he turns away. "Right then, suit yourself," he says, voice resigned.
Everything about him is wrong. Louis sees the slump of Harry's shoulders and something hurts inside him. He's never missed Harry more than standing right here next to him.
Without thinking it through, Louis crowds up behind Harry, wrapping his arms cautiously around Harry's chest from behind. He feels small, not able to hold Harry tightly enough to make it a good hug, but Harry doesn't push him off, and Louis doesn't let go. "Love you," he breathes into Harry's shoulder, squeezing for good measure.
He feels Harry's hands on his, feels Harry lean in to the hug and yes, there's his boy, still in there underneath all of this hurt. It's a long moment before Louis realizes Harry's not going to say it back to him. That's fine. He'll keep trying in the morning.
"Think about maybe eating something solid for breakfast tomorrow, huh?"
"Goodnight, Louis," Harry says, wriggling out of Louis's arms and loping up the stairs toward his room. Louis watches him go, and waits until he hears the door click shut before he hauls the bed linens off the floor and ventures into the other bedroom.
He's spent the last seven years in the lap of luxury, hotels that cost more than his childhood home or in his home that costs more than his childhood town. Even their bunks on the tour buses were swanky. The bed in Harry's beach hide-away looks musty and a bit weird. Louis tosses the blankets on it, strips down and crawls right in. It's lumpy and almost impossibly comfortable. The breeze is nice coming in through the screened-in window and there's just enough noise that Louis's eyelids feel heavy almost immediately. He feels small and humbled, and he curls up underneath the blankets and falls right to sleep.
* * *
"Fucker," says Louis, and yawns defiantly at Harry's closed door.
He wanders outside to wee, trips over a few weird shrubs and stumbles across a roomy, partially blocked in outdoor shower. It's probably intended for washing off sand, but Louis hasn't had a shower in two days and he really doesn't have much shame in the first place. He goes back inside to grab some clothes and toiletries from his rucksack and sets them on the small bench outside the shower, and strips off his pants. The water doesn't get scalding hot like he tends to prefer but it feels fucking fantastic anyway. He'll take some time in here, wash and condition his hair, even, and then he'll go inside and make breakfast. Maybe Harry can be enticed into some protein by the scent of bacon.
He's just rinsing off, head back and his dick half-hard, idly rubbing low at his abdomen when he sees something, a brief shadow of movement. Someone's watching him. He squints through the water and keeps going through the motion of his shower, slightly panicked. There's a shallow balcony above him, must be just off of the master bedroom because Harry is there, not looking out at the sea, not waving down at him, just watching him quietly.
Louis looks away quickly, heart pounding. Harry had been looking right at him, but Louis doesn't acknowledge any of it. Tries not to think about how alien the blank expression on Harry's face seemed, especially unsettling given Louis's completely starkers. The unfamiliar inability to read Harry's reaction unsettles Louis, makes his skin prickle, goosepimpling even in the warm water. He should make a joke, probably. Call Harry out on being a peeping Tom.
Instead he ducks his face into the spray and focuses on the feeling of the water sluicing down his back, tries not to wonder what Harry's thinking, if he's thinking anything at all. He's probably just zoned out, not even really looking at Louis, just—
"For fuck's sake," Louis swears quietly to himself, shutting the water off abruptly and forcing himself to stop flexing like an arsehole. He grabs a thin towel and wipes at his face and hair before casually looking up, only to find that Harry's no longer there.
There are a pair of swim trunks drying on the deck, so Louis pulls them on slowly, stalling for no good reason before he goes back inside, still dripping from the shower. His chest deflates, the noisy 'good morning' that had been on the tip of his tongue dying when he sees no sign of Harry inside.
His pulse is still racing. Must be the warm weather.
He busies himself scrounging up breakfast. There's a juicer that looks simple enough, and some grapefruits and oranges so he sets about making some fresh-squeezed while he waits for the tea kettle. "Bugger," he hisses when an amazingly precise squirt of citrus hits him square in the eye.
Eventually he manages to come up with about a shot glass worth of juice, two cups of tea, a chunk of crusty bread and some very hard-boiled eggs. He brings it all out to the wooden table on the deck, sips his tea and waits.
The view of the surf is mesmerizing. The ocean break is rather unusual here, a long stretch of shallow flats so calm it looks like a mirror, and then about twenty meters out are perfect barreling waves, easily two meters high as they curl towards the rock formation that stretches out into the sea. As the sun rises further into the sky the surf picks up, peaks going higher and crashes getting louder. There are two surfers out there, no wetsuits, trading off rides.
They've got boards, Louis notes. There's got to be a shop around here somewhere.
"Hey, Harry," he calls out, forgetting somehow that he wasn't just in the middle of a conversation. "S'there a surf shop nearby?"
Like an idiot, he waits a good minute for a response before remembering that Harry's still upstairs. Not sleeping. Apparently.
The eggs and tea have long gone cold, and there's a large fly sitting on the rim of the juice glass. Louis shakes his head and stands, stretching his arms over his head and peeking surreptitiously at the balcony above him. Harry's not there.
"Right," he says, then marches inside and clomps loudly up the stairs. "Harry," he yells, knocking indelicately at the bedroom door. "I made you breakfast and I need you to come appreciate it."
When there's no answer, Louis turns the knob and opens the door.
The bed's enormous, but an absolute mess, sheets half-strewn onto the floor like someone had been thrashing around all night. There are clothes strewn into piles in the corners of the room and hanging from the door to the bathroom. Harry's not here.
He must have gone for a run or walk or something, probably while Louis was finishing up his shower, but it makes Louis uncomfortable. He doesn't like Harry being mysterious. Not with him, anyway.
"What are you doing, mate?" Louis murmurs into the empty room, kicking at a pillow that's been flung to the floor. He's never been much for housework but Louis is tempted to sort things out in Harry's room, make the bed and fold his clothes and do whatever it bloody takes to fix things.
He starts by stripping the bed, tossing all of Harry's rumpled clothes in the pile of sheets and hauling it all downstairs to launder.
* * *
* * *
He sits on the porch at dusk and watches the locals surf until he can't stay awake any longer.
* * *
"Alright, alright," Louis mumbles as he hauls himself out of bed and pads over to the door leading out to the beach. As soon as he pulls it open, Harry stumbles into him, reeking of bad whiskey.
"Shit," Harry breathes as he knocks into Louis, trying and failing to steady himself with big hands on Louis's shoulders. "You're still fuckin' here." Louis snorts. He's asleep on his feet but when Harry's like that, baiting him instead of being all passive and numb, he's tempted to engage. Harry's been through a lot, but it's harder for Louis to bite his tongue in the middle of the bleeding night, after Louis has spent the past two days cleaning Harry's crap house, wondering if Harry was ever going to come back.
"Lucky for you," he rasps, voice hoarse from sleep. "Had me worried sick." He gets an arm under Harry's and guides him inside, tugs on the kitchen light with his free hand. "Where've you been?" he demands, then cringes at how entitled that sounds.
Harry squints mulishly into the light and Louis gets a good look at him, stomach sinking when he spots a couple of dark bruises around the base of Harry's neck. Of course Harry's been getting laid. He won't talk and he won't eat properly and he won't engage in his actual fucking life, but he's still very fucking capable of charming the pants off of whoever he likes.
"Yeah, I'm still fucking here," Louis says again, swallowing down the urge to drop Harry right on the freshly swept floor. It's none of his damned business who Harry shags, but Louis has been worried sick for him, struggling too much with the language to get any information from the locals and nearly killing himself while trying to cook and Harry's been fine. Louis has been doing laundry and Harry's been out on the pull. It feels like a betrayal.
He should just leave Harry right here in the kitchen and go back to sleep. He should get up in the morning, pack his things and head back home. He should be living his own life, but he's not because he's here. Because Harry needs him.
What Harry needs at this particular moment, however, is a bed, a tall glass of water and some paracetamol. Louis sighs and drags Harry up the stairs, guiding him towards the bedroom. He sits Harry down on the side of the bed and helps him out of his clothes. It's not very graceful, but Louis is shamefully relieved when he doesn't find any lovebites below Harry's neck. His skin is yellowish, pale beneath the tan, his stomach too tight. "Have you eaten anything today?"
Harry keeps his eyes closed, hasn't said a word since his charming greeting when he first came in, not until Louis tips him back towards the pillow and pulls away to go fetch a glass of water.
"No," Harry mumbles, shaking his head jerkily as he tightens his hand around Louis's forearm.
Louis frowns at him. "I can bring you some dry toast. Anything other than that—"
"No, no," Harry insists, gripping Louis's arm harder. "Stay."
There's no reason at all for the request to please Louis the way it does. Harry probably doesn't even remember who he's talking to. He's absolutely pissed. "Yeah, fine," Louis says, stupidly encouraged that Harry wants him, needs him for a change. "Let me just get you—"
Harry pulls tighter, dragging Louis down onto the bed with him. His breath reeks of booze, his skin is sweaty and flushed, hair a tangled mess. "No. Just stay," he murmurs. "Please. Don't leave."
The lump in Louis's throat is the only thing that keeps him from pointing out that Harry has nothing to worry about. Harry's the one who left, Harry's the one that Louis has chased halfway around the world for fear of losing him. Instead Louis slides down, tucks his feet under the duvet and lets Harry curl around him, heart breaking for him over and over again.
"Stay," Harry mutters again, breathing hotly against Louis's ear. "Please."
Louis stays. He stays through the night, sweating under the weight of Harry's long arms and legs. He stays through the sunrise, through Harry's fitful tossing and turning. He stays when Harry wakes up with a groan, helps Harry stumble to the toilet, holds Harry's limp hair away from his face while he vomits.
He's stroking Harry's back, shushing him while Harry heaves and shakes, when Louis realizes how massively fucked he is. It's just past dawn and he doesn't know what day it is and he doesn't much care. He hasn't even thought about leaving in days.
He can see the sun rise over the sea through the bathroom window. "Gorgeous waves this morning," he muses absently while he rubs circles into Harry's shoulders. "Can't believe you just happened upon a perfect break." Harry clutches weakly at his wrist, and Louis shushes him gently. "Yeah, yeah, I know. M'right here."
If he's not careful he'll cross a line here. The way Harry's holding on to him, like Louis is his lifeline, feels like a victory but it's not. He pulls Harry up, wipes at the wetness under his eyes, laughs quietly at his runny nose. He's a bloody wreck and Louis would go to the ends of the earth for him. Has done, in fact. He pats at Harry's face softly. "Let's get you cleaned up, shall we?"
Harry leans against the wall, breathing unevenly as Louis readies the shower and slips out of his own sleep clothes. He steps in first, testing the water, and then pulls Harry in carefully after him. Even so, Harry stumbles, groggy. He's all red-rimmed eyes and slumped shoulders but he's still so lovely. Louis has to bite his tongue to keep from saying as much, knows that this is one of those times when Harry needs him to be quiet and just there with him. For him.
Harry tilts into him, head down, warm spray of water massaging his neck and shoulders. He looks awful, exhausted and sick and sad and drunk but he's also very, very naked. And wet. And bloody gorgeous.
It's a shit thought to have while his friend is such a mess. When Louis reaches for the shampoo, Harry clumsily grabs at his arm, keeping him close. "Easy," Louis murmurs as Harry sways unsteadily again. "I've got you."
Harry ducks his head down again, resting his forehead on Louis's shoulder as Louis washes his hair. When Louis tugs his head back so that he can rinse the shampoo away, Harry presses closer, close enough that their bellies slip-slide together. His arms come around Louis's waist and hold there, making it awkward for Louis to keep washing him. It's just—a hug. The kind of hug where they're naked and wet and Harry's sullen and barely sober but his cock is warm and thick against Louis's hip.
Louis exhales and drops his hands down from Harry's hair, trails his fingers around Harry's shoulders. "You're okay," he says quietly into Harry's ear before pressing a gentle kiss to the wet skin of Harry's neck. He means it to be calming, mostly.
Harry lets out a soft noise and shuffles forward, clutching Louis tighter. Louis has to close his eyes, conflicted even as his own prick stiffens up and slips against Harry's skin. It feels too good when Harry starts to move against him, jerky little shifts of his hips, his dick swollen and needy. Louis wants to touch him, but he's not sure if he wants to do it for Harry or if touching Harry is just something he wants to do for himself. Something he never fully got over.
Louis opens his eyes, blinks through the steam of the shower and hooks his thumbs under Harry's jaw, opening his mouth against the dampness of Harry's skin—not kissing him but breathing him in. Smelling him and tasting him and feeling him safe and sturdy and close. "You're all right," he says again, trying to soothe Harry even as Harry clutches at him harder. Louis clings to his neck, presses his face against Harry's hot cheek and murmurs things to him that he hopes Harry won't remember later. "That's it, sweetheart," he breathes, lips against the shell of Harry's ear when Harry slides their cocks together. "Fuck, I've missed you so much."
"Lou," Harry chokes out, stumbling back into the tiled wall and pulling Louis with him. He scrabbles at Louis's arse, one hand dipping low and tugging at Louis's thigh, and if he's asking for something, for anything, then Louis's answer is a resounding yes. It's impossible to know who needs this more, everything about them is irreversibly tangled together.
He doesn't resist when Harry turns him roughly, letting Harry spin him so that he's facing the tile with Harry curled around Louis's back. His face is tucked against Louis's neck, his breathing harsh and shuddery in Louis's ear, and Louis can feel the vibration of Harry's groan when his hard cock pushes up through the split of Louis's arse. He thumps forward with purpose, cockhead snagging at Louis's rim and pushing there clumsily like he's trying to fit himself inside. "Hang on," Louis pants, arching back against Harry despite himself. "Wait, Harry."
Harry buries his mouth against the nape of Louis's neck and sucks, even as he pushes Louis's face harder into the cool, wet tile and keeps grinding into Louis's arse. Louis gasps when Harry goes back at him, fat knob threatening to pop inside. "Oh god," Louis breathes, equal parts turned on and terrified. Harry's fucking big and Louis hasn't been fucked in years and they don't have lube or a condom and they should really just get to the bedroom, but—
Louis goes up on his toes and lifts his hips, pushing his arse out for Harry, helping his leverage.
"Fuck," Harry groans, his voice breaking on the word like it's too much. He clutches at Louis greedily, grabs the meat of his arse and pulls him open so that he can fuck up against him with quick, brutal thrusts. His cock prods relentlessly at Louis, snubs at his hole and presses, presses but then slides away. Harry lets out a frustrated little cry, fucking against Louis faster and faster and bloody hell, Louis wants him so much. He comes before he makes it inside, the hot splatter of it sliding over Louis's empty hole. Louis clamps down, so hungry for Harry, even like this.
Harry drops his forehead onto Louis's shoulder, panting into his skin as he fits his fingers along Louis's flank, petting him mindlessly. Less than a minute passes before Harry parts his cheeks and fits the tips of two fingers inside of Louis's arse, pressing his own slick come in with slow, curious strokes. "Jesus," Louis mutters when Harry's long fingers slip in further, touching him deep inside.
He tries to push off the wall, get them out of the shower and to the bed before his own knees give out, but Harry grunts and holds him by the back of his neck, keeping him pinned.
"Harry," Louis pants softly, "Can we do this without me fucking whoever else you've fucked recently?"
Harry's grip on his hips isn't so tight anymore and Louis squirms away, eyes fluttering when Harry's fingers pull out of his bum. He pauses to fight through the want, get his head on straight again. "S'quite enough of that, I think."
He turns around and walks Harry back under the spray, pours a bit of soap into his palm and washes the come off Harry's fingers and his own arse. Harry's glassy-eyed, mouth red and shiny, hair so much longer when it's wet. He looks bloody exhausted and even though he's just come there's a painful looking tension in his posture. Louis turns off the water and manhandles him out of the tub.
"Out you get."
He gets them dried off, tucks Harry into bed and then goes to turn the light off in the bathroom.
"What're you doing?" Harry's voice is gruff and hoarse and makes Louis pause where he's lifted the quilt and started to slide into the bed next to him.
"Lying down?" Louis says, confused. "Why? Do you need something? Want me to bring you a tea?"
"You should go to your own room," Harry says quietly.
Louis rolls his eyes, glad that Harry's turned on his side and can't see him do it. "Make me," he says, snuggling down into the pillows.
Harry doesn't, of course, couldn't even manage to drag his own arse up one flight of stairs. He doesn't acknowledge Louis at all. Just curls into his pillow and pretends the events of the past few hours never happened, from the looks of it.
Louis must doze off, because the sun's much brighter when he feels the mattress dip under Harry's weight. "H?" he askes, groggy for a moment. "Y'alright?"
Harry's quiet for long enough that Louis turns and peers at him, just to check. He looks better, good even. The color's returned to his skin, his mouth is wet and red and his long hair is tucked behind his ears. He's staring at Louis, and the simple fact of that makes Louis light up inside.
"Times'it?" Louis rasps. He fumbles around for Harry's phone on the bedtable, only to have Harry rather childishly knock it out of his hands. "Here we go," Louis sighs like he's put-out, but he's rather excited to finally get into it with Harry.
"Why are you still here?"
"Fine," Louis says, "I'll go downstairs. Stingy."
He makes a show of sitting up in the bed but Harry shoves him back down with a bit more force than is strictly necessary, especially given that Louis has zero desire to actually get out of Harry's bed. "No, you don't have to—I mean," he looks more anguished than Louis has seen him in days. "You washed my fucking shorts," Harry bites out, one part confused and one part angry about it.
Louis does blush a little at that. "I washed a lot of things," he says, defensively. "Everything was a tip. You should be thanking me."
"I'm not going to thank you," Harry says sharply, hands gripping at Louis's arm as he knees up closer on the bed. "I'm never going to thank you, so if that's what you're waiting for—"
"I'm not in any particular rush," Louis says, yawning into his hand even as his stomach flips. Every misguided, knobhead comment Harry makes is one step closer towards getting him back. He'll take what he can get.
He can see the angry tick of Harry's jaw when he leans closer. "You're not gonna find what you're looking for here, Lou."
Harry's fingers are burning into his skin, and his breath smells minty. It's an oddly considerate thing to do, brushing one's teeth before telling someone you want them to leave you forever. In bed.
Louis scrunches his nose in mock-confusion. "But I've already found you?"
"How lucky for you," Harry laughs unhappily. "It's so fucking great that you've come here and found some sort of surf-induced zen in my bloody guest room. I'm really glad for you."
Louis tilts his head. "Really? Because you don't sound all that glad."
"Don't you see that you're making everything worse?" he wails, and yes, Louis can work with melodrama. Louis thrives on it.
He arches his brow. "Everything? I bet that was the best shower you've had in awhile."
Harry's cheeks flush, and for the briefest moment time rewinds, and he's the teenager who'd blush at every suggestive comment Louis made. He coughs and shakes his head, frowning intently. "You're going to leave," Harry says, trying for a bored, casual tone but the break of his voice betrays him. "You'll leave, eventually." His grip on Louis's shoulders gets tighter, starting to actually ache now. "After all, 'you can't just run away,'" Harry mimicks. "'You have a life in London.' Right?"
Louis shrugs as best he can with Harry bearing down over him. "I've got a mate here. Weather's nice." He raises his eyebrows a little and says, "Oh, did I tell you I made a meatloaf? You had some over-ripe tomatoes and some beef in the icebox, so I looked up a recipe on my phone and it was," he frowns, pausing for a moment. "Well it was fucking foul, if you want the truth, but I didn't burn the kitchen down, so there's that."
It's a shock when Harry grabs him by the throat. He doesn't squeeze, but the feel of Harry's long fingers holding him there sends Louis's pulse skyrocketing. He hopes Harry can feel it, hopes that it proves to Harry he's real, that there's permanence between them. "Why are you acting like this," Harry hisses. "Why are you acting like everything is okay? Like we're flatmates or boyfriends or something, off on holiday together?"
Louis's cheeks flush hot, but he sticks his chin out, defiant. "If we were boyfriends I might've been upset that you went out and fucked someone else before I washed up your vomit."
Harry blinks down at him, puzzled until Louis traces a hand over the lovebites on Harry's neck. "Oh," he says, his hand still circling Louis's neck. "Oh, are you—? Are you jealous?"
Louis swallows, Adam's apple shifting against Harry's palm. Harry laughs, a quick disbelieving chuckle.
"Turn over, then," Harry says, slow and quiet.
Louis blinks up at him, heart in his teeth.
"If that's what you want, I can give it to you," Harry murmurs. "Then you can leave."
Louis shakes his head against the pillow, feeling the way Harry's fingers drag against the skin of his neck. "You think a shag's gonna make me want to leave? Do you not remember what sex was like with us?"
Harry swallows thickly and looks away for a moment. Then he's back, shifting his hands under Louis's shoulders and rolling him roughly onto his belly. "Turn. Over."
Harry tugs at the too-big pants that Louis had pulled on after their shower, making Louis hiss when the fabric catches on the head of his cock. "Why are you wearing my clothes all the time? What are you trying to do?"
"Why—?" Louis starts, then gasps when Harry slaps his arse, hard. He lifts his head to look over his shoulder, surprised, but Harry promptly pushes him back down, hand half-covering Louis's face. His other hand cups Louis's arse, spreads him open. Louis sucks in a breath and holds it when he feels Harry's thumb dragging down over his hole.
"I couldn't find the local Topman, mate." It's a miracle that Louis gets the words out without begging for Harry to get inside him. "Only packed for a day trip."
"Bullshit," Harry snaps, punctuating the sentiment with a swift spank right where Louis is spread open. It's fucking intense, and Louis can't help but wriggle, his cock stiffening up quickly. "You just—you've missed me so much," he mocks, bending down to fit his face right in the crook of Louis's neck. "Isn't that right, sweetheart?"
Louis arches up, helplessly aroused even as his face burns. "Sounded better when I said it," he mutters, then grits his teeth on a hiss when Harry slaps his arse again. "Okay, spanky, you don't like 'sweetheart'. I've got a million more. How about 'darling'?"
"Keep talking," Harry murmurs, slapping him once on the opposite arsecheek, where, for some reason, Louis hadn't been expecting it. His bum jiggles from the impact and the awareness of it makes him squirm, makes him rub his prick into the bedding. "Christ, look at you," Harry says, dropping down on top of Louis and fitting his hips right up against Louis's bum. He's naked, Louis realizes, his cock hot and stiff as it nestles against Louis's arse. "My whole fucking life's been turned upside down," he says, voice low and rough. "And all you wanna know is where my dick's been."
Louis opens his mouth to defend himself but Harry shoves his head down again, rough in a way he's never been with Louis before, and that's more than a little hot. Louis breathes unevenly into the soft pillowcase, struggling between wanting to retain some dignity and doing something, anything, that will make Harry hold him down and fuck him right the fuck now.
"Which is ironic," Harry continues, laughing softly as he reaches down and pushes two lube-slick fingers right inside, making Louis's arsehole burn with the sudden stretch, "seeing as the only person I've ever fucked like that," he says, "bare," on a whisper as he shoves a third, very thick finger inside, "is you."
Louis groans, can't keep it in. "God, Harry."
"Maybe I should be asking where you've been sticking yours," Harry whispers as he lines himself up, rubs the crown of his prick where Louis is the most sensitive, skin still hot from Harry's fingers.
"Maybe you should stop talking shite and fuck me already," Louis says on a rush, shifting his hips up so that Harry's cock presses at his rim and then squeezes past, breaching him.
"Fuck, Louis," Harry moans, curling over Louis's body and hunching inwards, dicking inside with jerky thrusts. He's big, but he feels huge, feels like he's going to break Louis in two. It's so bloody good that Louis doesn't even want him to slow down. "I hate this—the way you make me—I just—fucking hell."
Louis has to bite his lip to keep from saying anything else that Harry can poke fun of later, but it's all there, brimming behind his teeth, how much he doesn't hate this, how much he's missed everything about Harry, especially this. He shifts, spreads his legs, opens himself up and Harry just slides right home, bottoming out with one long fuck. "Christ," Louis hisses, fisting the sheets as his arsehole throbs.
"Too much?" Harry asks, gruff, and Louis shakes his head firmly. "You're so tight," Harry muses, thumbing at the tight skin stretched around his cock. "Haven't been—ah, fucked much lately, then?" He drags out slowly and then slams back in, knocking whimpering noises out of Louis with each thrust.
"Now who's jealous?" Louis manages, just before Harry squeezes his hips and pulls them up, getting Louis's arse in the air and fucking him ruthlessly. The angle gets Louis's dick bouncing, slapping against his belly and thighs. Harry drives straight down into him, going way deeper and faster than Louis can really handle, and it would hurt, does hurt, but it also feels so good, Harry fucking him sore, Harry focused on him, Harry.
Harry gets worked up fast, starts pounding into Louis so frantically that he can't even keep up with the banter, can't do more than sink his teeth into Louis's shoulder and groan, fuck, you take it so good, and always so good. It's apparently so good that it makes him angry, because the more riled up Harry gets the rougher he is with Louis, big hands alternating between pressing him down into the pillows so that he can barely breathe and gripping his arsecheeks so hard Louis's eyes go wet from the sting.
The pain is real, but so is Harry for fucking once, and Louis cherishes both.
He goes down on one shoulder so that he can hold his cock, means to hold it still to reduce the friction but it feels so bloody brilliant that he ends up stroking himself off in a halting, gaspy rhythm. He can't stop himself from crying out each time Harry nails him deeper, bites him harder, and he can't fight off his orgasm for more than a few minutes, good feeling curling in his toes and shuddering through his whole body. He shoots off in the sheets he's just laundered while being fucked by his first love. It's all very overwhelming and domestic.
"Shit," Harry gasps, slowing down so that he can feel at Louis's wet cock. "I wanted," he starts, but seems to have trouble continuing, too far gone to actually stop fucking Louis. "Shit," he mutters again, letting the full weight of his body drop down on Louis and hooking his arms under Louis's chest, hauling him in tight. He fucks Louis relentlessly, half-drags out followed by jack-rabbiting screws back in, over and over until he's breathing so hard Louis wonders if he'll need his inhaler. It's not just Harry's big cock—everything about him is bigger, stronger, better able to fuck all of his pain away. Louis is sore as fuck, probably will have to sit gingerly for the next day or so, but the way Harry's fallen into him now feels amazing, and he'd let Harry shag him for days like this.
Harry trembles when he comes, not subtly at all but rather waves of shuddering, gasping cries as he holds himself deep inside and fills Louis with beat after beat of come. Louis wraps his arms around Harry's over his chest and holds his boy as best he can while Harry pins him to the bed.
He winces when Harry slips out, but doesn't say a word when Harry continues to cling to him and breathe in big, choking sobs.
* * *
He trudges up the beach, stomach flipping like wet laundry when he sees Harry sitting shirtless on the porch, watching him. His hair is damp from a shower and his feet are bare, along with most of his body, save for his pants. There's a plate of freshly cut fruit on the old wooden table, and only one fork. Harry's squinting into the sun, sunglasses perched unhelpfully atop his head.
"Nice board," he says, voice low enough that it takes a moment for the words to register with Louis.
He grins at the dinged-up surfboard he's been dragging up the sand, drops it fins-up on the beach and shakes the salt-water from his hair. "You like it? I got it from Esteban," he says, still mostly out of breath from the swim. When Harry just blinks at him, Louis frowns. "You know, Esteban. Little bloke? Long hair?" He holds his hand out to indicate Esteban's height. "Sick tattoo on his back?"
Harry clenches his jaw and looks away, shaking his hair out and swiping it behind one ear, the way he used to do when he was seventeen. "Yeah," he says, sounding tense. "I know Esteban."
He's quiet for a long moment, and Louis grabs a towel and wraps it around his waist. He sits down next to Harry on the bench and steals a piece of fruit. It's ridiculously sweet. "What is that, mango? Papaya?"
Harry swats at his hands, shooing him off. "Stop stealing my food," he gripes.
"I always steal your food," Louis says innocently. "Should I start acting differently just because we've had sex?"
Harry's eyes go wide for a moment before he looks out at the ocean. Louis grins at the side of his face. Sometimes, just sometimes, Harry is a little bit easy.
"So anyway, Esteban," Louis says eventually, "Nice lad. Can't hurt to make friends, I reckon."
Harry opens his mouth and Louis can practically see the protest falling from his lips. What's the point? You're not gonna be here long. Instead he bites his lip and stares pointedly off into the distance. Louis feels like this is a minor victory.
"Look," Louis says, popping another piece of fruit into his mouth. It tastes like mango. "You might as well get used to me being here." He lets the words hang in the air for a moment, watches as Harry tenses up, readies for his rebuttal. "The thing is," he says, wiping his hair back from his face. "It's too hard missing you."
There's more to say, but the words suddenly stick in Louis's throat. He cuts himself off, lets Harry make of that what he will. There will be time for more conversation.
Harry ducks his head down, stares at his hands. The wind pushes his hair back into his face, curls going unruly in the salty air. After a long moment he nods, ever so slightly.
It's not permission or reciprocation or thanks, but Louis doesn't need these things, it's not why he'd said it. He folds his hands on the shabby table and rests his chin on his arms, watching the ocean and feeling the afternoon sun dry the sea water from his skin. Harry tucks his knees up to his chest next to him, and it makes him look small all of a sudden. Instead of sullen he seems young and vulnerable, but he's here, they're here together, watching the waves. It's enough for now.