"I-I have to do this," Zayn stuttered as he looked at the four boys sat in front of him, varying expressions on their faces.
"No you don't, we can help you," Harry said quietly, the desperation evident in his voice as he stared at Zayn with unshed tears in his eyes.
"You could try, but the only thing that will fix this is l-leaving," Zayn sighed as he looked down at his hands. Liam was pacing the room, Niall wasn't saying a word. Harry was close to tears, and Zayn could notice the anger building in Louis' eyes as if he were feeling it himself.
"So you're just going to leave? Just like that?" Louis snapped, grabbing Harry's hand tightly from where he sat beside him.
"There's no point in continuing for me. You guys can continue, but the paperwork has already gone through," Zayn shrugged, as if it were no big deal.
That was what broke Harry's last bit of strength as he let out a sob, his tears beginning to fall as he wrenched his hand from Louis', quickly getting up and leaving the room, slamming the door to emphasise the silence he left in his wake.
"I-I'm sorry," Zayn whispered as he wiped a couple of his own tears, watching as Louis got up and headed in the same direction as his boyfriend. He paused at the door, turning to look at his best friend.
"When are you leaving?"
"In the morning, I think," Zayn replied quietly, almost wincing at the inhale Louis took.
"None of us blame you, Z. I understand, but I just..." He paused as he sighed, running a hand through his hair. "I don't know what to say to you." He simply said before he left the room, closing the door much more quietly than Harry had.
"He's right. Even if it hurts us, you have to do what's gonna make you happy," Niall sniffled as he moved to sit next to Zayn, wrapping him up in a hug.
"Why does it feel so shitty of me then, if it's what's right?" Zayn sniffled as he leant into Niall's chest, not responding as Liam came and sat on his other side, placing a comforting hand on his shoulder.
"It's just gonna hurt for a while, but it'll feel right anyway. It's just a lot," Liam sighed, wiping a couple of his own tears before leaning into Zayn, sighing as he sniffled again.
"I don't know what to say to them. I don't understand why they're taking it so much worse than you two, and I don't know what to say to make it better."
"Just... Give them time."
Louis found Harry in their own hotel room two doors down, slumped against the wall beside the door, sobbing into his knees that were tucked up underneath him.
"Oh sweetheart," Louis breathed as he shut the door behind him, instantly dropping down beside Harry and pulling him into his arms. Louis was feeling so many emotions at this particular time - sadness, grief, anger. The list could go on but right now? Harry needed him, and he would be damned if he left like his supposed best friend was.
"W-Why aren't we enough?" Harry choked out between sobs, gripping around Louis' chest like it was a lifeline, and in some ways, he might well have been in that moment.
"I don't know my angel, I don't know," Louis muttered as he rested his chin on top of Harry's head, his soft curls tickling his neck slightly.
He held Harry as he cried for near to an hour before he ran out of tears, instead sitting there sniffling and breathing heavily as he only seemed to rely on Louis further, having exhausted himself.
"How about a shower, Haz? Get freshened up a little bit," Louis suggested in the quiet of the hotel room that was now dark, the only light being from the window where the moon was beginning to make its appearance. Harry didn't respond, so Louis took control by getting up and hauling Harry to his feet, guiding him to the bathroom and turning on the shower.
"Did you want me to join you?" Louis asked, barely noticing the slight nod of the head that Harry gave as he stood in the middle of the bathroom, motionless.
"C'mon then, let's get in," Louis coaxed, gently undressing Harry before quickly shedding his own clothes and leading Harry into the shower. They didn't speak as they washed each other's hair, Louis spending a lot of time massaging Harry's scalp and mound of curls gently, keeping an impossible closeness between the two of them.
He dressed Harry without speaking, only kissing him softly, trying to reassure and comfort the younger boy in any way he could. He led him to the big bed, getting him to sit on it before quickly closing the curtains across the hotel windows. When he turned around, Harry was crying again, but quietly, almost silently from where he sat on the bed.
It was just as he was about to go to Harry that he heard a knock at the door. He knew it could only be one of three people.
Harry shook his head, moving from the bed to the bathroom quickly, clearly not wanting anyone to see him right now. Louis just sighed, opening the door enough that he could see who was outside.
The cause to their heartache.
"How is he?" Zayn asked quietly as Louis stepped out of the room, looking down the corridor to check there was nobody around before sighing again and turning his attention back to his former bandmate. His eyes were rimmed with red, and his cheeks were pinker than usual, a sure sign that he too had been crying.
"He's been better. We've been better," Louis corrected himself as he leant against the wall.
"Look, Lou, you have to understand-"
"I already told you I do man."
"No but you haven't let me explain-"
"Maybe because right now I don't want to hear your shitty excuses Zayn!" Louis exclaimed as he cut Zayn off. "Right now, it just seems like you only care about yourself. I get it, you have to put yourself first, but we have done everything to accommodate you these past few weeks! And after all of that, you're leaving us in the dust anyway? I heard you admitting to Liam that you never wanted to be in this damn group, so I don't know why you said yes in the fucking first place."
Louis didn't give Zayn a chance to reply before he was in the hotel room again, closing the door firmly in Zayn's face. His emotions were running laps in his mind, and he couldn't determine how he felt. His boyfriend was falling apart right in front of him, no doubt Liam and Niall were hurting too, and Zayn was just happy to leave in the morning? With no care of how his news had affected them?
"Please don't get angry Lou," Harry whispered, and that was when Louis noticed he was stood in front of him, looking impossibly small for a six foot man.
"I'm not angry love, never at you," Louis sighed, brushing a curl away from his face. "Think I might go down to the bar for a bit." Louis sighed, knowing that alcohol would help him to drown out his emotions for a while, which was exactly what he needed.
"Lou, no," Harry urged as he wiped his own tears off his cheeks. "Alcohol isn't going to solve anything."
"You don't know that," Louis said as he grabbed the hotel card from his table, shoving it in his back pocket as he shoved on a pair of trainers at the same time. He had spent all evening caring for Harry, and he loved him, but just like Zayn, if he didn't put himself first right now, he might just break.
And that wouldn't do good for him or Harry.
He left the room anyway.
Niall was the only one to see Zayn off at the airport the following morning. He knew Liam was still in his own hotel room. Liam wasn't crying, or angry. He understood exactly where Zayn was coming from, but he had to process things, and Niall didn't blame him.
As for Harry and Louis, well. Niall couldn't speak for them. The last he'd seen Louis was when he'd caught him walking briskly down the corridor, ignoring Harry's calls from where he was stood outside their hotel room. He knew Louis had gone to drink, but he also knew that if Louis didn't want to be found, he wouldn't be. Harry had gone into Liam's room for a while after that, knowing Liam's logical brain would be able to handle his irrational thoughts that he was swimming in. Niall had spent the night in Zayn's room, sleeping beside him in the bed, knowing it would be the last time for a while that he could do that.
"Please get them both to call me," Zayn pleaded as he turned around to face Niall at the gate. They both had their sunglasses on to hide their red eyes, sore from a lack of sleep.
"I'll try, Z. You know what they're like, they'll come round eventually," Niall sighed as he pulled Zayn into a tight hug.
"I hate leaving when it feels like the band is falling apart," Zayn sighed, pulling away slightly. "I hate knowing that it's all my fault."
"Hey, listen to me. We get it, alright? We want you to put yourself first, even if they can't say it yet, they know it, alright? Just... Don't become a stranger," Niall sighed as Zayn's flight was called for boarding, the two sharing another tight hug and a promise before he disappeared.
Niall took a few moments to compose himself in the car once he was alone. He wasn't ashamed to admit that he'd spilled a few more tears, after all, one of his best friends had just disappeared with no set time to see him again. He took the couple minutes of alone time before putting his sunglasses back on and pulling his seatbelt on.
Time to go and try and prevent his boys from falling apart.
"He didn't come back until 6am last night," Harry said to Liam the following morning as Niall entered the room, removing his sunglasses. They both knew where he had been.
"Maybe he needed it last night. It's not going to become a regular thing though," Liam sighed as Niall joined them on the freshly made bed, Harry staring into the white cup of tea they had ordered on room service.
"I don't blame him. I-I was a lot," Harry sniffled, putting down his cup of tea and staring at his hands instead.
"Hey, it's nothing to do with you Haz. He's just probably feeling some shit too, yeah? It's not because of you," Niall promised him as Harry shook his head, not believing the Irish boy for a second.
"Maybe if I hadn't been so clingy and needy though, h-he wouldn't have felt the need to leave and d-drink," Harry stuttered as he wiped his eyes furiously, knowing he was being ridiculous for crying again, knowing this was exactly what drove Louis away from him last night.
"No, Haz, no," Liam sighed as he pulled Harry into a hug, making the space between them even smaller.
"if I'm honest here, I think he was thinking about drinking from the moment Zayn said he was leaving, I don't think it was anything to do with you," Niall sighed as he leant back against the headboard, taking a sip of the tea that Harry had abandoned.
The three of them didn't speak for a while after that, Harry quietly crying into Liam's shirt as he shushed him, rocking from side to side as if he were a baby whilst Niall flicked through the TV channels to fill the silence of the room.
The quietness of the routine they'd fallen into was interrupted a couple of hours later by a knock at the hotel room door. Once Niall answered it, Louis followed him in, looking hungover as hell, having only had a few hours sleep.
"Oh good, you're safe," he mumbled when he noticed Harry half asleep in Liam's arms, his tears subsiding roughly an hour ago. He had exhausted himself again with his crying, plus the fact that he hadn't really slept after Louis left last night.
"You can't go out drinking and not tell any of us where you're going Lou," Liam sighed as he spoke quietly, trying not to disturb Harry.
"I couldn't tell you because I didn't have a plan." Louis shrugged as he sat down on the floor in front of the bed, avoiding eye contact with any of his bandmates. "Did he leave?"
No words were spoken, only a confirmed nod from Niall as Louis visibly deflated.
It was as if the dream had shattered - if he was still here, Louis could fool himself into believing it was all a joke, an illusion, a dream.
But he left. And he left Louis crashing back into reality with no safety net.
The following week was tough on all of the boys. They had to put out a statement about Zayn's departure, which neither Louis nor Harry wanted anything to do with. Harry was still in disbelief, and Louis was too angry to help make the statement. Niall and Liam had insisted that management had nothing to do with the statement, instead writing and putting one out three days after he left, before management could intervene.
Harry had become impossibly clingy to all three of the boys since Zayn had left, but particularly Louis. Which didn't work out well when Louis just wanted to go out and drink every night. Harry usually spent the night in Niall or Liam's room now, hating being alone after he and Louis had argued again about his drinking.
It was exactly a week from Zayn announcing his leaving that the boys had their next concert for the OTRA tour, and it was taking more of a toll on all of them than they had expected.
"This doesn't feel right," Niall commented, breaking the silence of the dressing room as he looked around. Louis wasn't in the room, claiming he was going outside to have a cigarette (he usually did that with Zayn before a concert despite Harry's weak protests). Liam was hopping around the room trying to get into a pair of skinny jeans and Harry was sat on the opposite end of the sofa, not really doing anything.
"Of course it doesn't, we'll just have to create a new kind of normal I guess," Liam sighed as Harry's eyes flicked to him, almost looking angry.
"You sound so dismissive. Like him not being here is not a big deal," Harry scoffed as he pulled his knees closer to his chest. Liam stopped hopping around to look at him.
"You know that's not what I meant Haz, but he wanted us to continue with this, and none of us will enjoy it if we just wallow in missing him," Liam told him as Harry shook his head, clenching his fists as he got up from the sofa.
"We haven't even done a concert without him yet, and you're already acting as if this is how it has always been," Harry snapped as Niall stood up, resting a hand on his bicep comfortingly.
"Cmon Harry, come and sit down. We all miss him," Niall sighed as Harry shrugged off his hand suddenly, moving away from the pair.
"Stop treating me like I'm some breakable child! Just because I'm..." Harry cut himself off, feeling the tears begin to choke him again as he silently cursed himself. "Just because you're not-" He tried again, only sighing in annoyance when his tears began to fall again.
"I want him back but you guys clearly don't," Harry choked out before leaving the room, not giving Niall or Liam a chance to respond.
"Should we send Louis after him?" Niall asked as Liam moved to sit on the sofa, resting his head in his hands. He didn't receive a response, causing Niall to frown as he watched his best friend. Liam hadn't really gotten upset over Zayn leaving, he'd taken on the role of caring for the other boys pretty much from the evening of Zayn's announcement. Niall had done a similar thing, but purely for a distraction.
He could see it was catching up to Liam now.
"Is that really the impression I've given?" Liam whispered. "That I don't want him back?"
"Of course not, Li. He's just emotional, you know that," Niall sighed as he sat beside Liam, resting a hand on his back. It didn't cause Liam to turn around to face him.
"Because I do. Fuck, I want him to come back so bad, Ni. But... The band was killing him," Liam continued softly. Niall didn't interrupt him. "Louis and Harry, they have a lot on their plates with trying not to let management break them apart, and having to manage the PR stunts so I get they didn't notice it, but I think I saw it coming?"
"The latest one I've heard from a management meeting was that they want one of them to have a baby with someone, so they've had to focus on themselves, which is fair enough," Niall commented as Liam shook his head.
"When was that? Neither of them have mentioned anything?" Liam asked as he looked at Niall, confusion all over his face.
"Because I don't think they know yet, I accidentally saw one of the meetings management were having and they had up a slide on a powerpoint about it. I was gonna give them both the heads up so they could fight it together, but then this all happened..." Niall sighed.
"Shit," Liam cursed, Niall nodding in agreement.
"I just... He was so withdrawn. I kept an eye on him before tour started, and he never seemed happy. And you know management wouldn't care, so I thought it was best to try and help him, but nothing seemed to help. And I just felt as if I could sense something like this coming, I had time to process the possibility," Liam continued.
"I just didn't think it was so bad that he'd want to leave."
"I didn't want to believe it. Trust me, I cried a lot when I was alone, panicked myself over the idea, tried to convince myself that I was being irrational. But by the time he actually told us, that it was a decided thing, I had almost accepted it. I've not moved on, I miss him like hell, but I understand, and all I want is for him to be happy. I've had time to process all of my anger and sadness over it. I don't think they have," Liam finished off, bowing his head again as Niall wrapped an arm around him, keeping his best friend close.
"We all miss him like hell Li, that's not gonna change. But we'll adjust, and we'll move forward, and I just don't think Harry sees that as a possibility right now. He's too hurt, and it's so shit to watch," Niall replied. Liam hummed in agreement, taking a moment more to appreciate Niall's hug before standing up, grabbing a tshirt to pull on before turning back to look at Niall.
"I don't think it'd be good to send Louis to Harry for a minute, thinking about how Louis' been dealing. You go to Haz and I'll track down Louis?" Liam suggested as Niall rose, nodding and quickly pulling Liam into a hug again before they both left the room in an attempt to retrieve the other half of their band.
"Hey," Harry said quietly as he moved to stand next to Louis. He'd barely seen his boyfriend since they'd arrived at the venue, but that was partly his own fault since he spent a lot of the time in an old supply closet, trying to contain his tears.
"Hi," Louis replied, taking Harry's spare hand and resting his head on Harry's shoulder without a word.
"This is gonna be tough," Harry sighed, resting his head on top of Louis'. Despite not seeing Louis much today, he had been there for Harry constantly through the past week. He was always there to hold Harry through his tears, to comfort him through his panic attacks, to make sure he wasn't completely falling apart on his own. He didn't mind when Harry became impossibly clingy, to the point where he physically couldn't leave Harry's side for a few hours. He didn't mind when Harry always had to be touching him in some way, even when he was sleeping. He didn't mind being partially squashed at night because Harry had draped most of his body on top of Louis', just to reassure him that he was there.
Harry couldn't love him more than he did right now.
"I'm gonna be right there, I promise. You're not alone in doing this," Louis reminded him.
"I love you so much," Harry sighed, almost whispering as he closed his eyes, not even flinching when he felt a hand on his bare back, snaking a wire up under his tshirt. He didn't bother moving to make it easier for them.
"I love you too Haz. Always," Louis murmured in response. He didn't open his eyes again until he felt somebody tapping his shoulder, and when he opened his eyes, he saw Niall and Liam stood in front of them.
"Two minutes," Liam told them, watching as they reluctantly untangled themselves, yet still keeping their hands firmly linked.
"Let's make him proud," Liam said, the other three nodding, even if Louis' nod was slightly less enthusiastic. Nobody noticed.
"I'm sorry I'm such a mess," Harry sniffled, wrapping his arms around Louis' neck tighter. It was later that night. The concert hadn't gone awfully as such, but the entire band was feeling the absence of Zayn. Harry almost lost it about halfway through when they were singing Don't Forget Where You Belong. The fans had clearly set up a little project that none of them were aware of, since they had all taken time away from social media. There were lights everywhere in the venue, all of them yellow to replicate Zayn's mic colour. Towards the end, they all began to chant Zayn's name, and Louis had to watch from the other side of the stage as Harry tried to compose himself, drinking more from his water and trying to disguise his tears as sweat.
"Shh, you don't need to apologise sweetheart, it's alright," Louis soothed him, sighing as he stroked his hands up and down Harry's bare back slowly.
"I'm tired of this," Harry whispered as he pulled back so he could see Louis' face. His own was no doubt covered in tears, eyes red and puffy but he couldn't bring himself to care.
"I know Haz. It's gonna get easier though, right? It's gotta get easier than this," Louis said quietly, moving his hands to move them up and down Harry's arms, creating goosebumps. Harry didn't reply, only watching Louis' hands as they moved. He only moved his eyes away when he heard his phone begin to ring from the bedside table. Sighing, he got off Louis' lap and walked over to the table, frowning before locking his phone again to stop the call.
"Am I being an asshole by refusing to speak to him?" Harry asked as he moved back to sit next to Louis, taking his hand and resting their linked hands on his thigh.
"No. I haven't spoken to him since he told us either," Louis admitted, also staring at their hands.
"You don't have to be strong for me, Lou. You've barely reacted since he left, other than the drinking. I wish you didn't do it," Harry replied, making Louis try to move away.
"I'm fine Haz," Louis dismissed as he pulled his hand from Harry's, standing up and pulling his tshirt back on over his jeans, before searching to find the shoes he had kicked off when entering the hotel room earlier that evening.
"Lou, please. Not again, not tonight," Harry asked when he realised what Louis was doing.
"'M sorry. Don't wait up," Louis said simply before he had left the hotel room. Harry didn't bother going after him, knowing it was pointless. Instead, he rested his head in his hands as he felt tears come to his eyes for the third time that evening.
He knew Louis was struggling. He would make sure Harry was alright every evening, comforting him, usually waiting until he was asleep or at least in bed before he'd creep out to drink for the evening. He never told anyone where he went, and he left his phone behind a fair few times. He knew Louis wasn't taking this as easily as everyone assumed, but he couldn't do anything because every time he brought it up, Louis pushed him away.
He spent a few minutes trying to compose himself in the dark hotel room. He couldn't stand being alone. It only served to remind him of Zayn leaving, of how alone and how incomplete the band felt without him.
So just like he did every evening, he wiped away his tears despite knowing new ones would just replace them, and got up from the bed. He pulled on a pair of socks and a hoodie, one that he knew belonged to Louis before pocketing his phone and hotel key and leaving the room. He walked the small distance down the corridor to Liam's room before knocking and waiting, sniffling to try and clear his nose.
When he got no answer, he knew the pair of them must be in Niall's room. They had become almost inseparable since Zayn leaving, and Harry didn't blame them. Often, they spent the night in the same bed now, just for the comfort of knowing that nobody else was planning on leaving.
"He left again," Harry sniffled as the door opened. He avoided eye contact with Niall as he was gently pulled into the room and into a hug from the blonde boy, which he didn't hesitate to accept. No words were exchanged until Harry pulled away, waving to Liam who was sat on one side of the bed.
"We're gonna have to intervene. This isn't healthy," Niall sighed as he watched Harry sit down on the bed next to Liam, avoiding looking at either of his bandmates. He hated feeling vulnerable, even after all these years, but he knew it wasn't healthy to spend the long nights crying alone in his room. At least here, he wasn't alone.
"He doesn't know that you guys know, I don't think. I think he presumes I don't talk about him when I spend the nights in with you guys," Harry sighed as he laid back on the bed, staring up at the ceiling.
"I don't care either way. I'm not gonna sit back and watch him destroy himself over this, he needs to let his emotions out instead of just repressing them," Liam said firmly as Harry lifted his head to look at him, Niall lifting Harry's feet so he could sit down, placing them back down in his lap afterwards.
"He won't let me in, and I'm scared. I've let myself be so vulnerable around him, and I know it's not that easy for him, but he's never been this closed off with me before," Harry said, closing his eyes again.
"I know Haz. I know," Niall sat, patting his feet softly.
"I've honestly never been this worried about him."
Louis woke a few hours he had crashed to a persistent knocking at his door. He groaned as he tried to push his head further into the pillow, feeling like whoever was there was knocking on his skull rather than the door.
"Lou, I know you're in there. We heard you come back last night," Liam called from outside the door before returning to knocking on the door.
"Fuck off Li, it's too early," He complained loudly.
"Mate, it's midday. We aren't letting you sleep any longer, let me in please," Liam asked, but Louis didn't reply. Suddenly, Liam was in his room anyway, making him wince as he flung open the curtains.
"What the fuck?" Louis moaned as Liam grabbed his arm and pulled him into a sitting position.
"Band meeting. No skipping," Liam informed him as he rubbed his eyes.
"When?" Louis murmured as Liam disappeared into their bathroom.
"Now. In Niall's room, he and Harry are already there," Liam called before he returned with a glass of water and some painkillers, which Louis took gratefully. "So preferably, you need to put some pants on."
Louis didn't reply, only grumbled as he got up and moved around the room, cleaning himself up a bit and putting on some fresh clothes before moving towards the door. Liam didn't bother speaking, only followed him as he made his way down the corridor into Niall's hotel room, not bothering knocking.
"Ni, what if he gets mad at me for getting you both involved?" Harry asked as he bit his lip. Liam had disappeared to retrieve Louis from their room, and Harry couldn't help but doubt what they were about to do.
"Listen Haz, we were going to find out anyway, but either way, it's a band issue here. We all want to help him, and what he's doing to himself isn't healthy. We'll help him, okay? You're not gonna be alone in helping him, promise," Niall replied as he got up from his seat beside Harry as Louis entered the room, closely followed by Liam who closed the door behind them. Niall hugged Louis briefly before he moved over to sit beside Harry, pressing a soft kiss to his cheek, the night's events forgotten between them. For now, anyway.
"What's this all about then? We changing the set list?" Louis asked as the three of them shared looks before Harry cleared his throat.
"Um, no, not exactly. We wanted to talk to you, about you particularly," Harry said, avoiding looking at his boyfriend, instead staring at his lap.
"Why? What's going on?" Louis chuckled as they all looked at him seriously.
"Lou, you've gotta stop the drinking man. It's been every night since Zayn left, and it isn't healthy," Liam sighed, as Louis frowned and immediately got defensive.
"You're overreacting a bit there Li-"
"No, he really isn't. C'mon, we all know you're hurting, but we can't help you if you push us all away. It's alright to be hurt, angry, sad, whatever," Harry tried to persuade him, putting his hand on Louis' knee and frowning deeply when Louis brushed it off. Everybody could see the hurt expression on Harry's face.
"Harry, just because I haven't been crying every two seconds like you have, it doesn't mean my drinking is an issue. I have it under control, we're alright," Louis scoffed, and nobody could miss how hurt Harry was, lip beginning to tremble already.
"That's unnecessary Louis, c'mon man. Drinking every night isn't okay, just talk to us," Liam tried to encourage, as Niall nodded in agreement and Louis shrugged.
"It's too early for this, I'm going back to bed," Louis grumbled, moving to get off the bed, as Harry shot Liam and Niall panicked eyes. He was quick to get up and block Louis' path to the door.
"Louis, please," Harry begged, trying to get Louis to look at him.
"Harry, I'm not going to waste my time talking about him, I can't," Louis emphasised, as Harry deflated slightly and slowly took Louis' palm, turning it over and looking at the palm before looking back up at Louis, who was staring exactly where he was.
"I know it's hard as hell baby. I know you're feeling so much shit, and I know you've been pushing it all down because of me. But this relationship is a two way thing, Lou, and I want to be there for you as well. Please, you can cry, you can scream, you can do whatever baby, but please," Harry whispered, knowing Louis wouldn't want to be vulnerable in front of everyone. He hated to be vulnerable to anyone.
"I don't know what I want," Louis muttered before gently pushing his way past Harry and leaving the room as Harry slumped against the wall, lowering his head as Liam and Niall came over to him, checking he was alright.
"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine. I just... Need to go," Harry said as he lifted his head, took a deep breath and followed his boyfriend out of the room, nodding as he heard Liam and Niall call good luck to him. He stopped just outside the door as he felt his phone ping in his pocket.
Louis : I'm downstairs, out the back of the hotel. Think we need to talk x
Harry breathed a sigh of relief at the hope of Louis finally opening up to him, not hesitating to jab the button of the elevator, stepping inside when it opened. He spent the elevator ride taking a few deep breaths, knowing he had to remain composed now. He had been falling apart the past few days, but he couldn't now. Louis had been strong for too long for him, and he'd been using alcohol to cope, but Harry wasn't going to allow that to happen anymore.
He found Louis within a couple of minutes, having a cigarette in a private garden behind the hotel, completely guarded and protected from cameras and nosy fans, which Harry was grateful for.
He didn't speak as he stood beside Louis, leaning against the wall beside him, watching as he took a puff of the cigarette.
"I'm sorry I didn't speak to you. I didn't know what to say, didn't want to burden you," Louis started after he put out the cigarette.
"You'll never be a burden baby, I wish you'd trust me more."
"You know I trust you Haz, more than anything. But honestly, I don't even know what to say, I don't even know how I feel about everything. One minute I want to cry because I miss him so much, because I miss my best friend, then I want to scream at him for being so selfish but that's not right because he's only putting himself first, but he's made you feel awful and he's making Liam and Niall have to be strong when they shouldn't have to be because we're falling apart and I just-"
"Shh, breathe Lou. I get it. It's so confusing, but all your feelings are valid, and I don't want you to feel like you have to turn to alcohol instead of any of us," Harry said quietly, turning his body to face Louis' more.
"I didn't want to burden you all. I had to be strong, I wanted to support you, and Liam and Niall were dealing with their own shit. I couldn't make sense of my opinion on the situation so it was easier to suppress all of those with alcohol so I could help you instead. At least you know what you're feeling," Louis said, shrugging as if his feelings were no big deal.
"Not at all," Harry said, his tone firm as Louis' gaze snapped up to him. "I've felt everything you're describing, I still am. I'm upset, I'm mad, I'm feeling guilty at myself and upset at him. You're not just gonna feel one thing Lou, and that's alright. It's just how it is," Harry said as he pulled Louis into a hug, thankful that he didn't resist it. Louis never resisted his hugs, but in that moment he needed that hug as much as he thought Louis needed it.
"I should've noticed how crap he was feeling. Maybe if I'd noticed, I could've helped," Louis whispered into his ear as he felt Harry begin to stroke his hair gently, much like he did when Harry was upset.
"We've all been feeling like that Lou, but there was nothing more we could've done. He simply wasn't happy here, and it's hard to accept, but getting out was the only way for him to be happy again," Harry sniffled, still not having accepted it himself.
"I know, I know. I just hate it, I hate this, I hate feeling so shit," Louis said, squeezing onto Harry harder when he could feel his tears begin to overflow onto the shoulder of Harry's t-shirt.
"I know Loubear, it's alright. Let it out," Harry soothed, making his voice even quieter. They stood there in the garden for a few minutes, Harry whispering soothing statements in his boyfriend's ear as he quietly sniffled and cried into his t-shirt, neither of them moving.
"I don't know how to cope without him being here, and I know that sounds stupid," Louis croaked out as he chuckled slightly at himself, pulling away to wipe his eyes, but letting Harry's arms still be wrapped securely around him.
"No it doesn't, it feels weird as hell," Harry admitted, moving his hands to rest them on Louis' hips, pulling him closer again.
"It just doesn't feel right."
Louis and Harry didn't see Niall and Liam until the show that night. Following Louis' outburst in the garden, they had gone back to their hotel room without a word to either of the lads, deciding instead to take a shower together (which may or may not've involved yet more tears and hugs) and then nap until they were called to be taken to the venue.
As soon as Liam and Niall spotted the pair approaching them in the backstage area they ran at them, tackling the couple into a big group hug.
"Everyone alright?" Niall asked, looking around the group, smiling when they all nodded in turn. The group split off into conversation, giving Niall the opportunity he wanted to speak to Louis.
"You alright man?" Niall asked quietly, as Louis smiled at him. It wasn't as big or as bright as his smile usually was, but it was a definite improvement on earlier and the past few days. Clearly Harry had worked his magic.
"Getting there, Ni," Louis reassured him with a pat on the back, not resisting as Niall pulled him into a hug.
"We're all here for you, ya know. If Harry's having a bad day or whatever, you can always come to us," Niall reminded him before releasing him as Louis smiled and nodded.
"Thank you, I appreciate it."
And maybe that was all they really needed. Each other.