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Found My Hallelujah

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It's fucking hot. Hot and sticky with humidity. There's not a cloud in sight which causes the sun to harshly beat down on Harry’s body. He can feel the droplets of sweat racing down his back and beading along his hairline. And it’s only April. He hates Florida.

Okay, that's a total lie. He loves Florida with all its palm trees and beaches and gorgeous sunsets. It's just this inhumane weather that he hates. No fucking wonder it’s called The Sunshine State. Thank god the terminal they are currently heading towards is indoors and air-conditioned.

This is the first time since he cut his hair that he’s truly thankful for its shortness. Granted, if he still had his long hair it would be up in a bun right now, but just the weight of it on top of his head would make him feel twice as hot as he is now.

To say he’s exhausted would be an understatement. Jet lag from their flight to Ft Lauderdale from London yesterday didn’t allow him to get much sleep, not like he could anyway due to the lumpy hotel bed and the general anxiousness for today. Plus, having to wake up before the sun had risen didn’t help much either.

The bag he has slung over his shoulder is bouncing against his hip with each step and the sound of Gemma’s flip-flops slapping against the pavement as she walks behind him is about to do his head in. At least they stopped for coffee after leaving the hotel and Harry can feel the caffeine settling into his bones when he takes a sip of the large iced one he has in his hand.

Gemma had insisted that they arrive early to beat the crowd, but seeing the number of people gathered outside the terminal just dropping off their bags is insane. It seems like everyone else had the exact same idea. He could have slept in a little more seeing as departure isn’t until four and it’s only a little before nine right now; they would have beat the crowd if they arrived about five hours from now.

He’s trying not to be grumpy because he actually is very excited about today and the next fourteen days, but sleep deprivation has never agreed with him. Besides, he sort of feels like he has a right to be a bit grumpy, but he’d rather not dwell on that at the moment. Or preferably, at all during this trip.

Luckily, they printed off their baggage tags last night at the hotel so they can just drop them off at the designated area and go straight inside. Harry has never been more grateful for that than he is now. All the people standing around outside seem frazzled and confused, taking up the entire sidewalk with their bags and their families, having absolutely no consideration for others. This is the first cruise he has ever been on so he understands how overwhelming it can be, but at least he thought to do all his research ahead of time and not stand right in the middle of the pavement blocking everyone else.

Somehow, they manage to make it inside and it’s just as crazy in here as it was outside, but at least there’s air conditioning. Gemma immediately heads for the toilets, leaving Harry to stand in line for security by himself. The line isn’t terribly long and it seems to be moving quite quickly. Harry tries to suck down his coffee because he knows he won’t be able to take it with him past the checkpoint.

By the time Gemma joins him again, he’s already made it towards the front of the queue and they get through security with a breeze. They go through the check-in process; fill out all the required paperwork, get their pictures taken for the ships passenger identification system, and most importantly, they finally get handed the one thing Harry has been waiting all bloody day for; their stateroom keycard.

There’s still a few minutes left until the ship is ready to board, so they head into the holding area which of course is packed full just like the rest of the terminal. Luckily, there’s only two of them so it’s fairly easy to find two chairs together that aren’t yet taken.

Harry collapses in the chair, sighing as he sinks into the uncomfortable leather. It’s the first time he’s been able to sit down since arriving at the terminal almost two hours ago. He can feel his eyelids get heavier with each passing second. It’s been the longest most stressful two weeks of his life and his brain is tired. He needs sleep.

Although it’s incredibly loud in the terminal from the multiple amounts of conversations going on at once, it feels as if Harry is just sat here all alone with his thoughts. That’s definitely not a good thing because all he’s able to think about is that instead of his sister sitting next to him—who has her headphones in and a book open in her lap so he can’t even talk to her—it should be someone else entirely.

Boarding commences just shortly after they’ve sat down and they queue up in yet another line to board the ship. Harry shoves through people once they make it on board and heads straight for his stateroom instead of going to the dining area like Gemma is doing. There’s a bed somewhere on this ship with his name on it and he intends to find it as soon as possible.

He and a family of four take the lift up together until he exits at deck fifteen where his room is located. He walks down the corridor for what feels like ages, passing twenty or so rooms before he reaches his. It’s directly across from the laundromat which is the best possible location according to his parents who are frequent cruisers. He slips the key into the door, sighing in relief when the little green light flashes and he hears the clicking sound of it unlocking.

Immediately he’s hit with the sunlight streaming through the sliding glass doors directly across the room from him that leads out to their balcony. His parents really splurged for this room. It’s not quite a suite, but it’s a couple of steps up from just your regular old room. Having a balcony is nice and definitely not something he was expecting. He’s just glad he won’t be stuck in one of those interior rooms with no windows at all.

Directly to his left is a walk-in closet that leads into a small ensuite. Tucked just inside the closet is both his and Gemma’s suitcases that they checked in earlier. Harry places his small duffle still hung over his shoulder in the closet next to them before walking into the rest of the room.

The room is nice, a lot nicer than Harry pictured in his head, nicer than most hotel rooms he’s stayed in. It’s also quite a bit smaller than most hotel rooms, but that’s to be expected. A large bed takes up the majority of the space, and while it’s definitely the most beautiful thing Harry has seen in quite a while, he completely bypasses it for the couch instead.

Originally, Harry would be sleeping in the bed, sharing it with the person that was supposed to be on the cruise with him, but things don’t always go according to plan. He and Gemma already discussed it and Harry refuses to let her sleep anywhere but the bed for the entirety of this trip. She needs a good comfortable nights sleep more than he does because she rarely gets that in her day to day life. He wouldn’t mind sharing the bed with Gemma, they’ve done it several times growing up, but he knows they both would prefer a place of their own to stretch out and relax. Thankfully, this sofa pulls out into a bed so it all works out.

He pulls the bed out and straightens the sheets, laying the pillows at the head of it. He tugs his shirt off and tosses it off somewhere to the side, adding his shorts with it once he’s pulled those down his legs. He climbs in under the sheets, closing his eyes before his head even hits the pillow. He plans to sleep until muster drill, which he’s contemplating about skipping altogether. Surely, it’s not that important and Gemma can just go for him and fill him in later if needed.

Sleep is tugging at every inch of his body and he doesn’t fight it, just sinks further in the sofa and tucks the sheets tighter around him. He tries to ignore the feeling in the back of his head that’s been there since this morning. Right as before he drifts away, the memory of the night his life turned upside down pops into his mind, just like it has every night for the past week.

--

The wind is harsh against the bare skin poking out of his jacket. It’s still freezing in London even this late into March and Harry pulls the scarf he has draped around his neck even tighter as he walks towards the front entrance of the building.

He easily welcomes the warmth as he steps inside, glad to be out of the wind. Most of the lights are off and the lobby is eerily quiet seeing as it’s after hours, but the light above the security desk is still on and a smile spreads across Harry’s face as he walks towards it.

“Good evening, Peter,” Harry greets once he reaches the desk. Peter is the overnight security guard in Jonathan, Harry’s fiance’s, office building and he’s always been Harry’s favourite.

“Evening Mr Styles,” Peter nods as he looks up from the magazine he’s currently reading. It doesn’t matter how many times Harry has asked Peter to call him by his first name, it’s always been and probably will always be Mr Styles. Well, until he’s married and his name changes to Whitaker that is. “What brings you here so late?”

“Just stopping by to bring Jonathan some dinner,” Harry holds up the takeaway bags in his hand. “He’s working late again tonight and he always forgets to eat when he’s here late.”

Peter smiles as he types in the passcode that will open the lift to take Harry up to Jonathan’s floor. As he heads that way Harry reaches into one of the takeaway bags and pulls out a small box placing it on the edge of Peter’s desk. “Of course I picked up a little something for you as well,” Harry mentions casually, drumming his fingers over the top of the box. “Pork samosas with extra sauce.”

Peter swivels around in his chair and stares at the box with wide eyes. “Thank you, Mr Styles. You really didn’t need to do that.”

“I know I didn’t but I wanted to. You’ve always been my favourite, Peter,” Harry says. He hears the ding of the lift arriving and rushes over so he doesn’t miss it. “Give my love to the wife and kids,” he calls over his shoulder and he steps into the lift.

He hits the button for the twenty-first floor and leans back against the wall as the lift rises. Being in this enclosed space makes the smell of the food even more noticeable and his stomach grumbles when he gets a whiff of it. He’s even more hungry than he thought. He also has a bad habit of not eating when he’s working, which he’s been doing quite a lot of lately to try and get as much done as possible before he leaves for the cruise next week.

The lift dings again when it arrives and Harry steps out into the dark hallway. Just like the lobby downstairs, all the lights are out except for the lamp on Jonathan’s secretary’s desk. She’s not at her desk, but her jacket is still on the back of her chair and her computer is still on so she must be somewhere in the office. Harry’s a little glad she isn’t at her desk because all though he’s been nothing but nice to her, Susan has never been fond of him and she has no problem showing that.

Harry makes his way down the hallway towards Jonathan’s office. He rounds the corner and sees his door part way open, the light filtering out through the cracks. Harry pushes open the door but stops just inside, his mouth dropping open.

Although Harry has never been physically or sexually attracted to the female body, he’s always appreciated the beauty of it. But now, seeing the bare tits of Jonathan’s thirty-five-year-old secretary bounce up and down as she presumably rides Harry’s fiance’s dick, it’s kind of hard for Harry to find the beauty in it.

His heart lurches and he feels sick. It’s as if he’s watching a movie play out on screen in front of him because surely this isn’t really his life. This isn’t happening to him right now.

He doesn’t know how long he stands there frozen in the doorway just watching the two of them go at it before Susan notices his presence. “Harry,” she gasps, her eyes going wide with shock as she slowly stops her bouncing. She scrambles to cover herself with her unbuttoned blouse but does nothing to remove herself from Jonathan’s lap.

Jonathan must catch on to what’s happening because he whips his head up and locks eyes with Harry. He doesn’t look shocked or even guilty for being caught, he looks more upset. But upset as in he’s upset at having to stop fucking his secretary.

“Harry,” he says with no emotion whatsoever. He pushes Susan off of him and she yelps as she falls to the ground, Jonathan’s cock slapping against his stomach as it slips out of her. Any other time Harry would have found that funny, but now it’s just kind of sad. “What are you doing here?”

The question pulls Harry out of his stupor and he steps further into the room. “Please, don’t stop on my account,” he holds his free hand up with his palm facing away from him. The sound of his own voice startles him, it sounds calmer than he intended it to be. “I just brought you some dinner. Thought you guys might have worked up an appetite.” He walks over to Jonathan's desk and places the takeaway bags on top of it. He nods to Susan who is still sitting on the floor. “Nice to see you again Susan, as always. I hope you like Indian because that’s what I brought. I know it’s Jonathan’s favourite.”

He turns to leave, honestly not surprised that neither of them is trying to stop him. He tries to ignore the funny feeling that leaves in his stomach. He’s almost made it to the door when he suddenly remembers something. “Oh,” he says, turning back around. “You’ll probably want this back.” He pulls off his engagement ring and tosses it in the direction of the desk, honestly not giving a shit where it lands.

Harry has loved rings for as long as he can remember, he wears several every single day, but that engagement ring that Jonathan gave him when he proposed is the single most hideous ring he has ever seen. It’s huge and gaudy and not at all Harry’s taste, which just proves the fact that Jonathan knows nothing and cares nothing about Harry’s interests. It has a large black diamond and snakes wrapping around the band. Who in their right mind would think that would make a nice engagement ring for someone? Honestly, Harry is glad to get rid of that fucking thing.

The ring bouncing against the carpet finally has Jonathan looking at least a little bit guilty. “Harry,” he starts, standing up from his chair not bothering to tuck himself away, but Harry doesn’t want to hear it.

“Save it,” he says. “Whatever you have to say isn’t worth my time.” And then he’s out the door. Jonathan doesn’t call out for him or even try to stop him as he leaves and Harry can’t say that he’s surprised.

When someone breaks up with someone they’ve been with for almost five years, you would think they’d be upset, heartbroken even, but Harry’s not. He’s more content than anything. He and Jonathan’s relationship had been very rocky ever since they got engaged. They were fighting constantly, could never agree on anything, and spent most of their time together not talking to one another because they were so angry at each other. Harry chalked it up to being the usual wedding planning stress, but deep down he knew it was more than that.

Harry was never truly happy with Jonathan. Well, at the beginning of their relationship he was, but ever since they moved in together things started to change. Jonathan became more controlling of Harry’s life, wanting to know where he was and who he was with at all times. Harry never got one single second to himself.

Harry knew it wasn’t healthy the way their relationship was, and he definitely got an earful about it from everyone in his life, but he loved Jonathan and it didn't feel right to leave him. So yeah, Harry isn’t upset, he’s just mad at himself for not seeing this coming.

The lift seems to take forever to get back down to the lobby and once Harry gets out he rushes straight for the door.

“Leaving so soon, Mr Styles?”

Harry startles at the words, his hand on the handle of the door. He completely forgot about Peter, too focused on getting the hell out of here. “Yeah,” he doesn’t even bother turning around when he answers. “I walked in on Jonathan fucking his secretary, so I probably won’t ever be coming back.”

And that’s when it really hits him. His relationship is over. Five years of his life down the drain. He’s never coming back to this building. He doesn’t even work here but he’s spent a lot of time here, gotten to know a lot of people that do work here, including Peter, someone Harry now considers a friend. He’s not going to fucking cry about this. He’s not.

“Are you okay?” Peter’s voice is softer this time and much closer, but Harry doesn’t answer the question because he doesn't know how. Is he okay? He feels a hand grip his shoulder and then— “Harry?”

That’s what does it. That’s what finally causes the tears to come. In the three years Harry’s has been coming here Peter has never once called him by his first name. No matter how many times Harry has asked him to, no matter how many times they’ve bantered about it, he’s never done it.

But now, after all the bullshit Harry’s been through in the last fifteen minutes, Peter is here comforting him as a friend, calling him by his first name, and he just loses it. He turns around and collapses into Peter’s chest and lets the tears flow. Peter doesn’t say anything as he holds Harry through it, just rubs his back up and down.

When Harry finally gets his tears under control he pulls back and wipes at his face with the sleeve of his jacket. He should probably feel ashamed for crying on someone he’s never touched more than a handshake, but he doesn’t because he knows Peter actually cares about him, unlike his now ex-fiance.

“I’m fine,” he sniffles. “It’s just a lot to deal with.”

After he leaves—with Peter’s cell phone number now programmed into his phone, “in case you need anything at all” Peter had said as he gave it to him—he heads straight for his flat and spends hours packing up every single one of his things and throws them into the boot of his car. He leaves the key on the kitchen side and doesn’t look back. He’s sure there are some things he’s forgotten as he drives away, but he can’t be bothered about that right now.

It’s a little after midnight when he knocks on his sister’s door and she answers it half asleep in her pyjamas, her husband, Michal, dressed just the same right behind her. She tells Michal to head back to bed and not to worry before making both her and Harry a cup of tea. They settle on the couch together as Harry tells her everything that just happened. It’s probably sometime after two in the morning by the time they head to bed. Harry showers and then slips under the sheets of Gemma’s guest bed where she’s allowed him to stay until he’s able to get a place of his own.

--

A hand shaking his shoulder wakes Harry from his sleep. He blinks his eyes open to see Gemma standing next to the arm of the sofa peering down at him. He sits up, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes with the heel of his palm. He shivers when the sheet falls to his waist exposing his bare torso to the chill of the room.

“Sorry to wake you,” Gemma says, actually sounding apologetic. “It’s muster drill time and we can’t miss it.”

He nods before standing up out of bed and Gemma helps him fold the sofa back up. He puts on the clothes he was wearing earlier, double checking the room keycard is still in his pocket, and follows Gemma out into the hallway.

Harry doesn’t know much about the muster drill, just that it’s a safety exercise to familiarize the passengers for what they should do in the unlikely event of an emergency. He kind of skipped over everything about the drill when he was doing his pre-cruise research. He completely forgot to check which muster station they’re assigned to, but it seems like Gemma knows where she’s going so Harry just follows along blindly.

Gemma has already been on a cruise before with her husband so she kind of already knows all the ins and outs. It’s part of the reason why Harry chose her to come along with him. The main reason why he brought her along is that she’s been so busy with her nursing school, which nursing school, he’s so incredibly proud of her he could cry. Actually, he did cry when she first showed him her acceptance letter. He’s only seen her for a few hours here and there for the last six months and he misses her. Somehow, she was able to get time off to be able to come with him and he’s incredibly grateful.

Also, he knows that Gemma won’t judge him or force him to talk about something that he isn’t ready to talk about and she won’t coddle him either. But when he is ready to talk about it, which he doesn't think he will be any time soon, she’ll be there waiting with open arms and open ears. His sister knows him better than anyone, sometimes knows him better than he knows himself, and that’s exactly what he needs right now.

The muster drill takes longer than expected, but it’s fairly painless, and now they’re free to do whatever they like, within reason of course, for the next fourteen days. Harry’s feeling a bit more energized after his short nap and he knows exactly where he wants to begin this trip. He taps Gemma on the shoulder to inform her of where he wants to go, she says she’ll join him and they head straight for the bar.

--

After making a pit stop at their room to change into their swimsuits, Gemma leads them one deck up because she saw a couple of bars by the pool while she was in the dining hall earlier. Harry gets antsy on the short life ride. He hasn’t even been on the ship for long but already everything little thing about it makes him think of Jonathan because he was supposed to be on this cruise with him. Harry doesn’t want to be thinking about him, wants nothing to do with that cheating bastard. Cheating is disgusting and deplorable and Harry doesn’t tolerate it in the slightest. He wants to erase everything about Jonathan from his mind and actually have fun on this trip, but this damn lift seems to be taking forever just to go up one floor. He knows there’s alcohol up there and he needs it flowing through his system sooner rather than later.

Finally, the lift doors slide open and Harry immediately spots the bar just a few feet away and he heads straight for it, sliding onto one of the barstools, Gemma taking the one to his right. There’s quite a lot of people on this deck, but the majority of them are in the pool or scattered around the railings to watch the ship embark which should be taking place within the hour.

Only one bartender seems to be working at the moment, his back facing them as he serves a couple sitting on the opposite side of the bar. Harry stares out through the wall of windows directly across from him, behind the couple currently giving their drink orders to the bartender, before he realizes what it is; the Seawalk. A little strip of a walkway that juts out from the side of the ship, cantilevered a hundred or so feet above the water, with glass panel flooring so passengers can look through to the waves below as they walk along.

When Harry was researching for this trip, the Seawalk was something that popped up almost every time apparently this line of cruise ships is the only one that has something like it. He knew there was a bar on one side of it, but he didn’t realize it was this one. He’ll have to bring Gemma out to walk it with him once the ship leaves port.

Harry’s perusing the menu lying on the bartop in front of him when a voice breaks the silence.

“What can I getcha, love?”

Harry’s head snaps up at the question. It’s odd to hear an accent from home that isn’t his sister’s or his own. Besides the accent, that voice is beautiful; high and melodic. Harry needs to see who that voice belongs to.

When his eyes finally land on the face the voice came from, Harry’s mouth goes dry. It’s been a while since he’s really looked at another man, five years to be exact. Yes, he is single, but he’s only been out of his relationship for a week, and it feels wrong almost. But there’s just something about this man that Harry can’t look away from.

His question was directed at Gemma, seeing as he’s standing right in front of her and giving her a warm smile, but Harry opens his mouth and words come blurting out before he has the chance to even think about what he’s doing.

“You’re British.”

The bartender glances over to Harry, blinks at him, then throws his head back and laughs. Harry can see Gemma giving him an odd look out of the corner of his eye, but he doesn’t even care because there’s currently a beautiful boy in front of him laughing like that and he can’t tear his eyes away. “Yeah, I am,” the bartender says once his laughter has subsided. “Sounds like you are as well, mate. Where are you from?”

Harry just stares. His brain hasn’t been this mushy around a boy since sixth form. He was never even like this with Jonathan. He can feel his mouth flapping open like he’s trying to form words but nothing is coming out. Thankfully, Gemma seems to be functioning like a normal human being and answers for him. “We both currently live in London, but we’re originally from Holmes Chapel.”

“Oh nice,” the gorgeous bartender replies, placing a glass of red wine in front of Gemma. Which, where the hell did that come from? When did Gemma even order it? Surely, Harry hasn’t been that out of it. “I live in London meself when I’m not working here on the cruise ship that is.”

Harry watches the easy conversation Gemma keeps up with him, feeling awkward and only slightly jealous that his brain is too gooey to jump in and join himself. Thankfully, he’s able to answer clearly when he’s asked what drink he would like. He orders a caipirinha, his favourite alcoholic beverage. He may have squealed internally when he noticed it featured on the menu. It’s sweet and zesty, yet strong enough to get him drunk quickly.

Unfortunately, the bartender has to leave them once they both have their drinks to tend to other guests that slide onto the barstools surrounding the bar, and Harry definitely doesn’t pout at that. He turns around completely, drink in hand, and rests his back against the bar watching the people splash about in the pool. He ignores the knowing looks from Gemma boring into the side of his head.

Suddenly, there are two loud blares from the horn of the ship that has Harry startling so much he nearly falls off the wooden stool he’s perched on. He hears Gemma chuckling at him and he shoves her with his elbow in retaliation. Most of the passengers scattered around the deck rush to the railings and Harry puts two and two together; the ship is embarking. He takes a sip from his drink, spinning around on the stool to order another one, perfectly fine to sit here at the bar as the ship leaves port.

After three drinks, Gemma cuts him off saying he’s had enough, Harry pouts at that but it quickly fades from his face when he sees the look in Gemma’s eyes. She’s worried about him. He tends to get drunk when he’s upset about something, when he doesn’t want to face reality, and Gemma knows this and she’s right to cut him off, even though he wants nothing more than to keep throwing back drinks.

Gemma ties up their tab, for now—it’s open throughout the entirety of the cruise and can be paid for in full at the end—before leading Harry into the dining hall for dinner. They both grab something from the buffet and find an empty table out on the deck. They spend the rest of the night out at that table, watching the mainland grow smaller and smaller until it disappears altogether.

--

It’s still dark through the curtains when Harry wakes up. He groans when he checks the time on his phone and sees that it is only just past five in the morning. He’s usually an early riser, but he was hoping he could sleep in a little bit while on holiday but he’s been lying here staring at the ceiling for the past twenty minutes and he knows he’s not falling back asleep any time soon.

Might as well get up and try to explore the ship a little while most everyone else is sleeping. He yawns and stretches his arms above his head as he sits up in his sofa bed. He quietly folds it back up and tiptoes his way through the room towards the bathroom as to not wake Gemma, who is still fast asleep.

He picks out an outfit for today from his suitcase before hopping in the shower. He washes his face and brushes his teeth once he’s out and all of that only killed thirty minutes.

There’s a schedule for the trip posted on the wall in their room just inside the front door and Harry glances over it. They’re supposed to arrive in the Bahamas today, in just a few hours if everything is running according to plan. He double checks he has his keycard before slipping out through the door.

He wanders the hallways until his stomach grumbles with hunger and before he even realizes where he’s headed, he sliding onto a barstool of the bar from yesterday. He’s definitely not disappointed that the bartender currently wiping down the bar top isn’t the cute one from yesterday.

“Oh, good morning,” the bartender says, smiling over at Harry. “I didn’t see you sitting there, you startled me.” Harry’s about to apologize, he doesn’t even know why he’s here, but the bartender continues talking before he has the chance. “We aren’t actually open yet, man. I’m just cleaning up from last night, the first night is always the craziest. The last guests left about an hour ago.”

Harry notices the little name tag pinned to the bartender’s red uniform shirt. Niall. He doesn’t remember seeing a name tag on the bartender from yesterday. He wishes he could have gotten his name.

“Can I, like, order breakfast or something here?” Harry asks, knowing it’s futile and feeling like an idiot the second it leaves his mouth.

Niall laughs, but it doesn’t seem like he’s laughing at Harry though. It’s almost as if that’s just his natural reaction. “Nah, man. We don’t do food here, just drinks. But the dining hall is just through there and the just opened the breakfast buffet about thirty minutes ago. There’s usually not too many people this early in the morning.”

Harry glances over his shoulder in the direction of the dining hall and nods his thanks to Niall before heading that way. There’s only a handful of people scattered around the tables, but otherwise, it’s completely empty. Harry piles up his plate with eggs and bacon and sausages. He makes himself a cup of tea and even a waffle because why not. He doubles back after he’s placed his plate on the same table he and Gemma ate at last night for a little bowl of fruit.

He eats quietly and watches the sun rise over the horizon, listens to the waves lap at the side of the ship. It’s peaceful out here by himself, while the majority of the ship is asleep, he can almost feel himself relaxing for the first time in months.

Gemma joins him a couple of hours later, a plate full of breakfast in one hand and a cup of tea in the other. She takes one look at Harry and places the cup of tea in front of him and then turns around and walks back into the dining hall. She returns a moment later with another cup for herself. He smiles at her in thanks as he takes a sip.

“How long have you been awake?” She asks him before tucking into her breakfast.

Harry shrugs, his eyes on the horizon. It’s funny how you can never get any closer to it, it’s always just there, the same distance away from you no matter where you are. “A few hours.”

He doesn’t look up at his sister because he doesn't want to see the worrying, pitying look he can feel her giving him. They both know why he’s been having trouble sleeping lately and he doesn’t want to talk about it. Every time he closes his eyes he replays that scene in Jonathan’s office over and over like there’s a film reel behind his eyelids and that’s the only feature.

He’s so tired of it, just wants to be able to move on. He doesn’t want that constant reminder that his relationship is over, that his fiance felt like he had to cheat on Harry because he wasn’t good enough.

Something whacking against his cheek startles him out of his thoughts. He looks down at his lap to see the butt end piece of sausage. He glances at Gemma and she’s smiling at him, another bit of sausage in between her fingers aimed and ready to go. “Cheer up, buttercup,” she says, throwing the sausage at him, this time hitting him in the forehead. “We’re going to the Bahamas today.”

Harry can’t help but smile at that. This is exactly why he brought her along with him. When he wants nothing more than to stay in bed under the sheets and brood all day, wallow in his own pitiful misery, she brings him right out of it. And they’re going to the fucking Bahamas today!

--

He steps off the tender boat in Princess Cay, hands shielding the sun from his eyes even though he’s wearing sunglasses, in his brand new swim trunks he brought precisely for this trip. They’re cute; with little sea turtles printed all over them. He hates that Jonathan has the same pair but in a different colour. Hates that Jonathan bitched and complained about them having a matching pair, said it was stupid and cheesy for couples to be matching, but he bought them anyway because he didn't want to hear Harry pout and complain about them not matching. Hates that he can’t enjoy a simple fucking pair of swim trunks.

If he thought Florida was hot, Princess Cay is about ten times worse. His poor English skin isn’t used to this much heat or sun. He thought he went a little overboard when he packed four bottles of sunscreen, but now he’s thinking that might not even be enough.

Since this is the first stop on their cruise, Harry plans on laying on the beach and doing absolutely nothing. Well, Gemma booked them in a slot to swim with some stingrays because apparently she’s always wanted to do that, but that isn’t until later in the afternoon. So until then, Harry’s going to lie on the beach, order an endless amount of those drinks that come in an actual fucking coconut, and work on his tan.

It takes four people bumping into him before Harry realizes that he’s still standing in the middle of the walkway and everyone is having to push their way around him. He mumbles out apologies as he searches the crowd of people for his sister.

Once he spots her, they walk together past the shops and the restaurants to the long stretch of beach. The first thing Harry notices when he passes through the souvenir shops is how lush and green everything is, so many palm trees. It’s already such a relaxing environment and he’s sure it’ll be even more relaxing once they’re out on the beach.

They walk out onto the beach, Harry slipping off his shoes so his feet can sink into the hot sand. They pass the watercraft rentals; piles of kayaks and paddles boats and even pool noodles, until they make it to the area with the lounge chairs. All of the chairs in the shaded areas are already occupied, but Harry doesn’t much mind, he wanted to lay out in the sun anyway. They find a spot with two chairs together that's a little further out from everyone so it’s surrounded by fewer people. The water is so blue like it almost looks fake, he can’t wait to take a dip in it later.

Harry plops down on the lounge chair, putting in his headphones, watching as Gemma lays out a towel over her chair and pulls out a book from her bag. He selects a playlist on his phone just as a waiter from the nearby bar stops by for their drink order, each of them ordering a coconut water.

He must have fallen asleep because the next thing he knows Gemma is standing above him shaking him awake. His face and shoulders feel hot from where he already knows a sunburn has formed and he groans when he stretches his arms out above him. They grab a quick lunch at one of the restaurants before heading off for their swim with the stingrays.

The excursion is held on a private section of the beach reserved just for the stingray experience, which is nice because it’s much quieter without the crowds of people. They check in at a little cabana nestled into the sand and receive their life jackets and snorkelling gear. Only four other people join them so it’s a smaller group than usual, according to their instructors, and since it’s the last slot scheduled for today, they can stay out a little longer than the hour allotted.

As their instructors leads the group out towards the water, Harry can already see about ten or so stingrays swimming around in the little roped off section and that’s when he starts getting anxious. These things don’t actually sting, right? Or bite. Surely, they wouldn’t allow people near them if they did. He doesn’t want to be that unlucky person that gets stung by a stingray on their first day of the cruise. Didn’t a stingray kill Steve Irwin?

He carefully steps into the water, the temperature being a lot warmer than he expected, a tight grip on Gemma’s hand. He needs something to anchor himself to just in case one of these things decides to latch onto him and drag him under. Granted, they don’t go any further out than waist deep, but Harry’s heard that you can drown in just a few inches of water. He is wearing a lifejacket so he doubts he’ll actually drown if anything were to happen, but he’d rather be safe than sorry.

The instructors give them basic facts about both the stingrays and the island while the stingrays swim around the group’s legs. Harry feels one brush across the top of his foot and he yelps, jumping back in surprise.

“These guys are really friendly and tame,” the one instructor that was in the middle of speaking stops her speil and turns her attention towards Harry. “But try not to be too scared because they can sense fear and they’ll start to swarm you.” And well, that certainly helps Harry feel much better. He can tell that Gemma is holding in her laughter and he’s really regretting bringing her on the trip with him right about now. He should have just come by himself.

He begins to calm down little by little as he focuses more on the instructor's words than on the animals swimming around his feet. After their main informational bit is finished, they’re allowed to touch. One of the instructors grabs ahold of one of the stingrays by the fins at the base of its tail and lifts it out of the water. She doesn’t lift it out fully, just enough so that the belly of the stingray, where its gills are located, are still underwater so it can still breathe, but the top part of its body is floating on the surface.

Each member of their group steps forward to take a turn touching the stingray and Harry allows everyone to go before him. He’s surprised at how still the stingray is, it just lies there’s perfectly happy while everyone pokes and prods at it. He follows closely behind Gemma when it’s her turn and he watches her face light up when she runs her hand along the stingray’s back. She gives him an encouraging nod once she’s finished and he tentatively stretches out an arm and places his hand on one of the fins.

The first thing he notices is how slippery and slimy it is, which he assumes is mainly due to the water. As he slides his fingers down the length of the stingray’s back he smiles at how smooth it is, like really fucking smooth. And rigid. With the way they flap their fins around when they swim, Harry thought they’d be more floppy, but they were firm underneath his touch. Well, he knows muscle is pretty tough so he doesn’t really know why he’s surprised. Or it is cartilage? He doesn’t know anything about stingray anatomy, but either way, it’s not what he was expecting.

Harry is definitely calmer now, even reaches down to brush his hand across them as they swim around his legs. Who knew actually touching one would be what soothes him. One of the instructors brings out a bucket of prawns to feed the stingray with, each member of the group taking a handful. Harry happily passes on this part, touching them was fine, but getting anywhere near their mouths kind of freaks him out a little bit. He does run back to the cabana to grab his phone from his bag to take a few pictures of Gemma as she feeds one.

After they finish the excursion, they thank their instructors—Harry even getting a selfie with them—and collect their things from the cabana and head back to the main beach. It’s much more crowded now than it was when they were here earlier in the day. All the lounge chairs are taken, but they find a decent place on the sand and lay out on their towels. They stay out on the beach until it’s time to board the ship.

Both he and Gemma are exhausted from being out in the sun all day, so once they’re back on the ship they decide to retire to their room for the night. It’s still fairly early, only a little past six in the evening, so they order room service for dinner and find a film on television to watch.

Harry takes a quick shower while Gemma orders their food just to wash away the salt water and the sand from his body, the hot water stinging against his burnt shoulders. The food has arrived once he’s out of the shower and he curls up in his bed with his food, not realizing how hungry he is until he digs in. He falls asleep after he’s finished, not even able to make it halfway through the movie.

--

Yet again, Harry wakes up far too early the next morning. Granted, he did fall asleep quite early, he’s not sure of the exact time but it couldn’t be any later than eight. They’re not even docking anywhere today, just cruising along all day, and Harry wasn’t planning on doing anything.

He yawns as he sits up in bed, searching through the sheets for his phone to check the time. Half past four. Even earlier than he woke up yesterday. He might as well check out the fitness centre, he still wants to get his workouts in while on the cruise and there probably won’t be too many people this early in the morning.

He climbs out of his sofa bed and folds it back up, wincing when it creaks. He peeks over his shoulder at Gemma, but she’s still fast asleep, snoring quietly, the sound not having bothered her. Harry tiptoes to the closet and rifles through his suitcase for the gym clothes he brought along with him.

Entering the fitness centre brings that feeling of excitement Harry always gets before a workout. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have his usual boxing equipment with him, which is always his go-to form of exercise, but a good run on the treadmill should do the trick for today. There seem to be only four other people in the gym, which is still more than he expected.

He fills up his water bottle at the water station, grabs one of the complimentary towels, wrapping it around his neck, and climbs onto one of the treadmills towards the end of the row. He connects his headphones to his phone and starts up his workout playlist. All the treadmills are lined up facing a wall of windows so Harry has a perfect view of the ocean, nothing but sky and water as far as he can see.

After a good forty-five minute run, Harry hops off the treadmill, welcoming the burn in his muscles. His legs feel like jelly as he makes his way over to the water station. As he’s refilling his water bottle, he hears someone approach from behind him. He hurries to move out of the way thinking it’s someone who needs to fill their bottle as well, but he startles and almost spills his water down the front of him when he sees who it is.

“Ah, the other fellow Londoner.” It’s the bartender from the first day. He’s smiling at Harry, awfully perky for this early in the morning, and Harry doesn't think he’s ever seen someone with a more attractive smile. “How are you?”

“Sweaty,” Harry blurts. He mentally facepalms the second the word leaves his mouth. God, he’s an idiot.

He gives Harry a very obvious once over, his eyes raking up and down Harry’s body and he squirms under the attention. “I can see that,” the bartender says. “I’m Louis by the way.” Louis. That name fits him so well.

“Harry,” he introduces himself. He holds as his hand for Louis to shake and he prays that it’s not actually as sweaty as it feels.

“Nice to officially meet you,” Louis says, that gorgeous smile still playing on his lips. “So what are you doing on a cruise out of Florida? You know there are cruises that leave from England right?”

Harry pauses with his water bottle halfway to his mouth. How does he explain that it was an engagement present from his parents, but instead of bringing his fiance with him, who is no longer his fiance because he cheated on him, he brought his sister instead? It’s hard to explain that to people Harry knows despite someone he just met two days ago. “Uh, it was a gift from my parents.”

“Ah, okay,” Louis nods. “And that girl you were with at the bar, she your girlfriend?”

Harry shakes his head, chuckling. “No, she’s my sister.”

“Figured as much. You two look alike.” Harry frowns. Why would he ask if she was his girlfriend if he thought they looked alike? Maybe he was fishing to see if Harry had a girlfriend. Surely not. “You two must be close if you brought her along with you.”

“Yeah,” Harry smiles, thinking of Gemma, who is probably still asleep. “She’s my best friend.”

Louis grins back at him. “I’m like that with my siblings too.”

“What are you doing on a cruise out of Florida?” Harry asks. He’s been curious about it since they first met and Harry heard his accent. And it’s only fair to ask since Louis asked him first.

“Well, I own a couple of bars in London and I just do this for fun on the side,” Louis explains. “I go on about four or five cruises a year, just something different I like doing every once in a while. Not something I could do permanently though, I’m too much fo a family man to be away from them for that long.” Knowing that Louis is close with his family makes Harry’s heart warm because Harry’s the same way. He can never go too long without seeing his family. “Are you still going or have you finished up your workout?”

Harry glances over Louis’ shoulder to the free weights. He was planning on doing some weight lifting because it looks like they have a nice selection, but if Louis wants to do something with him then he will happily skip that part of his workout. “I think I’m done for the day.”

“Great,” Louis smiles. Harry can’t believe he’s actually getting weak in the knees from a bloody smile. “Would you like to get breakfast with me? My mates work the night shifts and there’s no way they’ll be awake anytime before noon.”

A warm fluttery feeling starts up in Harry’s stomach. “Sure I’d love to. Just let me shower off real quick.”

“Yeah, ‘course,” Louis replies. “I’m going to head back to my room and change so I’ll meet you outside the dining hall in say thirty?”

Harry nods, the fluttering in his stomach increasing tenfold. “See you there.”

He watches as Louis heads out of the fitness centre stopping just outside the doors to wave at him. Harry smiles and waves back before heading into the men’s locker room. He drops his sweaty towel into the basket labelled towels and grabs a clean one from off the shelf. He showers a quickly as possible, too excited about his breakfast with Louis to stay in as long as he usually does.

Louis is loitering right outside the lifts when the doors slide open. He greets Harry with a smile and they make their way around to the dining hall. They both pile up their plates with food, Harry a little more so than Louis because he definitely worked up an appetite after his run on the treadmill. They pick an empty table out on the deck, it’s quite crowded now as most of the passengers are starting to wake up.

Conversation flows easily between them. Already, Harry is finding it so easy to talk to Louis, almost as if they’ve known each other for years instead of days. Louis asks Harry what his plans are for tomorrow when the dock in St Thomas. Harry’s not quite sure yet, probably just laying out on the beach much as he did in Princess Cay, maybe a bit of snorkelling. Gemma is always the one who plans things out, Harry just kind of goes with the flow.

Harry’s not sure how much time has passed by the time Gemma joins them and pulls up a chair. Both his and Louis’ plates are empty as well as most of the surrounding tables and that’s the only indicator Harry has of the passage of time. Everything else seemed to fade away as soon as he sat down with Louis. Hours could have passed and he wouldn’t have even noticed.

Gemma doesn’t say much as she eats, just watches the two of them with a curious look in her eyes. Louis excuses himself shortly after that, his shift at the bar starts in an hour and he needs to get ready for it.

The second Louis is out of sight Gemma turns to Harry with a smirk. Harry sighs, he already knows whatever she’s going to say isn’t going to be fun. “So, it didn't take you very long at all to hook up with the fit bartender.”

“We aren’t hooking up, Gem,” Harry says, rolling his eyes. “We literally just met.”

Gemma points her fork at him. “But you want to hook up with him.”

“I do not.” Harry can feel his cheeks heating up. He doesn’t, okay, he can’t.

“Whether you do or don't, whatever,” she shrugs. “But he certainly does.”

“What?” Harry splutters, nearly dropping the forkful of potatoes that he stole from Gemma’s plate. “No, he doesn’t.”

“Please,” she scoffs, leaning back in her chair and crossing her arms. “Did you even notice the way he was looking at you? He definitely wants to get to know you better.” The tone of her voice and the way she waggles her eyebrows as she says that, it’s clear she doesn't mean getting to know him by just talking.

Harry looks out at the sea, squinting his eyes as the sun glares off of the surface of the water. As nice at it is to think about someone like Louis wanting him, it doesn’t sit right with him. If he hadn’t of just gotten out of a relationship, he would have been trying to pick up Louis in an instant. There’s a tiny part of him that wants to do exactly that, but he’s trying to ignore that part. Thinking about that makes his stomach churn almost like he’s seasick. Maybe looking out at the choppy waves wasn’t such a good idea. “I can’t. It’s—it’s too soon.”

He turns his gaze away from the water and back to his sister, whose expression is no longer teasing, but soft. “Harry,” she starts, reaching across the table to grip his hand in hers. “If you feel that it’s too soon, then that’s totally fine. But you do know that there aren’t any rules for this kind of thing right? Like there’s no certain amount of time you have to wait before you can move on, it’s whatever feels right to you. And if you want that with Louis then go for it. You’re on holiday and you should be able to have a little fun. But if you aren’t ready for that then that’s okay too. I’ll support you no matter what you chose. I love you and I’m here for you, yeah.”

Harry swallows, getting a little choked up. She always knows exactly what to say. “I love you too. Thank you.”

--

St Thomas is gorgeous, Harry didn’t doubt it would be, but he’s still blown away. Everything is so bright and green with cute colonial-style buildings and winding, narrow pathways leading all through the town of Charlotte Amalie. Harry thinks the name is cute and quite fitting for the town. But it’s also incredibly popular, people bustling about everywhere. There are four ships, including their own, currently docked in port. Harry heard that this was one of the busiest cruise ports in the world, but he was kind of hoping that it wouldn’t be quite as crowded today.

After they disembark the ship, he and Gemma bypass the shopping mall that is right outside the port, opting to stop by on the way back to minimize the crowds, and head straight for the Skyride. It’s almost like a ski lift, but with enclosed gondolas that whisk you seven hundred feet above the town to a place called Paradise Point. Harry’s not entirely sure what is located up there, but anywhere called Paradise Point seems exactly like his kind of place.

The Skyride is more something Gemma wanted to do—she did her googling on popular things to do while in St Thomas yesterday and this was on the top of her list. While Harry’s excited about it as well, he’s also a little wary; he’s not the biggest fan of heights. As long as he looks straight out the windows and not down, he should be okay.

They purchase their tickets—twenty dollars per person seems a little steep and Harry hopes that it’ll be worth it—and climb the stairs to the loading area, Harry’s hand gliding along the purple bannister as he goes. Once they reach the top, there are only four other people queuing up ahead of them so they move to the front of the line fairly quickly. They’re even able to have a gondola all to themselves.

Harry sits on the bench on one side while Gemma takes the one opposite him. The gondola jolts as bit as it starts moving again, Harry tightly gripping onto the bench. It slowly begins its ascent up the line, the door still standing wide open. Harry thinks that maybe once they’ve left the loading area it will slide closed, but they’re now about five feet away and it still hasn’t shut. He scoots over on the bench, further away from the door. Maybe it doesn’t close at all and he doesn’t want to risk falling out, but then it finally slides shut. Harry still says pressed up against the opposite wall just in case.

Then, he allows himself to glance out the window to take in the view and it’s absolutely breathtaking. The ships at the dock slowly become smaller and smaller the higher they go up. The ocean and the mountains just beyond the ships look fake, almost like someone put up a green screen and edited a backdrop of the island onto it. The acres of tree they’re currently hovering above looks like a fuzzy green blanket strewn across the hills, little houses and buildings dotted throughout. Harry tries to focus on the view instead of the jolting and the creaking coming from the gondola as it ascends.

It’s a ten minute ride to the top and once they reach it, Harry breathes out a sigh of relief as his feet touch solid ground. The view is even more incredible up here, the view alone is worth every penny he spent. He snaps about a thousand pictures in every direction, even taking a few selfies of him and Gemma with the ocean in the background.

They wander through the souvenir shops first, Harry picking up a few trinkets for his mum and stepdad. Next, they stop at the bar for lunch, both of them ordering one of St Thomas’ famous bushwhackers as well as a sandwich and a plate of nachos to split.

They’re able to snag an empty table located out on the deck right next to the railing overlooking the island. Harry takes a sip of his drink and winces from how strong it is. It’s chocolatey and sweet, but whoever made this definitely didn’t hold back with the alcohol. He paces himself with the drink, doesn’t want to get too tipsy especially when he’s at the top of a mountain, but that doesn’t stop him from ordering a second one once he’s finished.

Quite a few hours pass by the time they decide to head back down, the sun rising even further into the sky. There’s been quite a nice breeze up here and they were sat underneath the covered patio, so Harry hasn’t really noticed quite how hot it’s gotten until he’s standing in the queue for the gondola ride back down.

Since there are more people lined up this time, they have to share the gondola with another group, but the ride down is a lot easier than it was going up. Harry stays seated on the bench on the way down, already taken enough photos, but still able to enjoy the view through the windows.

Harry doesn’t know how they were lucky enough to skip the crowd on their way up, but he’s incredibly thankful for it when he sees how long the line is now. It forms all the way down the stairs and down the sidewalk. He can’t imagine having to wait there in this heat for who knows how long.

He and Gemma now head for one of the snorkelling spots on the beach, stopping at the kiosk to rent their equipment. They spent a lot longer than they anticipated at Paradise Point, so they only have a couple of hours left to snorkel until they close for the day.

Wading out into the water—which is very difficult to do while wearing flippers—feels like a breath of fresh air. The water is warm, but still cool enough to feel nice against Harry’s heated skin. He slips the goggles down over his eyes and pops the end of the snorkel into his mouth, wrapping his lips around the rubber part.

He dips down under the water, not seeing much except sand until he kicks out his feet and his flipper propel him deeper. This is probably the closest he’ll ever be to being a mermaid. Schools of brightly coloured fish swim out in front of him, more and more appearing the further out he swims. So many darting each and every way it’s hard to get a good look at them, but they’re beautiful nonetheless.

They spend a good hour or so out in the water swimming with the fish until they have to return their snorkel gear. Heary heads for the changing rooms, slipping out of his wet swimsuit and into a dry pair of shorts. He wraps his trunks up in a towel he brought along with him and shoves them to the bottom of his backpack.

Wandering the streets, they stumble upon a quaint little cafe tucked down an alleyway right off the main street and decide to stop in for a late dinner. The place is quite busy even at the late hour, but they only have to wait fifteen minutes for a table. They take their time with their meal, enjoying the atmosphere and the food. The cafe boasts about their fresh and homemade food and it definitely does not disappoint; one of the best meals Harry’s had in a while.

After dinner, they make their way back to the ship, stopping in a few shops along the way and it isn’t long until their back onboard. Even though it’s quite late, almost eleven at night, neither he nor Gemma is tired enough to turn in for the night, and they decide the layout at the pool to wind down.

Harry sits on the edge, dipping his feet into the water while Gemma lounges on a chaise behind him with her book. He can’t help it when his eyes flick to the bar across from him and his heart sinks when there isn’t a recognizable face working behind it. He tries not to think about what that means, why he’s upset that Louis isn’t there, he barely even knows him and as he slips off the edge and into the water he lets the thought leaves him completely.

--

Yet again, Harry finds himself waking up way too early the next morning, the sun isn’t even awake yet. He really needs to find something to help him sleep, make his dreams feel a little less real.

He sits up, the sheets falling to his waist as he does, and rubs his eyes with the heel of his palms. He can hear the soft snores coming from his left where Gemma is still sleeping and he quietly steps out of bed, trying to be as quiet as possible. He finds a clean pair of shorts and a t-shirt to slip into and then heads for the bathroom to brush his teeth.

It’s still early; breakfast hasn’t even started and there are still a few more hours until they arrive in St Maarten, so Harry steps out onto their private balcony. He hasn’t used it yet and, as far as he’s aware, neither has Gemma. He kind of completely forgot it even existed, to be honest. Neither one of them are in their stateroom very often, usually just to sleep, so the curtains are always pulled closed, concealing the balcony.

It isn’t much, just big enough to fit two chairs and a small table, but still nice. Harry sits himself down in one of the chairs and props his feet up on the railing. There isn’t much to see, especially since it’s still dark, but he was hoping to see something, maybe a glimpse of an island off in the distance.

He sighs, tipping his chair onto its back legs. As nice as it is out here, how quiet, it’s almost too quiet. It’s just him out here, alone, with his thoughts and he doesn't like that. He doesn’t want to be caught up in his head right now, there’s too much going on up there that he doesn’t particularly want to deal with. He’s too tired for that.

He stands and slips back into the room through the crack he left in the door, quietly sliding it shut behind him. He jumps when he hears Gemma’s voice from behind him and it isn’t until then that he notices the lamps on both of the bedside tables are on.

“Good morning,” Gemma greets, her voice clearly indicating that she has just woken up. “I was starting to think you had left already.”

Harry turns around, nearly tripping over the corner of his sofa bed that he left out. “No,” he says, looking up to see Gemma sitting up in her bed, pillow creases on her cheek. “I was just giving our balcony some use.”

Gemma nods, throwing the sheets off of her and standing up out of bed. “What time is it?” she asks around a yawn, stretching her arms out above her head.

“Just before six I think,” Harry answers, eyes scanning the room for his phone. He can’t remember where he left it.

“What time does breakfast start?” She asks again.

“Five.”

Gemma glances up to where the schedule is posted on the wall. She squints but probably isn’t able to make out anything since she hasn’t put her contacts in yet. “And we’re supposed to arrive in St Maarten, when?” She’s just full of questions today.

“At seven,” he answers as he finally finds his phone in the pocket of the shorts he wore yesterday. He checks the time—five minutes to six, he was pretty spot on—before sliding it into the pocket of the ones he’s wearing now and begins to fold up his bed.

“Do you want to grab some breakfast before we arrive?” She asks already halfway to the bathroom.

Harry calls out his affirmative answer just before he hears the sound of the bathroom door clicking shut. He packs up his bag while Gemma’s in the shower, taking out the dirty towel and swim trunks from yesterday, setting them to the side to wash later. He throws in a clean pair of swim trunks, some suncream, and his portable phone charger which he’ll definitely be needing because he didn’t plug in his phone to charge overnight.

After Gemma is finished with her shower, Harry perches on the now folded up sofa and scrolls through the pictures on his phone that he took yesterday while she packs up her own bag. Then they’re off to the dining hall for breakfast.

It’s pretty crowded once they arrive, everyone most liking having woken up early for their early arrival into port at St Maarten today. They’re still able to find an empty table outside on the deck and they claim it quickly before someone else has the chance to nab it.

The sky is quite dark, only getting more and more gloomy the closer they get to their destination; it’s definitely going to rain soon. Harry remembers Gemma mentioning during her online search of things they could do while on the island, that afternoon showers are almost guaranteed in St Maarten. He just hopes it holds off long enough for him to get a lie in on the beach.

Disembarking the ship is fairly quick, passengers shuffling down the gangways with ease. Most likely with the urge to hurry onto the island before the rain starts. The sky is even darker now that they’ve arrived. It’s almost impossible to spot the sun behind the wall of grey clouds.

The queues for the water taxis that will take them from the cruise ship piers to the centre of town move pretty rapidly. There are quite a few water taxis waiting to whisk the passengers away seeing as their ship is the only one in port at the moment.

As soon as Harry steps out of the water taxi and onto the main island—offering a hand to Gemma as she climbs out after him—the sky opens up and the rain starts pelting it down. He’s still got a grip on Gemma’s hand and he tugs her along behind him as they rush to the nearest souvenir shop for cover.

They’re both bent over laughing, wiping the rain from their eyes, as they huddle just inside the entrance to the shop with a group of about eight other people. Harry looks towards the back of the store where the shop attendant is walking towards them welcoming them in and pointing everyone in the direction of a display of towels and another display of umbrellas.

Harry immediately heads for the umbrellas, picking out a bright pink one with a black floral pattern printed over it, St Maarten written in bold letters over and over across the edge. Gemma picks out one similar to it, but in blue instead.

They wander around the shop, waiting for the rain to let up and pick out a few other items to purchase. Harry grabs a t-shirt that he can change into because the one he’s currently wearing is almost completely soaked through.

It doesn’t seem like the rain is going to stop anytime soon and they make the decision together to head out anyway. They have their umbrellas and even an extra towel each just in case. They wander out from the cluster of souvenir shops around the water taxi port and in the direction of the main part of town.

The streets are fairly empty of people, most likely due to the rain, and it’s nice to take their time walking around the city. It’s still raining as they meander around, but it’s not quite as heavy as it was when it started. Harry’s wishing that he picked up an actual pair of shoes while in the souvenir shop because his feet are drenched and freezing in the flipflops he’s wearing now.

Around lunchtime, they stumble upon a pub nestled at the end of a street and decide to stop in for lunch, both tired and a little wet from walking around all morning. There’s an umbrella stand just inside the front door that’s already quite full due to the number of people inside the pub, but there’s just enough room for both his and Gemma’s umbrella to slot in easily.

There are still a few unoccupied tables, but they opt out of sitting at any of them and decide to sit at the bar instead which is completely empty. As they’re walking through the tables to reach the bar, Harry nearly trips over the leg of a chair that’s not fully tucked underneath a table when he hears a laugh that he shouldn’t already be familiar with but he definitely is.

He searches the room for the owner of the laugh, ignoring the jump his heart makes in his chest when his eyes finally land on him. Louis is sitting at a table in the corner of the room, just off to the right of the bar, his head tipped back in laughter. He’s sitting with two other people, one of which Harry recognizes as the other bartender on the ship. Niall, he thinks his name was, who is also shaking with laughter.

The other person isn’t though; there’s a deep frown on his face and his arms are crossed tightly over his chest. He’s wearing a black sleeveless shirt, the sleeves cleary cut off due to the jagged edge around where the sleeves should be and his arms are massive, he probably works out quite a lot, and they’re absolutely littered with tattoos. One of which is completely covered from knuckles to shoulder. He has short cropped hair and a light dusting of facial hair. He’s not at all Harry’s type, but he can’t deny the fact that he’s incredibly attractive. Nothing compared to Louis though. Louis is on his own plane of beautiful.

Harry rights himself after nearly stumbling over the chair and follows behind Gemma. They are given menus as soon as they slide onto the barstools, and Harry tries to pay attention to the words he’s reading but he’s so acutely aware of Louis only a few feet from him. He can clearly make out Louis’ voice over the din of the pub.

There’s a part of him that wants to go over and say hello, maybe even slide into the empty chair across the table from Louis, but he isn’t brave enough for that. They’re kind of friends now, right? Well, they only had breakfast together once, but it seemed like they really hit it off. There’s just something about Louis that Harry can’t get enough of, almost like he craves his attention.

He ends up ordering the same exact thing as Gemma because he actually has no clue what kind of food they have even though he’s been staring at the menu for the last five minutes. They eat in relative silence, only really talking about what they plan to do for the rest of the day. They still have about six hours left on the island and it doesn’t seem like the rain is going to let up anytime soon.

After paying their bill, Gemma heads for the restroom and Harry hangs out by the front door to wait for her. He’s been purposely avoiding looking at Louis all throughout lunch, but he just can’t hold out any longer. His eyes move over to Louis’ table and he freezes when he sees Louis is already looking directly at him. A weird fluttering happens in Harry’s belly when Louis smiles at him and lifts a hand to wave. Harry sheepishly waves back and hopes that his smile comes off as genuine and not like a grimace and then promptly turns around and pushes out through the door. Why is he so awkward?

He hands Gemma her umbrella when she joins him outside and they make their way back to the ship. They both decided to head back early and spend the rest of the day on the ship, no point in continuing to walk around in the rain.

They stop off at their room first to drop off their bags and then take the lift down to deck five where the spa is located. They purchase a day pass at the reception desk and walk through the hallways to the thermal suite. Today is the perfect day to come to the spa, with most people out braving the rain it’s completely empty.

Harry enters the laconium room and lays out one of the heated ceramic tile loungers. He melts into it feeling his muscles relax almost instantly. He’s not sure how long he lays there feeling completely relaxed before he decides to cool off in the hydrotherapy pool.

He and Gemma stay there for another hour or so, floating around the pool letting the massage jets soothe them. The shower off in one of the sensory showers complete with mood lighting and an arrange of aromas before returning to their room for the day.

--

The heat is still something Harry’s trying to get used to. And it’s not dry heat it’s wet heat, thick with humidity, and that’s not something Harry is used to. Sometimes it gets so hot that Harry struggles to breathe, but he still enjoys it. He loves being in the sun, loves the exhaustion that settles in his bones after spending all day in the sun. It’s just an adjustment to the dreary weather back in London. Definitely not something he’s looking forward to going back to.

Like right now, he’s sweating profusely and he’s literally just lying out on a lounge chair beside the pool. He sits up and pulls each of his earbuds out so he can tug off his shirt. Almost immediately, he feels about ten times cooler. He folds up his shirt and shoves it inside Gemma’s bag that’s sitting on the table in between their loungers. He pops his earbuds back in, leaning back and closing his eyes behind his sunglasses.

He can feel himself drifting in and out of consciousness, the sun already starting to exhaust him after only being out here a few hours. Maybe he should have a quick dip in the pool, he wasn’t planning on getting wet, but it’d definitely help him cool off even more. He contemplates it for a while but eventually decides against it. He’d rather just lie here and doze.

He’s just about to nod off completely when, even through his closed eyelids and his sunglasses, he can see a shadow fall over him. He frowns before he opens his eyes and then he sees what causes the shadow and he sits bolt upright in his chair.

“Hi,” he says, breathless and blushing because he probably just made a complete fool of himself.

“Hi,” Louis says back, hands on his hips and smiling down at Harry from where he’s standing right in front of his lounge chair. “Fancy seeing you out here.”

“I’m—I…” Harry stutters, distracted by the little wisps of dark hair in the center of Louis’ chest. He can feel his skin prickling from where Gemma very obviously has her eyes on him. “I’m just—we’re—” he corrects, motioning between himself and his sister. “—just relaxing out here because we aren’t docking anywhere today.”

Louis laughs, his eyes squinting up, crinkles forming at the corners. “You don’t have to explain yourself to me, Curly.”

Harry balks at the nickname. Curly. He brings a hand up to tug at his hair, frowning. Okay, so maybe his hair has gotten long enough to start curling again, especially around his ears and the nape of his neck, but he didn’t think it was that noticeable, definitely not like how curly it was when he had it down to his shoulders.

“So,” Louis says. “Wanna join me and my mate for a little swim?”

And that’s when Harry realizes that there is someone standing just off to the side. He has his back to them, but he’s there and probably has been there the whole time. Harry couldn’t say though, he’s been too distracted by Louis standing right there in front of him, shirtless and gorgeous. Harry doesn’t think he’s ever been this much of a mess before in his life

“Uh, sure,” Harry nods in reply, even though he just set his mind to not getting into the pool today, but for some reason, he can’t say no.

Harry stands from his lounge chair and turns to tell Gemma he’s going for a dip, even though she was sitting right next to him the whole time and most definitely heard their entire conversation. But she just waves him off before he even has a chance to say anything.

Harry joins Louis and his friend by the edge of the pool, stopping to dip a foot in to test the temperate. It’s actually pretty cold, he’ll definitely be cooled off in no time.

“This is Niall,” Louis says from next to him, gripping Harry’s wrist to get his attention.

Harry shivers at the touch as he turns to face Niall. Harry instantly recognizes him, yet again. He’s the other bartender as well as one of the guys Louis was sitting with at the pub yesterday.

“We’ve met,” Niall says cheerfully, but still holds a hand out for Harry to shake anyway. “But nice to meet you again. Officially.”

Harry grips Niall’s hand in his own, smiling at him. He hasn’t known Niall long enough to really form an opinion about him, but he does seem like a genuinely nice guy.

They spend the majority of the day in the pool, so much so that Harry’s skin gets all pruney and a little burnt, Gemma even joining them at one point. It’s nice, spending time with Louis like this, getting to know him even better. Harry feels so comfortable around him like they’ve known each other longer than the few days they actually have.

He doesn’t answer any of Gemma’s pressing questions while they’re on their way back to their room to change for dinner. She was there, she saw everything that happened, which was nothing. He just made a couple of new friends, that’s literally it. He isn’t ready for anything more than that anyway.

--

“Just the man I was looking for.”

Harry startles in his chair, spinning it around so quickly he bangs his knees on the side of the desk. He winces, rubbing over it and checking there are no bones poking out. He’s good, might be a little bruise there later, but no serious damage.

He’s currently in the internet cafe located on deck five editing some of the photos he’s taken. He could do it on his phone, he has an app for that, but it’s definitely a lot easier on a desktop computer and when he found out there was an internet cafe, he rushed down to use it. He passed on laying out by the pool with Gemma, deciding to stay indoors today, giving his sunburnt skin a much-needed rest from the sun.

“You were—” Harry stops and clears his throat. “You were looking for me?”

“I was,” Louis replies, sliding into the empty chair to Harry’s right. “I ran into Gemma by the pool and she told me you were here. I’m gonna have to get your number so it’ll be much easier to find you next time.”

Harry’s brain short circuits at that. Louis wants his number? So they can text and stuff. So that Louis can find him the next time. Like there’s going to be multiple times Louis’ looking for him. What?

He blinks at Louis, unsure of what to do now. Does he just give him his number? Louis blinks back until his head is cocking to the side and the corner of his lip his lifting up into a smirk.

“I’m sorry, did you say something?” Harry asks, cheeks pinkening.

Louis laughs and, god, Harry can’t get enough of that sound. “I asked if you’ve had lunch already?”

“Oh,” Harry glances at the time in the corner of the computer screen; almost one in the afternoon. All he had for breakfast was a muffin and coffee and he honestly hasn’t even thought about food since then. He could definitely eat. “No, I haven’t.”

“Perfect,” Louis says, hopping up out of his chair. “Come with me, I want to show you something.”

“Right now?” Harry asks, eyes quickly darting to the computer screen.

“Yes, Harold, right now,” Louis answers, snapping his fingers to get Harry to hurry it up. “So close out of Facebook or Chaturbate or whatever it is you’re doing and come with me.”

“It’s Photoshop,” Harry grumbles under his breath as he emails the few pictures he was able to edit to himself and closes out of the window.

Louis leads him out to the bank of lifts just outside the internet cafe and they take one up two more decks. They step out and Harry follows Louis into a restaurant which is completely deserted. All the lights are off and there’s not a single soul in sight.

“Uh, Louis,” Harry says, cautiously following Louis farther into the restaurant. “I don’t think this place is open.”

“Oh, yeah, it’s not,” Louis responds, weaving his way through the tables towards the back of the restaurant. “It’s only open for dinner.”

Harry steadies himself against a table when he nearly trips over his own feet at that answer. “Then why are we here for lunch?”

Louis doesn't answer him, just leads him to a door that reads kitchen: staff only and pushes it open. Does he expect Harry to follow him in there? He can’t go in there, the door clearly says so.

“Louis,” Harry whispers, eyes scanning the room for anyone else that’s about to witness Harry entering somewhere he’s not allowed. “I can’t go in there.”

Louis frowns. “Why not?”

Harry points to the words on the door. “It says staff only.”

“Oh, it’s fine,” Louis says, waving him off. “You’re with me, you won’t get in trouble. Everyone loves me.” And well, Harry doesn’t doubt that. There’s something so mesmerizing about Louis he doesn't see how anyone couldn’t love him.

Harry follows Louis through the swinging door and into the large kitchen. Stainless steel worktops and appliances everywhere, the smell of something tomatoey like marinara sauce wafting through the air, and in the middle of it all stands a man with his back to them with his hands in a large silver bowl.

As soon as he hears the door swinging shut he turns around, wiping his hands off on the apron tied around his waist. Harry’s eyes land on his face and there’s something vaguely familiar about him, but Harry can’t put his finger on it.

Louis easily strides into the room, brushes past the chef—at least Harry assumes he’s a chef, he’s in a restaurant kitchen, mixing something in a bowl, and wearing a white chef’s jacket—and hops up to sit on top of one of the work tables. He grabs a small bowl that’s just to the right of his hip and sets it in his lap, popping what looks to be a meatball or maybe a chicken nugget into his mouth.

“Just help yourself then, Tommo,” the chef says, bringing Harry’s attention back to him. When Harry gets a look at him this time, it finally hits him why he looks so familiar. He was the other guy that was sitting with Louis and Niall at the pub the other day.

“I will thanks,” Louis mumbles around his mouthful. “Payno, I’d like for you to meet someone. This is Harold. Harold—” Louis lifts a hand and motions in between the two of them. “—Payno.”

“It’s just Harry actually,” Harry says, taking Payno’s outstretched hand into his own, shaking it.

“I’m Liam,” he says, dropping Harry’s hand and giving him a warm smile. “Very nice to meet you.”

It turns out that this is exactly where Louis wanted to bring him for lunch. They nibble on several different dishes that Liam is prepping for tonight. At first, Harry doesn’t want to partake, he feels bad for ruining all of Liam’s hard work, that he shouldn’t be getting all of this for free, but Liam assures him it’s fine, that Louis often comes in for freebies.

Harry never gets back to editing his photos, instead, he tags along with Louis to the bar when he starts his shift and spends the rest of the evening there.

--

They’re halfway through the cruise and they’re docked in Ft Lauderdale today. Harry doesn’t even bother getting off the ship. He’s been to Ft Lauderdale plenty of times and they’ll just be coming back here in a week when they disembark for good. Gemma did get off though because she wanted to do a bit of shopping. And now, it looks like she’s lying out on the beach if the picture she just texted Harry is anything to go by.

He tried to sleep in this morning, but he failed, obviously, he should have known it was a lost cause. He nearly trips over his pile of dirty clothes on his way to the bathroom for a shower, and that’s when he makes his plan for the day. Laundry.

After his shower, he loads up his dirty laundry as well as some of Gemma’s and heads to the laundry room which is conveniently located right across the hall from his stateroom. Perfect location. He uses his back to push open the laundry room door and then again for the second door right after that.

The laundry room is blissfully empty, well, obviously seeing as almost all of the passengers are off the ship and on the beach. He sets his bag of clothes on one of the stainless steel countertops and slides his keycard out of his back pocket. Both the washer and the dryer operate on a token system which you have to pay for.

Harry presses the touchpad that’s connected to the token machine with his finger and the pricing menu pops up. Three dollars for both washing and drying, not too terrible. He doesn’t have too many clothes to wash and he can probably fit them all into one load. He selects the washing cycle then swipes his keycard to pay and a bronze token falls out into the collection tray.

He slots the token into the washing machine and immediately the water starts filling the tank inside. He dumps his clothes in along with some washing detergent he brought along with him from home. He has sensitive skin and he’s not sure he trusts the powders the ship has to offer. Plus, you also have to pay for those and this way it’s free.

While the clothes are in the wash, Harry sits himself down in one of the white plastic chairs and props his feet up on an ironing board. The television mounted on the wall is turned on to the food network and he watches along as the lady on the screen makes some sort of chicken dish.

His stomach grumbles—watching the food network while you’re hungry isn’t a very good idea—at the same time he hears the door of the laundry room squeak open. He drops his feet from the ironing board, sitting up straighter in his chair, his ears perking up. It’s not like he’s annoyed that someone is joining him, he just thought he would have the place to himself and be able to relax in here since mostly everyone is off the ship right now.

The person comes into the room backwards, pulling along a cart in front of them. Harry doesn’t know if he should be concerned or not by that fact that he immediately recognizes the person as Louis. And from the back too.

He calls out to Louis, but Louis doesn’t turn around, he doesn’t even budge, and that’s when Harry notices Louis has his earbuds in. His hips start to sway along to the best of whatever music he’s listening to and then he starts to sing and Harry’s heart stops. It’s not a song Harry recognizes, but Louis’ voice is angelic. High yet raspy and it’s definitely something that Harry could listen to forever. He wants Louis to sing him to sleep.

Louis walks further into the room, pulling the cart along with him. He turns around and startles when he notices Harry, hand flying up to his chest to cover his heart. He tugs out one of his earbuds. “Jesus fuck, Harold. Don’t sneak up on me like that.”

Harry laughs, his heart doing weird little flips. “I’ve literally just been sitting in this chair since before you even came in here. I did not sneak. There was no sneaking involved.”

“Well, okay,” Louis says, pausing the music on his phone and popping out his other earbud. “You could have warned me that you were sitting there like a creep.”

“I tried that but you didn’t hear me.” He points to his own ear indicating that Louis had his earbuds in and therefore couldn’t hear him.

“Oh right,” Louis says, turning to fiddle with something on his cart. Harry’s not sure if he just imagined it or not, but he swears that he caught Louis blushing before he turned around.

“So,” Harry says, changing the subject. He gets a weird feeling in his stomach when he thinks about why he could possibly be blushing. “You work in the laundry too?”

“Oh no,” Louis answers, using a key to unlock the token machine and he starts to refill the tokens. “One of the housekeeping girls is ill and I offered to fill in and help out.”

Harry nods, trying to turn his attention back to the television, but failing. Louis is far more interesting, even if he is just filling up a fucking token machine. Harry could sit here and watch him all day.

Louis hangs out in the laundry room while Harry finishes up his washing and then they grab lunch together in the dining hall. They sit at a table out on the deck and watch the people swimming in the ocean.

--

Princess Cay again today and Harry stays on the ship again. He’s already seen it, and yeah he’d love to lie on the beach do absolutely nothing, but he wants to catch up on his sleep even more. He tries, he really does, but he gets tired of staring at the back of his eyelids, and then staring at the ceiling, and then the wall.

He finally gives up, his brain just won’t shut off, but he still stays in bed. He watches some movies on the television, orders room service for lunch, and FaceTimes his mum until Gemma comes back and they grab dinner together. Overall, not a great day, he was too caught up in his head to do more than lie in bed. Hopefully, tomorrow will be better.

--

A glass is placed down on the counter in front of him and Harry smiles, taking a sip through the straw. “Thank you.”

“No problem,” Louis says before moving to get the order from a young lady sitting on the opposite side of the bar.

So far, today is definitely much better than yesterday. Harry was actually able to get more than four hours of sleep, not much more, but still. He’s been sitting at the bar as soon as it opened as he noticed Louis working behind it.

The ship is at sea all day today, sailing on their way to Jamaica which Harry is stoked about. He’s always wanted to visit Jamaica, the pictures he’s seen of it are always gorgeous, and he cannot wait to arrive tomorrow.

Only two more stops after Jamaica and then they’re back in Florida and then they’re onto a plane and on their way home to London. Harry’s sad that it’s almost over, this trip turned out to be much more than he was anticipating and it may have a little something to do with the bartender that’s currently pouring out a line of shots, but he doesn’t really want to think about what that means exactly.

There’s also the fact that he knows what's awaiting him back in London and he’s not really looking forward to it. He’s got to get his life back in gear. He’s still living in Gemma’s spare room, he didn’t have much time to look for a place of his own before they had to leave. He did find a couple of places online that looked promising and seem to be within his budget, so he’ll have to book appointments to see them once he gets back.

“So,” Louis says, pulling Harry out of his thoughts. He’s got his elbow resting on the bar and his chin resting in his palm, looking at Harry with a cocky grin. “What are your plans for tomorrow.”

Harry ponders that as he takes another sip of his drink, relishing in the zip he gets in his veins from the alcohol. “I’m not sure, I’ll have to check and see what Gemma has in mind, but I don’t think there’s anything set in stone yet. Why?”

“Well,” Louis draws out the last syllable. “There’s this place in Jamaica that the lads and I randomly stumbled upon a few years ago and it quickly became one of my favourite places and you should come with us tomorrow. I want to show it to you.”

Harry’s nodding before Louis’ even finished talking. He’ll go wherever Louis wants him to go.

Louis gets pulled away by more passengers sliding up to the bar before they’re able to finish their conversation. That makes Harry pout, but that might also be because of the two drinks he’s had.

He sits by himself for a while after that, the bar becoming more and more crowded and Louis is the only one working this shift. Harry doesn’t mind all that much though, he enjoys watching Louis, loves how at ease he is while he’s working. He doesn’t get frazzled by how busy it is or how many drinks he’s having to make in quick succession, just keeps everything flowing without a hitch. Harry’s is transfixed.

And it doesn’t matter how busy Louis gets, whenever he has a break between customers he always comes back to Harry.

“Have you gone on the Seawalk yet?” Louis asks while he’s pouring a drink for the gentlemen two stools down from Harry.

Harry’s eyes move from Louis to the wall of glass that’s on the opposite side of the bar. “Uh, no. I thought about it, but I’ve ultimately decided against it. I’m not the biggest fan of heights.”

“You don’t have to look down while you walk across,” Louis responds, wiping down the bartop before placing the man’s drink down, nodding when the man gives his thanks.

“Isn’t that the whole point? Being able to look down and see the ocean below you?”

“Well, yeah,” Louis says. “But you don’t have to look down to know that. You’ll just know you’re above the water. Walking across takes like thirty seconds, if that, it’s no big deal.”

“I don’t know,” Harry shifts uncomfortably on his barstool, just talking about heights is making him squirm. “Walking across glass seems kind of iffy to me.”

Louis rests his elbows on the bartop. “You should do it, it’s definitely something you need to experience. I’ll even do it with you if you’d like, hold your hand so you don’t get scared.”

Now Harry squirms for a completely different reason, his stomach doing somersaults. He decides to change the subject because he doesn’t know what to say to that. “Can I get another?” He asks, tapping the side of his empty glass with his finger.

“Sure,” Louis smiles. “You really like these drinks, huh? I thought you were going to cry when your sister cut you off that first day.”

Harry’s mind flashes with an image of that day and how miserable he was. “I wasn’t going to cry, it’s just complicated.”

“What’s complicated?”

“The reason why I wanted to get blackout drunk before we even left Florida,” Harry elaborates.

“Yeah? Why’s that?” Louis asks. The way Harry stiffens and drops his eyes to the ice cubes already starting to melt in his glass due to the heat today must make Louis assume that he crossed some sort of line because he immediately starts backtracking. “Shit, I’m sorry, that’s none of my business. Of course, you don’t have to tell me anything.”

“No, I want—I want to tell you,” Harry admits, because he really does, god, he does, but it’s just not the right time. “Just not right now.”

Louis takes Harry’s empty glass and replaces it with the new drink. He takes his free hand and places it atop of Harry’s, lightly squeezing before letting go. “That’s fine. You don’t even have to tell me at all, but if and when you decide you’re ready, I’m here.”

And that just hits Harry hard. Right in the gut. Louis actually cares. This person he just met cares more about him than the guy Harry was engaged to ever did. He kind of likes how that feels. He likes him. Fuck, he likes Louis.

Harry’s eyes widen and he stands up from the barstool so abruptly that he almost trips over his own feet. “I’m sorry I have to go.”

He rushes to the lifts as fast as possible. There’s a group of people gathered there waiting and he doesn’t have the time to stand there and wait as well, so he bypasses them and pushes open the door to the stairwell. He’s only going down one floor anyway.

He practically runs down the stairs and then the hallway towards his room, awkwardly digging in the inside pocket of his swim trunks for his keycard as he goes. He stops in front of his door, out of breath, sliding the key into the lock and shoving the door open and nearly running face first into Gemma.

“Hey, I was just about to come and join you.” She’s dressed in her bikini, a sheer white cover-up over it, a floppy sun hat on her head, and a bag slung over her shoulder. She’s dressed for a day out at the pool, similarly to Harry because he too was ready for a day by the pool until his realization crushed him. The look on his face must match the frantic way he’s feeling because Gemma’s smile quickly fades and she turns into protective sister mode. “What’s wrong?”

“I need to talk to you,” he pants, still trying to catch his breath from running down the corridor.

No need for more explanation, because Gemma is immediately reaching out to grip Harry’s wrist and tug him along to the bed. She sits at the foot of it, patting the spot next to her. “Okay, sit. Tell me what’s going on.”

Harry sits next to her, shoving his hands in between his thighs and hunching his shoulders. “I think I’m starting to like Louis.” Gemma’s quiet, doesn't say anything, and Harry peeks at her from the corner of his eyes. She’s just staring at him like she’s waiting for more so he continues. “Like really like him. Like fancy him.”

“You’re just now realizing that you like him?” She asks, deadpan.

“Gems, please be serious. I’m scared,” he confesses.

“What are you scared of?” She asks, her voice getting softer. “Louis seems like such a great guy.”

“He is,” Harry sighs, hunching his shoulders even more. “That’s the problem.”

Gemma scoots closer to him and tugs on his arm so his hand pops out from between his thighs and she cups it with both of her own. “Harry, I haven’t seen you like this in a long time, haven’t seen you this happy. Louis makes you happy and you deserve some happiness.”

“I don’t know,” Harry says, angling his body to face his sister. “It feels too good to be true like I shouldn’t have it. Like I don’t deserve it or something.”

Gemma’s face falls and she squeezes Harry’s hand. “Look, you know that I never liked Jonathan, he was a dick and he cheated on you. You do deserve so much better. Your relationship with him wasn’t healthy and it killed me to see you become this shell of your true self because of it. Already, with only a week spent with Louis, I’ve seen you turn back into the Harry I’ve always known and loved. I can already tell that Louis is good for you and I think deep down you know that too.”

Harry sits there and allows Gemma’s words to sink in. A lot of what she said is true; he never felt like he could truly be himself with Jonathan and he’s never once felt that way with Louis.

But there's still that little voice inside of him telling him that he’s not good enough, that he doesn’t deserve to be happy.

Gemma must be able to tell that he’s still feeling conflicted because she continues on. “I know it probably feels weird to be interested in someone so soon after ending a relationship, that your moral compass is telling you that it’s wrong, but Harry, fuck that. Do what makes you happy because that’s the only thing that matters. You’re the only one who is going to know when you’re ready. And of course, I’m going to be here for you no matter what happens.”

They hug it out, Harry feeling a bit better now thanks to Gemma. She’s always been the best at talking him down from a ledge. He doesn’t know how she always knows the perfect things to say, but he’s eternally grateful for her.

He doesn’t feel like going back out to pool, too embarrassed to face Louis after the awkward way he rushed out of there earlier. He insists that Gemma go out and enjoy the nice day, but she ignores his protests and opts to stay in with him instead. They cuddle up in bed and order an array of unhealthy food from room service.

When Harry gets up to plug in his phone to charge, he notices he has several text messages from Louis asking him if he’s okay. Harry replies saying he’s fine, that he wasn’t feeling all that well and needed to lie down, not waiting to tell Louis the real reason he ran away and says he’ll see him tomorrow for their day in Jamaica.

--

“Sick shorts, mate.”

Harry stiffens as he’s lathering suncream on his arms. Yeah, okay, so he might kind of like it when Louis makes fun of him, teases him a little, but not about this. These shorts are cute and they were on sale. He likes these shorts. Even if they have some not so great memories attached to them. He turns his body towards Louis, about to get defensive, but then he notices what Louis is wearing.

His swim trunks have a turtle print too. The turtles, as well as the actual shorts, are a different colour than Harry’s—and he’s tied the white drawstring in a little bow which Harry finds far more endearing that he should—and they’re a different size, but they’re turtles. “You have turtles too.”

“I do,” Louis replies. Harry can’t tell if the crinkles by Louis’ eyes are from his smile or the sun shining in his eyes, but either way, he looks beautiful doing it. “We match. Everyone is going to be so jealous of our turtles.” Harry preens at that. Louis likes that they’re matching, he isn’t weirded out by it. “Mine are a bit bigger than yours, but—”

“When you two are done comparing sizes, we can head out,” Niall says out of nowhere because where the hell did he come from? Harry was stood here with just Louis like a second ago.

He turns to where Niall’s voice came from and there he is sitting behind the wheel of a fucking golf cart. Liam is spread out on the seat on the back.

“A golf cart?” Harry asks, incredulous. “Where did you even get that?”

Louis cackles from next to him while Niall gives him a smile like he knows something Harry doesn’t. “I have my ways. Now hop on so we can get going, we don’t have all day.”

Harry looks over at Louis a little skeptically, but Louis just nods at him and places his hand on the small of Harry’s back to guide him towards the golf cart. Harry hopes that Louis didn’t notice the shiver that took over his body at Louis’ touch. He slides into the front seat with Niall and Louis hops on the back with Liam.

The drive out to wherever they’re going—Harry still doesn’t know where because no one will tell him no matter how much he begs—takes a good while. They’re going further and further into the mainland away from all the other passengers and tourist traps and Harry just sits back and enjoys the ride. Or well, he tries too. It’s a little hard with how recklessly Niall is driving.

It’s a lot cooler here in Jamaica as it was everywhere else they’ve docked so far and Harry’s loving it. It’s still warm enough for shorts and t-shirts, light clothing, but the breeze is cool enough that you’re not sweating profusely. Harry leans back in his seat and focuses on how nice the wind feels whipping through his hair instead of the maniac behind the wheel.

The locals are so friendly, waving hello and greeting them as they drive by, a group of young boys chasing after their golf cart as they interrupt the game of football they were playing in the middle of the street. Harry is already in love with Jamaica. This is definitely his favourite place they’ve stopped during the cruise. They still have two more ports after this one, but he knows Jamaica is his favourite. He could live here.

After about an hour, Niall comes to a stop in front of what looks like a deli, meats hanging in the windows, signs advertising kebabs and sandwiches. It’s the last building in a row of buildings, nothing but trees and woods behind them. Harry looks at the other three boys, all of whom are climbing out of their seats. Surely, this isn’t the place they were going to all along. Louis hasn’t shut up about this place for days and it’s just a fucking deli. These kebabs better be incredible.

Harry steps out of the golf cart and follows along behind Niall who is heading straight for the front door of the deli. Abruptly, Niall stops and spins around a few feet in front of the door, Harry almost running right into him. He gives Harry an odd look before turning his attention to Louis.

“Liam and I are going to stop in here to get stuff for lunch.”

“Alright,” Louis nods. “I’m going to take Harry and keep going. I want to show him our place.”

Harry glances between all of them curiously. Keep going where? So this isn’t the place? He wishes someone would just tell him something because he hasn’t got a clue about what’s going on. Where else is there even to go? The only other things around are a few other businesses and a damn forest.

Niall pushes open the door to the deli, the little bell above jingling as he does so. “Sounds good. We’ll meet you there.”

Louis leads Harry around the side of the building to where there’s a dirt path leading into the woods between a small gap in the trees. They're going in there? Won’t there be, like, wild animals and stuff? Harry hesitates at the edge of the path watching Louis’ back as he walks further into the trees. Louis looks over his shoulder, marginally slowing down his walking pace, giving Harry a smile. And well, Harry finds Louis hard to resist normally, but especially when he smiles like that and he jogs to catch up.

They walk in silence, their hands brushing so often that Harry’s not sure if Louis is doing it intentionally or not. Either way, it sends a jolt of excitement through him each time. This is the first time they’ve truly been alone, without people just on the other side of a thin wall, the first time they have done anything outside of the cruise ship.

They come to the base of a large hill after twenty minutes or so of walking and Harry hopes they’re almost there, he’s getting thirsty.

“We’re almost there,” Louis says as he begins walking up the hill, almost as if he’s reading Harry’s mind.

Harry nods as he follows along, legs already aching from the steep angle of the hill. Once they reach the top, Harry bends over with his hands on his knees to catch his breath. Both because that hill—which is actually a cliff, like they’re standing at the edge of a fucking cliff right now—was a lot steeper and taller than it looked and the view is quite literally breathtaking.

Straight out in front of him, he can see all the way out to the ocean, where they started from, their cruise ship parked at the port. The tiny little specks of people scattered out across the beach; he wonders if one of them is Gemma.

He spins around, takes in the view from every direction. The trees that make up the wooded area they trekked through to get here, which is quite smaller than it seemed when they were down there. Houses and buildings clumped together stretching out as far as he can see.

“It’s beautiful up here, huh?” Louis asks, drawing Harry’s attention back to him. Even with this gorgeous view of Jamaica around him, a place Harry never thought he would ever be, Louis is even more stunning that all of it.

“It is,” Harry replies, looking out towards the ocean again so he doesn’t blurt out something stupid, like how pretty he thinks Louis is. “How did you even find this place?”

Louis takes a few steps closer to the edge of the cliff they’re stood on. “After working on a cruise ship for a while you actually get kind of bored of the sea. So we decided to explore a little bit. We drove around until we found this wooded area, went hiking through it because why the fuck not, and then stumbled upon this little beauty. And now it’s one of my favourite places in the world.”

Harry is just about to reply because he doesn’t understand how anyone could get bored with the sea, but then Louis takes another step closer to the edge. The next few seconds happen so fast that Harry isn’t even able to process what actually happens until it’s too late.

As Louis takes a step backwards the heel of his foot lands on a rock that slips out from under him. He loses his footing, his arms flailing out in front of him to try and regain his balance, and then he’s falling. Right off the cliff. Louis just fell off the fucking cliff. Harry’s heart stops.

Harry rushes to the edge and peers over. The first thing he notices is how high up it is, probably about twenty feet or so, and his skin crawls, his stomach churning. He hates heights. The second thing he notices is there’s a lake at the bottom. Okay, maybe not a lake, it’s too small to be a lake. A pond maybe? No, it’s too big to be a pond. Is there a word for something in between a lake and a pond? Either way, there’s a body of water at the bottom and not a bunch of sharp rocks or something that Louis could have impaled himself on. The third thing he notices is that Louis is nowhere in sight.

Harry closes his eyes and takes a deep breath, trying not to panic. He’s really going to have to jump off this cliff and save Louis. He could be drowning, or he could have hit his head on the bottom, or he could be—no, Harry doesn’t even want to think about what could have happened. Louis is fine. He takes off his shoes and tries to mentally prepare himself for jumping off. He really, really hates heights and he’s so high up.

Just as he’s about to do it, he hears a splash from below. He looks down and there’s Louis emerging from the water perfectly fine and laughing. At first, Harry’s confused because nothing about this is even remotely funny, but then it clicks. It was a joke, a prank, Louis meant to trip and fall. Harry is no longer worried. He’s pissed.

“You dick,” Harry shouts down at him. “I seriously thought you fell and was, like, bleeding out in the water or something.”

That just makes Louis laugh even harder. “Oops,” he says, not looking apologetic in the slightest. “I couldn’t resist.”

“You’re an arsehole.”

“Aw, I’m sorry,” Louis says, still fucking laughing. “Now please come join me.”

Harry sighs. As much as he’s royally annoyed right now, he would much rather be down there than up here. The height is really starting to make him woozy. “Okay fine, but I’m drowning you as soon as I get down there.” He grabs his shoes and turns around, about to walk back down the side of the cliff when Louis calls out, stopping him.

“Ah ah, that’s not how we do it,” Louis calls. “You have to jump.”

Harry blinks down at him. “Jump?”

“Yes,” Louis nods. “Jump.”

“I can’t do that,” he says as if he wasn’t seconds away from jumping when he thought Louis was dead.

“Oh, come on Harry, I can see your vagina from here.”

Harry rolls his eyes. Louis is so goddamn annoying. “Don’t fucking quote Forgetting Sarah Marshall at me right now, I’m terrified of heights.”

“Well,” Louis shrugs like it’s no big deal that he’s forcing someone who is afraid of heights to jump off a damn cliff. “You’ve got to conquer your fears by facing them, yeah?”

“Oh good one,” Harry says, rolling his eyes yet again. “Like I haven’t heard that before.”

“Just jump, Harold. The whole thing will only last like five seconds. The faster you do it the faster you’ll be down here with me.” Louis strips his shirt off and tosses it on shore. He floats on his back and Harry’s eyes rake over his bare chest. That’s definitely tempting. Harry takes off his own shirt, folds it up and place it down with his shoes. He closes his eyes, tries to get in the same headspace he was when he was about to jump earlier, prays that he won’t hit a rock or something on the way down, and then jumps.

It takes a lot longer to reach the water than he thought it would. As he’s falling, he’s wondering when he’ll ever make it to the bottom. It’s exhilarating yet incredibly terrifying at the same time. Finally, his feet touch the water and he slips underneath. That was amazing. If he doesn’t think about how high up he just was, he could probably go back up and do it again and again.

His head breaks through the surface of the water, his lungs burning with the need for air. He takes a few deep breaths and opens his eyes and Louis’ right there in front of him the biggest smile on his face. There’s adrenaline coursing through Harry’s veins which causes him to reach out and place his hands on either side of Louis’ face without even thinking about it. He pulls him closer and seals their lips together.

It’s everything he’s ever wanted. His lungs are still on fire and desperate for air but he’d rather keep kissing Louis. And then it hits him. He’s kissing Louis. He just kissed him, fucking attacked him with his lips. He’s accepted the fact that he likes Louis, that he has genuine feelings for him, but he shouldn’t be doing this.

He pulls away and lets his hands fall from Louis’ face. Louis’ eyes flicker open and he cocks his head to the side, a concerned little furrow between his eyebrows.

“Hey,” Louis puts his hands on Harry’s hips and pulls him back to him. “Come back.”

And that’s really all Harry needed to hear to break whatever funk he was just in and goes back easily. He shouldn’t have to worry about whether it’s too soon or not, he’s moved on, he’s over that cheating bastard and he’s happy. Like really truly happy. Louis makes him happy. And it feels really, really good to kiss him. It feels good, complete, a simple kiss has never felt this right.

Louis moves his hands up Harry’s back and wraps his legs around his waist. Harry hands immediately go to Louis’ arse and he squeezes. Louis moans against his mouth and bites down on Harry’s bottom lip.

He’s getting hard. Just kissing Louis and having his body pressed up against his own is making him hard. He can’t help pushing forwards and he groans in the back of his throat when he realizes that Louis is hard too.

Louis breaks the kiss and tucks his head into the crook of Harry’s neck. “Fuck,” Louis breathes. Rubbing his cock harder against Harry’s own. He’s seeing stars. It’s been a while since he’s had any kind of action and it feels incredible.

Rustling sounds come from the brush to their left quickly followed by a loud voice. “Tommo, where the fuck are ya?” And then Niall appears through the trees.

Louis sighs as he drops his legs from around Harry’s waist, standing upright on his own. He drops his head against Harry’s chest. “At least I can always count on Niall for being a fucking cockblock.”

Harry barks out a laugh that comes out more like a honk and he slaps his hand over his mouth in surprise. Louis looks at him wide-eyed before breaking out into laughter himself.

“I mean we could still do it,” Harry mumbles from behind his hand.

“This water is super clear he’d definitely be able to see everything,” Louis says.

Harry shrugs. “I don’t mind.”

“Yeah?” A smirk plays on Louis’ lips. “You a bit of an exhibitionist or something?”

“I mean,” Harry starts. “I’ve never tried it but I’ve always thought it’d be kind of hot doing it, you know like, where’s there’s a chance of getting caught.”

“Jesus,” Louis hisses through his teeth. “Now is not the time to discuss kinks, Harold.”

Harry perks up at that. “So you have some too? What are they?”

“I said not the time,” Louis snaps playfully. “I’m trying to get my dick to forget that you exist and this conversation is definitely not helping.”

Harry giggles as he steps closer to Louis, the water sloshing in between them. He reaches out with his hand underneath the water and drags his knuckles down the length of Louis’ cock tucked in his swim trunks. “Later,” Harry whispers. He loves watching Louis’ eyes fall shut as he shivers at the touch. He sends Louis a smirk over his shoulder as he walks away.

Niall splashes into the lake completely oblivious to what he interrupted with his arrival. Harry has to dodge out of the way to avoid be hitting with his splashes. As Harry walks out onto the bank, hoping one of the guys thought to bring towels because Harry didn’t know where they were going and he’s very unprepared, he hears some more rustling from the trees. He looks up and there’s Liam emerging from the trees loaded down with bags of food. He rushes over to help and it isn’t until he gets a whiff of the food that he realizes how hungry he is.

They spend all afternoon out here, floating on the water or lounging on the bank. And as it turns out, the kebabs really are incredible. Harry even jumps from the cliff a few more times. He doesn’t like the flips he gets in his tummy when he’s standing at the edge, but the feeling he gets when he hits the water is worth it. He even jumps off once with Louis, their hands clasped tight as they take off with a running jump. And if Louis presses him up against the base of the cliff once they’re in the water and snogs him a bit while Liam and Niall are still at the top, then that’s just their business.

They pack up and leave with just enough time to make it back to the ship before boarding. As much as Harry is loving Jamaica, he definitely doesn’t want the ship to leave without him. Gemma would be pissed.

Speaking of Gemma, Harry literally bumps into her at the port while he’s pulling his phone out to call her.

“Hey,” he says, sliding his phone back into his pocket. “I was just about to call you.”

She glances between him and Louis who is standing behind him before turning her attention back to Harry. “I met some girls on the beach today. They invited me out for dinner and drinks with them tonight.”

“That’s great, Gem—”

“I don’t want to leave you alone, though,” she admits quietly. “I don’t really know them, so I can easily turn them down and spend the night with you instead.”

Harry steps closer to his sister and reaches out to grip her elbow. “I know you’re worried about me, but I’m fine. Honestly. I made some friends on this trip and you should too. You didn’t come along to be my therapist or bodyguard or whatever. So go out and have some fun. You definitely deserve it for putting up with me.” Gemma looks up at him, a clear reluctance in her eyes. Harry gives her a nod and squeezes her elbow before letting go. “I’ll be fine and I’ll text you if I need anything.”

She pulls him in for a hug squeezing a bit too tightly. “Okay. I love you.”

“I love you too,” he responds, dropping his arms from around her waist.

Gemma waves goodbye as makes her way across the port to where a group of women are huddled together.

“I didn’t mean to eavesdrop,” Louis says out of nowhere from behind Harry, startling him. “But why would she be worried about you?”

Harry wants to tell Louis about Jonathan, he really does, and he’s ready to. He’s even been practising what he’s going to say, as ridiculous as that sounds, but now isn’t the right time. Harry has something else in mind that he wants to do with Louis tonight. But soon.

“Oh you know,” Harry shrugs, waving his hand out in front of him absentmindedly. “She’s my older sister and she’s always been protective of me. You’re an older sibling so surely you understand.”

Louis drops his head and furrows his brow as if he’s really contemplating what Harry just said. “Yeah, you’re right. If any of my sisters were here with me, I’d definitely be that annoying older brother.”

Boarding commences shortly after that and they queue up with everyone else being herded back onto the ship. It isn’t long until their standing on the deck and Harry pulls Louis off to the side so they’re out of everyone’s way.

“So,” Harry begins, shuffling his feet against the wood of the deck. “You aren’t working tonight?”

“Nope,” Louis replies, a smile stretching out across his lips. “Not until tomorrow afternoon.”

“Do you want to come back to my room with me?” Harry asks.

Louis arches an eyebrow, giving Harry a knowing look. “So that’s why you told your sister to go out tonight, so you could drag me back to your room?”

“What?” Harry gasps, aghast. “No. Not at all.” Louis just stares him down with a look that says he knows Harry is lying. Which, Harry isn’t lying, not completely anyway. He does want Gemma to go out and make some friends as he has done. But maybe he also kind of wanted to get rid of her so he and Louis could have the room to themselves. “Okay, maybe a little bit.” He holds up his hand with his thumb and index finger about a centimetre apart, showing Louis just how much of a little bit.

Louis laughs, throwing his head back with it. “That’s cheap, Styles. But yes, let’s go to your room.”

Harry giggles before bravely reaching out and taking Louis’ hand in his, interlocking their fingers. He shyly looks up at Louis from underneath his eyelashes, but Louis’ gaze is cast down at their clasped hands, a smile on his face. Warmth spreads through Harry’s chest when Louis looks up and notices Harry already watching him, his smile growing wider and he squeezes Harry’s hand with his.

There are too many people huddled around waiting for the lifts, so they bypass that completely, too anxious to get back to the room and take the stairs instead. Harry has to drop Louis’ hand once they reach the door so he can dig out the keycard from his bag. His hands shake as he fumbles to get the key to slide into the lock.

He feels a hand settle on his hip and then Louis’ slipping the keycard out of Harry’s hand and unlocking the door himself. It unlocks with a click, Louis pushing the door open and using the hand on Harry’s hip to guide him inside, letting the door softly fall shut behind them.

Harry takes the key back from Louis with a smile in thanks and puts it back into the pocket of his bag. “So this is our room,” he says awkwardly. “Bathroom is over here and the clo—”

“Harry,” Louis interjects, placing a hand on the arm Harry is gesturing towards the bathroom with. “I work here, I think I know what a stateroom looks like.”

“Right, yeah,” Harry shakes his head, feeling like an idiot. “Of course you do.”

Louis takes a step closer, trailing the hand on Harry’s arm down to his hip again. “Just because things got a little heated earlier doesn’t mean we have to do anything now. We can just watch a film or something.”

Harry swallows, dropping his chin to his chest. He’s nervous, no doubt about that, but he wants this. As much as he likes Louis, as much as he’s attracted to him because, god, is he attracted to him, he’s still nervous. Kissing Louis was great, amazing even, a little heavy petting he could handle, but this feels like a huge step.

They’ve only known each other for a little over a week and Harry’s never done this before. Never slept with someone he wasn’t in a committed relationship with. Despite that, it’s been a while since he’s had sex in general, he had Jonathan hadn’t in ages. Now Harry knows why that is; because Jonathan was getting it from someone else but—no Harry needs to stop thinking about him. He’s over it, he’s moved on.

Everything between him and Louis has felt right since the moment they met. There’s something about Louis that makes Harry feel safe, even after only knowing each other for a short amount of time. Now that Harry’s officially moved on, started the healing process with everything that happened with his ex, everything with Louis feels even more right. He wants this, he’s just nervous.

“No, I—I want to,” he admits quietly.

“Well, come here then.” Louis uses the hand currently placed on Harry’s hip to drag him closer until their chests touch. Louis places his other hand around the back of Harry’s neck. Harry’s heart pounds in his chest, his stomach flipping. He knows what’s coming next and his eyes fall shut as he lets it happen.

Their lips meet and Harry wraps his arms around Louis’ slim waist as he melts into it. Louis’ lips are soft and pliable against his own and Harry easily allows Louis to take the lead, happy to follow along.

He hums in pleasure as Louis deepens the kiss, licking across Harry’s bottom lip. Harry parts them with a gasp, allowing Louis’ tongue to slip inside. Louis' fingers tangle in the curls at the base of Harry’s neck, tugging. Harry whimpers, pressing his groin even closer against Louis’. Hair pulling always does it for him.

Suddenly, Louis’ breaking the kiss and placing a hand on Harry’s chest. Harry yelps as he’s shoved backwards, arse colliding with the mattress. He barely has a second to right himself on the bed before Louis’ climbing into his lap, thighs on either side of Harry’s hips, diving in to kiss him again.

Louis grinds his hips down slightly and Harry groans, hands moving around to cup Louis’ arse, which only causes Louis to grind down even more. The kiss becomes dirtier, more desperate, the longer it goes on and Harry’s so hard he’s not sure how much longer he’s going to last.

Harry’s just about to lie back and pull Louis down with him when he remembers something. He pushes Louis back and takes in a deep breath. Kissing Louis is so good he forgot that he needs to breathe. “Wait, stop,” he says when Louis tries to go in for more.

Louis’ face drops and he sighs, climbing out of Harry’s lap. “It’s okay if you’re not ready. Maybe I should just go.”

“No, please don’t go,” Harry reaches out for Louis, trying to pull him back in. “I mean unless you want to of course. But um—” he places his hand flat on the mattress next to him “—this is where Gemma sleeps and I’d feel weird doing it here.”

“Oh,” Louis says, eyes darting to the sofa over Harry’s shoulder. “So you don’t want to stop?”

“What? No, fuck no,” Harry crawls to the other side of the bed and stands up. He reaches for the little handle underneath the sofa cushions, wrappings his fingers around it when he finds it. “Just help me pull the bed out.”

Louis nods and walks around Gemma’s bed. He reaches underneath the cushions for the handle on the other end of the sofa and they pull it out together. Harry straightens up the sheets that got a little crumpled when it was folded up while Louis places all the cushions on top of the desk against the opposite wall.

While Louis’ back is still turned, Harry takes off his shirt and places it on the back of the desk chair. He lays out on his back on his bed, propped up on his elbows. He puts on foot on the bed, his knee bent, and tries to spread out his thighs as much as possible. He’s trying to look seductive, but he’s not quite sure how well it’s going until Louis turns back around.

He freezes, his mouth dropping open as his eyes rake over Harry’s body.

“How do you want me?” Harry asks his voice coming out raspier than he anticipated.

That seems to break Louis out of it and the corner of his mouth lifts up in a smirk. “Exactly how you are is perfect.” He reaches up over his shoulder to grab the back of shirt behind his head and pulls it completely off with one tug, placing it on top of Harry’s on the chair. Harry has never found someone doing something as simple as removing their shirt as sexy as he just did.

Louis knees himself up on the bed and slots himself in the open space between Harry’s thighs. Harry gasps when Louis’ hard cock comes into contact with his own and he has to physically stop himself from bucking up to chase the friction.

Their bare chests are just breaths away from touching, Louis keeping himself upright with his hands against the mattress, just to the side of Harry’s elbows. Being this up close to Louis is a lot. His eyes are more black than blue with how blown out his pupils are, his lips red and swollen from kissing. He’s honestly the most beautiful man Harry has ever seen, ever met, and he can’t believe how lucky he is to have him laid out on top of him right now.

“You’re so gorgeous, Harry,” Louis breathes, saying exactly what Harry was just thinking. Their faces are so close, Harry feels the warmth from Louis’ words against his lips. He barely moves forward to close the distance between them, sighing in relief when their lips touch.

It doesn’t last too long this time around and Harry whines a little when Louis pulls away, but then Louis is scooting down to kiss across Harry’s chest. Harry’s elbows give out and he lands flat on his back when Louis’ tongue darts out to flick one of Harry’s nipples. Louis smirks up at him before darting down to repeat the action on the other one.

The kisses continue down Harry’s body, over his chest and stomach, stopping right below his belly button. Louis’ index finger hooks underneath the waistband of Harry’s swim trunks, still slightly damp from swimming earlier. Louis’ eyes flick up to Harry, a question evident in them.

“Can I take these off?” Louis asks. “Wanna suck you.”

Harry groans, his head dropping back against the mattress. “Yeah, please.”

He lifts his hips to help Louis gently ease them down his legs. He’s completely bare now, laid out for Louis to see. He’s tempted to cover himself, he’s never been shy when it comes to nudity, but the heated way Louis is looking down at him makes him squirm.

“Fuck,” Louis says, laying back down in between Harry’s legs, inhaling deeply. His hands sliding up the inside of Harry’s thighs. “Just every single inch of you is perfect.”

Harry feels his cheeks heat up from the compliment and he’s just about to say something similar right back to Louis, but then Louis’ replacing his hands with his mouth and he sucks little bruises along Harry’s inner thighs and Harry loses all train of thought. He writhes around under the intense pleasure-pain from it, knowing he’ll still be feeling exactly where Louis’ mouth is in the morning.

Reaching out blindly, Harry gets a good handful of Louis’ hair and gently tugs, trying to guide him right to where Harry wants him. Louis pulls back, removing his mouth from Harry’s body and Harry whines. That was the complete opposite of what he wanted.

“Eager are we?” Louis chuckles. “Just be patient, love. I’ll get there.”

Harry whines again. He’s not sure how patient he can be when he has Louis literal inches away from where he really wants him. He takes one of the pillows from the head of the bed and slides it underneath his head so he has a better view of what Louis is doing without straining his neck too much.

Louis gets back to it, licking and kissing Harry’s thighs, even moving all the way down to his ankles. It feels nice, like really nice, he could easily spend a whole day just lying here while Louis kisses every inch of him. But when Harry’s as fucking hard as he is right now, he needs a little more and he knows Louis’ just teasing him.

“Please, Lou. I need—oh god,” his words get choked off into a moan, his head falling back against the pillow as Louis takes him in between his wet lips. Louis hasn’t even done anything yet, just taken Harry’s cock into his mouth and it already feels like heaven.

Harry’s hands fist in the sheets, knuckles turning white as Louis drags his mouth back up, Harry’s dick releasing from it with a pop, darting his tongue out to lick at the sensitive head. Just as Harry’s getting used to that feeling, could come from that feeling, Louis sucks him back down, cheeks hollowing.

The sight of Louis’ head between his legs is enough to make Harry's head spin, but that paired with the warm, wet suction around his cock is making him see stars. He tries to keep his eyes open to watch the indecent way Louis’ lips stretched out around him, but they keep falling shut from pleasure and he sinks further and further into the mattress.

Louis’ hand comes up to wrap around the base of Harry’s cock, stroking what his mouth can’t quite reach. At first, he’s not doing much, just loosely moving his fist up and down, but then he tightens his grip and twists. It’s like nothing Harry’s ever felt before and his hips buck up, pushing himself further into Louis’ mouth. Louis takes it easily, sucks even harder while still twisting his hand around and that’s it.

His whole body tenses, pulling tight like a string when he comes, tears pricking at the corners of his eyes from how good it is. Harry’s never come that hard or that fast in his whole life and he’s completely breathless from it. Louis sucks him through it, hands on Harry’s hips to keep him still.

Once Harry’s come down, his breaths starting to slow, Louis kisses his way up Harry’s body before lying out next to him, hands trailing down Harry’s side. “Hi,” he says with a smile, swooping in for a kiss.

Harry can taste himself on Louis’ tongue and it should probably be gross, but there’s that sharp, distinct taste of Louis mixed with it and Harry can’t get enough. His tongue dives deeper into Louis’ mouth, chasing the taste. It’s intoxicating.

“How are you feeling?” Louis asks after they’ve come up for air, his hands never leaving Harry’s body.

“Good, perfect,” Harry replies, preening under the attention. “God, Lou, your mouth is amazing.”

Louis shrugs like it’s nothing like it’s something he’s told every day. Harry wouldn’t be surprised if he was. “I try.”

“Sorry I only lasted for, like, a second,” Harry says shyly.

“Hey,” Louis says, using his finger to lift Harry's chin so he can look him in the eye. “Don’t apologize. I’m just glad that I could make you feel good.”

Harry nods, rolling over so he’s sprawled out on top of Louis. “You did,” Harry whispers, leaning in for a quick kiss. He sits up so he’s perched in Louis’ lap. He can feel Louis’s hard cock underneath him and wiggles around a bit until it settles between the crease of his arse Fuck, it feels so thick. Harry closes his eyes as he rocks against him, imagines there isn’t the layer of Louis’ shorts in between them, that Louis’ cock is tucked up inside of him. His own twitches at the thought. “And now it’s my turn to do the same to you.” Louis’ eyes flutter shut each time Harry rocks his hips, it’s addicting to watch. Louis is so pretty.

“Here,” Louis says, his voice high and raspy. His hands grip either side of Harry’s hips, stopping his movement. “Let me get my shorts off.”

Please, wanna see you.” Harry swings his leg over Louis’ hip, kneeling off to the side of him and watches as Louis kicks his shorts down his legs. He can’t stake his eyes off of where Louis’ cock is lying hard and leaking against his stomach. “Oh my god.”

“It’s not much,” Louis murmurs, wrapping his hand around it, stroking slowly. As much as Harry’s gagging to get his mouth on Louis’ cock like he’s literally drooling just thinking about it, he could happily sit here and watch Louis get himself off.

“It’s not much?” Harry scoffs, batting Louis’ hand away so he can replace it with his own. “It’s, like, unfairly pretty. ‘S perfect.” He kisses across Louis’ jawline and then down his neck, over his chest to his stomach. “God, I love how curvy you are,” he praises, biting over the bloom of Louis’ hips.

“I’m so close already, baby. I won’t—“ Harry can see Louis’ lips moving, he knows he’s saying something, but he can’t hear a thing over his heart beating in his ears. Baby. He’s never been called that before and hearing it from Louis makes his brain short circuit. He never wants to hear anything else ever.

He keeps jerking Louis, his hand gripped tightly around him and he pokes out his tongue, lapping at the smooth head. The heady, tangy taste of him is fabulous; he tastes so fucking good it’s making Harry’s head swim.

And the sounds, fuck the sounds, falling from Louis’ lips are gorgeous and encourage Harry even more, he can’t believe he’s able to make Louis sound like that. He tugs on Louis a little harsher, a little faster, and wraps his lips around him just enough to suckle on the head.

Suddenly, Louis grips onto Harry’s hair and yanks, pulling Harry off his cock with an obscene slurp. If Harry hadn’t come just minutes before, he definitely would have then, his scalp smarting from the pain of it.

He just blinks, confused, hand still pumping Louis’ cock, Louis’ hand still gripping his hair. He’s just close enough to lick against Louis’ shaft and he does just that. The second his tongue comes in contact with the warm skin of Louis’ cock, Louis comes.

Harry feels the warmth of it hitting his cheeks, his lips, the last remnants dribbling down his hand. Louis slumps against the bed, finally letting go of Harry’s hair. “You look good like that,” he says, breathless.

“Hmm?” Harry hums, eyes flicking up to Louis’ face.

“With your face all covered in my come,” Louis clarifies. “You look really good like that.”

“Oh,” Harry can feel heat flooding his cheeks as he slips his fingers into his mouth to clean them. “Thanks.”

Louis laughs at the garbled way it comes out around Harry’s fingers before sliding off the bed and heading for the bathroom. He returns seconds later with a damp flannel that he uses to wipe down Harry’s face with.

After they’re both cleaned up, they cuddle up together underneath the duvet of Harry’s sofa bed. The telly is turned on, volume low, they both had intentions of watching it, but neither one has paid any attention to it, to busy talking and kissing.

Harry doesn’t know long they’ve been lying together when he hears a sound come from the other side of the door. It sounds familiar and it takes a second for it to click in his head, but once it does his stomach drops. It’s the sound of a keycard sliding into the lock.

“Fuck,” Harry hisses quietly. “Gemma’s back. You have to hide.”

“Hide? Where the fuck am I supposed to hide?” Louis whispers.

“I don’t know,” Harry's eyes dart around the room for a spot to hide Louis when he hears the door handle turning. “Shit, we don’t have time, just stay still.” He throws the duvet up to cover Louis’ body and lies half on top of him, trying to conceal him as much as possible. He props his head up on his elbow, eyes focused on the television, trying to be inconspicuous, just in time for Gemma to enter the room.

“Hey,” Harry greets, gaze moving from the television to his sister. “How was dinner?”

Gemma walks further into the room, tossing a styrofoam takeout container onto her bed and walks straight into the closet. She doesn’t even spare a glance at Harry. “It was actually a lot of fun.”

“Oh, good. That’s good,” Harry says, relief flooding through him that she didn’t notice the Louis shaped lump next to him, which is now wriggling. Harry blindly reaches underneath the duvet to pinch at Louis’ side. “I’m glad you had a good time.”

He can hear Gemma rummaging through her bag, probably in search of a pair of pyjamas to change into. “We stopped at that dessert bar afterwards and I brought you back a slice of cheesecake.”

Harry’s looks at the takeout box on Gemma’s bed. That must be what’s inside it then. “Thank you. That was nice of you.”

“Louis, do you like cheesecake?” Gemma asks out of nowhere. Harry freezes. There’s no way she saw him, she didn’t even look over this way when she came into the room. How the hell does she even know he’s here.

Louis peeks out from underneath the duvet, eyes full of panic as he looks up at Harry. Harry just shrugs, biting his lip to keep in his laughter. She already knows, there’s no point in trying to hide it any further.

“Uh, yeah. I do,” Louis says quietly.

“Okay good, because I brought you back a slice as well.”

“Oh, um, thank you.” Louis folds the duvet down to his shoulders.

“No problem,” Gemma pops her head around the corner of the closer. “I’m going to jump in the shower.”

Harry catches her eye over Louis' shoulder as he reaches for the takeout box. “Thank you,” he mouths at her.

Gemma nods. “You’re welcome,” she mouths back, quickly followed by, “love you.”

He mouths back the same before pulling Louis closer to him. He picks up one of the plastic forks inside the container and tucks into their cheesecake.

“Louis, you’re welcome to stay the night if you’d like,” Gemma says. “It’s pretty late so there’s no point in you going back to your room now.”

He looks at Harry to make sure it’s okay and Harry nods. He didn’t want Louis to leave anyway. “Yeah okay. Thank you.”

--

Something wet presses against Harry’s shoulder. He groans, rolling onto his side to get away from the feeling. But the feeling follows him, more insistent this time, pressing against his shoulder and moving across his back.

He groans again, flipping completely over to lay on his right side now, hoping the feeling goes away. He just wants to go back to sleep. But this time, he hits something hard that starts to giggle. Harry snaps his eyes open, and there’s Louis lying right in front of him, eyes squeezed shut and mouth wide open in laughter.

“Good morning,” Louis says through his laughter.

“Good morning,” Harry echos, voice deep and scratchy from disuse. He’s no longer grumpy about being woken up anymore. If he gets to wake up to Louis’ beautiful laughing face every day he’d be happy.

Harry wraps his arms around Louis’ bare waist, pulling him closer. He nuzzles into Louis’ neck, breathing him in. He smells like sleep and sweat and Harry wants to stay in this bed with him forever; he never wants to leave. He pulls back a smidge, just enough to go right back in for a kiss, morning breath be damned. He has Louis here looking gorgeous and sleepy soft and giggly. He can’t resist.

He’s leaning in, an inch or two away from Louis’ lips when he notices the fully made empty bed just over Louis’ shoulder.

“She left about an hour ago,” Louis answers Harry's unasked question.

It takes Harry’s sleepy brain a few seconds to catch up. “Wait. What time is it?”

“About half nine,” Louis says, not bothering to look at a clock, he must have already known.

Harry shoots up in bed. Nine. That’s later than he’s slept in all trip. “But wait,” he says, his brain slowly starting to wake up and piece everything together. “We’re already in Grand Cayman?”

“Yeah,” Louis chuckles, reaching out for Harry and pulling him back so he’s lying down. “We docked about an hour and a half ago.”

“Why didn’t you wake me?”

This time Louis looks a little guilty. “Gemma asked me not to. She said you haven’t been getting much sleep.” There’s an obvious question in Louis’ eyes but, thankfully, he doesn’t press. Harry’s ready to tell him, just not right now. Maybe tonight. If he’s brave enough.

“But I wanted to see the turtles,” Harry pouts, tucking his head underneath Louis’ chin.

Louis chuckles again, it’s such a pretty sound, and wraps his arms around Harry. “You can still see the turtles, baby. There’s plenty of time.”

He shivers at the pet name; it makes him feel all gooey inside. “I like it when you call me that.”

“What?” Louis questions, running his hand down Harry’s back. “Baby?”

“Yeah,” Harry says into Louis’ neck, cheeks heating up from the admission. “I’ve never been called a pet name before.”

“You haven’t?” Harry shakes his head. “Well, that’s completely unacceptable.”

It’s quiet after that, nothing but the sound of the air con unit kicking on and off and the occasional rustle of sheets. Harry really did want to see the turtles, he’s been looking forward to it all trip, but Louis wasn’t something he was expecting at all and now that Harry has him, naked and cuddled against his side, he doesn’t want to give that up. They have turtles in London, he can see them any time. He’s not sure he’ll ever see Louis again after they dock back in Florida and Harry steps off the ship, so he wants to make the most of it while he can.

“You know, I was thinking,” Louis says, breaking the silence of the room. “Your sister isn’t here and we have the room to ourselves. We should probably take advantage of that.” Harry can feel Louis reaching in between their bodies underneath the sheets, but what he wasn’t expecting was for Louis to take hold of Harry’s cock.

Harry gasps, his eyes fluttering closed as Louis slowly starts to stroke him. “Yeah?” Harry rasps. “What exactly do you have in mind?”

“Hmm, I don’t know,” Louis shrugs. His grip tightens as he starts to twist his hand. “What do you think we should do?”

“I think—” Harry’s words get caught in his throat as a moan escapes between his lips. It took him no time at all to become fully hard with Louis’ hand working him like that. “I think what you’re doing right now feels really nice.”

Louis continues to stroke him, somehow knowing exactly how Harry likes it; squeezing in all the right spots, flicking his thumb across the head. Harry breathes hotly against Louis’ neck, mouth open to say something, anything, but nothing comes out, he can’t find the words.

Something twists in the pit of Harry’s stomach when Louis’ fingers squeeze just underneath the head of Harry’s cock. His legs kick out spastically and his hands scramble against Louis’ back.

Part of Harry feels ashamed, like he’s sixteen all over again and first discovering how to properly wank in the privacy of his bedroom, biting down on his pillow to keep his noises at bay so his parents don’t hear him. Something as simple as a fucking handjob shouldn’t feel this good, but god Louis definitely knows what he’s doing and Harry’s helpless, his toes curling in pleasure.

On one particular stroke up, Louis presses into his slit a little harder than before, Harry can’t tell if it was intentional or not, but his back arches and he cries out. “Oh my god, fuck, fuck,” he babbles, knowing he sounds like an idiot but he can’t help himself, everything feels too good.

Louis’ other hand reaches between Harry’s legs, his wrist brushing against Harry’s balls causing him to jerk, and then a dry finger rubs over his hole. “Oh,” Harry gasps, feeling himself teetering right on the edge, just needs a little something more to push him over.

“Are you close?” Louis whispers. Harry can only nod in response, doesn’t trust his voice right now. “That’s it. Come for me, baby.”

And that’s all it takes. Harry keens, every muscle in his body spasming as he comes, his cock jerking in Louis’ grip. He can feel Louis holding him through it, murmuring words of praise, but he can’t make anything out due to the fuzzy static of his blood pumping in his ears.

“How do you do that?” Harry asks once he’s safely back down on earth.

“Do what?”

“Make me come so hard?” Harry explains “It’s like I black out and go to another plane of existence or something.”

Louis shrugs. “I’m just a sex god.”

Harry chuckles, pressing his hands against Louis’ chest to shove him away. “Shut up and let me return the favour.”

Harry brings Louis’ off with his hand, moans muffled by their kisses and occasional laughter, bodies sticky and sweaty by the time they’ve finished. They shower off together, which is a bit of a task because this shower is barely big enough for one person. But Harry can’t say that he minds being pressed up against Louis’ wet and naked body.

He’s tempted to go for another round. He can’t get over how gorgeous Louis is and he now that he’s allowed to touch, it’s hard to resist, but he holds off. He knows he’ll never leave this room if they start up again.

“Do you want to come to see the turtles with us?” Harry asks as they’re getting dressed. “Gemma has already bought our passes, but I can send her a text and see if she’ll get one for you as well.”

“Yeah, I’ll come with you, but I can get my own pass,” Louis says, pulling on his shirt. Harry pouts a bit at that. It’s honestly a shame to cover up all that gorgeous, golden skin.

They make their way off the ship, which happens a lot faster than usual due to everyone already being off and exploring the island. Luckily, there’s still a shuttle bus loitering outside the port that will take them to the Turtle Centre. They board the bus and settle into one of the empty seats. It’s about a fifteen minute drive to the turtles from the port and Harry leans against Louis’ side, enjoying the warm breeze blowing in through the open windows.

Gemma is waiting for them just outside the entrance to the Turtle Centre when they step off the bus. Harry stands with her, ignoring her knowing glances, while they wait for Louis to make it through the queue to purchase his pass.

As soon as they get their passes scanned and enter the park, Harry heads straight for the touch tanks, Gemma and Louis hot on his heels. They pass the breeding pool, Harry not having much interest in that, as well as the first touch tank because there are quite a lot of people crowded around it.

Just beyond the touch tanks, there’s a large swimming pool with slides and waterfalls. Any other time Harry would be all over that, he loves a good water park especially one with a slide, but not when there are fucking turtles, that he can feed and hold.

There’s still a crowd surrounding the other two touch tanks, but considerably less than the first one. Harry slides up to the tank as soon as there’s a gap in the people and he gasps when he sees the little turtles swimming around in circles in the water.

“Oh my god,” he coos, blindly reaching behind him for Louis’ hand. When he feels fingers hook in between his own, he pulls him forwards, Louis appearing by his side. “Lou, look at them. They’re so cute!”

Louis laughs as he dips his hand into the water, his fingers brushing against the shell of a turtle as it swims by. Harry watches in awe before he realizes he can do that himself. He slips his hand into the water, the temperature a lot warmer than he was expecting it to be, and he squeals in delight as a turtle swims right up to him nudging his hand with its head.

The sound of a camera shutter going off startles him and he turns to his left to see Gemma with her phone out snapping pictures of him. He sticks his tongue out at her which, of course, she snaps a picture of. He waits until she slides her phone into the back pocket of her shorts and reaches in the water to touch the turtles herself to scoop up some water with his hand and splashing her with it.

She shrieks, taking a step back, wiping the water from her face. Harry laughs at her, his shoulders shaking with it, one of his wet hands clutching at his stomach. She glares at him, stepping back towards the tank, her eyes never leaving Harry as she dips her hand back into the water. Harry’s laughter comes to an abrupt halt when he realizes what is about to happen.

He ducks behind a laughing Louis to try and block the attack but is a little too late because what feels like an entire gallon of water hits him directly in the face. He barely has time to react, time to retaliate, before an employee is blowing his whistle at them and pointing to a sign that cleary reads no splashing in the touch tanks.

That just causes both Louis and Gemma to laugh even harder and for Harry’s cheeks to turn red as he ducks his head, returning to the turtles as if nothing happened.

They each take turns getting their picture taken while holding a turtle before taking a break for lunch. They head for the little snack shack located by the swimming pool, none of them quite hungry enough for the sit-down restaurant.

Louis insisted on being the one to wait in line to grab their food while Harry and Gemma claim one of the empty picnic tables. After they’ve given Louis their orders, he leans in a gives Harry a quick peck on the lips. In public. In front of everyone. In front of his sister.

Harry squeaks in response as Louis deepens the kiss, licking across the seam of Harry’s lips before pulling back. He gives a cheeky grin and then turns around to get in the back of the queue for their food.

He sits there in shock for a second, watching as Louis walks away. He looks at Gemma from the corner of his eyes, too nervous to fully turn to get her reaction. She’s sitting there, a smile on her face with her chin propped up in the palm of her hand.

“It’s about damn time,” she says.

Harry sighs, swinging his leg over the picnic bench to sit properly. “I hate you.”

Gemma laughs, reaching across the table to gently punch Harry in the arm. “Right back atcha.”

They sit in silence after that, Harry watching a little girl taking a running jump into the swimming pool, the yellow floaties around her arms preventing her from staying under the water for very long. “How did you know he was in the room last night?” Harry asks when the thought randomly pops into his head.

“Please,” Gemma scoffs and Harry can practically hear her rolling her eyes. He pulls his attention away from the little girl and back to his sister. “You were so obvious yesterday, trying to get rid of me when I was asking about going out to dinner with him loitering behind you. Plus, your clothes were strewn all over the room.”

Harry balks, mentally trying to pull up what the room looked like last night in his mind, but he can’t for the life of him remember what it looked like. He can’t even remember what it looked like when he left it his morning. He had Louis with him and that kind of took up all his attention. “They were not.”

Gemma doesn’t respond, just looks up at him with a raised brow. Harry knows he’s lost this one.

“Okay,” he says quietly, looking down at the table. “I’m sorry.”

“Hey, I’m not mad or anything,” Gemma says gently. “I’m happy for you, like really happy for you. I”m just glad you finally figured out your feelings for him and were able to get your head out of your arse and get into Louis’ instead.”

“Gemma!” Harry gasps, scandalized. He glances around to see if any of the younger ears around overhead that. “It didn’t even happen like that. We just—”

“Okay, I’m going to stop you right there,” Gemma interrupts, raising a hand with the palm facing out towards Harry, eyes squeezed shut like she’s trying to unhear the words Harry just said. “I don’t mind talking about our sex lives with you, you know that, but I really don’t need to know all the intimate details.”

“Sorry,” Harry cackles.

“Look, Louis seems like such a great guy,” Gemma says. “I really like him. You should keep him around.”

Harry has to bite his lip to suppress his smile. Louis is a great guy. “I’m going to try.”

“He lives in London too, shouldn’t be too hard.”

Harry nods, that is true. It’s something he’s thought about several times, wonders if he’ll ever bump into Louis once their both back in London. It’s a big city, so the odds are quite small, but a boy can dream. He’s been wanting to ask Louis if they could meet up at some point once this trip is over, but he’s been too scared. Scared that Louis won’t want to, that Harry’s more into this than he is.

“I haven’t told him about Jonathan,” Harry admits, watching the little girl again. She’s perched on the shoulders of an older man who must be her father, her feet splashing in the water as he spins her around.

Gemma is quiet as she scrolls through the pictures she took earlier on her phone. “Do you want to tell him?” She finally asks.

“Yeah, of course,” Harry nods. “I think he should know.”

“Okay,” Gemma says, drawing out the last syllable. “So what’s the problem?”

“I’m just scared of what he’ll think,” Harry confesses.

“Why? You haven’t done anything wrong.”

“I know that,” Harry says, drawing shapes against the surface of the table with the tip of his finger. “But I kind of moved on fast with him. I really like him and I don’t want to ruin it with this.”

“I don’t think he’ll think of it like that.”

Louis returns with their food before they have a chance to continue the conversation. They take their time eating their lunch, enjoying the weather and the atmosphere. Afterwards, they visit the predator pool to see the sharks and stop by the touch tanks one more time before they leave.

Louis has to return to the ship early because he has to be at work at the bar by the time they leave Grand Cayman. He gives Harry a kiss goodbye before he leaves, and he and Gemma spend the last hour or so before they have to reboard lying out on the beach.

--

Harry wakes with a jolt when something hits him in the face. “What the fuck?” He whispers into the dark room.

“Your phone has been going off for the past twenty minutes,” Gemma says from her bed. And that’s when Harry notices the pillow lying on the floor. Gemma must have thrown it at him. “Please make it stop before I throw it off the balcony.”

He scrambles out of bed, grabbing his phone from where it’s plugged in and charging on the desk. He checks it and there’s a missed call and several missed texts from Louis. “Sorry, it’s Louis.”

“Yeah, I figured,” Gemma mumbles sleepily. “Go see what he wants and let me go back to sleep in peace and quiet.” Harry rolls his eyes. She’s always so grumpy when she’s woken up before she’s ready to.

Harry’s a little confused by Louis’ message, but he pulls on some clothes nonetheless and quietly slips out the door. He wanders through the empty hallways and down a few floors until he’s in front of the doorway leading to the employee’s rooms where Louis asked to meet him.

He glances around to make sure the coast is clear before tentatively knocking on the door. Louis has been making him go into several parts of the ship that very obviously say employees only and Harry’s a little afraid that’s going to get caught at any second. He’s going to be fucking exiled from the ship.

Louis swings the door open, grabbing Harry’s hand to drag him into the hallway. They continue walking, Harry stumbling over his feet to keep up until they reach another door all the way at the opposite end of the hallway.

“Wait,” Harry says, tugging on Louis’ hand to pull him to a stop. “Where are we going?”

Louis points to the door they were just about to walk through. “I want to show you something. It’s just through here.”

“But,” Harry pouts, his eyebrows drawing together in confusion. “We aren’t going to your room? I wanna see it.”

Louis sighs, tugging on the strap of his backpack that Harry didn’t even realize he was carrying until now. “It’s up there on the left, number seventeen,” Harry peers down the hallway, eyes scanning the numbers on the doors for seventeen. “But you don’t want to see it. It’s a tiny as shit room that I share with three other blokes. There are two sets of bunk beds shoved against the walls and a bathroom you can barely stand in because it’s so small. Also, my roommates are sleeping right now and I don’t really want to go in there and wake them up.”

Harry nods, still pouting. He wants to see the room but he understands Louis not wanting to wake up his roommates. Louis pushes through the door and they walk out onto what looks like a small private deck. It’s not much, just a few lounge chairs and tables. There’s no one else around, it’s completely empty, seeing as the employees are the only ones with access to this area and it’s currently somewhere around three in the morning.

Harry walks straight to the railing, planting his feet on the bottom rung. He tightly grips onto the top rung, bends at the waist, and leans over the side of the ship. It’s so dark out he can’t even see the water, nothing but blackness; like a wide open space.

He feels hands on his hips and then the warm press of Louis’ body against his back. “Please don’t fall.”

“Why?” Harry asks, spinning around in Louis’ grip, his body pinned between Louis and the railing. “Will you miss me?”

“No,” Louis responds without missing a beat. “People will think I killed you and there’ll probably be a whole investigation. I don’t need that kind of stress in my life.”

Harry snorts, resting his forehead against Louis’ chest, his arms automatically wrapping around his waist to pull him closer. Louis places his hands on either side of Harry’s face, pulling his head back up so he can bring their lips together.

Butterflies. Harry gets actual butterflies, like swarms of them fluttering in his tummy whenever he’s with Louis. He always thought it was a myth, something people made up because it’s never been something he’s experienced before. He never felt like this with Jonathan, but with Louis, it’s constant. Just thinking about Louis makes him feel it. He hopes it’s a feeling that will never go away.

“Is this place what you wanted to show me?” Harry asks when their lips slip apart.

“Yeah,” Louis says, taking a step back. “No one really comes out here because there’s no pool or bar or anything, it’s just a bunch of tables. But sometimes, especially at night, it’s kinda nice because it’s so quiet and there are so many stars.” He tips his head back to look at the sky and Harry gets distracted by the long stretch of his neck.

He takes a step forward, fully intending to plant his lips right underneath Louis’ jawline and suck a mark there, but one of Louis’ fingers placed underneath his chin stops him. Harry freezes and blinks at Louis in confusion, then Louis uses that finger to press Harry’s chin up so his head tilts back.

“Wow,” Harry gasps, trying to take in all the stars lighting up the sky. Like, he knew there would be a lot of stars seeing as they’re literally in the middle of the ocean, no harsh city lights to obstruct the view, but he didn’t think it would be quite like this. There are so many, tiny little specks scattered across the sky, and they’re so bright. A backlit canopy with holes punched in it; Incubus was onto something with that one.

Louis steps up behind him, closing the distance between them and wrapping his arms around Harry’s waist. “Amazing, isn’t it? It’s my favourite things about being out here. You don’t get stars like that in London.” Harry hums his agreement, leaning his head back on Louis’ shoulder.

He doesn't know how long they stay like that, wrapped up in each other and cuddling against the railing, trading kisses, but he doesn't want to leave. Doesn’t want to burst the little quiet bubble they’re in. But he knows this is the perfect time to finally tell Louis about Jonathan, he’s not going to get a better opportunity than this.

He’s been putting it off for long enough and Louis needs to know, he deserves to know. If Harry wants things to work out with Louis, if they plan to go any further after this trip, which he desperately wants, then he just needs to stop being a coward and say it.

“So,” Harry says uncertainty, stopping to clear his throat because that came out weak and shaky. Already off to a great start. “You know how I told you this cruise was a gift from my parents?”

Louis turns to him, a quizzical expression on his face. “Yeah, why? Was that a lie or something?”

“No, it wasn’t a lie. I just didn’t tell you the whole truth,” he stops, swallows. There’s no turning back now. “It was an engagement gift.”

Louis’ eyes narrow as he takes a couple of steps back, putting some very obvious space between them. He has every right to be confused, angry even, but he’s not touching Harry at all anymore and that stings a bit more than it should. “You’re engaged?” He asks, his eyes flicking down to Harry’s left hand.

“No, I’m not,” Harry says. He desperately wants to reach out for Louis, to bring him back in, but he knows Louis probably needs the distance right now. And honestly, it’ll be easier for him to get the words out if Louis isn’t so close. “But I was.”

Louis cocks his head to the side. “I don’t understand.”

Harry sighs, turning towards the railing to face the water. He looks out for a wave or a ripple on the surface, but it’s still too dark to make out anything. He rests his elbows on the railing, eyes trained on where he believes the horizon is. If he keeps his eyes there, it’ll hopefully be a good enough distraction. A distraction from Louis standing right beside him and Harry about to tell him something that he hasn’t been able to fully talk about since it happened. He’s barely been able to stumble over it when talking about it with his sister, his best friend, yet he’s ready and willing to lay it out all right here for Louis, someone he's only known for the better part of two weeks.

“I was dating this guy for four years,” he begins, voice shaky. This is going to be hard, but hopefully somewhat therapeutic in the end. “We moved in together after two years and he proposed to me on our fifth anniversary. It came as a shock to everyone. Even me.”

It was a shock, Harry never saw it coming. He remembers that night so clearly. He’d come home from working a double shift and wanted nothing more than to collapse into bed and sleep for the next week. He entered their shared flat and took off his shoes at the door like he always did, sliding them underneath the side table against the wall.

He walked into the living room where Jonatha was, watching some news broadcast because that’s the only thing he would ever watch on television. He said anything else just rotted your brain. He didn’t say a word to Harry, didn’t even look up at him as he walked by on his way to their bedroom.

Just as Harry was about to the shut the door and climb into bed, Jonathan called out his name. Harry stopped in the doorway and turned around, watching as Jonathan stood from the couch and made his way over to him. When Jonathan reached him, he dropped down onto one knee and pulled out a black ring box from his pocket.

Harry remembers thinking that it must have been a dream. He must have already fallen asleep and was dreaming this because they barely even spoke anymore and they never once talked about marriage. Harry didn’t think that was in the cards for them. He always wanted to be married and even when he pictured it for himself, he never saw Jonathan at his side, even after five years together.

But then Jonathan was opening the ring box and nestled inside was that fucking ugly ring. There was no speech, no declaration of love or anything before Jonathan was uttering the words will you marry me. Harry said yes, what else was he supposed to do? They already lived together, Harry was so accustomed to this life, spent five years of it with him, he didn’t really see any reason to turn him down.

After standing up and slipping the ring onto Harry’s finger, Jonathan turned right around to sit back on the couch in front of the television. No kiss, no celebration, not even a fucking thank you, so Harry closed the door and got into bed, not even bothering to change out of his work clothes.

When he woke up twelve hours later, he thought it was a dream until he reached up to brush his hair out of his face and that damn hideous ring got caught in his curls.

“The first two years of our relationship were incredible,” Harry continues, not turning around to see Louis’ reaction. He can feel him behind him, knows he’s listening. “But as soon as we moved in together things started to change, it was like I was living with a completely different person. I didn't know who he was anymore.”

“He was emotionally abusive, controlling, and manipulative. I couldn’t do anything, and I mean anything, without his consent. I had to tell him exactly what I was doing and where I was going and who I was with at every given moment. I didn’t have control over my own life anymore.”

Harry stands up straight, his back starting to hurt from the way he was leaning over the railing. He still doesn’t turn around, too afraid to see how Louis’ taking in all this information, but he keeps going.

“Everyone told me that it wasn’t right, that he wasn’t treating me well, that I need to get out of the relationship. Especially Gemma, she hated him since basically the second we started dating. But I didn’t listen to any of them. But then, a week before we were supposed to leave for this cruise, I walked in on him fucking his secretary.” Just saying those words feels like a massive weight off his shoulders. He didn’t know how much that was weighing down on him.

“I wasn’t even surprised or upset. I was hurt, obviously, because getting cheated on is so shitty, it feels awful, but I wasn’t surprised. And that’s when I realized that I never loved him. I thought I did and maybe I did at first when our relationship was actually good, but I was never in love with him.”

He’s getting choked up now, tears burning behind his eyes and a lump lodged in his throat. This is something he never even spoke about with Gemma, or anyone, just some random thoughts that have been bouncing around in his head the last few weeks. He never strung them together, never made sense of them, just let them exist inside his mind. So this is all new and raw and it’s making him a lot more emotional than he expected he would be talking about it. But he needs to get this out, needs Louis to understand.

Louis is still standing behind him and he’s gotten even closer than he was, Harry can feel the warmth radiating off of him. But he’s so quiet, Harry can’t hear any sounds coming from him, can’t even hear him breathing.

“It took me five years and getting cheated on for me to realize that. That’s five whole years of my life I won’t get back. He broke me,” Harry pauses, his voice cracking. He doesn't know how long it’ll take him to fully trust someone he’s in a relationship with after this. He’ll always worry that he isn’t enough, that the person he’s with will find someone better. “I think the main reason I didn’t leave was because I was so comfortable with him, you know? Deep down I knew that our relationship wasn’t healthy, I definitely heard that enough from everyone in my life. But we spend five years together, we lived together, and we were set to get married. Why should I just give that up?”

He stops then. He has too much he wants to say, but he doesn't know how to put his thoughts into words. He was able to get the important parts out and that’s really all that matters. Louis is still quiet and Harry is willing him to say something, anything, he wants to know what he’s thinking. He knows that Louis probably needs some time to process everything, Harry just blurted out a lot of information.

A few minutes pass and still nothing. Harry swallows down the tears that are threatening to fall and turns around. As hard as it is, he purposely doesn’t look at Louis, just sidesteps him and starts heading for the door. Louis needs his space and Harry is willing to give him that.

“Wait,” Louis says, making Harry jump slightly because he wasn’t expecting it. “You found him cheating on you a week before you got on this ship?”

Slowly, Harry spins back around, his eyes immediately land on Louis’ face. It gives nothing away, he’s completely emotionless, and for some reason that makes Harry feel even worse. “Yeah.”

“Fuck, Harry,” Louis steps towards him and pulls Harry into a hug and Harry melts into it. God, it feels so good to be held, to have Louis’ arms around him. He didn’t even know this was something he was craving, but it’s exactly what he needs right now. “I’m so, so sorry, that’s so shitty. I don’t even know this guy and I want to fucking murder him. I can’t believe he did that to you.”

That startles a wet laugh out of Harry. The tears finally falling, clinging to his eyelashes and he furiously wipes at them with the back of his hand. “Louis, it’s okay. I’m over it.”

“But it’s not okay,” Louis says. “You may be over it, and that’s great, but you don’t deserve to be treated like that, no one does. I haven’t known you for very long, but you’re already the kindest most selfless person I have ever met. You’re so sweet, like a fucking melted marshmallow or something. I don’t understand how anyone wouldn’t treat you the same.”

Harry blushes, can feel his cheeks burning, as he preens from the compliment. He always feels all warm and gooey on the inside when Louis says anything remotely nice about him. Which kind of happens, like, several times a day now. So Harry’s inside are like a fucking melted marshmallow. He’s a human-shaped jar of that marshmallow fluff. That’s him.

“Thank you. That’s really nice of you to say,” Harry whispers, his voice a little rough from crying. “So yeah, that’s why I was so weird and distant when we first met, because everything was still new, like a fresh wound. And it’s why I haven’t been sleeping too. My conscience must not have have been able to let go of it or something because I’d always dream about it.” He doesn’t mention that the first time he was able to get a full night’s sleeping without dreaming about it was when Louis spent the night with him. That might be a little too much to admit right now. “But it’s slowly starting to heal, um, because of you.”

Louis smiles, bringing Harry back in again so their chests are pressed together. He lightly kisses away the few tears still left lingering on Harry’s warm cheeks. “You’re welcome, I’m glad I could help, even if it was unknowingly.” He pulls back just enough so he can look into Harry’s eyes. “If I had known what you were going through, I wouldn’t have tried to pursue you so strongly. I was quite smitten with you right from the start.”

“No,” Harry shakes his head. “If it weren’t for you, I don’t think I would have been able to heal as quickly as I have. I’ll admit, it did scare me a little at first. Not because of you though,” Harry rushes to say when he notices the ashamed expression on Louis’ face. “But because I was scared. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. I had just gotten out of a pretty shit relationship and anything I did with you felt like I was moving on too quickly like it wasn’t right. Like I should allow myself a longer grace period between relationships or something, I don’t know. The amount of times I’ve whined to Gemma about it,” he stops, chuckling. “If it weren’t for her I don’t think I would have let my guard down enough to let you in.”

“I’ll have to send her a gift basket or something as a thank you,” Louis says, laughing along with Harry. “Thank you for telling me all of this though. I’m glad you trusted me enough to do so.”

Harry nods, giving Louis’ lips a quick peck. “Thank you for everything, honestly. And thank you for bringing me out here. I love how peaceful it is.”

Fingers slip in between Harry’s own and then he’s being pulled towards the table where Louis left his backpack when he first came out here. “The sun is going to rise here in just a few hours,” Louis says, unzipping the biggest pocket of his bag. “Do you wanna stay out here and watch it with me?”

Harry nods, trying to inconspicuously peer into the bag to see what Louis’ got in there. Maybe a pillow and a blanket, it is a little chilly out here a night. “Yeah, that sounds nice.”

What Louis pulls out of his bag isn’t a pillow or blanket or anything even remotely close to that. Instead, he pulls out a clear glass bottle. Harry frowns at the bottle, trying to make out what it is until Louis spins it around in his hands and Harry can read the label. His eyes widen and a hand comes up to cover his mouth as he laughs. “You brought cachaca?”

“Yeah,” Louis says. “And maybe a few others things too.” He reaches bag into his bag and takes out a little baggie of lime wedges, another little baggie of what looks like sugar, and two glass tumblers. “May have nicked all this stuff from the bar. Don’t tell anyone.”

“Oh my god,” Harry says around his laughter. “Are you gonna make me a caipirinha?”

“Maybe,” Louis smirks.

“You know me so well.”

“Please,” Louis says, rolling his eyes. “This is the only thing you ordered at the bar. Everyone on this ship knows it’s your drink of choice.” Yeah, that may be true, but it’s really good, okay? And it never fails to get Harry spectacularly drunk. “I forgot to bring ice though, so it'll probably be a little warm.”

Harry doesn’t mind, he’ll drink it any way he can get it. He plops himself down on one of the lounge chairs next to the table and watches as Louis makes their drinks. He pours a healthy amount of cachaca into one of the tumblers, squeezes in some lime juice from one of the wedges, and then sprinkles in some sugar. He takes the empty tumbler and places it upside down on top of the other, wrapping his hand around the place where the two tumblers meet and uses that as a makeshift shaker.

He then splits the drink in half, pouring an equal amount into each tumbler. He adds two lime wedges to each as well as slipping one onto the rim of each glass. Harry always thought watching Louis make drinks, watching him bartend, was more arousing that it should be. But watching him now, outside of a bar and making a drink with ease and completely in his element, is twice as hot as it usually is. He subtly adjusts himself in his shorts before Louis turns around and hands him his drink.

“Thank you,” Harry says, accepting the drink and taking a sip. Louis was right, it is quite warm without the ice, but still perfect. And it’s just on the edge of slightly too sweet which he loves. Louis makes a damn good drink.

Louis joins him on the chaise lounge, Harry holding his drink for him while he settles and gets comfortable. It’s kind of a tight squeeze, the two of them on one chair, but Harry likes being close to him. He kind of needs the closeness right now especially, after having spilled quite an emotional part of his life to Louis, it’s comforting. He fucking loves a good cuddle on a regular day, so he isn’t complaining.

He isn’t sure how many drinks he gets through while they’re out there, but he there are two things he does know for sure. One; the bottle was completely full, unopened when Louis brought it out and it’s not more than halfway empty. And two; he’s had more drinks than Louis. So to say he’s happily buzzed would be an understatement.

He may have also failed to mention to Louis that besides getting him drunk, alcohol also makes him sleepy. So that combined with the fact that he was woken up in the middle of the night after only about four hours of sleep, he’s having quite a hard time keeping his eyes open. He’s wrapped up in Louis’ arms, comfortably leaning against his chest—he makes quite a good pillow—and that also isn’t helping.

The sun still hasn’t risen and it feels as if he’s been sitting in the spot for hours. But also, his concept of the passage of time isn’t quite normal right now due to the alcohol currently coursing through his blood.

He must have fallen asleep because the next thing he knows, Louis is shaking his shoulder to wake him up, pressing kisses to his temple. He slowly blinks his eyes open and he smiles when his vision becomes focused and all he sees is Louis’ pretty blue eyes looking back at him.

“Look,” Louis whispers, pointing out to something off in the distance. It’s hard for Harry to take his off Louis, he’d much rather look at him than whatever it is that Louis wants him to look at, but he does, turning his head to the direction in which Louis is pointing.

The sun has just started to peel over the horizon, the sky painted in shades of orange and purple and pink. Colours Harry doesn’t even think he’s ever seen before. All of it reflected back on the surface of the water. It’s absolutely beautiful.

He takes his phone out to snap some pictures, he doesn’t want to forget this, and then tucks himself back against Louis’ chest, his eyes falling shut.

“Wait,” Louis says, pushing Harry up so he can’t lie down. Harry pouts, trying but failing to loosen Louis’ hold on him, but he’s far too drunk to anything other than flail his arms about. “Are you seriously going back to sleep right now?”

Harry stops fighting, his body going lack in Louis’ arms. “Yes,” he says like it’s obvious because it is obvious, he’s fucking tired. “I’m tired.”

Louis laughs. Like actually full on laughs. His eyes squeezing shut and his entire body shaking from the force of it. Normally, Harry would laugh along with him, irresistible to Louis’ laughs because he’s gorgeous when he laughs, especially when he laughs like this. But right now he’s just confused and he frowns because he doesn’t understand what’s so funny about him being tired.

“Okay,” Louis says when his laughter is contained enough to get words out. “How about you go to sleep in your own bed? It’ll be a lot more comfortable.”

Harry pouts again thinking about how far he’d have to go just to get to his own bed. “But that’s so far away.”

“Come on,” Louis stands from the lounger, extending his arm out to Harry, twiddling his fingers. “I’ll walk you. You’re back is going to hate you in the morning if you sleep out here.”

That is true, his back is already aching a bit from having sat at here for as long as he has. He takes Louis’ hand and allows him to pull him up from the chair. He trips over his own feet once he’s standing, but Louis’ right there to catch him before he falls.

They walk back to Harry’s room, their fingers intertwined. Harry likes holding hands with Louis, it’s something they do now quite a lot, but in this current moment, it’s mainly to keep from falling. He’s not very graceful on his feet when he’s sober and it’s about three times as bad when he’s drunk.

The hallways are still fairly quiet and empty seeing as it’s pretty early in the morning. Once they reach his room, Harry fumbles in his pocket for his keycard, he tries his hardest to keep the noise to a minimum, knowing that Gemma is more than likely still sleeping just on the other side of the door.

“Come in,” Harry says to Louis. “Sleep with me.”

“Harry, we shouldn’t. You’re—”

“No, not like that, you perv.” Harry stops to giggle at the aghast expression on Louis’ face at Harry calling him a perv. “Like, actually sleep. Cuddle me and stuff.”

“And stuff?” Louis questions, the corner of his mouth lifting up into a cocky grin. “I guess I can do that.”

“Yay!” Harry fist bumps.

Louis chuckles, pulling Harry in for a kiss which Harry happily reciprocates. “You’re so cute when you’re drunk.”

“I”m always cute,” Harry corrects.

That causes Louis to laugh even harder. God, he’s so pretty. “Touche.”

He finally slips the keycard into the door, pushing it open when it unlocks. They quietly tiptoe into the room, but it’s dark and Harry’s still tipsy and he hits his shin on the corner of Gemma’s bed. He curses under his breath, biting his lip to control his giggles. He freezes when he hears a groan come from the bed followed by the rustle of sheets as Gemma sits up.

“Sorry Gems,” Harry whispers, not sure why he’s whispering seeing as she’s already woken up. “I told him to be quiet.” He giggles when he hears Louis’ gasp from behind him since Harry said no such thing and it was him that woke Gemma up, not Louis.

“Sorry,” Louis says, placing a hand over Harry’s mouth. Harry sticks his tongue out to lick at Louis’ palm, hoping it’ll cause him to remove his hand, but it doesn't even phase him. “Harry invited me back, I hope that’s okay.”

“Yeah, ‘course.” The sheets rustle again as she settles back underneath them, resting in her nest of pillows. “Just keep your hands above the sheets please.”

Harry gasps. “Gemma I would never.”

Even in the dark Harry can clearly make out Gemma raising an arm in the air, her middle finger lifting from her fist, pointed directly at him. Both he and Louis dissolve into laughter as they collapse into the sofabed.

--

The next morning there’s a very annoying throbbing in the back of Harry’s head when he wakes up. It’s not enough to be a full on hangover, but it’s right there on the edge of annoying. He groans as he sits up, dropping his head into his hands. He feels a someone rub at the small of his back and he turns to see Louis lying next to him, smiling up at him.

“Good morning,” Louis says, pressing his fingertips into the base of Harry’s spine. “How are you feeling?”

Harry gives a weak smile in return, shrugging. “I’ve been better.”

“You want some water?”

Harry nods as he swallows, the dryness of his mouth making it difficult. He watches as Louis stands from the bed and walks to the mini fridge. He takes out a bottle of water, twists off the cap and hands it to Harry. Harry guzzles down almost the entire thing, instantly curing his dry mouth, the throbbing in his head dulling a smidge.

He places the bottle on the nightstand and reaches out for Louis. He tucks his fingers into the waistband of Louis’ shorts and tugs. Louis yelps, his hands flying out to steady himself on the mattress as he stumbles. Harry pulls him in closer and leans up to seal their lips together. It’s deep and heated from the start, Harry licking along the seam of Louis’ lips.

“Mm,” Louis hums against Harry’s lips. “What’s got you so worked up this morning?” He knees himself up on the bed and situates himself in Harry’s lap.

Harry doesn’t reply, just brings their mouths back together, lying back and bringing Louis down with him. They stay like that for a while, trading kisses, Harry isn’t sure how long, doesn’t even care to be honest. Screw Mexico, he’d rather stay here with Louis all day.

That is until Louis breaks the kiss and sits up. Harry pouts, reaching out for him but Louis uses his hands to pin Harry’s arms down by his side. “We’re missing Cozumel.”

“That’s okay,” Harry shrugs, ignoring what Louis pinning his arms down is doing to him. Louis is perched on his lap so he’s sure Louis can feel what it’s doing to him. “I’ve already been to Cozumel, we don’t really need to get off the boat.”

“You don’t mean that,” Louis says. He does actually, they have the room to themselves, have the whole ship mostly to themselves, why not take advantage of that. “I have to work tonight, so we don’t have much time. I switched shifts with Niall so I could have tomorrow off. To spend our last full day together.”

Harry’s heart sinks at that, he doesn’t want to think about this trip being almost over. They have one more full day at sea tomorrow and then they arrive back in Florida the day after that and then it’s over. He doesn’t know when he’ll be able to see Louis again after this, if at all.

So he changes his mind, decides to take advantage of the few free hours that Louis has and to spend them together on the beach. Plus, they can still kiss and stuff out there too. They get dressed quickly and head out hand in hand. Gemma left a few hours earlier to meet up with the girls she met the other night, so it’s just the two of them.

They find a fairly empty spot on the beach and spend the rest of the day out there until Louis has to board the ship again for work, occasionally taking dips in the ocean.

--

It’s the middle of the night on their last full day, they’ll be arriving back in Ft Lauderdale in just a few short hours. Harry has spent the whole day with Louis, waking up together and having breakfast with both Liam and Niall, Harry getting his goodbyes in with them before they left for work.

They spent a few hours splashing around in the pool and Louis finally convinced Harry to go out on the Seawalk. He looked down between his feet when they were halfway across, watching the water rush by below them. It wasn’t as scary as he thought it would be with the death grip he had on Louis’ hand. They had dinner with Gemma in Liam’s restaurant and then turned in early for the night.

Now, they’re both lying out on Harry’s balcony, he wanted to sleep out here with Louis, just the two of them underneath the stars. It’s a tight squeeze with the balcony not being very wide, but they make it work. The piled up all the sheets and blankets from Harry’s sofa bed and it's actually quite comfy.

“Lou,” Harry says, rolling onto his side so he’s facing Louis, the duvet crumpling underneath his hip. He pulls the duvet out from under him tighter around his shoulders after an especially hard gust of wind, it’s quite chilly out here at night. He smiles when his eyes land on Louis, there’s just enough light from the moon to still be able to see him even in the dark. Louis’ laid out on his stomach, his cheek squished against the pillow. “Are you awake?”

Nothing but silence follows. Louis continues his rhythmic breathing, little puffs of air that escape between his parted lips, no twitches or movements to indicate he heard Harry at all. Harry takes a deep breath and mentally prepares himself for what he’s about to say.

“I know it’s early and we haven’t really known each other for very long, but I—” he pauses, swallowing down the nerves he can feel bubbling up in his gut. He rolls over so he’s lying on his back and he stares up at the sky. He still can’t quite believe how well you can see the stars out here. Sure, he can see stars in London, but it’s nothing like this, it’s literally breathtaking.

The words Harry is about to say have been weighing on his mind these last couple days, perched on the tip of his tongue just waiting. He’s been afraid to open his mouth too wide in case they tumble out, but he’s ready to say them now, needs to say them. Yet, he’s still too much of a coward to say them to Louis when he’s conscious

“This is going to sound crazy, I know, but I think I could fall in love with you,” Harry whispers, voice getting softer with each word, a blush forming on his cheeks. “I might already be actually.” It’s terrifying to say those words, even in the dark with Louis asleep next to him, but it also feels like a giant weight has been lifted from his shoulders. A little ball of warmth builds behind his ribcage; he’s happy. He lets out a breath he wasn’t even aware he was holding and cuddles up against Louis’ side.

--

It’s the last day, they’ve been docked in Florida for a few hours now, Harry taking his time packing his things up because he doesn’t want to leave. Eventually, he has nothing else to pack and he can’t stay here all day, and he slowly walks hand in hand with Louis to the gangways that will lead him back to the mainland.

They stop at the top, stepping off the side so they aren’t in anyone's way. Gemma is waiting for him at the bottom, giving him the privacy to say goodbye to Louis.

“Next week I’m going on another two-week cruise and then I’ll be back in London for quite a while,” Louis says. “I’d like to see you. If you’re free.”

“I’ll be free,” Harry replies instantly. He’s not even sure if he will be. He’ll definitely be back at work by then and he still has to find a flat of his own, but he’ll make time to see Louis no matter what. Maybe Louis could even help him look for a place.

“Okay,” Louis smiles, eyes crinkling at the corners. Harry’s really going to miss that smile. “Then I’ll see you in about three weeks.”

“Three weeks,” Harry nods, stepping closer to kiss Louis. It lasts longer than it should, and it’s definitely not quite appropriate for public, but Harry doesn’t care. He’s not going to see this man for another three weeks.

He finally steps away after a lady clears her throat behind them and they both burst into giggles. He walks down the gangway meeting Gemma at the bottom, turning around to give one final wave to Louis.

They begin to walk into the terminal, Harry not looking back as they do. He knows if he gets one more look at Louis he’ll go rushing back and he’ll never leave. He’s in the middle of a discussion with Gemma about what they’re going to do for the rest of their time in Florida since their flight home doesn’t leave until tomorrow evening when he feels his phone buzz in his pocket.

He pulls it out to see a text from Louis and he frowns down at the screen. The text reads oh and by the way... with nothing else. He uses his thumb to slide it open, maybe the message was too big to show all of it in the preview, but no, that’s really all he texted. By the way what?

He’s just about to type out a reply asking Louis what he means when he notices the three little grey dots pop up. Louis’ typing something else. He watches those few dots for a few seconds and then they disappear. He frowns again. The message pops up and Harry stops in the middle of the sidewalk, his heart jumping into his throat.

People bump into him and it takes Gemma a good twenty steps before she realizes Harry isn’t next to her anymore. Harry barks out a laugh, people giving him odd looks, but he doesn’t care because his heart is bursting. I think I could love you too.

Louis heard him. He heard him when Harry made his confession last night, and he feels the same way. He feels like he’s about to split his face open with how wide he’s grinning.

“He was awake,” he says, giggling when Gemma catches back up to him.

“Who?” Gemma asks, a confused furrow between her brows.

“No one,” he shakes his head, sliding his phone back into his pocket. He wants to keep this to himself for now. “I’m just really happy.”

Gemma smiles, wrapping her arm around his waist as they begin walking again. “Happiness looks good on you.”