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April 23: Stadium tour starts soon. I did not realise that Liam looked like that.

A stadium tour. That’s huge. That’s what they’re flying to. That’s what they’re going to spend the good portion of their year doing. But somehow in the cabin of this plane, with the gentle thrum of the engine filling the air all he can think about is how beautiful Liam looks. How the smile creeping up over his face with every minute that passes is absolutely breathtaking. It’s a funny thing for Harry to think about because two weeks ago Liam had just been a mate. Two weeks ago, Liam hadn’t even been a blip on his radar of people he’d like to kiss. But suddenly, on their way to Colombia, on their way to embark on the newest, biggest chapter of their lives, all he can think about is how nice Liam’s lips are and how much he’d like to taste them.

It’s exhilarating and terrifying and Harry has no idea how he’s going to get through an entire tour like this. Not when tour is Liam’s element. Not when Liam comes alive like nothing else on stage. Especially not when Liam looks his best sweaty and bright eyed performing in front of thousands of fans. Definitely not when Liam’s still carrying a torch for Sophia -- entirely too hopeful that they’ll find a way to work things out again.

He doesn’t understand it, really. How Liam can still be so hopeful with love. How he can still put his heart on his sleeve and put everything in a relationship when so often the pressure of dating someone like them puts unwanted strain on their relationships. Harry knows how much it put on Liam and Danielle’s relationship and from what he gathers it seems to have put the same on his and Sophia’s -- but Liam won’t really talk about it other than saying with a soft, sad smile, “Oh, we broke up a bit ago. You know how it goes - never really got to spend enough time with each other.”

Harry knows that Liam would talk if he wanted to and he never pushes it more than that -- knows after all this time that when the time is right Liam will open up more about it. So he just gives Liam his most comforting smile and squeezes his knee, saying, “But we’re about to start our very own stadium tour. Won’t have time for a broken heart with what we’ve got planned.”

Liam’s eyes dart to his hands and Harry follows the motions, taking in the way Liam fidgets with the fabric over his knee for a second before looking back up at Harry, smiling wide, saying with a small laugh, “Don’t think I will.”

Liam doesn’t say anything else and the two of them fall into a comfortable silence. Liam sits in the seat across from him, leg shaking rapidly and after a moment Harry has to ask, “Liam, are you doing alright? Been a bit more jittery on the plane than usual.”

Liam bites his lip, eyes lighting up with an unexpected sort of excitement, saying quickly, accent thickening, “Yeah. Funny, innit? Can’t really think about anything other than how we’re playing stadiums. Sick how we’re actually doing this. Still feels like we’ve just got our first number one sometimes.”

“Yeah, it’s gonna be a great year.”

Liam laughs, big and bright and it does nothing to quell the feeling in the pit of Harry’s stomach -- it just intensifies it -- and he knows that as good as this tour is going to be, it’s going to be long if he doesn’t figure out a way to stomp this feeling out before it gets out of control.

He sits back in his chair, pulls his legs up against his chest and tries not to look at the redness of Liam’s lips from where he’s been biting at them the entire plane ride and how much he’d like to taste them. He closes his eyes and tries to imagine a stadium full of fans screaming their songs back at them and tries to push away the image of Liam’s mouth red and wet from kissing Harry instead of from a nervous habit. By the time they land, Harry’s just tired enough to convince himself that whatever came over him on the plane was a product of high altitudes and has nothing to with his actual feelings. Liam touches his hip as they get off the elevator and head to their rooms and Harry doesn’t feel anything. He can’t think of anything past the idea of finally getting to crawl into a new bed and curl up beneath a fluffy duvet and fall asleep to the sound of screaming fans outside their hotel.

 

April 25: First show. Press conference. Louis and Liam do this thing a lot. I can’t tell if it bothers me or not.

There’s an excitement coursing through the atmosphere that can only be summed up by the fact that their first world stadium tour is kicking off in hours. It settles into Harry’s bones and vibrates through his skin and he feels like he could do anything. That is, anything but looking at the excitement written across Liam’s face and not want to pull him away from Louis. He can’t seem to do that at all. His fingers itch with the desire to reach out and pull Liam aside, to make him pay attention to him instead of Louis, and Harry thinks it’s a bit unnerving how suddenly these feelings came to be.

He pushes it aside as best he can, tells himself it’s just a phase, just a slip of the mind brought on by nerves and excitement and the fact that Liam never looks as happy as he does when they’re about to perform. He tells himself that once they get settled into the groove of things, once the excitement fades away a bit, once they’ve gotten back into the routine of living out of suitcases, that this will just be something he looks back on and shakes his head about. He tells himself it won’t last, that soon he’ll wake up and be able to look at Liam just like he always has. That one day he’ll go back to being a best friend, a band mate, a boy he likes to tease, and that this feeling will pass in time. But then Liam’s bounding over, finally leaving Louis behind, and Harry’s stomach twists in happiness as Liam touches at his shoulder and Harry begins to doubt how easy this will be.

“We’re gonna smash it tonight,” he says, the excitement in his voice calming. “Don’t look so put out.”

“I wasn’t worried about that,” Harry says with complete honesty, teasing after a moment, “But now if I mess up it’s your fault for putting that in my head.”

Liam’s nose scrunches up in laughter, “Alright. If you need to do that, I’ll gladly accept the burden.”

Harry rolls his eyes, trying not to laugh, “You’re so selfless.”

“Thank you for noticing,” Liam laughs. He stills after a moment, eyes narrowing as he looks over Harry’s face, voice gentle as he asks, “Are you alright?”

Harry shakes his head, stomach swooping at Liam’s concern, “Yeah, I’m fine. Just a bit jittery about tonight.”

That’s a lie. He’s jittery about Liam. He’s jittery about the way Liam makes him feel. He’s jittery about the fact that on the day of their first stadium show he’s not thinking about anything other than how much he’d like to kiss Liam. He’s jittery about the way Louis comes over with a broad smile, clapping Liam on the back as he says, “Come on boys, we’ve got a press conference to go to,” and then pulls Liam away. He’s jittery about how much his fingers ache to reach out and stop Liam from following.

Liam turns back, warm smile brightening his face, nodding for Harry to follow and Harry thinks this will be alright. He tells himself he can handle having a crush on Liam; that as long as he can keep it under control, things will be fine.

*

After the press conference, Niall suggests they all have lunch -- just the five of them -- before embarking on this new part of their lives and none of them can turn him down when he gets like this. They end up crammed together at a small roundtable, their feet tangled together underneath, elbows bumping into each other, laughing as Niall tells a story that Harry swears he’s heard before. Liam’s thigh is pressed up against Harry’s and he’s nearly bouncing with excitement, shaking his leg the entire time, and Harry can’t pay attention to anything but that.

He stills Liam’s leg with a hand on his knee, squeezing lightly, laughing, “Someone’s a bundle of nerves today.”

Liam calms, resting his hand on top of Harry’s. His stomach flips uncomfortably and Harry files that away as a new way he reacts to Liam’s usual behaviour. Liam tilts his head to the side, laughing, and Niall stops mid sentence, wrinkling his nose in response to Harry’s statement, saying, “Aren’t we all? This is gonna be a sick year.”

There’s a murmur of agreement from all of them and Niall’s eyes twinkle as Liam laughs, saying, “Come on, lads. We gotta work on this stupor we’re in. Can’t let the nerves get the best of us.”

“What’re you talking about, Payno? I’ve got nerves of steel,” Louis says, throwing his wadded up napkin in the direction of Liam’s face. Liam tries to swat it away and Niall and Zayn laugh at the way his nose scrunches up as it hits him anyway, Zayn mumbling, “You’d think you’d have developed better reflexes by now.”

Liam scoffs, “I usually have!” and the laughter grows, the nervous energy from before settling around them. It transforms into something brighter, something reserved for when the five of them are all together laughing, and Harry feels like as long as he has moments like this he’ll be able to get through whatever it is he’s feeling about Liam.

 

April 28: Filmed at Machu Picchu today. Liam is ridiculous.

 

Ben wants it to be all of them and Harry hates the way that disappoints him. But Louis peeks out of his door when Harry goes to let him know it’s time to leave, bleary eyed and groggy, yawning, “Sorry Harry, tell Ben I thought better of it,” and the disappointment is replaced with a twinge of elation. He doesn’t really feel like arguing, doesn’t see the use when Zayn doesn’t even answer the door and Niall’s knee is in no shape for a hike. He knows there’s no point in begging Louis to come along when he could have Liam to himself for the day if he didn’t.

There’s a moment where he thinks that might be wrong, that it’s not fair to try and keep Liam to himself, but then Liam’s walking ahead of him, giggling between Mark and Paddy and Harry knows that just because he doesn’t have the boys around doesn’t mean he has Liam to himself. Liam laughs, loud and energetic, skipping up the steps with so much excitement as they climb that Harry feels no pull of jealousy, though. Unlike previous moments when all he wanted was Liam’s attention for himself, today he just wants to enjoy his presence while he can, even if it’s being documented on film and shared with a crew full of people. It doesn’t matter at all, especially when Liam looks at him as they stop, smiling as they sit in the grass to catch their breaths, saying, “We should do this more often.”

“Go hiking? I dunno if my asthma will support that.”

Liam pushes at his shoulder, laughing, “No, hanging out. Just you and me. We don’t do that enough.”

Harry leans back in the grass, propping himself up with the backpack he’s been carrying all day, sighing, “No, we don’t. We really don’t.”

“That’s easily changed, though,” Liam says, as if it’s the easiest thing in the world, and maybe it would be if Harry didn’t feel like he was fourteen with a crush on someone unattainable all over again.

“Yeah, I guess it is,” he says, because it’s a lot easier to say that than I’ve been thinking about kissing you a lot lately and it’s very hard being so close to you when you’re not exactly available.

It’s the right thing to say, though, because Liam’s face crinkles up with the force of his smile and he grabs Harry’s hand, laughing as he squeezes it, “Exactly! We practically have the whole world at our hands. We could at least do breakfast.”

“We could at least do breakfast,” Harry agrees.

Liam’s smile grows, “We could do more than that but breakfast is an important part of the day so it seems a fitting start.”

“Are you implying that I’m an important part of your day?”

“Of course,” he says with just as much sincerity as Harry’s come to expect from Liam over the years and for the first time in a very long time Harry wishes there weren’t cameras around. He wishes Cal wasn’t taking photos of them and he wishes he was better at schooling his features around Liam. He especially wishes that there wasn’t going to be documented evidence of the way his face falls when Liam finishes, “You all are.”

He’s thankful that Ben’s no longer recording, that at the very least he’ll be saved the misery of having to explain to him when he goes to edit all this footage why he looked so off when Liam said they were all important to him. He’s thankful for that and the fact that Liam doesn’t seem to notice the stress in his voice when he breathes out slowly, “We’re as important as breakfast. That’s a pretty high compliment.”

“I think so,” Liam agrees. “The only thing better than that would be, like, saying you’re as good as a Friends marathon.” He shrugs his shoulders after, laughing, “Which I guess, you lads are.”

Harry would like to say that the flip in his stomach had nothing to do with the earnesty in which Liam always expresses his love for them and everything to do with how ridiculous his compliments are but Harry knows it’s both. He knows that they’re both so very Liam and for whatever reason, Liam makes him feel this way now. Liam -- with his bright smile, gentle eyes, and warm laugh -- makes Harry feel nervous and giddy like he hasn’t felt in quite some time and he doesn’t know what to do with it.

He laughs because that’s something he still knows how to do around Liam and shakes his head slightly, “As good as a Friends marathon? Liam, your compliments are ridiculous.”

 

May 2: Skipped playing football to sleep. Pretty sure that upset Liam.

Liam knocks on his door fifteen minutes before they’re all supposed to leave and Harry answers it slower than he should, dragging his feet as he goes. He sighs as Liam takes in his socked feet and his bare chest, sensing his disappointment even before he says, “See you’ve decided not to go, then?”

“I think maybe I’d like to sleep today. My bones hurt.”

Liam rolls his eyes, “You’re so dramatic, Harry.”

Harry pouts, whining just a bit, “I’m not. They do hurt.”

Liam gives Harry’s shoulder a light pat, comforting, “Get some rest. Drink some milk or something. I’m sure you’ll feel fine soon, but you’re gonna miss out on my sick footie skills so it’s really your loss. ”

“Sick? I think you might be overestimating yourself. I’ve seen you play.”

Liam scoffs, eyes crinkling up with how much he’s laughing, “You’re one to talk.”

“Hey,” Harry says, dragging the word out in exaggerated offense, “I’m good.”

Liam nods, biting his lips around a smile, “Yeah, you’re something.”

Harry shoves at Liam’s chest and he laughs, “Don’t get tetchy, Harry.”

Harry pushes him out the door, “Go. Go have fun. Have a nice kick about. Scrape your knees in the grass. Tell everyone I’m sorry for ducking out.”

Liam’s face falls for a split second before his smile is back full force, but Harry’s stomach still flips uncomfortably at his change of mood, knowing he really should just go with them. “Sorry, Liam. I’ll go next time. Niall’s charity game isn’t too far off and I’ll be there, I swear. Just need to rest today.”

Liam sighs, smile just as bright as before. “Alright. But if I find out you went exploring or shopping or some shit like that instead of hanging out with us, you’re gonna owe me breakfast.”

“On a breakfast kick lately?”

“Yeah, actually.”

“Well, maybe I’ll go exploring just so you’ll take me to breakfast,” he teases and Liam shakes his head, laughing again, “You better not. Anyway, I said you’d owe me breakfast, not the other way around.”

Harry’s heart flutters and his stomach flips. He tries to keep his voice even and the fondness at bay as he says, “I’ll take you to breakfast, Liam. Just let me know when you wanna go.”

Liam scrunches his nose, huffing out, “Don’t try to placate me. I’m watching you. You better be there next time.”

Then he laughs, loud and bright, “And I will tell you and it better be fancy.”

Harry bites back his smile, saying, “You’re going to be late if you don’t go. I’ll take you to the fanciest breakfast and I’ll be there next time cheering loudly and making a fool of myself. Now go. I need to rest my tired, achy bones in peace if you ever want that breakfast.”

“Dramatic,” Liam says as he walks backwards down the hall, “Fucking dramatic.”

“Yeah, yeah. You’d have me no other way, though!”

“Maybe,” Liam calls back. He pauses halfway down the hall and smiles, shaking his head and Harry can hear the fondness in his voice as he finishes, “But I’ve never known you any other way so we’ll never know for sure.”

*

Later that night he’s woken up to another knock on his door. He’s groggy and warm, tucked away underneath the thick hotel duvet and he absolutely does not want to get up. Liam’s voice rings through the door, “Open the damn door, Harry. I have a present for you,” and Harry perks up, compelled to get out of bed as to not disappoint Liam twice in one day.

“What did you get me?” he yawns, rubbing at his eyes as Liam pushes past him.

Liam laughs lightly as he takes in the disheveled appearance of Harry’s hair, eyes going soft, “Oh wow, you really were going to sleep instead of coming with us.”

“I wasn’t lying!”

Liam shrugs, looking apologetic, “I thought -- I’m sorry. I thought you just didn’t want to go.”

Harry scratches at his stomach, still yawning, “Well I didn’t. But I was tired and I did pass out right after you left, so.”

“So, I guess it evens out,” Liam laughs, handing him a cup. “Anyway, I got you this.”

“What is it?”

“Tea, Harry. It’s tea. What else would it be?”

“It could have been coffee.”

Liam narrows his eyes, saying simply, “But you drink tea,” and Harry feels a little silly for even questioning it.

“Thank you, Liam.”

He waves his hand, smiling, “It’s nothing. Thought it might make your bones feel better or something.”

“I feel better after napping.”

Liam smiles, eyes twinkling. “Good, because you missed out on Zayn sitting in the middle of the pitch and a bunch of cute kids upstaging me so it better’ve been worth it.”

“It was much needed, but I’m sorry I missed out on that. “

Liam starts for the door and Harry’s stomach churns, not wanting him to leave just yet, “You could hang out here if you want. We could watch some telly.”

Liam’s face falls the tiniest bit, eyes flashing with regret, “I can’t. Tom’s in, remember? I just came by to give you that tea. You’re welcome to come by my room if you’d like, though. We’re gonna be playing Fifa.”

Harry knows he should go. He knows he should take advantage of being near Liam outside of green rooms and loud stages as much as he can, but he doesn’t like to share and somehow that’s more important than letting himself have what he wants most.

He shakes his head, pushing his hair out of his face, “Nah, you go have fun with your friend. I think I’m gonna go back to sleep.”

Liam looks concerned, eyebrows furrowing together and Harry wants to reach out and smooth it out but his hands seem glued to the cup, no longer able to move as Liam says slowly, “Alright, but if you change your mind the door’s always open.”

Harry stands there, toeing at the carpet as Liam walks away, stomach swooping as Liam stalls at the door.

“Whatever’s been on your mind lately,” Liam says, voice soft and gentle, “you can tell me.”

Harry’s heart hammers, head spinning, feeling anxious that Liam may have caught on already. He laughs to cover his nerves, “You know how it is, Liam. New tour. New set of jitters to fight off. Just gotta get in the swing of things.”

Liam’s eyes narrow in concern, shaking his head just the slightest bit, joking, “Don’t go and make yourself sick with it.”

“I won’t,” Harry assures him and Liam smiles.

Liam nods his head, mouth twitching, “And if it gets too much, I guess I can be your distraction.”

“Liam,” Harry whines, trying not to let the joke get the best of him. “Don’t pretend I’d be a burden.”

Liam’s smile gives him away but he still says, “Keep telling yourself that,” and Harry has to remind himself that Liam’s not flirting.

Liam shuts the door behind him and Harry’s left in the middle of the room unsure what he’s going to do about this whole thing.

  

May 5: Tango lessons. Sometimes all I want to do is dance with Liam.

It’s not exactly what he wants when they end up at Rojo Tango. He had imagined it more like the two of them doing something on their own but that’s not really how these types of things go and he knows that. There’s people around watching, waiting, wanting something-- anything -- from the two of them and it makes Harry’s head spin because tonight all he wants is to pretend no one cares who they are. He wants to pretend that he and Liam are two normal boys out for a good time and not two pop stars being given private tango lessons after the show because of who they are. He wants to pretend that he’s sitting next to Liam watching these dancers instead of stuck between Lou and Tom. He wants to pretend that after, when Liam takes his hand and pulls him toward the stage, saying, “Come on, now’s your chance to impress me,” that it actually means something and isn’t just Liam teasing.

Most of all he just wants to pretend that if he tries hard enough, this will all just fade away and won’t become more of a problem than it already is. Liam’s hand lingers in Harry’s though, and Harry can’t help but be hopeful.

“Are you saying nearly four years of watching me dance hasn’t already impressed you, Liam?”

Liam scrunches up his nose. “Do you want me to be honest?”

“Well, that’s enough of a give away,” Harry says, pushing at Liam’s shoulder. He shakes his head, laughing, “You’re an awful liar. Has anyone ever told you that?”

“I wasn’t lying! I was asking a question.”

“Mmm. But your face kinda gives it away. You’re practically an open book.”

Liam’s mouth turns down in an exaggerated frown, but his voice is soft, almost vulnerable and Harry’s heart twists uncomfortably, “You say it like it’s a bad thing.”

“It’s not.”

Liam’s face loses his frown. A soft smile creeps up over his face, but his eyes are still wary and Harry repeats himself, insisting, “It’s not.”

His attempt to wipe that look off Liam’s face works well enough. Liam laughs, eyes crinkling up as he pushes at Harry’s shoulder, saying, “Sometimes, it might be. But that’s not the point right now.”

Harry wants to ask when it might be bad. He wants Liam to tell him all about it but then Liam’s grabbing his hand and saying in a hushed tone, “Dance with me,” and Harry’s questions get lost in the feel of Liam’s hand in his own.

He smiles broadly and pushes past Tom and Lou. He pulls Harry on stage with him, more insistent as he says, “Come on, before they come and teach us how to do this proper,” and Harry can’t figure out how to form words past, “Yeah, alright.”

 

May 7: Saw Cristo Redentor. Nearly sat on top of Liam in a bread van.

“The important thing is that we’re all in this together,” he says after the doors shut and they’ve all settled into the pillows laid out in the back of the bread van.

He’s nearly on top of Liam, his back pressed against Liam’s arm, their thighs pressed together. Liam’s breathing is slow and steady unlike Niall, who’s sat between Louis and Zayn, looking pale and uncomfortable. Harry tries to joke, tries to lighten the mood and alleviate the tension that’s settled around them as Niall continues to grow paler, saying, “I used to be a baker, so I love being in the back of a bread van.”

Niall laughs a little, rolling his eyes but not saying anything and after a moment Louis says to Ben, “Now, Paul’s decoys don’t usually work, but this one I have a bit more faith in. This is - this is crazy.”

It is and Harry agrees that it just might work but he says, “I think they’re gonna know,” just to be contradictory.

Liam’s shoulder shakes with quiet laughter and Harry can’t stop the pleased flip of his stomach as Liam exaggerates, “Oh my.”

Louis rolls his head, exasperated; Niall tucks his head down, still not talking much, and Zayn smiles into the camera, saying, “I really like it in here.”

Harry should be more concerned with the growing paleness of Niall’s skin. He should be more worried about the concentrated stillness of Niall as if he’s trying to create more room in this tiny, cramped space by sheer force of will, but the most pressing thing on Harry’s mind is how warm and comfortable it is pressed back against Liam and how much he’d like to stay like this. How he’d like to stay here-- cramped and contorted for a lot longer than this ride calls for-- just for a chance to lean against Liam with good reason.

Harry knows that Liam would have no problem giving him a cuddle outside of this situation, but now that he has muddled up feelings for him, it feels different. It makes him feel nervous around him, wary to ask for the things he wants most just in case he gives himself away and makes things unbearably awkward. He knows he needs to work on it if he’s going to get through this year without crying over Liam, so he swallows it down and tries to pay attention to anything but the steady breathing of Liam, or the way his hand has settled against Harry’s thigh.

He looks over at Niall just as Zayn hands him a water bottle and he looks a bit like he’s about to pass out and Harry knows it’s not just the heat of the van causing his stress. Niall takes the bottle but sets it down next to him, tucking his head down and only mumbling a soft thanks. He holds his hand up, shielding his eyes from the light of Ben’s camera and a flood of guilt washes over Harry. He feels selfish and uncaring for only being concerned with sitting so close to Liam. He kicks out his foot, reaching for Niall’s leg and accidentally kicking Louis’s instead, mumbling his apology as Louis scoffs in mock offense.

Louis laughs, “Always so uncoordinated,” and Niall finally peeks up from where he’s been staring down at his lap, laughing, but only slightly, “Better you than my fucking knee.”

“I wasn’t even close to your knee! I was going for your foot.”

“With you, it doesn’t really matter,” Zayn laughs and the colour comes back to Niall’s face just a bit as he laughs louder this time.

“I’m not that clumsy,” Harry insists, offended that everyone thinks he is, but the boys only laugh harder, shaking their heads in disagreement.

Harry pouts, jutting out his lip for good measure, “I’m not.”

Liam squeezes his leg gently, his laugh radiating through him more than the others, “You’re a bit like a baby deer sometimes. Just kicking your legs about.”

Harry wrinkles his nose and the laughter around them grows.

“Liam,” he drags out and Liam cuts him off before he can say anything else, quiet, almost inaudible as he says, “A cute baby deer that everyone loves.”

It nearly knocks the wind out of him and he no longer feels the need to complain or pout. Instead, the words just make him feel warm and happy.

He gets lost in it so much that he doesn’t realise that the screaming has picked up around them and that Ben has started shushing them until Liam says, “I can hear them outside and I think we’re getting away with it.”

Niall’s back to looking pale and concerned and Louis’s joking again as Ben pans the camera around the van, “Hi we’re One Direction and we’re in the van.”

Louis’s laugh is bright in the small space, but a quietness settles over the van after and it sets Harry’s nerves on edge a bit, the tightness of the space finally getting to him. Maybe Liam senses the shift in his mood; or maybe it’s just obvious because Harry’s shoulders have tightened and he can’t stop fidgeting with the water bottle in his hands. Either way, Liam touches at Harry’s thigh, trying to distract him by making shapes on the open space next to Zayn.

He whispers, “Make a bunny rabbit on the wall,” right as Zayn starts explaining to Ben why he likes it so much in here and Harry feels calmer.

He makes the shape just as Liam told him to and the giggle it elicits from Liam soothes the rest of his nerves. He can’t help but join in Liam’s laughter, the happiness radiating from him infectious. He’s drawn out of it not too long after, though, as the van stills and Ben asks “How’re you feeling, Nialler,” and Niall responds, “Not good.”

He sounds soft and subdued, nervous in a way Niall very rarely sounds and Harry once again feels guilty for enjoying his time in this small space, thankful for the way Louis comes in, saying, “I’m feeling a bit similar, Niall,” before shouting over his shoulder, “How long?”

Paul calls back, “About to open the door,” and Louis exaggerates his response, “Okay.”

The doors open and Harry can’t miss the small, thankful smile of Niall’s right before he climbs out of the van -- glad to hear his laugh as he steps out into the fresh air and Liam laughs from behind him, “Finally! We’re here.”

 

May 8: Spent the day at the pool before the show. Might’ve held on to Liam’s hand too long -- don’t think he minded though.

The sun is warm on his skin; there’s a smell of sunscreen and chlorine that clings to the air and Harry loves it. He loves the vibrant sound of the people laughing around him and the splashes of water that hit the ground and barely graze the bottoms of his feet as people play in the pool and he lies out in his chair. He loves the fact that half an hour after he’s come outside Zayn walks over with his shirt hung over his shoulder and his hair tucked back behind a beanie, laughing as he sizes Harry up, nodding slightly as he says, “You’ve been getting some sun.”

Harry peers back at him, scrunching his eyes up in an attempt not to lose his face in the sun and Zayn laughs, “You look ridiculous like that. You’re wearing sunglasses for a reason.”

“You’re standing right in front of the sun! It’s still bright!”

Zayn’s voice is soft, features gentle as he says, “Always an excuse with you, Harry.”

Harry pouts, “Is not.”

Zayn makes a small noise at the back of his throat and Harry laughs, “Whatever. Have you come to get sun with me?”

“Not with you specifically,” Zayn says, adding after a thought, “But you do make it look appealing.”

Harry perks up, smiling broadly, “Thank you. I should just give this all up and become a poolside model. Do you think that’s a thing?”

Zayn rolls his eyes, exasperated, “I don’t know. But don’t pretend you wouldn’t miss every minute of this. You love it too much.”

His mouth twists up in a small smile as he says it and Harry’s stomach swirls in happiness, nodding his head in agreeance.

Zayn swats at Harry’s stomach with his shirt, laughing, “Maybe you can be the first boy band poolside model. Have people pay you to be ridiculous.”

“Isn’t that already what they’re doing with us?”

“Exactly,” Zayn says matter of factly and Harry has to clap his hand over his mouth with how hard he laughs.

Zayn stands there for a moment watching Harry laughing with a small smile on his face, then he walks away to talk to Ben and Harry’s left in silence to think about what it would be like to sit by the pool all day and get paid for it. He gets so lost in counting the pros and cons of it that he misses Liam coming out to the pool and the next thing he knows, Liam’s sitting in the pool with a hat on, talking to David and Gabe. He’s squinting his eyes against the sun and he’s got that look about him that says he probably just woke up and Harry can’t help but laugh a little at the idea of Liam getting up and going straight to the pool.

Harry watches as Liam leans over and takes the drink that David’s holding, mouthing what looks like thanks, and Harry’s stomach twists uncomfortably as he tries to look away. He doesn’t like this. He doesn’t like the way his nostrils flare as Liam laughs at whatever David’s saying to him; or how his heart beat quickens as Liam scoots closer, leaning in to talk to him and how much Harry just wants to be next to him instead. He doesn’t like the feeling of jealousy that colours every part of him when Liam interacts with someone else and how much he’d like to join Liam in the pool and bring his attention away from everyone else.

He doesn’t like it or how much it bothers him that he can’t just push these feelings away and stop wanting Liam to himself. He especially doesn’t like that all of these feelings are stopping him from acting on anything. How they’re rooting him to his seat, too afraid to join Liam in the pool at the sake of physically succumbing to his feelings and pulling him away from David and to a place on their own.

He scrubs his hands over his face and laughs bitterly to himself, wondering why it’s so much different on stage and how he’ll ever get back to a place of ease around Liam off stage if he won’t even allow himself to hang out in the pool with him.

*


He must have dozed off, waking up later, skin warm and eyes sticky with sleep. He’s a little out of it and doesn’t notice Liam standing behind him until he laughs. He sits up further in his chair, tilting his head back to look up at him, voice gravelly as he asks, “When did you get here?”

Liam turns away from where he’s talking to Phil and laughs, eyes softening as he looks down at Harry, “Have a good nap?”

Harry blinks away the sleep, hoping his sunglasses will shield the fondness in his eyes as he looks back at Liam, saying, “Didn’t even know I needed one.”

Liam laughs again, softer this time, “Good thing you didn’t burn. Would’ve been awful waking up to that.”

“I always use sunscreen. Never burn.”

Liam leans forward, hovering over Harry, laughing. He touches at Harry’s nose quickly and says, “Looks a bit red there. Don’t say never.”

Harry scoffs, reaching his hands up with the intention of pushing at Liam lightly but Liam takes them instead and Harry loses his train of thought. He smiles back dopily as Liam straightens up with his hands still intertwined with Harry’s, saying after a moment too long, “Don’t lie. I could feel it if I was.”

Liam’s smile is large and bright, always so warm and comforting and Harry’s heart quickens, breath hitching just the slightest bit as he pulls Harry’s hands closer to him and Harry has to look away. He has to look back at the pool in front of him because Liam’s face is too kind and it makes him feel too much but he can’t let go of his hands. He holds on, trying not to squeeze back any harder when Liam touches the sides of their hands together and squeezes gently, saying, “Course you could.”

Harry pouts, letting go of Liam’s hands so as to not be clingy, laughing just to keep his voice steady, saying to Phil next to them, “Tell him that’s how it works. That you can feel when you’re burnt.”

Phil laughs, shaking his head slightly as the two of them look back at him, saying slowly, “You can. But sometimes it takes a bit.”

Harry pouts more and Liam looks a little smug, smiling wide, “See! You could not feel it.”

After a moment he adds, “But don’t worry, you don’t look burnt at all,” and Harry feels relieved as a rush of ease washes over him at Liam’s words.

It has nothing to do with not being burnt and everything to do with the fact that he once again feels comfortable and normal with Liam. He laughs and rolls his eyes, like being burnt is the only thing he’s concerned with, saying, “See! I told you I could feel it.”

 

May 11: Last day in South America. Today was a lot. Finally had that breakfast with Liam. I kissed him after the show -- don’t think this thing is going away anytime soon.

Harry wakes up to the buzzing of his phone and immediately silences it, pulling his blanket up over his head and burrowing down into his pillow, not wanting to face the day just yet. Minutes later there’s a knock on his door as his phone starts buzzing again and Harry can’t ignore it any longer.

“Gimme a sec, someone’s at my door,” he says into the phone, moving slowly to get out of bed.

He’s met with Liam’s laugh down the line and another small knock at his door. “It’s me at your door. Open up, I’m taking you to breakfast.”

“What?” he asks as he opens his door, confused and still bleary eyed from sleep.

“Breakfast,” Liam says smiling. He continues when Harry stares back at him blankly, “We’ve been talking about breakfast almost the entire time we’ve been here. And now’s our chance.”

He pushes Harry backwards lightly and steps into the room after him. “Come on, get dressed. There’s a place connected to the lobby that we can get food.”

Harry blinks back at him several times, mouth open slightly and Liam says slow, just a bit nervous, “What? Do you not wanna go?”

“No,” Harry says, a touch too eagerly, trying to calm himself before he continues. “I just didn’t think you were serious when you said you wanted to go to breakfast one day.”

“Oh.” Liam fidgets with the buttons of his shirt, soft smile playing at his lips, “I’m always serious about breakfast.”

“Liam, you used to eat sweets for breakfast.”

Liam’s response is a short burst of laughter and a breathy, “Okay, true,” before taking in a deep breath and continuing, “But I’m serious about this one -- with you.”

Harry’s turned away from Liam, his head ducked down rifling through his suitcase for something to wear and his hands still at Liam’s last two words. His cheeks burn red and fiery and he’s glad Liam can’t see because he knows it’s obvious. He clears his throat and pulls on a shirt, frustrated as his misses a button, mumbling, “Good. I’m a lovely breakfast date.”

“Oh, really?”

Harry gives up on his shirt, leaving it unbuttoned as he turns around, offended as he sees Liam’s face lit up in disbelief, “Don’t look so surprised.”

Liam laughs, shoulders shaking lightly, “I’m not. It’s just -- you don’t even look fit to go across the hall, let alone to breakfast.”

Harry’s standing in front of his suitcase in his pants and his shirt unbuttoned, black socks still on from the night before. Liam’s looking at him with a small smile, eyes flicking up and down his body, amused, and Harry tries his hardest not to blush again, whining, “You just woke me up!”

“Well get a move on, we don’t have all day,” he laughs, eyes crinkling up at the edges and Harry’s stomach swoops, heart beating just the tad bit quicker as Liam adds, “unless you’re going to breakfast like that, then, alright. Everyone’s in for a treat.”

“Liam!”

“What? You’re the one stalling. I’m hungry.”

“Okay. Okay. I’m going,” he says as he buttons his shirt and moves to pick up his jeans from last night. He pulls them on quickly, stepping into his boots and stumbling as one catches on his heel and Liam grabs his arm, steadying him. “Don’t hurt yourself, I’m not that hungry.”

Harry huffs out, pouting through his laugh, “Make up your mind.”

“You’re a bit of a brat in the morning, has anyone ever told you that?”

“Yes, my mum all the time,” Harry admits and Liam’s eyes sparkle with how hard he laughs. “Is this how you woo all the people you take to breakfast? Tell them they’re brats and rush them out the room? Or am I just special?”

Liam curls his fingers into the crook of Harry’s elbow and pulls him toward the door, laughing quietly, “You’re just special, Harry.”

Harry’s heart beats loudly in his chest and he’s relieved that today is the last day of South America because he needs a break from Liam’s earnestness and kindness. He needs a break from his laugh and his eyes and the way he smiles around Harry’s name. He needs to take some time to clear his head and find a way to stop his heart from beating erratically every time Liam says something that’s completely normal for him but Harry wants to mean so much more. He just needs some space to figure out how to stop liking Liam..

*

He’s buzzing from the show and the crowd and the prospect of eleven days off to clear his mind. But stopping it -- turning off the part inside him that is so hopelessly enamoured by Liam now -- is a lot easier said than done. Especially when Harry can’t even get through the end of the day without the feelings he’s tried so hard to keep at bay overwhelm him into acting reckless.

They’re backstage and Liam’s lying on the couch, chest rising and falling quickly. His cheeks are still slightly pink from the heat of the stage, eyes just as bright as they had been under the light. His hair is falling over his forehead from where he’s been running his fingers through it haphazardly for the last few minutes and he has his legs hooked over the armrest, kicking his feet out restlessly and Harry’s stomach flutters with how much he wants to kiss him.

There’s an uneasiness on Liam’s face that’s unsettling and it has Harry reaching out and curling his fingers around Liam’s ankle, stilling him. “Haven’t seen you this fidgety in a while.”

Liam’s eyes are crinkly with the weight of his laugh but his voice is careful, “I’m always like this after shows,” and Harry knows he wasn’t wrong in thinking something was off.

“Yes, but not like this. Something’s different.”

Liam doesn’t say anything for a moment. He turns his face to the side and breathes in deeply but he doesn’t tug his ankle away and Harry doesn’t move, surprised by the quietness of Liam’s voice when he speaks again, “I just don’t wanna go home to an empty place, y’know?”

And then Harry remembers, Liam’s going through a breakup and he feels selfish and unkind for not being a better friend -- for being so self absorbed with his own wayward feelings for Liam that he didn’t even care to ask him how he was doing.

“Come to LA with me, then.”

He says it too loudly for it being just the two of them and Liam’s eyes widen in shock, mouth falling open in a small ‘o’ and Harry pulls his hand away quickly, steadying his voice, trying again. “You said I could live in your garage if we both moved to Brazil tonight on stage. It’s just like that. Come to LA with me.”

“I’d love to. But I think--”

Liam closes his eyes briefly, thinking, and Harry hopes that the hammering of his heart against his ribs as he waits isn’t as audible as it feels.

“I think I need to get used to being alone, though. If i’m ever going to get over her,” he says finally and Harry knows the disappointment on his face is unmistakable by the way Liam rushes out, “But thank you! Really. For offering.”

It’s stupid and selfish and entirely not the appropriate thing to do but Liam’s eyes are sad and his mouth is the prettiest shade of pink and Harry’s feelings get the best of it. He moves forward quickly, dipping down and pressing a sloppy kiss on each of Liam’s cheeks, pausing only slightly before pressing a small kiss to his lips. Harry laughs at the way Liam giggles as he pulls away, saying lightly, “You’re welcome. You better have a good break.”

The sound of Liam’s laugh is intoxicating and the feel of his lips pressed against Harry’s is something he’ll be thinking about for the rest of the break -- if not more -- but the look of sadness in Liam’s eyes has faded; it’s been replaced by fondness as he pushes at Harry’s chest and Harry knows making Liam smile was worth the risk of falling harder for him.

“Jesus, Harry,” Liam laughs.

“I take that as I’m a good kisser,” Harry smirks, surprised by how easy it is to tease Liam even when his heart is pounding erratically at how much he wants Liam to want him the same way.

“It was a nice one for the first one since Sophia. I’ll give you that.”

Harry furrows his eyebrows, shocked, and Liam’s smile grows as Harry asks, “Really? The first one? Not even Louis?”

“Not even Louis,” Liam says and Harry tries not to feel victorious because this isn’t a competition.

Liam gives Harry’s hand a soft squeeze, quiet as he says, “Thanks for offering to let me stay with you in LA. It means a lot.”

His smile is small, barely tugging at the corner of his lips, but it makes Harry’s heart twist just as much as ever and Harry can’t help but feel like he’s won something when Liam’s hand lingers for just a moment too long.

 

May 23: Croke Park. Dunno if I’ve ever seen Niall this excited before. Louis knows.

The excitement backstage is overwhelming. Niall’s buzzing more than Harry’s ever seen; his enthusiasm for the things they experience because of what they do already radiates through everything he does but today it’s even more contagious than usual. They’re playing Croke Park three nights in a row and Niall doesn’t even have to say a word for anyone to see how much it means to him. It’s mesmerizing to watch him run around, a ball of nerves and excitement, unable to sit still for more than five minutes as their time on stage approaches.

It’s so distracting that Harry almost forgets how much he wants to kiss Liam and just how enthralled he had been with Liam before break. But then Liam hooks his head over Niall’s shoulder as they wait to go on stage, touches his hands to Niall’s hips and giggles, saying softly, “We’re gonna smash it,” and Harry’s stomach twists in jealousy.

He hates himself for it. He hates just how jealous he gets of his friends for being on the receiving end of Liam’s affection and how his fingers ache with how much he wants to pull Liam away. But he hates nothing more than how easily Liam affects him. How all the progress he’d made in the last few days in not wanting Liam slips away the moment Liam pays any attention to him at all.

Liam pulls away from Niall a moment later, Niall’s shoulder still shaking with laughter from Liam tickling him and turns toward Harry, saying concerned, “Bit quiet. Are you alright?”

Louis looks at Harry for a moment too long, eyes flicking over his face carefully and Harry feels like he’s being tested. He laughs in the end and Harry’s thankful for the distraction as he says, “Come on, Liam, you know Harry. Always gets a bit quiet right before we head on stage. Nothing out of the ordinary.”

Liam’s eyes are still coloured in concern as he looks back at him and it makes Harry’s stomach churn uncomfortably and his heart hammer. Liam doesn’t have time to ask any further questions before they’re all being pushed toward the stage though and Harry’s thankful for that because there’s a knot in his throat that has nothing to do with nerves about performing and everything to do with how warm and caring Liam’s eyes are as they look back at him. The feeling is only made worse with the way Louis seems to watch him very carefully the whole way toward the stage. Louis doesn’t say anything about it but Harry knows he needs to get his emotions under control before the whole band catches on to how he feels.

*
It’s easy to avoid his feelings on stage. He gets caught up in the smile on Niall’s face that appears the moment they step on stage and only grows larger as the crowd gets louder and he forgets to think about wanting to kiss Liam. He’s so invigorated by the electricity of the fans dancing and singing along to their songs that he forgets that he’s already half in love with one of his best friends with no reprieve in the foreseeable future. He forgets how frustrating it is to have so much longing directed at someone that he probably has no real chance with at all.

That is, until Liam slips on stage in the rain and it all comes back infuriatingly fast seeing the way Liam looks up at Zayn. His face is scrunched up in laughter and pain, staring back at Zayn kneeling beside him like he’s never been in a happier place and Harry’s chest feels tight with jealousy again.

Harry looks back at Niall and Louis and the two of them are smiling down at Liam and his stomach flutters with fondness as he looks back to see Liam say, “I’m fine,” to Zayn. Harry turns around right as Liam’s getting up; he tries to keep a straight face but he can’t help but laugh into his mic as he sings because it’s all he knows how to do when it comes to Liam.

He laughs because all he wants is to have Liam’s attention on him the way it was just on Zayn. He laughs because it’s ridiculous to be jealous of something like that. He laughs because he can’t help but try and get Liam’s attention back by mocking his fall. He shakes his body and mimics Liam’s motions, laughing as he does it because he knows that’s what usually works. Teasing Liam usually makes him laugh and gives Harry the satisfaction of seeing Liam’s smile directed at him but it doesn’t work this time. Harry looks back a moment later and Liam’s not paying attention, already back at the top of the ramp he started from, and Harry tries not to be put out by it. Tries to realise that he can’t monopolise all of Liam’s attention and it’s selfish to want to. He tries to accept the fact that he has to get past this if he wants to keep his friendship with Liam intact.

*


After, when they’ve all changed out of their rain wet clothes and Harry’s towelling off his hair, Louis finds him in the corner of the room. He touches gently between the blades of Harry’s shoulders, voice hushed, “Gonna tell me what that was all about before the show?”

“Dunno what you’re talking about,” he mutters and Louis’s eyes sharpen in disbelief.

“You’re pretty transparent, Harry.”

“Hey,” Harry scoffs, hitting Louis softly with his towel. “That’s not very nice.”

Louis purses his lips, laughing the next moment. His eyes lose their sharpness and Harry thinks he’s avoided the subject safely until Louis sighs softly, “Whatever it is you’re feeling for Li--”

He cuts Louis off, not wanting to face these feelings just yet, saying quick and abrupt, “It’s not about Liam.”

Louis’s eyes narrow, sighing again, almost concerned, “Alright. If you say so. But whatever it is, you’ve got a room full of people to talk to about it. No need to be so quiet.”

Harry just smiles, not knowing what to say, and Louis turns to leave.

“Is it that obvious?” Harry asks quietly, not really wanting to hear the answer.

Louis’s smile is different this time, half fond, half smug, and he laughs as he shakes his head, “Like I said, you’re transparent.”

Harry’s face falls, heart beating faster than it has all day and Louis pats the side of Harry’s arm, comforting, “Don’t worry, I don’t think anyone else has caught on yet.”

Then he drops his voice, adding mischieviously, “I just like to know everyone’s secrets and you just happen to be easy to read.”

Harry sighs in relief because as long as it’s just Louis who knows, it shouldn’t be a problem. As long as he can get through these feelings and this tour without the rest of the people he cares about -- without Liam -- finding out, he should be fine.

 

May 24: Two shows in one day. Might’ve annoyed Liam more than usual in an interview. But I think he’s getting back with Sophia. So.

“There’s no lies -- there’s no secrets within the band or any BS like that,” Liam says. He’s clearly frustrated and Harry heart drops a bit, knowing that he’s currently sitting next to Liam harboring a secret crush that won’t stop plaguing his thoughts.

The words bubble out before he can really stop them, mumbling, “I have a secret,” right as Liam says, “It’s just one hundred percent us.”

Harry knows it wasn’t the right thing to say in this moment but he does have a secret and today he’s particularly annoyed with the idea of keeping it. He’s annoyed that he feels anything about Liam other than friendly fondness at all. He’s annoyed with the way Louis keeps looking at him carefully. And he’s especially annoyed that he even allowed himself to get his hopes up about Liam feeling the same way one day when this morning he overheard Liam telling Zayn and Louis about how he and Sophia started talking again over the break.

He says it because he’s annoyed and frustrated by how upset he actually is about his feelings for Liam being unreciprocated and he wishes he could suppress the brief moment of satisfaction he gets when Liam’s face falls at his words. The annoyance and frustration that was evident in Liam’s voice moments before is now directed almost entirely at Harry as Scott says, “Go on, Harry.”

He’s pretty sure he’s falling in love with Liam at this point and though any attention -- even negative -- is better than none at all, he prefers to see Liam smile. Prefers to watch his face light up with laughter, so he tries to play it off, tries to end the interview coyly, saying lightly, “I’m not telling you. Thanks for having us.”

*
They’re back in Dublin and Harry’s mood has only improved slightly since they finished their interview with Scott. He thinks he’s done a good enough job of concealing it but as they’re walking into the venue Niall kicks at the back of Harry’s leg, asking, “Alright there, Harry? Seemed a bit put out on the plane.”

“I’m fine. Just a bit of a sore throat is all.”

Even though that’s true, he knows it’s not what kept him quiet and Niall seems to know that. Niall doesn’t look like he believes him at all and Harry thinks that’s just his luck -- giving up his secret twice in less than twentyfour hours -- but Niall doesn’t say anything more about it. He doesn’t question Harry or make him feel obligated to tell him the truth, he just smiles soothingly, claps Harry on the back and says, “Drink some tea. Don’t wanna lose your voice this early in the tour.”

“Yeah, wouldn’t want that,” Liam says, coming up next to them and Harry thinks he succeeds in not shifting his face in excitement to have Liam by his side again.

“As long as it doesn’t rain again, I think I’ll be fine.”

Liam nudges him softly with his shoulder, looking back at him with soft, concerned eyes and Harry’s stomach swirls. He doesn’t say anything for a long moment, the three of them walking in silence toward the green room until Liam finally says very seriously, “You should still drink the tea. And maybe have a nap before the show tonight.”

They run into Gemma right as they walk in the room and she raises an eyebrow at their conversation, laughing as she asks, “Are you having people baby you again, Harry?”

He can see that she’s just teasing but his throat really does hurt a bit and he’s already on edge, saying defensively, “I’m not! I just said I had a sore throat.”

She looks at him, flitting her eyes over his face slowly, examining him just the way their mum used to when they tried to stay home sick. She smiles after a beat, soothing, “You just look like you need to have a cup of tea and a quick nap -- nothing too bad.”

She nods at Niall and pauses at Liam, who still looks utterly too concerned about Harry’s well being, saying firm, but calming, “I’ve got this,” before curling her hand around Harry’s arm and leading him away. Harry feels simultaneously overjoyed with the fact that Liam’s so concerned for him -- even if it’s just a sore throat -- and unbearably anxious with what’s to come. He has a feeling that whatever it is that Gemma wants to talk to him about is not going to be something Harry wants to hear -- especially since she refuses to say anything at all until they’re on the opposite end of the room where no one can overhear them.

“What’s actually bothering you?”

He tries not to snap, because she’s only trying to be kind, but his words still come out with a bit of a bite. “Like I said, I’ve got a sore throat.”

Gemma’s nostrils flare and she places her hands on her hips, impatient, “What’s bothering you other than that?”

“Noth--”

“Don’t lie to me. I can see right through your bullshit.”

“Liam and Sophia are probably getting back together.”

Saying it out loud actually makes him feel a bit better. He doesn’t feel nearly as annoyed anymore. He feels calmer and more resigned but then Gemma wrinkles her nose in confusion and his stomach twists with anxiety again, holding his breath as she asks, “What? Why is that bad? Shouldn’t you be happy for him?”

He knows she’s not meaning to throw his selfishness in his face like this. He knows that she’s not meaning to make him feel guilty for not being happy about his friend getting back together with someone he cares about but that’s exactly what she’s doing and Harry’s heart drops as he says, “Yeah. It is a good thing. But I. Um.”

He scratches at the back of his neck, not able to say it outloud, thankful when Gemma’s face softens, patting his cheek gently, “Ah. I see. Do you wanna talk about it?”

“Gem, I can’t even say it out loud. How am I gonna talk about it?”

“By opening your mouth,” she jokes, continuing more seriously when Harry doesn’t respond, “Fine. Don’t talk about it. Wait till you’re ready, Harry. But just don’t let it eat away at you, alright?”

“I won’t,” he says and when she looks at him sternly, like she doesn’t believe him, he repeats himself with more conviction than before, “I won’t. Promise.”

 

May 26: Niall’s charity game. Liam gave me his captain band.

He wakes up with a cottony mouth and an itchy throat; his muscles feel sore and when he stretches his whole body aches with the effort. He thinks the rain from the last few shows is finally starting to catch up with him. He wishes he could just stay in the whole day and sleep it off but he promised Liam he wouldn’t bail on this game and Ben’s already announced that he’s going to be there, so he really doesn’t see any way around it. Plus, Niall’s so excited about the game that he’d really feel awful if he didn’t show up, so he pulls himself out of bed and makes his way to the shower, hoping the hot water will wash it all away.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t. His throat still scratches each time he swallows and the tea he gets on the way out only soothes it some, but his muscles don’t ache as much and he doesn’t feel nearly as lethargic as he had when he woke. He finds it easy to get excited for the day once he gets going and by the time he gets to the stadium, he’s so amped for the day that he forgets all about his throat being sore.

Niall’s in the locker room pacing when Harry arrives. He’s chewing at the edge of his thumbnail and Harry smiles, endeared that after all these years Niall still has the same tells, “You’ll walk a hole in the ground and chew your thumb right off if you don’t chill out.”

“Fuck off,” he says, smiling just as wide as ever. “You’re late.”

“I’m right on time! Louis and Liam aren’t even here yet.”

He looks around the near empty room, smile faltering, “Barely anyone’s here yet. Did you tell me to get here early? Did you think I was going to be late?”

Niall shakes his head, saying, “Of course I didn’t.” But he’s smirking and Harry’s slightly offended.

“You did!”

“Maybe I just wanted you here early to keep me company.”

The words come out comforting, playful around his laugh, and Harry can’t stop the laugh that bubbles up in his throat, swatting at Niall’s chest, “You didn’t.”

Niall catches his hand and pulls him in for a hug, laughing harder this time, “No, I didn’t. But you are good company, Harry.”

“I am, you’re right,” he says, pulling away.

He finally takes in Niall’s appearance fully, then. His eyes are bright and his smile wide but there’s a faint blush on the apples of his cheeks and Harry can tell he’s nervous, dropping his voice and soothing, “Today’s gonna be good.”

“Yeah, it’s gonna be sick.”

Harry laughs, smile growing every minute he spends with Niall, “How excited are you?”

“So fucking excited.”

*


“You made Liam captain?” Louis asks, voice tight.

Liam laughs and Harry scoffs, “What gives, Niall? Why didn’t you make me captain?”

Louis scoffs, then. “Harry, you haven’t stopped shaking hands with everyone in this room long enough to even get dressed! Why should you be captain?”

And Niall adds with a laugh, “You made a big fuss out of being promoted from kit boy to assistant manager and now you wanna be captain?”

“Yes!” Harry agrees, the three of them laughing as Harry crosses his arms, pouting.

Liam shakes his head softly as he takes the captain’s band from Niall, shoving Louis’s hand away as he tries to grab it from him, “Maybe I’ll share with you if you deserve it.”

Niall rolls his eyes. “You can’t make people captain, Liam! That’s my job.”

Liam shrugs, shrinking out of Louis’s grasp as he tries to twist the band out of Liam’s hand again, and even though there’s so many people around them it feels just like they’re back on the bus arguing about what film to watch.

Harry laughs, disgruntled as he picks up his clothes that have been laid out for him for the day, turning to Niall with the jacket held up in feigned disgust. “You didn’t even put ‘Team Niall’ on this!”

Niall groans, rolling his head back as Louis and Liam start mumbling their disappointment, too. “I’m not talking to any of you ever again after this. All you do is complain.”

Louis claps him on the shoulder, saying seriously, “We just wanna be good enough to be on your team. We’re sorry we’ve disappointed you so gravely.”

“Jesus Christ,” Niall laughs. “You’re all a fucking piece of work. ‘Specially you.”

“Thank you.”

Liam adds, “Don’t think it was a compliment, Tommo,” and Louis shakes his head, “Of course it was.”

Ben clears his throat from across the room, bringing their attention back to the people in the room and Harry wedges himself between Louis and Liam. He does it under the guise of stopping Louis from stealing Liam’s captain band, but honestly, he just wanted to separate them to stop the jealousy swirling in the pit of his stomach.

Liam shakes his legs the entire time Niall is talking and it distracts Harry, makes him forget that they’re here for Niall and that he’s not supposed to be getting caught up in his feelings for Liam today of all days.

He places his hand over Liam’s knee, firm enough to still him and Liam smiles warm and kind before turning back to what Niall’s saying. Louis nudges at his shoulder, giving him a knowing look and Harry sighs, taking his hand away quickly. Liam’s so enthralled with what Niall’s saying that he doesn’t seem to notice or care about the absence of Harry’s hand but Louis’s mouth turns down in a frown, narrowing his eyes momentarily and Harry feels like he’s being examined and he hates it. He hates how easily Louis can read him, how read his feelings apparently are to everyone around him, and he hopes for the sake of his heart and the comfort of the band that Liam never catches on.

*

There’s a lot of memorable moments about the game: making a penalty shot, pantsing Piers Morgan in the middle of the game, Niall yelling at the ref after one of the other team’s players knocked Harry off balance. But the one that matters to him most when he’s back in his hotel room, curled up in the plush white duvet with another cup of tea, is Liam giving him the captain band.

It’s wasn’t even a big deal, a wordless exchange that took Harry a bit by surprise. Something he didn’t even allow himself to be phased or distracted by until later because Niall had put him in when he wasn’t even originally supposed to play. After, when they were all back in the locker room, before Harry even had time to change out of his wet clothes, Liam had plucked at the elastic fabric of the band, smiling as he said, “You made a better captain than I did.”

“I think it was the pirouette that made me so outstanding don’t you think?”

“Absolutely,” Liam had agreed, smile only growing larger as he teased, “But I think you could probably practise your form.”

“Please, Liam. I do my best,” he had said, laughing at the way Liam had shaken his head, smile overwhelmingly fond as he had said, “You always do.”

And that’s part of the day that had taken him off guard and made him blush, that’s the thing that’s still running through his mind hours later. That’s the thing that has him moping in his bed with a cup of tea and his phone off, avoiding people at all costs. It’s the way Liam had been so genuine and honest as he had said it, even if it was just another bit of banter between the two of them, that made Harry’s chest ache with an emotion that he never thinks he’s going to be ready to admit he feels -- let alone put a name to.

He lies back in his bed, groaning. His throat hurts again but it’s nothing compared to the tightness in his chest he gets every time he thinks about how much he wants from Liam. He doesn’t know how to ask for it or if it’s even his right to do so when he knows Liam and Sophia are talking again.

 

May 31: Sophia.

He never figures out how to ask for what he wants or works up the courage to tell Liam how he feels and in Manchester, Harry realises that not acting fast enough has cost him his chance at having anything with Liam at all. It’s not that he thought he really had a chance, not entirely, not enough to put any faith in it. He just didn’t expect for Liam to get back with Sophia so quickly after starting to talk to her again. He didn’t think Liam would bring her out to shows so fast, either.

Harry definitely thought he’d have a bit more time to wrap himself around the fact that Liam is absolutely, unquestionably, off limits before being forced to endure the lovesick look on Liam’s face every time Sophia is around. He walks into the dressing room right as Niall wraps himself around Liam’s back to join their picture and Harry’s stomach hurts with how jealous he is as the three of them dissolve in laughter after Liam lowers his phone. He’s confronted first hand with how in love Liam is and he turns around and leaves just as Liam wraps his arm around Sophia’s shoulder and presses a kiss to the edge of her hairline -- not able to handle the sight of it.

He’d like to say it’s not because of the feeling of regret and longing he gets when looking at Liam being affectionate with anyone but him, especially his girlfriend, but that would be a lie. So when Niall finds him moments later sitting at the end of the hallway around the corner with his face in his hands and kicks at his shoe lightly, Harry feels even worse about leaving because he’s once again let his feelings get the best of him.

Niall sits down beside him, bumping their shoulders together. “So this is about Sophia.”

It’s not a question, just an observation, but Harry still feels compelled to answer, feels like he needs to lie. “No, it’s not. I just like a few moments to myself sometimes.”

Niall purses his lips, narrowing his eyes and Harry hates this -- hates how obvious he is about the whole thing.

“It’s more about,” Harry sighs, throat going tight at the thought. “It’s more about Liam.”

Niall laughs, a comfortingly soft sound, nodding, “Yeah. I know. But it probably isn’t helping that she’s back and he’s all loved up again, is it?”

“Dunno what you’re talking about.”

“Harry,” he says, drawing out the name like he’s some sort of small child who’s done something they know better than and Harry thinks that’s appropriate because that’s almost entirely how he feels.

He should have known better than this. He shouldn’t have ever become this far gone for someone who always seems to be taken and he definitely should have known better than to fall for someone in the band. Someone he’s always going to forced to be around -- no matter how painful it is.

“What?” Harry asks, trying to play coy but Niall just rolls his eyes.

“You’re gonna have to admit it out loud eventually. It’ll eat away at you if you don’t.”

“Why? Why do I have to admit it? It’s already eating away at me. You obviously know. I basically told Gemma. Louis told me I was transparent about it. Which great. That’s exactly what I need. For everyone to know when I can’t even vocalise what I’m feeling.”

He scrubs his hands over his face and Niall leans into him, wraps his arm around Harry’s shoulder and pulls him in close, saying, “Ah. Harry. Do you love him?”

“No,” he rushes out. “It’s not that serious.”

He laughs, slumping against Niall, voice small and pathetic, saying, “At least not yet.”

“At least not yet,” Niall repeats quietly under his breath. He tightens his grip around Harry’s shoulder, saying cautiously, “So this is serious? This is more than you just being suddenly fascinated by him?”

Harry tenses against Niall, heart racing at the implication. “No. It’s not like that.”

He doesn’t mean to snap and Niall seems to understand, reaching up and curling his fingers through the hair at the base of Harry’s neck, soothing, “Don’t be like that. I wasn’t saying it was a bad thing. It’s just something you do. You get caught up in people sometimes and I’m just trying to get a feel for what this is. I gotta know what this is so I can help you.”

Harry sighs, patting Niall’s leg before getting up, smiling weakly as he looks down at him, “Don’t need help. I’ve got this covered.”

Niall looks up at him in disbelief, shaking his head again. “If you say so.”

He gets up and pats Harry’s cheek lightly, laughing louder than before, “You look a mess right now. You need to get it together before Liam catches on.”

Harry laughs, just a short burst of air for something to do, nerves flaring up again, saying evasively, “It’s just the sore throat. Has nothing to do with this. All this rain is making me feel like shit. Nothing for Liam to catch on to.”

“Harry.”

“What?” he snaps and Niall looks back at him apologetically when he whines, “You make it sound like I’m not trying.”

“Well first,” Niall laughs. “You can’t keep using the sore throat excuse because we’ve all seen you with a sore throat and you moping backstage by yourself is definitely not your usual response, so that’s not gonna cut it after a while. And second, maybe don’t walk out of the room right as you enter it just because Liam’s being affectionate with Sophia. That might be a start.”

Harry starts to make an excuse but Niall just cuts him off, raises his hand and smiles, “You don’t have to lie to me.”

Harry has nothing left to say. He doesn’t think he can possibly make any more excuses or try to make this seem like it’s anything less than what it is as this point, especially not with Niall. He thinks he’s made it out of the entire conversation without feeling completely miserable about himself as Niall starts walking away. But then he turns around, scratching at the front of his hair as he stops, mouth turning down at the corners, “Really sorry, Harry. If, y’know -- you’d gotten your hopes up in the last few weeks.”

Harry laughs hollowly, chest feeling tight and uncomfortable, “I hadn’t. I mean, I didn’t mean to.”

Niall looks at him so sympathetically that Harry feels pathetic and he really hopes that the pain flaring up in his throat and the stinging at the corners of his eyes is just because he’s finally coming down with a cold. He doesn’t want to deal with the other prospect, sighing, “Don’t wanna talk about it anymore, Niall. I’ll figure it out. I’ll get it together. Promise.”

It’s the second time in a week that he’s made a promise he knows he probably can’t keep but Niall smiles back at him, bright and encouraging, and Harry hopes that this time he will be able to. Hopes that he can finally just put this behind him before he lets it get any further out of control. He hopes that eventually he’ll be able to look at Liam be affectionate with someone that’s not him and feel content. He hopes that one day he’ll be able to look at Liam being happy with someone else and not feel like his chest is going to cave in with how much he wants that for himself.

 

June 3: All this rain has finally caught up with me. My voice gave out but I’m pretty sure that’s the least of my worries. At least in the long run.

It’s during Little Things that Harry realises that no matter how hard he tries these feelings he’s developed for Liam aren’t just going to disappear overnight. Liam notices Harry staring at him and smiles, catching Harry off guard with how warm he feels when Liam looks at him. He comes over, touching softly at the sleeve of his jumper and Harry feels a bit smug at getting what he wanted. He feels overwhelmed by how satisfied he is that Liam decided to come talk to him in the middle of the song.

The hint of concern in Liam’s voice nearly gets lost in the sound of the stadium as he asks, “How’s your throat feeling?” and Harry almost forgets to breathe with the force of how much affection he feels for Liam in this moment.

Liam laughs, “Actually, don’t answer that. You should be saving your voice.”

Liam pulls back, smile just as warm as the sound of his laugh had been and Harry finds his voice, nearly croaking, “Yeah,” hoping that Liam doesn’t think twice about the look on his face and how much he dreads it’s giving away.

He tries to force it out of his mind for the rest of the show but by the end of it he’s sure he’s not going to make it through the rest of the tour without accidentally telling Liam how he feels. He doesn’t even know how to put those feelings into words just yet but Liam follows him back stage with a hand at the small of his back, rambling about how Harry needs to take better care of himself and Harry thinks love probably isn’t too far off.

“Are you even listening to me?” Liam asks as they make it back to the dressing room.

“What? No,” he says, looking around the room for something to pretend was distracting him, but it’s empty. He scratches at the back of his neck and shrugs, “Sorry.”

Liam shakes his head, laughing exasperatedly, “I was saying you should probably avoid talking as much as you can the next two days so your voice will be back for the next show.”

“Yeah, you’re --”

Niall comes up behind him and claps his hand over Harry’s mouth, laughing against him, “No talking. That means starting now.”

Harry groans, wriggling out of Niall’s grasp, whining, “But --” and Louis cuts him off again.

“Nope. No buts, Harry. You’ve gotta have a voice.”

Zayn puts his hands on Harry’s hips and shuffles him over to the sofa, adding softly, “Vocal rest for you until Friday’s show. You’d hate yourself if it was gone for Wembley.”

They’re right -- he knows they are -- but there’s something about the four of them standing around him telling him that he needs to be quiet that makes him feel defiant. Liam seems to sense the shift in his mood, soothing, “Don’t pout. It’s for the best.”

Harry falls back on the sofa, stretching his limbs out, sighing loudly.

Niall laughs and Louis groans. “Jesus, don’t be so fucking dramatic. You’re acting like we’ve asked you to stop wearing your headscarves.”

Harry whines, wrinkling his nose in distaste, and Niall laughs even harder, saying, “To be fair, I have asked him to stop wearing those fucking things. He took it worse than this.”

Harry starts to deny that, starts to say that Niall’s purposely exaggerating but Louis gives him a menacing look and Harry feels like he might pounce on him if he doesn’t keep his mouth shut. He just curls up on the sofa and throws his arm over his face, sighing in defeat.

He feels fingers scratching lightly at his scalp a moment later and his pushes back against the touch, sighing with how nice it feels. He looks up to see Liam staring down at him with sad, concerned eyes and Harry’s stomach flips happily.

“Would you like a cup of tea?”

Harry nods, smiling appreciatively, and Liam walks away without another word. The warmth and comfort he feels in response to Liam’s attention doesn’t last; the hairs on the back of his neck prickle a second later as Zayn walks after Liam, looking down at Harry with a curious smile on his face. He doesn’t have much time to wonder what that’s about, or worry if he’s finally caught on, too, before Niall is leaning down and whispering cautiously against the shell of Harry’s ear, “He’s like that with everyone. Don’t go falling harder because he’s doting on you while you’re poorly.”

Harry wishes he could laugh, wishes he could push Niall away and tell him he’s wrong, assure him that he’s got this under control, but Liam comes back moments later with a cup of tea and a soft smile just for Harry and all he can think is fuck.

 

 June 8: Three nights in a row at Wembley. I can’t believe how lucky we are.. Unluckily, I got carried away and almost kissed Liam on stage. That probably would’ve been a disaster.

Sunday is so busy he thinks he won’t have any time to think about his growing feelings for Liam at all but he should know better by now than to get his hopes up about things. The first time the feelings come up, he’s lying back in the grass with his mum after lunch. He has his arms tucked behind his head, eyes closed, nearly falling asleep with how calm he feels in the near empty park.

He feels her shift next to him, opening his eyes just a sliver to see her looking down at him with a soft grin. He knows what’s coming before she opens her mouth, laughing, “Go on, ask away.”

“Are you in love?”

“Mum,” he groans, dragging out the word as he covers his face with his hands and she laughs, light and breathy.

“You are,” she says and Harry pulls his legs up, almost defensively, mumbling into his hands, “I’m - I dunno, mum. I just don’t know.”

“Well who is it?”

He pulls his hands away, pursing his lips, thankful that she can’t see the way he’s narrowing his eyes behind his sunglasses.

“You know already. Don’t make me say it.”

“Harry, love,” she says softly, carding her fingers through his hair, “Have you told anyone?”

“Well, you know. And Gem knows. And then there’s Louis and Niall and I’m sure Zayn knows by now, too. He’s been giving me this look.”

“No, that’s not what I meant. Have you told anyone explicitly?”

Harry finally sits up, pulling his legs up to his chest and crossing his arms over his knees. He feels small and vulnerable and Anne’s face softens, patting his cheek, “I think it’ll help you if you say it out loud. Putting a name to your feelings can be very liberating.”

“Mum,” he whines again, laughing at the way she tilts her head, expectant.

“You don’t have to tell me but I think you need to say it to someone. Anyone, really.”

“What if,” he pauses, closing his eyes, scared to even ask it out loud. He takes a deep breath, muttering against his arms, “What if I say it out loud and he finds out? What if it ruins everything?”

“Now you’re just being silly. I’m not telling and I know Gemma won’t either. As for the boys, you could trust them with your life. If you don’t want them to tell, they won’t. So don’t worry about that.”

He knows she’s right but the thought of him finding out and pulling away from Harry for fear of leading him on makes Harry’s chest feel tight and uncomfortable.

“And for the other, you’ve known him for nearly four years now. He thinks the world of all of you. There’s no doubt in my mind that that would ever change. Even if he found out.”

“Stop trying to be rational,” Harry whines, “I want to be petulant and whiny. It’s my coping mechanism.”

“Of course,” Anne laughs. “But your smile is much more beautiful than your pout.”

She places Harry’s hat back on his head haphazardly, pleased when Harry finally smiles again, “See, there it is. Beautiful.”

*

The second time it comes up, it’s on his own terms. He takes Nick aside after Rays of Sunshine after they’ve gathered around on the couch and taken a photo, after Harry can’t stop imagining the feel of Liam’s hand on his back as they knelt down to take a photo with a little girl without getting jittery and says, “Can I tell you something?”

“Yeah, alright. Out with it,” he says, smiling and Harry’s stomach churns uncomfortably, pulling Nick along and away from everyone else.

“Oh, it’s a secretive kind of thing. You know I love gossip,” Nick teases.

“Nick,” Harry says, smiling despite the way his stomach feels like it’s in knots, and Nick’s face softens.

“Okay. I’m listening. What’s on your mind?”

“I, um. Well you see. I’ve got a little. I mean. I might have.”

“Harry,” Nick says softly, placing a hand on Harry’s shoulder and squeezing lightly, “you’re rambling even more than usual. What’s up?”

Harry takes a deep breath, checking the hallway to make sure no one else is around, dropping his voice and saying finally, “I like Liam.”

“Don’t we all? He’s a looker, alright.”

Harry sighs, whining, “I’m being serious.”

Nick laughs, patting Harry’s cheek, “I know you are. I’m trying to lessen the blow by telling you it’s understandable.”

“It’s a bit more than just his looks.”

“I’m sure it is,” Nick says.

He wraps his arm around Harry’s shoulder again and steers him down the hall, asking softly, “Who else knows?”

“A few people. Too many people. Apparently I’m transparent.”

“Transparent? Mmm, maybe,” he says, pausing for a moment to consider it. “But I’d say you’re just a hopeless sap with a readable face.”

“So, transparent?” Harry laughs.

Nick’s laughter is soothing, making the nerves in the pit of Harry’s stomach settle as he squeezes tighter at his shoulder, saying, “Yeah, just a bit.”

“You’re the first one I told, you know.”

“What? You just said too many people knew.”

“I know. But you’re the first one to hear me ramble my way into saying it explicitly. So don’t be an arse to me.

Nick scoffs, saying, “I wasn’t being an arse! I was agreeing with you!”

But he runs his fingers through the hair at the base of Harry’s head softly as they turn back toward the dressing room and Harry thinks he might appreciate being the first to know fully.

Harry’s stomach still flips uncomfortably when they head back inside to see Sophia looking up at Liam with so much fondness on her face but Nick whispers quietly, “You’ll be alright,” and somehow that makes Harry feel relieved about finally admitting it out loud.

*

The third time the feelings flare up and come back to the forefront of his mind is absolutely not his fault. It’s Liam’s. Liam and his earnest eyes and his kind, beautiful smile and the way he stops them before Best Song Ever to say how much he loves all four of them and how thankful he is. It’s easy when Liam’s being so open about how much he cares for Harry to slip up. It’s easy to get caught up in the feelings he’s trying to get rid of when Liam says so genuinely, “I love you, boys. Let’s have a hug.”

What’s not easy is being pressed against Liam’s side in a group hug, their faces closer than Harry’s been trying to prevent them from being in quite some time. It’s not easy nor simple for Harry to avoid wanting to kiss him when he has Liam’s hand softly rubbing at his his back, thumb pressing in gently as he whispers one more time just for the four of them that he loves them.

The crowd is loud and the lights are bright and the energy is so high that he almost thinks he could get away with it. He turns his head toward Liam’s, imagining what his mouth would taste like right now. Wondering if it would taste like love and adrenaline and thousands of screaming fans around them or if that would just amplify the taste of honey that Harry noticed the last time he kissed him. He’s so caught up in the idea, so close to pressing his mouth to the corner of Liam’s, but then he catches Niall’s eye right as his nose grazes Liam’s cheek and he freezes.

He laughs it off, trying to make a joke out of his momentary lapse in judgement, saying, “It’d be a fine time for some kissing, lads.”

Louis purses his lips and Zayn’s eyes snap to Harry’s as they all pull back from the hug but Niall’s laughing and so is Liam so Harry thinks he’s made it out of this without any trouble at all.

But after, when they’ve all made it off stage and the adrenaline is still too high to have any inhibitions, the need to kiss Liam overwhelms him again. He runs between each of the boys, grabbing their faces and giving them each a sloppy kiss, saying excitedly after, “Three nights at Wembley deserves a few kisses!”

Zayn rolls his eyes, mouth turned up in a soft smile, “Someone’s feeling good.”

“I’m sure you all are. I’m a great kisser!”

Niall’s laugh bursts through the room loudly and Harry’s eyes snap toward him as he shakes his head, “I don’t think slobbering on our mouths counts as kissing.”

Harry puts his hand to his heart, pouting, and Louis laughs, “There’s the dramatics again.”

Liam scoffs, pushing at Louis’s shoulder gently, and Harry’s heart swells a bit when he says, “You’re one to talk, Tommo.”

The laughter that erupts from Niall as the two of them start bickering is contagious and it only starts to settle as their friends and family start gathering in the room. Zayn and Louis take the heightened commotion of the room as an opportunity to take Harry aside for a moment, Zayn pressing his hand to the middle of Harry’s back and guides him to a quieter place, out of earshot from anyone else. Harry thinks he knows what they’re going to say and he doesn’t want to hear it right now. He puts a stop to it before they can voice anything, patting their shoulders with a large grin, “Was just the buzz of the show. Nothing to worry about at all. I’ve got this all under control.”

Louis purses his lips just as he had after the group hug and Zayn looks at Harry in disbelief. Neither of them say anything more than Alright and while Harry knows he doesn’t have it under control in the slightest, he doesn’t want to let it ruin this night. He pushes it out of his mind and joins his mum and sister, pulling them in close for a hug, asking excitedly, “How good was that?” and hopes that someday soon he really will have it under control as he keeps saying.

 

June 13: Niall dragged Liam out to party with us tonight. I just want so much from him. It’s hard.

“You have to be able to function around him without trying to kiss his fucking face off or worse- wanting to cry,” Niall says and it’s oddly serious considering just seconds before he’d been laughing.

Harry blushes, the severity of heat on his cheeks more embarrassing than the fact that Niall’s in his hotel room trying to convince him that it’s a good idea to drag Liam out with them tonight as if it’s the perfect strategy to help Harry get over him.

“And you think putting me in a room with Liam and a bunch of alcohol is going to help me not want to kiss him, how exactly?”

Niall laughs, rubbing a hand over his face, “Well when you put it like that it sounds like an awful idea.”

“That’s because it is!”

“Who knows, maybe you’ll see someone else you fancy and Liam won’t look so appealing anymore. Maybe he’ll just be another blip on your radar after tonight.”

“He’s not just another blip on my radar,” Harry says, too defensive for someone who’s supposed to be trying to get over Liam.

Niall sits down next to Harry, patting his knee comfortingly and saying solemnly, “But he needs to be. You can’t keep going on like this.”

Harry lies back, covering his face with his hands, groaning, “I know. But --”

“But you’re in love with him and it’s hard,” Niall finishes, and Harry doesn’t need to see Niall to know he’s smirking.

Harry grabs the pillow behind him, flinging it at Niall’s face, whining, “Don’t say that. We’re trying to prevent it from getting that far.”

Niall laughs, a small, pitying kind of sound and Harry’s heart twists uncomfortably as Niall pulls his hands away from his face. “You can say that all you want but that doesn’t make it true and it doesn’t make it any less of a problem.”

He bites his lip nervously, voice quiet as he says, “It’s not a problem. More like a minor setback.”

“A minor setback? Jesus, you’re so full of shit. You nearly kissed him on stage the other night! You don’t wanna be in the same room with him and Sophia when she’s in town and you’re being an arse about going out with him tonight. I’d say we are long past a minor setback.”

“Well when you put it like that,” Harry says, mimicking Niall from before and Niall laughs momentarily. His face falls a second later and his hand settles on Harry’s knee, giving it a light squeeze before saying, “You’re never gonna get over this -- whatever you wanna call it -- if you keep treating Liam like he’s something you can’t have.”

“He is something I can’t have, Niall.”

“Yes, but if you keep treating him like some sort of unattainable lover, you’ll never be able to see him as your friend again. You’ll ruin what you do have if you keep holding him at arm’s length, Harry.”

Harry pushes up on his elbows, whining, “Stop being reasonable. When you’re reasonable you make it sound easy and it’s not. It’s not easy at all.”

Niall looks at him, eyes soft and concerned, voice gentle, “I’m not trying to make it sound like it is. I’m sure it’s not, but you gotta try. You can’t let it--”

“Eat away at me,” he finishes, laughing. “I know I can’t. And I’m not.”

Niall’s face doesn’t even have time to fall in disbelief before Harry’s surging on, clarifying, “Okay. I’m trying not to. It’s just fucking hard, alright. He’s so…”

He throws his hands out in the air, searching for the right word and Niall laughs quietly, almost to himself, “He’s so Liam.”

“Exactly. That’s the problem.”

*

Niall doesn’t end up being right, at least not about the night helping him see Liam as anything other than something unattainable that he desperately wants. Two cocktails in, though, Liam looks a lot easier to talk to, so at least that’s something.

But honestly, it might just be that it’s loud and cramped enough in the club that Harry doesn’t feel guilty when he presses up against Liam to whisper, “Are you having a good time?”

Liam’s hand comes up to Harry’s hip, squeezing lightly and Harry’s breath hitches at the contact, hoping the noise is lost in the sound of the room.

“Yeah. Are you? You look a bit distracted.”

Liam’s breath is warm against Harry’s ear and it makes his skin burn hot, cheeks flushing dark and Harry’s glad that it’s warm in the room so he can pass it off as having to do with the temperature.

Liam’s fingers dig in harder at his side, laughing as he leans back to take in his face. Liam’s mouth is red and his cheeks are faint pink and his eyes flit over Harry’s face quickly, searching for something, smiling fondly as he says, “See, distracted.”

Liam takes a breath and Harry feels like he needs to move. Needs to step back and turn around, find Niall and tell him he needs to go before Liam figures him out. But he can’t. Liam’s hand is like an anchor on his hip, holding him in place as Liam bites at his bottom lip, teasing, “Have you been this distracted all night or is it just something about being around me that throws you off?”

Harry can’t tell if he’s hearing him right or if it’s just the alcohol in his system and the longing in his heart making him hear what he wants, but there’s a hint of vulnerability in Liam’s voice and it almost has Harry spilling his feelings right here and just hoping for the best. Then Liam laughs, eyes crinkling up with the force of it and Harry breathes out, relieved.

He shoves gently at Liam’s shoulder, fingers lingering for a moment too long and Harry thinks he can allow himself that when all he really wants is to press in closer and kiss Liam until he understands just how much being around him throws him off.

“It’s definitely you,” he says honestly, laughing at the way Liam’s eyes widen in shock, mouth falling open in laughter.

“I knew it.”

“It’s your face,” Harry says, surprised at how easy it is to make the truth sound like a joke.

Liam nods, smile growing, “Well I can’t really do anything about that.”

“No, course not,” he says, taking a sip of his drink, blinking slowly back at Liam, taken aback at how much he means it when he says, “Wouldn’t want you to.”

Liam squeezes Harry’s hip one last time before removing his hand and Harry’s proud of himself for not whining at the loss of contact, sighing as Liam pulls him toward the bar, “You look like you need another drink, come on.”

“Offering to buy me a drink? Liam, are you hitting on me?” Harry teases, heart fluttering as Liam smiles back at him mischievously, eyes twinkling as he says, “Only for tonight.”

He’s teasing, just like they always do, but Harry so desperately wants it to be different than usual that he thinks he deserves to be able to pretend for just one night. He presses against Liam’s back, laughing against the shell of his ear, “I’ll have you know, it takes more than one drink to take me to bed. I’ll need to see some dance moves first.”

 

June 17: Liam.

One night of pretending, turns into one day of hoping, turns into two days of avoiding the furtive looks from the other boys every time he goes near Liam, turns into Harry waking up Tuesday morning sticky with sweat, having dreamt of sleeping with Liam just to be interrupted at the end by Sophia. He’s hard and uncomfortable, a rush of guilt flaring up every time he closes his eyes and the image of Sophia’s face as she’d seen the two of them tangled up in the hotel sheets together pop into his mind. Her eyes had been wide in horror, mouth falling open in surprise as Liam fucked into him, and Harry wishes that was the only detail he could remember from the dream.

It had been so vivid that Harry can almost feel the ghost of Liam’s lips against his own. He can still imagine the pressure of Liam’s fingers digging into his hips, the scratch of his beard against his thighs and how good it had felt to finally be under Liam like that. It felt so real that Harry has to stop himself from wondering how authentic the sounds Liam had been making in his dream actually are.

He texts Niall I don’t think this is a minor setback anymore and then has a cold shower. He stays under the water until he can barely remember the details of his dream and when he gets out he’s only half surprised to see Niall lying on his bed, snapback balanced on his head, blocking his eyes from the sunshine creeping in from the window.

“How did you get in here?”

Niall sits up a bit, smiling as if it’s obvious, “Paul let me in.”

“I’m gonna have to talk to him about his spare key privileges.”

Niall laughs, “His spare key privileges! You act like you personally gave him the damn key and he doesn’t have all of ours because you’ve lost yours one too many times over the years.”

“Hey,” Harry whines and Niall quiets, face softening as he asks a moment later, “So what’d you call me over here for?”

“I didn’t call you over for anything. You didn’t have to come over,” Harry says, no longer sure why he even sent him the text in the first place because he definitely doesn’t want to talk about it.

“I read between the lines. ‘I don’t think this is a minor setback anymore’ sounds a whole lot like ‘I need your help, Niall, please come over here immediately’ to me. So here I am.”

Harry ignores him, rummaging through his suitcase for a clean shirt, thankful that Niall lets him dress in peace before asking, “So what changed your view on the whole ‘not being a problem’ thing? Did something happen that I’m not aware of?”

Harry sighs, rubbing his hands over his face.I’m now painfully aware of how much I want to sleep with Liam isn’t something he wants to tell Niall and Is it wrong to fantasise about breaking up a relationship? isn’t something he wants to admit he’s been doing. He pushes his hair out of his face, biting his lip, settling on, “I just had a dream and it’s all finally caught up with me.”

Niall’s mouth falls open slightly, a small sound of surprise tumbling out and Harry’s cheeks burn bright red, embarrassed at how Niall probably knows exactly what kind of dream he had. Niall doesn’t say anything about it, he just pats the mattress beside him, saying softly, “C’mere. Let’s have a cuddle.”

“Niall,” Harry says firmly, “I don’t want to be pitied.”

“Good thing I’m not pitying you,” he says, holding his arms out for Harry to come to him, continuing, “I, too, had a bad dream last night. Terrifying shit. Was stuck in an elevator with a bunch of howling pigeons. Like, they sounded like wolves. But they were pigeons. Awful. Honestly. Don’t you think that deserves a cuddle?”

He throws his arms out more dramatically when Harry still doesn’t budge and Harry concedes, climbing in bed and curling up next to Niall. He rests his head against Niall’s chest, sighing, “You had no such dream.”

Niall laughs softly, carding his fingers through Harry’s hair, “You’ve got no way of knowing that.”

They stay there in silence for a long time, Niall’s fingers scratching lightly at Harry’s scalp and Harry’s half asleep by the time Niall speaks again, cautious this time, “Do you wanna talk about it?”

“Don’t really know what to say. I want something I can’t have and I just have to figure out how to move on.”

He looks up at Niall, laughing, “Which is proving rather difficult,” happy when Niall laughs, too, no trace of pity in his voice as he says, “Yeah, but you’ll figure it out. I know you will.”

*

Niall’s words are the only thing that get him through the rest of the day. Every time he sees Liam he thinks of Niall’s voice and how sure he had sounded when he said Harry would figure it out. He repeats it every time his mind slips and starts thinking about Sophia’s reaction in his dream or how much he’d like to just tell Liam how he feels and see what happens.

He repeats it so often he thinks it might be his new mantra and that’s probably ridiculous, but he needs it. He needs to repeat it every time Liam crosses his path, every time Liam’s eyes meet his eyes on stage or touches him as they cross paths. He especially needs to hear it, needs to assure himself that he will figure this out and move on eventually when he’s lying out on the stage, trying to get Cal’s attention, and Liam comes up and sits on him.

You’ll figure it out. I know you will is all he wants to allow himself to think but the pressure of Liam pinning him down, feet bracketing Harry’s sides, arm over Harry’s shoulder, reaching out to ruffle Cal’s hair, has Harry’s heart racing and mind spinning. It’s all he can think about the rest of the show, all he can picture once they’re winding down backstage, all he can feel when Liam passes him, smiling as he trails his fingers along his stomach.

His hand goes instinctively to Liam’s, holding it against him for a moment before he realises what he’s done and lets go quickly, cheeks flushing against his will.

Liam must notice, his eyes flick over the colour of Harry’s cheeks, raising his eyebrow curiously and Harry shakes his head, not knowing how to explain his reaction, lucky when Niall comes over and interrupts them.

He slaps at Liam’s shoulder, laughing, “Okay, what would be more terrifying: a pigeon with the howl of a wolf or a wolf that could fly like a pigeon?”

Liam laughs so hard the sound gets lost, his eyes crinkling with the force of it, catching his breath to ask, “What?”

Niall rolls his eyes fondly, saying, “You heard me. Which would be worse?”

Liam seems to really consider it, biting his lip in thought and Niall looks over at Harry quickly, patting his hip softly. Harry nods, small smile on his lips and Niall seems to understand the unspoken thank you hanging between them, turning back to Liam and saying, “So what is it, Leemo? What do you think would be worse?”

“A wolf that could fly like a pigeon for sure. Could you imagine that?” He wrinkles his nose in distaste, frowning, “Them swooping down and attacking you, flying off with your body. Nah. That’d be way worse than a howling pigeon.”

Harry breathes easier, for the first time all day he doesn’t have the images of his dream from the night before spinning around his head. Instead, the picture of a wolf with the wings of a pigeon floods his mind and the absurdity of it has him laughing, feeling light and comfortable, thankful that he has Niall around to distract him and take attention away from his problems when he can’t do it himself.

 

June 18: LIAM.

He’s not supposed to be there. Or at least, Harry didn’t think he would be. Harry thought he’d have a day to himself to unwind away from Liam, to spend mindlessly talking to people from their label. He thought Liam would be too caught up in spending the brief break they have off with Sophia to show up but Liam walks in half an hour after Harry does and his face falls, panicking. He doesn’t know how to be here with him without any of the other boys, he doesn’t know how to be around him when he’s still having trouble stopping his mind from conjuring up the images of his dream from the day before any time there’s a lull in conversation.

Harry wants to smack himself when Liam finds him moments later and the first thing that he says is, “Where’s Sophia?”

Liam’s eyes momentarily narrow in confusion before he laughs, saying, “Nice to see you, too, Harry.”

“Sorry, that was rude. Hello. Hi. How are you, Liam? Fancy meeting you here,” he rambles, blushing against his will.

“Are you feeling alright? You look a little,” he pauses, searching for a word and Harry laughs, tension fading just a bit, supplying, “Flushed.”

“Yeah, but I didn’t know if you wanted me to bring attention to it,” Liam says and Harry laughs harder, shaking his head at how ridiculous this all is.

“The thing is, you see that man behind you,” he says, motioning discreetly toward the tall, bearded man just out of earshot. “He called me Harvey when I first came in and I didn’t have the heart to correct him. But you’ve just called me Harry and I’m sure he’s heard.”

He’s lying but Liam laughs, ducking his face down and touching at his mouth to gain composure and Harry thinks it was worth it to see Liam like this. “Jesus, you’re so ridiculous.”

“Yeah, but I’m not the one who’s crushed some poor, embarrassed man’s dreams, now am I?”

“Maybe you should have just corrected him in the first place, saved yourself the embarrassment of him overhearing someone say your actual name.”

“Mmm, maybe,” Harry agrees, sighing in relief as Cal joins them and Liam says, “Did you hear that Harry’s been going around letting someone think his name’s Harvey the entire time he’s been here?”

Cal’s eyes snap toward Harry’s for a brief second and Harry thinks that’s another person he’ll have to explain his predicament to, thankful at least that Cal doesn’t expose his lie right then, though, saying, “Yeah, he wouldn’t let me tell the poor man the truth.”

Liam can’t stop laughing, shaking his head and repeating, “You’re so ridiculous,” and Harry fears that as long as he can make Liam laugh like this he might just be doomed to feel this way forever.

*
He makes it home and into the bath before being confronted with his embarrassment from the party and he regrets answering the phone the moment Cal asks, “You and Liam, hmm?”

“No, Liam and Sophia. And then me,” Harry says pathetically, groaning as Cal says, “Okay, let me rephrase: so you have a thing for Liam.”

“Obviously.”

“Mmm. Maybe a bit. But only when you’re telling elaborate lies. What was that about?”

Harry laughs harshly, “ I couldn’t very well tell him why I was actually blushing, Cal!”

“Yeah. But--”

“But I’m struggling and if I don’t get it the fuck together soon he’ll catch on. I know.”

He sinks into the bath, feeling sad and pathetic, laughing uncomfortably when Cal sighs, “I wouldn’t put it like that. But yeah.”

Harry kicks his feet out, splashing the water around him for a distraction and Cal laughs, “Are you in the bath?”

“Yes, Cal. I’m a living cliche. Sad, moping twenty something, sitting in the bath crying about unrequited love.”

Cal sighs and he sounds amused as he says, “I think you have to be older than twenty to use the term ‘twenty-something.’”

“Hey,” Harry whines. “I’m the twenty something here. I think I would know.”

“Harry,” Calum says, voice soft and concerned, “Are you alright?”

Harry leans his head back against the edge of the tub, pinching the bridge of his nose, sighing in defeat. “No, I don’t think I am. But what am I gonna do? Can’t tell him. Can’t get over him when I’m always around him. Can’t get away from him because he’s in the same band as me. Can’t exactly say hey, can you stop doing all the things that made me fall for you so I can maybe stop feeling like I wanna kiss your face off and take you home for Sunday roast with my mum, can I? Can’t take him home to my mum because he’s got Sophia to take him home for Sunday roasts. So here I am, having a bath instead.”

Cal says after a beat , “It’ll be alright,” and Harry laughs, feeling a little unhinged, “Yeah, but not soon enough.”

“Just a month more until you boys have another long break. Maybe that will help, being away from him.”

“A lot of things can happen in a month, though. What if I go and fall completely in love with him in the mean time?”

He laughs and Cal does too, more awkwardly than before and Harry feels like he’s being parented when he says, “It already sounds like you are.”

Harry knows he might just be but he doesn’t want to admit it quite yet, sighing, “Maybe so but that’s for another day.”

 

 

June 25: Tonight Liam said my love is hard to come by which is funny if you think about how I feel. Louis doesn’t seem to get the humor in it, though.

It hasn’t been long since they walked off stage and he doesn’t think anyone will notice his absence just yet. He’s upset. A bit angry, really, heart pounding in his ears as he paces down the hall, avoiding going to the dressing room until he calms down. He can’t stop replaying Liam’s words over and over in his head: Mr. Styles’ love is hard to come by these days.

It was such a harmless thing to say. Something said on stage to bolster the fans’ feelings, to make the expression of love Harry had just done seem more important, more significant, but Harry’s heart aches with how much he feels for Liam on any given day and today is no different. It’s just shy of infuriating that he’s trying his best and apparently succeeding at keeping Liam in the dark about this while everyone else around him seems to understand just how gone for him Harry actually is.

It’s frustrating just how out of control he feels and how he thinks he might be seconds away from telling Liam how he feels just to finally get it off his chest. It’s even more frustrating when Louis comes to find him minutes after he’s finally calmed down, looking like he’s about to lecture him.

Harry sighs, scrubbing his hands over his face roughly. He doesn’t want to talk but he knows there’s no use in trying to avoid it, trying for calm as he asks, “What’s brought you out here, Louis?”

Louis’s eyes are piercing and they make Harry feel small, shrinking away from his voice as he says, “What exactly are you trying to accomplish here?”

“Nothing, just pacing,” he says, trying to evade the conversation he assumes Louis wants to have.

“Harry!” Louis snaps and Harry feels defensive, voice sounding rougher than he would like, “What? What do you mean?”

Louis’s voice levels, eyes softening, sounding almost sympathetic, “You can’t have Liam.”

“Really? I had no idea,” he says harshly. “I thought maybe I could just submit a request and he’d be mine. I thought that Sophia would understand and maybe she’d share. Had no idea at all that I couldn’t have him.”

Louis looks taken aback by the tone of his voice, eyes wide with shock and Harry ploughs on, laughing bitterly, “He’s not a fucking prize. I know I can’t have him.”

“That’s not what I meant and you very well know that,” Louis says, voice edging on angry.

“Right. You just meant that he’s with someone else. That he’s unavailable. That he’s not something that will ever be attainable for me. That I need to stop being such a bloody fool and get it together before I ruin the band. That I need--”

“Stop. Just calm down,” Louis says, voice firm with concerned. “Don’t be an idiot, you’re not gonna ruin the band so don’t even entertain that.”

Louis breathes in deep, then. He lets it out slowly as if he’s bracing himself for what he’s about to say, voice apologetic, “As for the rest of it, yeah. He’s in love, Harry.”

Louis almost looks pained after and the laughter that bubbles through Harry isn’t surprising in the slightest. It’s the only thing he seems to be able to do in response to any of this anymore.

“But not with me,” he says after a beat, eyes stinging uncomfortably.

Louis’s face falls, mouth thinning out in a small frown, saying slowly, almost as if he hates to say it at all, “But not with you,” and Harry knows that try as he might not to, he loves Liam.

 

June 28: First Louis. Then Zayn.

Harry’s back in his hotel room -- exhausted and cranky -- and all he wants to do is sleep because filming had been more tiring than it usually is today. It’s hard enough trying to make sure his face doesn’t betray his inner emotions about Liam on any given day but when it’s being filmed, Harry feels like he needs to try even harder. He had felt like he needed to stop the fondness on his face when he looks at Liam from being documented on a DVD just to be watched over and over again by fans. Today, Harry felt like he needed to try his hardest to make sure no more people -- especially Liam -- caught on to his feelings.

Unfortunately, Zayn seems unable to hide the fact that he’s figured it all out. Harry’s almost entirely sure that he’s known for some time now, at the very least since Wembley, and just never outriht said anything about it. But tonight on stage when Harry had given in to the need to get Liam’s attention Zayn had looked almost annoyed so Harry’s positive if he hadn’t known before, he definitely does now. In the end, Harry had made it back to his room without being confronted by Zayn about it and Harry thinks he’s steered cleared of another confrontation about this entire situation, but then there’s a knock at his door and Harry knows better than to have thought himself so lucky.

He gets up to answer the door and thinks better of it halfway there, calling out, “Sorry Zayn, but I’m not due to get yelled at by a bandmate until at least the first of the month. You’ll have to come back then.”

“Harry,” he says, laughter muffled through the door but still calming Harry all the same, “I’m not gonna yell at you.”

Harry opens the door slightly, just enough to peek through and see that Zayn’s demeanor has completely changed from the shifty look he had been giving Harry backstage after the show. Harry sighs in relief as he sees Zayn’s smile, warm and reserved, finally opening the door wider.

“Okay, but I don’t wanna talk about what you wanna talk about.”

Zayn pushes past him, shaking his head, “How do you know I wanna talk about anything in particular?”

Harry leans back against the door as Zayn walks further into the room, somehow under the impression that if he shrinks himself against the door it will stop Zayn from reprimanding him about his feelings for Liam, joking, “The same way I knew it was you at the door -- I’ve recently developed psychic abilities.”

Zayn rolls his eyes, lying back in Harry’s bed, propping himself up on the pillows and Harry laughs, “Make yourself at home.”

“I will and will you stop sulking over there so we can talk?”

Harry sighs, walking forward, “But I don’t want to. We do entirely too much talking in this band and I just wanna sleep now.”

“Fine. We’ll just sleep. C’mere,” he says, lifting the blanket up and waiting for Harry to climb in.

“You’re just going to sleep? You came all the way here to sleep?”

“Yep,” Zayn says, yawning as he turns the light off. “We’ll just sleep. We can talk in the morning.”

The light above the door is still on but Zayn doesn’t seem to mind. He doesn’t say anything more and his breathing begins to slow, making Harry feel nervous and jittery, compelled to talk more than ever before. He’s no longer tired at all and he feel like if he doesn’t talk soon it might eat away at him and Harry sighs, thinking that might have been Zayn’s tactic all along.

“I really like him, Zayn. Like. A lot.”

“I know you do,” he says. He reaches out and squeezes Harry’s hand and Harry doesn’t know if it’s that, or the softness of Zayn’s voice or the fact that the room is so dim that he feels like his thoughts and feelings are no longer as raw and visible as they usually are but whatever it is, Harry can’t stop talking.

“Some days it’s easy. Just feels like another boy, another person I fancy. Something that’ll pass with time, y’know? But other days it feels like I’m drowning in it.”

Harry scrubs at his face, pressing the heels of his hands to his eyes and breathes in deep, admitting on the exhale, “I think I might love him.”

“Might?” Zayn asks, shifting in the bed and pulling Harry’s hands away from his face.

Harry exaggerates his pout, whining, “Yes. Might. Maybe. Could be. Absolutely unsure.”

Zayn smiles, reaching back and turning the light back on and Harry scrunches his nose up, shielding his eyes from the light. “That wasn’t an invitation to not sleep.”

Zayn’s lips thin out in a small smile, voice soft with endearment, “Now you’re just being ridiculous for the sake of it. You’ve not been trying to sleep this entire time.”

“Well now I want to,” he pouts again, sighing when Zayn sits up fully and looks down at him with stern, hard eyes. “Stop. Don’t give me that look. I’ve not done anything wrong.”

“Not saying you have. But you’re acting like a child.”

“I’m not,” Harry says and he hates himself for not being able to keep the whine out of his voice, covering his face in brief frustration as Zayn says, “You’re whining.”

“Maybe a little,” he says, peeking up through his fingers, smiling.

“It might make you feel less like you’re drowning if you stop fighting the fact that you love him. Y’know just let it happen. Maybe then it’ll go away.”

Harry sits up, tucking his legs against his chest. He rest his chin on his knees, sighing, “This is an interesting approach you’re taking.”

“It’s not an approach, Harry. I’m not trying to trick you into something. I’m trying to help you.”

“I didn’t - I don’t. I know. I didn’t mean it like that. It’s just.” He cuts himself short, breathing in deep and letting it out slow, trying to gather his thoughts. He feels jumbled and anxious all over again. “I thought you’d be more in line with Louis. ”

“I am in line with Louis,” Zayn admits and Harry throws his head back, resting it against the headboard, kicking his legs out in defeat, sighing, “Of course you are.”

He doesn’t mean to be frustrated because it’s nothing he didn’t expect. He knew Zayn would be in line with Louis but it’s still all so infuriating and he can’t seem to quell it at all. The emotions burst out of him with more force than he’d like, voice harsh and unkind as he asks, “Are you gonna remind me that he doesn’t love me, too?”

Zayn looks taken aback and Harry feels embarrassed and guilty about his outburst, quieting his voice, breathing in deep before saying as calm as he can, “I know Louis was just agreeing with me but it was bad enough hearing it once. I know he doesn’t. You don’t have to tell me, too.”

Zayn places his hand on Harry’s knees and Harry once again finds himself compelled to talk, no longer able to shut up now that he’s started, admitting, “I hate this.”

He runs his hands through his hair, nervous, closing his eyes for a moment before continuing, “I don’t like this at all. I don’t want to have to be given advice by my friends on how to get over a fellow bandmate. I don’t want you and Louis to look at me like that. Like I’m some wounded animal that needs to be taken care of every time you have to remind me that what I feel for Liam isn’t returned. I don’t like that everyone feels like they need to help me get over him when I should be able to turn this all off by myself. I don’t want Niall to look like he’s caught between pushing me toward Liam so I can get what I want and pulling me away so I don’t get my heart broken anymore. I don’t want to be a burden on the three of you. And I don’t want to be in love with him. So I’m not going to be. Easy as.”

Zayn squeezes Harry’s knee, voice firm and assertive as he says, “You’re not a burden on anyone. Not your fault you’ve gone and fallen in love with him. Love’s funny like that.”

Harry huffs, jutting his lip out in his best pout, “Did you not hear me? I don’t want to so I’m not going to. Easy as, Zayn.”

Zayn laughs, swatting at Harry’s arm, “I don’t think it’s that easy. But this is a good first step.”

Harry feels more comfortable now that he’s vocalised his frustrations, laughing, “A good first step would’ve probably been catching a different plane to South America. Then this would’ve never happened.”

Zayn wraps his arm around Harry’s shoulder, pulling him in for a cuddle, laughing, “You underestimate Liam. The way you’re talking he would’ve gotten to you eventually.”

Zayn scratches at Harry’s scalp and Harry’s even calmer than he was before, feeling more and more confident in the fact that he can get through this one step at a time as Zayn continues to run his fingers through Harry’s hair, agreeing after a beat, “That he would have.”

 

June 29: Liam has no idea what he does to me.

Harry’s once again frustrated, lying in bed, hoping that no one bothers him. He’s been thinking about the picture the five of them took on stage tonight for as long as he’s been back at the hotel. He’d hoped he could wash it away in the shower but he’s incapable of flushing the image of the five of them huddled together around Liam out of his mind. He’s itching to look at the picture, see if Liam’s posted it anywhere, but he’s tired and lazy and irritatingly nervous to see the ridiculous face he’d made to distract himself from the flutter in his chest at being so near Liam staring back at him. His hair’s still wet from his shower and he’s contemplating getting up and blow drying it to drown out his thoughts about Liam when there’s a knock on his door.

Harry groans, covering his face with his hands, not wanting to get up. There’s a twist in his stomach and he has a feeling he knows who it’s going to be if he answers the door and he just wants to burrow in his bed and pretend he never heard the knock at all. He wants to ignore the sound and prevent the regret that will eventually creep up when he does answer the door but Liam’s muffled voice comes through, soft and pleading, saying, “Lemme in, Harry. I can’t sleep,” and Harry gets up reluctantly, answering it anyway.

“You’re not wearing a shirt,” is the first thing Harry says and the familiar feeling of regret churns in his stomach quicker than he would have expected.

Liam scratches at his chest almost as if instinctively, laughing, “Like I said, I couldn’t sleep.”

Harry opens the door wide and Liam walks in, brushing Harry’s arm as he goes, saying nonchalantly, “At least I put on joggers.”

Harry asks, feeling his chest tighten, “You’re not wearing any pants are you?”

Liam shakes his head, smiling, “Like I said--”

“You couldn’t sleep,” Harry finishes for him, stomach hurting with how much effort he’s putting into not letting his eyes trail over Liam’s chest the way he wants.

He scratches at the back of his neck, uncomfortable with how much he wants from Liam but trying to stay in control of his emotions. “I also haven’t been able to sleep so I guess you’ve picked the right room.”

Liam looks guilty for a moment, saying, “I might’ve checked Niall’s room first.”

“And he didn’t let you in?” Harry asks, feeling a slight pang of anger at Niall not saving him from being alone in a room with a shirtless Liam.

“He did but he’s a bit useless when you’re trying to sleep.”

“He’s watching Italian telly isn’t he?”

“Yes,” Liam says as he climbs into Harry’s bed. “He loves it.”

“And Louis and Zayn?”

Liam yawns, eyes narrowing for a second before his face smoothes out and he says, “Wanted to come to you next.”

The flush that creeps up over Harry’s skin feels impossible to hide and that just makes him blush deeper, clearing his throat, hoping it’s not too obvious, “I didn’t mean to make it sound like you weren’t welcome. I’m actually glad you’re here.”

There’s a lump in his throat as he says it and the soft smile that makes its way to Liam’s lips does nothing to quell how true Harry’s words are. As much as he tries to avoid it, as much as he knows he shouldn’t, all he ever wants now is alone time with Liam. He shrugs, trying to sound nonchalant as he says, “I feel like it’s been ages since we’ve spent any time on our own. I’m glad to share my restlessness with you.”

Liam laughs, shoulders shaking with it. “Good thing. Now c’mere, I need you to tell me a story so I can fall asleep.”

Harry’s mouth falls open in surprise and Liam only laughs harder, eyes crinkling up so much they nearly close completely. “You want me to bore you to sleep. Liam! My stories aren’t boring.”

Liam bites his lip, smiling, “I didn’t say they were. It’s just you’ve got a soothing voice. Very fitting for bedtime stories.”

“A voice to put you to sleep! A boring voice!”

Harry crosses his arms over his chest, pouting, and Liam’s laugh is so bright that Harry nearly slips up and smiles when Liam asks, “Are you just gonna stay in the middle of the room pouting? That looks rather uncomfortable.”

He scrunches up his nose, making his way to the bed, saying, “Well when you come into my room and call my voice boring why should I try and help you?”

“I said it was soothing!”

“You implied that my voice would put you to sleep,” Harry says, climbing in bed next to Liam.

“I implied no such thing,” Liam says around a smile.

Harry swats at his arm, their knees knocking as he settles in next to him and the threatening tone Harry meant to put in his voice is lost and his words just come out as fond, laughing, “You’re a liar and I should kick you out for that.”

“You wouldn’t.”

“I wouldn’t”, he agrees, leaning over and turning the lamp off, mumbling as he settles back down against his pillow, “But I really probably should.”

Liam shifts in the bed, lying on his side and propping himself up on his elbow to look down at Harry. It’s dark but Harry can still make out the pout of Liam’s lips and he pushes at Liam’s face, thankful for how easy Liam makes it to slip back into teasing, saying, “No. Stop that. You don’t get to use your puppy dog pout on me. That’s foul play.”

Liam falls back exaggeratedly, the bed shaking with the force of his laughter and Harry’s glad that it’s dark because the blush that flares up over his cheeks this time as Liam says, “You know you love me,” feels worse than anything he’s ever felt before.

The lump in his throat from earlier feels larger now and Harry hates how easily affected he is by Liam and how quickly he goes from having fun with him to being overwhelmed by his feelings. He tries to keep his voice steady as he says, “Yeah, now be quiet so we can try to get some sleep. That’s what you’re here for, right?”

Liam squeezes Harry’s hand, whispering his thanks and Harry hates the way his heart plummets when Liam pulls his hand away. He hates how the words I’m in love with you, Liam sit at the tip of his tongue just begging to be said and how hard it is for him to keep them at bay. He hates how much he wants to say them and how much he wants to know Liam’s reaction to them. He hates himself for even entertaining the idea of kissing Liam again after all this time but most of all he hates the fact that no matter how easy he wants it to be, it’s not easy at all. Zayn was absolutely right, it’s not as simple as just turning it off.

 

July 6: Liam makes it really hard not to want to call this feeling love.

Harry had decided that if it wasn’t as easy as turning off his feelings for Liam he’d have to pull away. But pulling away from Liam, just like not having feelings for him, is not as easy as Harry would like it to be. He can’t seem to catch any breaks when it comes to being around him. He tries to distance himself from Liam, pull away and save himself as much heartache as he can but Liam is just too much. He’s too kind and he’s too fun and he’s absolutely too pleasant to be around that Harry can’t keep himself away for too long no matter how hard he tries.

He’d think himself pathetic if it weren’t entirely Liam’s fault for making him feel this way in the first place. If it weren’t for the fact that Liam is mesmerizing and endearing when he laughs, face twisted up in amusement as he sings right to Harry, or the way Liam’s clothes cling to his body as they’re all drenched with rain, making Harry’s stomach flip uncomfortably with how good he looks, Harry might stand a better chance. If it weren’t for how firm Liam’s hand is on Harry’s arse as he smacks it on stage and the way it makes Harry want far more than he knows he’s allowed to have, Harry might have the sense to board a plane back to London for their day off with Louis and Zayn. But Harry’s never had a strong sense of self preservation when it comes to love, so it’s not surprising in the slightest when he ends up sitting across from Liam and Sophia on the plane.

Sophia digs her nails into Liam’s thigh during take off and he wraps his arm around her and kisses the top of her head, laughing into her hair, “It’s not a long flight, Soph. It’ll be over before you know it.”

She giggles and Harry already regrets not sitting next to Lou and facing away from the two of them. He regrets it even more when the plane levels out and Sophia curls her feet up underneath her and rests her head against Liam’s shoulder. They look comfortable and happy sitting there together and Harry finds himself wondering what it would be like to be in Sophia’s place, or even what it would be like to be able to be on the end of Liam’s affection again without feeling like he was going to crawl out of skin with how much more he wants from him.

Niall leans over and taps his arm a moment later, voice coloured in concern as he asks. “Alright, Harry?”

Liam looks up, too, eyes furrowing in his own concern as he studies Harry’s face and Harry really wishes he had just sat next to Lou. He’s thankful when she leans around her chair, laughing, “You better not have come down with another cold after the rain tonight. Don’t need your voice giving out again.”

Harry laughs, feeling a momentary reprieve from the guilt and longing he feels when looking back at Liam, whining, “Can’t I just be tired?”

Niall leans across the aisle and pats Harry’s cheek while Liam kicks his foot out and gently nudges at Harry’s shin and Harry feels this warmth wash over him at having Liam’s attention, trying to push away the feeling of love that rises up as Liam says, “Of course you can.”

“Thank you, Liam,” he says and the smile he gets in return only makes the feeling grow stronger.

Niall raises an eyebrow at him when Liam’s not looking and all Harry can do is mumble, “You know,” sighing half in frustration, half in relief when Niall nods.

 

July 13: ‘So kiss him again, just to prove to me that you can..’

Harry spends a week trying to deny just how far his feeling for Liam have gone. He ignores them and shuts Niall down every time he tries to talk to him about the night on the plane. But when Liam hurts himself on stage and hobbles over to Harry, trying to balance on one foot with his hand on Harry’s shoulder as he says, “I’ve gone and fucked up my ankle. Dunno if I’ll be able to do much more than sit the rest of the show,” Harry feels a bit disoriented with how strongly he feels about wanting Liam to come to him with his problems always.

Liam trails his hand across Harry’s shoulder slowly as he’s pulling away and it finally dawns on Harry just how much he loves Liam. That there’s no point in denying it or trying to stop it from happening because it’s already happened. His head’s spinning with how much he can’t hold it back anymore and how much he just wants to tell Liam already, just put his heart out on the line and take his chances. He’s so caught up in it that he forgets to move, forgets that even if he wasn’t terrified of Liam pulling away from him if he did find out that Sophia is still in the picture. He forgets that he’s on stage in the middle of a performance just for a second, standing there lost in thought about how much he wants Liam to reciprocate his feelings.

It’s at the back of his mind for the rest of the concert. It’s what he thinks about when the crowd starts chanting ‘Payno’ for Liam on Niall’s command. It’s loud and unkind in his head when Niall starts singing Strong to Liam, and when they’re all crowded around Liam backstage before the encore and Niall kisses Liam sloppily on the cheek, laughing as he says, “You gotta be more careful, Leemo,” it’s the only thing on his mind.

He loves Liam, there’s no denying it anymore and he’s not sure why he ever tried to. His heart sinks as Zayn kisses the top of Liam’s head, ruffling his hair before Louis swoops down and kisses him sloppily on the mouth, making Liam’s face redden with laughter as he pushes them away, saying, “I’ll be fine.”

Harry stands rooted to his spot, unable to dip down like the rest and kiss Liam like he knows he should. He wants to because it’s all he’s wanted for so long. It’s the perfect excuse to kiss Liam like he always craves, but he knows if he kissed Liam now he’d never want to stop and he can’t allow himself this opportunity when he knows it won’t last like he wants it to.

Instead, he leans forward and whispers against the shell of Liam’s ear, “You should make them carry you back on stage. Take advantage of your hurt ankle while you can,” taking comfort in the way Liam curls his fingers against Harry’s hip in laughter.

“Maybe I should,” he says, eyes bright and sparkling.

His laugh is light and comforting and over the last few months it’s become one of Harry’s favorite sounds and Harry wants nothing more than to swallow it down. He shoves his hands in his pockets to stop himself from pulling Liam in closer and hopes that the break will help ease the desire. He hopes that by the time he sees Liam next he’ll be able to look at him without wanting to sink his teeth into Liam’s bottom lip or sit down next to him and lace their fingers together and just breathe him in. But most of all, he hopes that when they come back together next he’ll be able to stop the flare of anger from rising up in his chest at how easy it is for the rest of the boys to show Liam affection. He hopes that soon he’ll be able to look at his friends doing what they’ve always done and not feel an overwhelming sense of jealousy at how easy it is for them to love Liam because they’re not in love with him.

 

July 20: Jay’s wedding. Finally worked up the nerve to hang out with Sophia for a bit. I see why Liam loves her.

 

As much as he hoped that getting over Liam would be easier once admitting to himself that his feelings are a problem, that he’s in love, it’s much the same as it was before when he was trying to convince himself it wasn’t serious. It’s tiring and difficult and something he never imagined having to deal with in the midst of a world tour.

He had hoped that the next time he saw Liam he’d have it a bit more under control than the last time. He hoped that he’d be able to look at him without wanting to crawl out if his skin with how frustrating it is to love someone he can’t be with, but he forgot that the next time that he’d see Liam would be in a suit and tie for Jay’s wedding. While it’s not the first time he’s seen Liam in a suit, it’s the first time since he’s felt this way and he’s not sure he’ll ever be able to get over him when he looks this good.

Lou catches him staring after the ceremony and hooks her arm through his, whispering, “She’s a nice girl, Harry.”

“What?”

“Sophia,” she clarifies, pausing until Harry pulls his eyes away from where Liam and Sophia are laughing with Niall.

She continues once Harry looks down at her, face softening as she says, “Maybe if you stop looking at her --”

His voice is harsher than it should be, interjecting, “I wasn’t looking at her --”

She cuts him off, pursing her lips in a way that reminds him so much of Gemma that he wonders which one of them picked it up from the other, saying, “You were looking at Liam. I know.”

He doesn’t have time to defend himself or deny it before she’s going on, pulling him further away from anyone who might be able to hear, an air of annoyance in her voice as she explains, “I just meant, maybe if you stopped looking at her and their relationship as an obstacle to your happiness and started looking at her as someone who makes Liam happy you’d be able to get over this.”

Harry narrows his eyes and Lou laughs, “Or not.”

He sighs, steering them toward the tent with the bar, “I don’t think I’ve had enough champagne for this conversation.”

“Harry,” she says, and Harry takes a sharp breath, hating how so many people he loves look at him like he’s going to break any minute whenever he talks about Liam.

He just wants to go back to before when no one even knew, when this wasn’t even a thing, and stop it before it ever got this far, sighing, “It’s fine, Lou. I’m fine. You’re right. I just don’t think it’s as easy as you make it seem. I’ve been trying. I’ve been trying so hard and it’s not working. Nothing’s working. I’m still in lo-”

He sucks in a sharp breath, unable to say it out loud, finishing quiet and disheartened, shoulders slumping in his discomfort, “I’m still in the same place I’ve been all tour.”

Lou doesn’t confront him about the fact that he can’t express his feelings without cutting himself short, she just squeezes his arm, soothing, “Aw babe, it’ll be alright one day.”

Harry laughs, a hollow, unforgiving sound, “One day is not today and I’m just so tired.”

“I know, hon, but time heals all wounds and all that.”

“Lou,” he whines and she laughs as he says, “Stop parenting me.”

“Friends are allowed to be concerned about your well being, too, ya idiot.”

“But they don’t have to relay cheesy advice to me.”

Lou’s eyes widen in laughter, “That’s rich coming from you.”

Harry pouts and Lou pats his cheeks, “Come on, let’s go get you some champagne. Then you should go and talk to Sophia. See how lovely she is. It’ll help you.”

He knows she’s right, that today is the perfect time to get to know her but there’s a voice in the back of his head telling him it’s not going to help, that it’s just going to make him feel guilty, and he just wants to listen to it. But Lou looks up at him like she has all the faith in the world in him and Harry knows he has to stop pouting and put some effort into getting back to a spot where he can be friendly with Sophia.

*


Talking to Sophia is not as hard as he thought it would be but it’s nowhere near as painless as Lou made it out to be. She’s sweet and funny and her voice has this calming sort of effect to it that makes Harry feel slightly more at ease even though he’s nervous to be around her. His heart’s racing and his palms feel sweatier than usual and he’s embarrassed by how much he wants to impress her, unable to stop the part of him that wants to please Liam.

He’s thankful when Niall comes up, saving him from stumbling over anymore words as he tries to talk to her. He tucks his chin over Sophia’s shoulder and Harry’s stomach lurches at how comfortable the two of them are, ashamed that he avoided interacting with her for so long that he can barely hold a conversation without Lou pressing a reassuring hand to the center of his back.

Niall grins, and Harry’s heart sinks as he asks, “Have you been showing off those pictures again, Soph?”

Sophia pushes away from Niall, giggling. A slight blush creeps up over her cheeks and Lou’s hand becomes a steadier weight on Harry’s back as she says, “No, I hadn’t. I didn’t want to bother anyone with them.”

Niall’s face falls for a second as he makes eye contact with Harry and Harry’s heart races faster, curious as to what the pictures could be, asking despite his better judgement, “What pictures? If it’s of Liam being embarrassing I don’t think that’d be a bother at all.”

She smiles, face lighting up, and Harry finds himself understanding what Liam sees in her.

“No it wasn’t that,” she says, swiping open her phone, smile transforming into something softer, more fond, continuing, “it was of where we’re vacationing next week. But I have a good one of Liam helping me with a project if you want to see.”

Harry can feel Lou pull back a bit and Harry wants her hand back to steady him as Niall’s eyes snap toward him, waiting for his response. Harry can’t stop himself, he’s intrigued again, saying with more sincerity than he expected from himself, “Yeah, I’d love to.”

It takes her a moment to find the picture she’s looking for and when she does she stops and stares at her phone, smile more fond and amused than before. She hands the phone to Harry after a moment, saying, “He looks ridiculous. But he was trying so hard.”

Harry takes the phone and his heart swoops at the picture he sees; it’s Liam pouting at the camera with his hands held up with bits of paper stuck to them and Harry can only imagine how hard he’d been trying to help. His voice gets caught in his throat as he hands the phone back, happy that Sophia seems too caught up in the image on her phone to notice the look on Harry’s face. He’s so endeared by the photo that his stomach swirls with jealousy at how many bits of Liam he doesn’t get to see, how many parts of Liam’s life are not his for the knowing and no matter how much they share, how much the five of them experience together, it’s just not the same as what he shares with Sophia.

Niall, on the other hand, does see his face fall and raises an eyebrow but Harry can’t find any words to say, just shrugs his shoulders, feeling out of place and uneasy. Niall senses the shift in Harry’s mood, laughing, “It couldn’t have been that bad. Let me see,” and Harry’s grateful once again for Niall and how easily he can save him from uncomfortable situations.

“It’s not,” Sophia says. “At least not looking back. I was rather annoyed with him before I took the picture because we nearly had to redo the whole project, but look at him. Can’t stay mad at a face like that.”

Harry sighs in relief as Lou links their arms together again, whispering, “You did good,” and Harry feels a bit like he just ran a marathon with how exhausted he is now.

He knows it shouldn’t be this tiring to talk to his friend’s girlfriend. He knows he should be able to hold a conversation with Sophia without Niall having to swoop in and save him from embarrassing himself further, but she makes Liam so happy and he so clearly does the same for her that it makes Harry’s heart ache with how much he wants to experience those same things with Liam. He feels guilty about it, wondering if he’ll ever be able to stop being selfish long enough to just be happy for Liam and the fact that he’s with someone who looks just as fond when he’s not around as she does when he’s right by her side.

  

August 4: Today was not the best. But then Taylor showed me some of her songs and she’s didn’t laugh when I said I love Liam and somehow that was made it alright.

Being back on tour is odd. He feels just the same as he did two weeks ago, just as in love with Liam, just as put out and upset that he can’t be with him in the way he wants but somehow it’s easier to see him with Sophia. His heart doesn’t ache with the same intensity every time he sees Liam beaming at her backstage and he doesn’t feel an overwhelming need to walk away every time Liam’s affectionate with her like he had the last time she was on tour with them. The problem now is that he’s even more jealous of the other boys getting attention from Liam than he’s ever been before.

He knows it’s not their fault and that they can’t start acting differently around Liam just because they know how Harry feels but it still makes his stomach swoop and his heart race when Liam comes up to Niall backstage, with a bright smile and a soft laugh, saying, “Take a selfie with me. I’m being your biggest fan on twitter.”

Niall furrows his brow in confusion,“What?”

Liam puts his arm around Niall, saying with the utmost sincerity, “I’m always your biggest fan but I’m showing it on Twitter right now. Will you just take the picture with me?”

Harry’s phone buzzes right as Liam stretches his arm out, ducking his head down next to Niall’s for the picture and Harry’s almost relieved to see that it’s an email from Taylor just to have something to distract him from the laughter coming from the two of them as they pull apart.

He swipes it open and reads: I have some songs I’d like to show you..if that’s alright. I’ve heard you’re in New York right now. Let me know if you’d like to come by and have a listen.

Harry’s shocked that she wants to show him anything, that she’d like to share her work with him after all this time and he’s happier than he would have expected that she’s reaching out to him in this way. He thinks it may come across over eager to respond so quickly but Niall and Liam’s laughter is growing louder and he can’t be bothered to think about how it will look. He types back I’d love to. I can come by after tonight’s show if you want. and lets the anticipation of hearing what Taylor has written about him distract him from the fact that Liam looks so comfortable and happy between Niall and Sophia.

*


It’s late by the time he gets to her apartment and that’s for the best; it lets him go up unnoticed, lets him take the elevator to the sixth floor by himself save for Jimmy, who had let him into the building.

He smiles as the doors shut, saying, “Haven’t seen you around here before.”

“No,” Harry says. “I haven’t seen Taylor in a while.”

“Well you’re in luck. She seemed rather excited for you to be coming by tonight. It looks like she has something special planned for you by the way she was talking when she told me to let you up.”

Jimmy’s words give him a rush, making him feel anxious. He doesn’t know what he should expect from anything Taylor wants to show him but he’s excited nonetheless.

Jimmy nods at Harry as the doors start to shut after he exits and Harry texts Taylor before knocking on her door, smiling as she opens the it and asks, “How’d you know I didn’t delete your number?”

“I took a chance,” he says. “But even so, were you expecting anyone else?”

She opens the door wider, ushering him in. “No, so I would have known it was you either way.”

“Exactly,” Harry says, glad that she’s smiling.

It’s awkward at first, standing there in front of her, toes turned in with nervousness. Taylor picks at the hem of her shirt but then her head snaps up and her smiles grows and she’s rushing out, “Okay look, I don’t normally -- I generally don’t-”

She tucks her hair behind her ear, sighing, starting over with a warm smile, “Come in, I don’t wanna be rude and make you stand in the doorway all night.”

Harry follows her into the living room, makes himself comfortable at the edge of her sofa and waits patiently for her to talk again, smiling when she says with complete sincerity, “I haven’t ever been in a position to where I feel comfortable showing my songs to exes before so thanks for being receptive.”

“You’re welcome,” he says, not knowing what else to say and Taylor laughs, shaking her head a bit before grabbing her ipod and taking a deep breath, “Might as well get it over with. Can’t just sit here awkwardly the whole night.”

She hands it to Harry after a moment, biting her lip, “There’s a few that are explicitly about you, but I think this one’s the most obvious.”

She waits until Harry has one earbud in before saying, “This one’s called Style.”

“This one’s the most obvious? Really?”

She rolls her eyes, laughing, “Will you just listen.”

He presses play and lets the music take him away. It may be a testament to how good she is or it could be the fact that he’s incapable of not relating everything back to how miserable he is at processing how he feels for Liam but he gets so lost in the line that you’ve been out and about with some other girl that the song is over before he has enough time to take it all in.

She’s looking at him expectantly and all he can say is, “I’m in love with him.”

“It’s not a bad song! I think it’s-- wait. What?”

She looks taken aback and Harry can’t blame her, he’s surprised that she’s the first one he’s admitting it to in the first place as well. He scrubs his hands over his face, pulling the earbuds out, embarrassed, “Jesus, I’m so sorry. This is supposed to be about you and I’m unloading all this onto you when I have tons of people who would lend an ear if I’d stop and let them. I’m so sorry.”

She sits down next to him, resting a tentative hand on his knee, voice comforting as she says, “That’s alright. You can tell me about it if you’d like.”

Harry sighs, feeling ridiculous, “No, that’s not fair. It’s not your problem. I shouldn’t bother anyone else with it, anyway.”

Taylor leans back, tucking her feet underneath her and says with such command that Harry can’t help but feel calmer, “Sometimes I find that it’s best to vocalise you’re feelings. Can’t just keep them to yourself forever. It eats away at you.”

“You wouldn’t believe how many times I have heard that exact sentiment since April.”

She raises an eyebrow, “So this is rather recent?”

Harry laughs, “Yes. Took a plane with Liam and realised that the world might just be playing a cruel and unfortunate joke on me.”

Her eyes widen in shock but her voice is steady as she asks, “Liam? Like your--”

“Bandmate, Liam. Yep. That’s the one,” he says, laughing at the way Taylor’s mouth falls open in shock before snapping it shut quickly.

“You know, thank you for showing some sort of surprise at this. Everyone else has just figured it out and looked at me like I’m obvious. Louis called me transparent! I’m glad I can still catch someone off guard by this.”

Her laughter is soft and soothing, smile bright as she says, “Glad I could at least give you that.”

She pauses, smile faltering for a moment and a hint of vulnerability creeps into her voice as she asks, “But can I ask what about that song made you think of him?”

Harry closes his eyes, breathing in for a long moment, letting it out slowly. “The part about being out with another girl. Because it’s not bad enough I’m in love with someone in my band but I have to see him be happy with someone else.”

“Ah,” she breathes out, “Been there.”

“It’s awful,” he admits, feeling comfortable telling her because she’s so removed from the situation. “Especially because she’s so good to him and it makes me feel so guilty for still wanting things. Like, I’m secretly harboring all these hopes and dreams of one day being with him and that feels wrong when I know he’s happy. But I can’t just - I’m having a hard time turning it off when he makes me so happy.”

Taylor purses her lips together in thought, mulling Harry’s words over for a moment. Harry thinks she might tell him he’s wrong for the way he feels but instead she says, “I don’t think you should feel guilty. As long as you’re not going out of your way to sabotage Liam’s happiness, I don’t think you’re wrong for feeling the way you do. Love is unpredictable and it can sneak up on you and ensnare your senses without you even wanting it. But it can be beautiful and tragic and inspiring and trying to stunt it and cut it off before the time is right will do nothing but cause you more pain, Harry.”

“That sounds a lot like a better way of saying time heals all wounds to me and I have to tell you, you’re definitely not the first to express that sentiment.”

She laughs, “Yes, it is,” and Harry appreciates her honesty. She picks at the edge of her thumbnail, sounding almost nervous to admit it as she says, “But in all seriousness, if you try to bury your feelings without dealing with them properly they’ll just come back up in unfortunate ways later and that’s messy and uncomfortable and you’ll regret it in the end.”

He leans back against the sofa, letting her words wash over him, saying after a moment of thought, “You’re very good at this advice thing.”

She smiles, taking her ipod back from him and fiddling with it as she says, “I’ve had my experience with heartache and healing. Now, would you like to listen to this song again and tell me your thoughts like we’d originally planned?”

Her words are not biting nor unkind; there’s an air of teasing in her voice that has Harry’s stomach swirling with happiness, pleased that they can be like this even after he’s interrupted her showing him songs written about him by unloading all his woes about Liam on her. She hands him back the ipod, a small smile playing at her lips and Harry finally finds himself trusting the fact that one day he’ll be able to get over Liam -- that time will make this easier.

 

August 13: Green is not my colour.

It’s ridiculous how easy it is for him to listen to Taylor’s advice, how much simpler it is for him to let himself believe her words than it was for him to listen to anything any of the people closest to him have said about the situation. He’d feel guilty about that too if it didn’t feel so nice to finally let himself feel the love he has for Liam without feeling selfish or burdensome for it. It’s easy to let himself be playful with Liam without over thinking every interaction under the fear of Liam one day catching on to how he feels. That is, until he lets his jealousy get the best of him again and then it’s not quite as easy as he’d lulled himself into thinking it would be.

It’s such a small thing that sets him over the edge, too, that it’s embarrassing how his stomach lurches and his nostrils flare as Louis catches Liam’s nipple between his fingers as they’re rushing back to the dressing room, laughing, “Good show, Payno.”

It’s such a thing between the two of them that he doesn’t know why he’s bothered by it anymore. It’s just what they do. It’s nothing that he can change and on most days it’s nothing he’d want them to change but tonight is different. Tonight, Liam had come up behind Harry and kissed him on the cheek and Harry couldn’t stop himself from imagining what that’d be like in a different situation. He can’t stop himself from wondering if that’s how Liam would act if they were together in the way Harry wants to be, and seeing Liam’s hands coming up to still Louis’s, lingering as he pushes them away, just has Harry’ emotions doing a turnover.

He pushes past them quickly, heading into the dressing room and for his bag, trying not to let his emotion unravel before he’s showered and gone from the venue. He loses a bit of thunder as he rifles through his bag for something to change into but Niall comes in a moment later, asking around an uncomfortable laugh, “Rushed off a bit fast there. Are you alright?”

“Yeah, I’m fine. Just wanna get back to the hotel and to sleep.”

Niall’s eyes narrow and Harry knows he doesn’t believe him but Niall doesn’t say anything and Harry thinks he’s going to owe him a gift basket or two after this tour is done for how many times he’s let him off the hook. Louis on the other hand, catches him after his shower and hooks his hand around his arm, voice steely, “What’s your problem? Why’re you storming around like this?”

Harry shakes out of Louis’s grip, snapping, “I’m not storming around.”

He gets half down the hall back to the dressing room before Louis says, “Okay, but you’re pouting.”

“I’m not pouting.”

“Don’t lie to me. I know what it looks like when you’re pouting. We all know when you’re pouting. It’s pretty obvious something’s wrong.”

“It’s nothing.

His voice is harsh and he knows Louis’s right, he knows he’s obvious but he doesn’t want to tell Louis that it’s his fault he’s upset.

Louis eyes flash in irritation and he almost sneers, “Lying and pouting. What a wonderful combo that is.”

“Will you just leave it? It’s not a big deal. I just needed a nice shower and now I’ve had one and I’m fine.”

It’s not a complete lie, he does feel calmer after showering, but Louis is standing in front of him, eyes bright and unbelieving, and it’s making his anger well up again.

Louis’s eyes widen for a moment, looking back at Harry like it’s all dawned on him, asking, “This is about Liam again, isn’t it?”

“No! Will you just leave it, please?”

Harry’s begging and Louis’s face softens. “You’ve seemed to be doing so much better with this whole thing lately. What happened now?”

It’s something about the hint of pity in Louis’s voice that makes him snap, makes him even angrier than before, “It’s you!”

He scratches his neck and tries to keep his voice leveled, ignoring the harshness in Louis’s voice as he snaps, “What the fuck?”

“You’ve got this thing with him. You’ve always got this thing with him. And then Niall. And Zayn. And everyone seems to have something with Liam and it’s exhausting constantly wanting more from him than I can have because what I do have should be enough. I should’ve never even gotten to the point where I feel like this in the first place. If I’m not over thinking what I’m doing, I’m letting myself want too much and if I’m not doing that, I’m watching the way the three of you get to interact with him with so much more ease than I can muster. And it’s because none of you have to worry about him thinking you’re in love with him and I really think I’m going to crawl out of my skin if I don’t get over this soon.”

Louis stares back at him, mouth open in shock, eyes wide in disbelief, laughing, “Haven’t heard you talk that fast in a while.”

“Louis,” he whines. “This is serious.”

Louis closes the gap between them, giving him a quick hug before pulling back and holding him at arm’s length, shaking his head, “It takes time, Harry. You can’t just get over someone like Liam overnight.”

His shoulders slump, pouting, “Everyone says it takes time and I don’t have time Louis. I need it to stop now. I’m tired.”

“Good thing we’ve got access to the best hotels in the city. You can go back and lie in a plush bed and sleep it away.”

Harry pushes at Louis’s shoulder, laughing, “It’s not that kind of tired.”

Louis turns Harry around and pushes him back toward the dressing room, “No, it’s not. But feelings are a lot easier to cope with when well rested.”

“If that’s the case, maybe I’ll just sleep the rest of the tour away,” he jokes, feeling put out by the fact that he’s taken a few steps back in his progress, hoping eventually he’ll stop having outbursts of jealousy that make him feel like he’s right back at square one. He hopes that one day he'll let time run its course for more than a couple days before getting impatient and trying to will it away.

 

August 27: I’ve been trying to work on it but sometimes all I want is Liam’s attention.

He gets the idea while they’re on the catwalk; Liam takes his water bottle and pretends to pour it over Harry’s head, raising an eyebrow and laughing at Harry’s surprise when no water hits him and Harry wants nothing more than to make him laugh harder. Later, on the mainstage during What Makes You Beautiful he does it. He pours the remaining contents of the water bottle on his head and runs up behind Liam, tapping his shoulder to get his attention back on him.

It’s ridiculous. Liam’s in the middle of making the crowd sing, about to start his next line, and Harry has plenty of other moments left in the concert to get Liam’s attention, but Liam looks back at Harry giving him a thumbs up and his mouth opens wide in laughter and Harry thinks it’s worth being a little ridiculous just to get Liam to look at him like that. Liam retaliates, pouring water on Harry twice more throughout the song and it makes Harry’s heart race, thriving off the attention.

He rides the high of getting what he wants all through the encore and by the time they’re running off stage and back toward the dressing room, the feeling still hasn’t settled; he slings his arm around Liam’s shoulder, not able to stop himself from wanting more attention, asking, “So how’s it feel to play your last show ever as a twenty year old?”
Liam leans into Harry’s touch, laughing, “Feels pretty good. Friday’s gonna be like one huge party just for me though.”

Louis turns around, raising his eyebrows at the two of them and Harry drops his arm, glad for once that Liam doesn’t notice because he’s too busy laughing at Louis saying, “Don’t rub it in. We’re not all as lucky as you.”

“You could think of it as unlucky, that he has to work on his birthday,” Harry says, trying to be helpful but unable to keep a straight face.

Niall laughs, pushing up behind Harry and Liam and ushering them through the door. “Louis’s right we’ve truly lucked out this tour.”

Liam pulls away from Harry, slinging his arm around Niall’s shoulder, ruffling his hair. Niall leans back into the touch and Liam’s eyes scrunch up in happiness and Harry’s please with the way his stomach only pulls a bit with Liam’s attention being taken away from him.

“To be fair, I think we always luck out. Our birthdays are the best.”

“Hey,” Harry whines, “I have a good birthday.”

“Yes,” Niall say. “But I think Liam’s onto something here. Ours are definitely the better of the five.”

“And why’s that?” Louis asks, eyes narrowed and lips pursed.

“Don’t get overshadowed or fall too close to any other gift giving holidays,” Zayn says with a soft smile in Niall’s direction.

Louis’s eyes widen and he crosses his arms in a huff, “Nothing could overshadow my birthday,” but even he doesn’t sound like he believes himself.

Liam’s laugh is louder this time and Harry’s proud of himself for not feeling the way he usually would when Liam says with the utmost sincerity, “Course it couldn’t.”

“Exactly,” Louis says, smug grin on his face.

Harry can’t help but laugh, shaking his head, asking, “How many times have you complained about your birthday being on Christmas Eve?”

Louis purses his lips, “Never.”

Niall’s laugh is loud, eyes going wide in amusement, and Zayn just shakes his head, rolling his eyes, “Now you know you’re lying.”

“I’m not.”

“I can count at least three times just this year,” Liam says and the pout of Louis’s face falters for a moment, almost smiling as he says, “You were just on my side! This is not fair. I will not stand here and have you lot rag on my birthday like this.”

Louis’s being ridiculous and it only takes him a moment to break and start laughing along with the rest of them and Harry’s heart swells with fondness -- happy that the desire to pull Liam’s attention away from the rest of the boys is finally starting to settle. He’s glad that he’s getting more consistent and confident in his ability to be around them all without feeling like he needs to fight for Liam’s attention.

 

August 29. Liam really is a ball of sunshine.

“It’s Liam’s birthday!” Harry says, not able to contain the excitement in his voice, no matter how much of a show he’d put on about making Liam wait before acknowledging his hands raised in the air.

Liam’s face lights up as Harry says it and Harry doesn’t allow himself to get caught up in it. Instead he moves on and says, “I think Karen and Geoffrey Payne are in the audience. Thank you! There they are.”

Karen’s teary eyed, and Geoff looks prouder than Harry’s ever seen him and Harry is overwhelmed with appreciation for these two people for bringing Liam into the world, saying, “Twenty one years and nine months ago these guys did the dirty and then we got this ball of sunshine.”

Harry knows his face is giving him away, his cheeks hurt with how hard he’s smiling but he can’t help it, Liam’s face lights up as he says it and his heart twists knowing that he can make Liam look like that. The flutter in Harry’s stomach and the pounding of his heart at being able to contribute to Liam looking overwhelmed and loved only increases when they sing him happy birthday and Liam’s face softens, biting his lip as his eyes get lost with his smile.

Niall goes over and hugs Liam and Harry doesn’t feel any jealousy at all this time, happy that Liam still looks so overwhelmed, and it’s easy for him to joke with the audience as he says, “Thank you so much. You’re set to beat with fifty five thousand people at a birthday party. Try and beat that next year.”

*
They surprise Liam later and take him out for his birthday; or really, Harry gets dragged from the hotel bar with Cal and Geoff by Niall, whose cheeks betray the fact that he’s already dipped into the mini bar, saying “Come on, it’s his birthday! We’re not letting a fucking thing like us not being twenty one stop us from celebrating with him.”

Harry wishes he would have had enough willpower to decline Niall when Liam’s got one arm around Sophia, laughing at something Niall’s just said but then Zayn’s handing him a drink and saying, “It’s his birthday. You gotta let it go just for tonight, alright?” and Harry knows he’s right -- that he can’t sulk the night away.

“Okay,” Harry says, taking a sip of the drink, wrinkling his nose at the taste. “Gin?”

Zayn’s eyes twinkle, “Your favorite.”

“My least favorite,” Harry whines and Zayn’s eyes light up even more, saying, “Only because of that one time--”

Harry covers Zayn’s mouth, stopping him, “No. Let’s not talk about Japan.”

Zayn just pushes Harry’s hand away, laughing as he walks over to where Louis has just joined Niall and Liam, and Harry downs the entire drink before joining them, too.

Liam’s mouth is just as bright as his cheeks and Harry thinks if he had to pick a time where Liam looked best, it might just be now, hot and flushed, eyes twinkling with happiness, surrounded by so many of the people he loves.

“This has to be the best birthday,” Liam says and Zayn laughs, “Might wanna reserve that thought until that gin hits Harry.”

“You gave him gin?” Niall asks and Liam’s mouth falls open with a small Uh oh.

Sophia looks between the five of them like she’s missing something and Harry feels defensive, “It wasn’t that bad!”

Louis raises an eyebrow in disbelief, saying, “You tried to strip off the one piece of clothing you had on.”

“It was hot! And they were rubbing me the wrong way,” he pouts.

“I love you,” Liam says and Harry hopes the blush of his cheeks can be hidden in the dark or written off as the heat of the room.

He tries not to notice how Louis’s eyes snap to him, ignoring the way Zayn tenses beside him and the fact that Niall’s shoulders stiffen noticeably. He tries not to let it affect him that Liam continues, “But you have to admit you were a mess that night,” as if he’s not just said the three words Harry’s been wanting to hear for so long.

He blinks, the gin and the heat and the words Liam’s just said all acting together to make him feel a little dizzy, laughing as he says, “I was no such thing.”

Liam’s beaming back at him and Harry thinks he’s never seen a more accurate human representation of a ball of sunshine than Liam on this day. He’s so bright and beautiful looking back at him that it’s almost easy for Harry to forget that anyone else is around them. It’s almost easy to forget that Liam has his arm around Sophia and that he’s not actually professing his love for Harry. It’s almost easy in the darkness of this room to let himself pretend that those words were meant the same way Harry means them for Liam. It’s almost easy, but Niall looks at him with soft, concerned eyes and Harry knows what reality is. Harry knows that as much as he’d like, his reality will never include Liam loving him that way.

  

September 13: Liam might not be in love with me but he really does care.

Liam’s back at his side before the stage even hits the ground all the way, hand at his waist, saying, “Are you alright there?”

His chest feels tight and he’s still gripping the railing for support and Liam just squeezes at his waist tighter as Harry says, “I’m fine, just a little winded.”

Harry straightens up, giving Liam his most reassuring smile, patting his cheeks, “You worry too much.”

Liam shakes his head, keeping close to Harry the entire way back to the dressing room, waiting until they’re at the door to say, “And you really need to start bringing your inhaler on stage.”

Harry’s heart flutters, the feeling of knowing that Liam cares so much about all of them settles in his chest and makes him feel warm and loved even if he doesn’t love Harry the way Harry loves him.

He knocks his hip against Liam’s, laughing, “Maybe so. But I have a certain image I need to uphold.”

“Which is ‘idiot who doesn’t value his health’ I assume?” Liam teases.

Harry pushes at Liam’s shoulder, whining, “No, I was thinking more ‘boy who likes to take risks.’”

Liam rolls his eyes, “I don’t think you’re convincing anyone of that one.”

“Are you calling me a liar? I have a motorcycle. That’s risky,” Harry pouts.

“For you, absolutely.”

“Now you’re just being rude, Liam.”

Liam bites his lip, laughing and Harry calls for Niall, waving him over, demanding, “Tell him he can’t be rude to me on your birthday.”

Niall’s laugh bursts through him, louder than Harry thinks his statement warrants, saying, “Don’t think you know how birthdays work. Pretty sure only I get to pull that card.”

“Which is why I told you to tell him to stop being rude. He’d have to listen because it’s your birthday.”

Liam stage whispers, “He’s a bit upset I told him having a motorcycle was a risky thing for him.”

Niall’s laugh only grows louder, clapping Harry on the shoulder and saying, “He’s right about that.”

“You’re all awful,” Harry whines and Liam shrugs, “It comes from a place of love.”

Harry shakes his head, huffing out, “Mhm,” but he knows it does and he hopes that one day Liam loving him as much as he already does will be enough.

 

September 16: I just want him to know. It’s killing me that he doesn’t.

He nearly kissed Liam on stage again tonight. He turned his head while they were singing, nose grazing the side of his cheek, lips so close to making contact that he could feel the warmth of his skin and Harry wanted so much to just press forward and close the gap between them. He had almost convinced himself that it wouldn't be any different than any of their other stage antics, that letting himself have this one moment would be okay, but his stomach hurt with how much he wanted it to be more than just another stage antic that he couldn’t let himself have it.

He’d breathed out close to Liam’s ear, frustrated by the fact that he’s still having the same problems with wanting to kiss Liam all these months later, and Liam had turned around in surprise and the laugh that came was in part endeared at how Liam’s eyes had gone wide in shock at the feel of Harry’s breath against his ear and part exasperated that Liam just doesn’t know.

Now he’s standing backstage, Liam handing him a towel, wanting to kiss his thanks into his mouth, instead saying, “You wouldn’t have to bring me towels if you stopped dousing me with water.”

Liam watches as Harry towels his hair off, eyes wandering over Harry’s face and Harry feels self conscious, like maybe Liam can see through him just as much as everyone else can. He laughs, though, saying, “I seem to remember you starting it,” and Harry thinks maybe he’s gotten better at hiding his feeling.

“You could look at it like that or you could look at it like a delayed payback from the last time you poured water on me.”

Liam’s shoulders shake with laughter. “I could but that would be ridiculous.”

Niall interrupts them before he can say anything more. Harry is almost positive that it’s intentional at this point and he’s thankful for that, unsure if he could have gone much longer without blurting out his feelings once and for all.

He pulls him away and Liam joins Louis and Zayn without another look back at Harry. Niall’s hand is a light pressure on his arm and it distracts him from the overwhelming need to just get his feelings off his chest already, to just tell Liam what’s been going on for so long and hope for the best.

“Harry, we’re so close to the end of the tour.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” he asks with genuine confusion, it only growing as Niall’s eyes narrow, mouth thinning out.

“You look, at best, like you wanna eat him. At worst, like you’re thinking of doing something stupid--”

“Like telling him?”

Niall’s mouth fidgets, eyes softening, agreeing, “Like telling him.”

“I might be considering it,” Harry says, not at all surprised by how honest the words feel.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

“Of course it’s not,” Harry says, shrugging. “But maybe it’ll make me feel better?”

“Or it could make you feel worse to have it finalised that he doesn’t, y’know.”

Niall stops, laughing in that uncomfortable way that always makes Harry’s stomach churn and Harry laughs, too, patting his cheek and whispering, “Doesn’t love me back. I know. I know.”

He straightens up, head clearing, knowing that Niall’s right, this is a terrible idea. “You don’t have to sugar coat it, Niall. I know. I’m not gonna say anything. Dunno if I could handle hearing it out loud.”

Niall smiles, soft and reassuring, “You’re getting better though.”

Harry knows he is, knows that even though he has intense bursts of it, that it’s nothing like it had been before. That it’s getting easier to stop himself from wanting and needing things from Liam he can’t have. He knows that with time, he’ll be able to look at Liam and not want as much as he does right now, but today is not that day and all he really wants is for Liam to know how much he means to him, how happy he makes him. It feels almost dishonest keeping it from Liam and Harry hates that almost as much as he hates the fact that he’s not over it yet.

 

September 22: I thought I was getting to where I needed to be...

It’s late and the bar they’re in is just edging on too loud but tonight he doesn’t mind; the heat of the room and the alcohol in his system makes him feel comfortable and cozy. Niall’s kept him off the gin again tonight but they’re done three shots of whisky and Harry’s getting to the point where curling up in a booth at the back of the room while Niall finishes up sounds really appealing. He pushes past it, though, because today is the first night in months that he’s been comfortable and at ease with himself and his progress at getting over Liam that he wants to enjoy the moment to its fullest.

He lets a girl and her two friends, who pretend they don’t know who he is, buy him a drink and when he’s walking away to join Niall and she says, “Hey Harry, can I get a picture?” he doesn’t say no.

He turns back, smiling, “Of course.”

While rummaging through her bag she pulls out a tin of Altoids and Harry’s eyes widen, grabbing them from her. She looks up in shock, her eyebrow raised in curiosity and Harry laughs, “I’m so sorry. That was really rude.”

He hands them back to her but she pushes them back, shrugging, “You can have one if you’d like.”

He smiles, taking a mint from the tin and saying, “I really love these.”

She fidgets with her phone and Harry breathes out, “Right. We were meaning to take a picture before I forgot my manners.”

She holds out her phone for the picture and Harry wraps his arm around her waist, holding the tin of mints to his mouth and she gives him a curious look as she snaps the picture.

She shakes her head as she puts her phone down, saying with a soft laugh, “Y’know, I’d heard that you’re a bit odd but I think it’s safe to say you’ve far surpassed any idea I had in my head of it.”

Harry laughs, the sound bursting through him with so much force that he claps his hand over his mouth in surprise, eyes lighting up at the way her cheeks blush deep red, visible even in the dim lights up this bar

“I like you,” he says after a moment, pausing, embarrassed by the fact that he’s been so inattentive, “I don’t think I ever got your name.”

“No, you didn’t. It’s Sarina,” she says and Harry nearly misses it, too distracted by the shape of her mouth as she speaks.

He reaches his hand forward, shaking hers. “Thank you, Sarina. For the mint and the drink earlier.”

Her laugh is low and soothing and Harry thinks it might feel nice against his mouth, that her lips would taste good against his own, so when she tells him they should ride the mechanical bull together in the middle of the bar he lets her pull him away.

Later, he takes her back to the hotel with him, not letting the cautious look Niall gives him or the way his eyes widen in surprise as he tells him he’s leaving discourage him. She keeps her hand on his back the entire time they walk and the light pressure of her fingers through his shirt is sobering. He feels more like himself by the time they get back to his hotel room. Less like he needs to curl up and sleep and more like taking a girl back with him when he’s nursing a broken heart isn’t a terrible idea.

Her mouth is soft and the vibrations of her laugh against his lips when he trips over his feet is just as good as he’d imagined. She nips at his bottom lip as Harry guides her back toward the bed, but she tastes like lemon and honey and it has him stilling, bringing his mind back to Liam quicker than he’d like in a moment like this.

He pulls away, breathing out in frustration. He scrubs his hands over his face, mumbling, “I can’t do this.”

She looks disappointed for a moment but she doesn’t say anything about it, shrugging her shoulders and smiling, “Alright. Tonight was fun anyway.”

She’s being so understanding and Harry feels so guilty, the remnants of alcohol in his system making him feel the need to tell her the truth, saying, “I’m just still a bit hung up on someone and don’t think it’d be fair for either of us in the end.”

Her mouth falls open in a small ‘o’, eyes bright with shock, asking, “Kendall? I thought -- I was sure that wasn’t actually serious. Oh my god.”

She’s rambling, taking this better than Harry expected and he doesn’t have the heart to correct her, knowing that the full truth is something she can’t know. He lets her think that he’s still hung up on Kendall Jenner, lets her walk out with a small wave and an awkward, “Hope you get over it soon, Harry,” and curls up in his bed and laughs into his hands about how ridiculous this is. How ridiculous it is that every time he thinks he’s over it it comes crashing down on him in waves, making him feel sad and pathetic, like he’s going to be stuck feeling like this forever. He burrows down in his blanket and tells himself that it’s the alcohol wearing off and the fun of the night crashing down that’s making him feel this way, and that in the morning he’ll wake up and it will all have just been a minor setback. That in the morning he’ll go back to feeling like he’s getting to the place he needs to be and that this will all just be a funny story to tell Niall one day, and not a sign that he’s just been fooling himself in thinking that he’d made any progress in moving on.

 

September 25: Letting go is really hard when Liam makes it so easy to love him.

In part, it does end up being just a minor setback. Harry wakes up in the morning less inclined to chase the taste of Sarina’s kiss with the taste of what he remembers Liam’s to be like. It’s been two days and he hasn’t felt himself slipping back into moping or longing for something from Liam since that moment with Sarina.

They’re backstage in New Orleans now and Harry’s lying back on the sofa with his feet slung over the armrest, watching Niall and Liam talk. Liam’s waving his casted arm around and Niall is ever so gentle as he catches it, laughing, “Be careful, don’t wanna go fucking it up again,” and Harry doesn’t feel a single thing of jealousy at the way Liam smiles back at him.

Liam’s eyes are bright with laughter, mouth plump and red as always, and Harry thinks he’s just as beautiful as he’s ever been and Harry’s just as attracted to him as he’d noticed all those days ago on the plane to South America. Harry wants just as much from him physically as he’s ever wanted, but he doesn’t think that’s the problem holding him back from moving on.

For the most part, Harry thinks he’s done a pretty good job at getting past wanting Liam. He can now look at Liam without wondering what it’d be like to map out his body with his tongue. He can look at Liam’s jaw without his mind wandering everytime to how the scruff of his beard would feel against his thighs. He can look at his bottom lip and not want to know what sound Liam would make if he bit down on it, can feel Liam’s fingers circling his wrist when he’s trying to get his attention and not immediately blush hot and red imagining if he’d be a little rough in the bedroom, pinning his hands down against a mattress.

Harry is almost positive he’s perfected not letting his brain sabotage him by imagining Liam in explicit scenarios anymore, but Liam comes up and touches at his hair, smiling, “Bit too close to the show to be sleeping,” and Harry knows being attracted to Liam isn’t the biggest roadblock in getting over him.

Harry pushes his head back and Liam obliges, scratching at his scalp and Harry sighs, “Not sleeping. Just thinking.”

Liam laughs, light and breathy, smile growing, “Do you always think with your eyes closed while lying down?”

Harry looks up at him, fighting to keep his eyes from drooping closed with how good it feels with Liam scratching his head, “Not always. Sometimes I think in the shower. Other times I think while I’m running. Or like, if I’m feeling risky, on stage.”

“Harry,” Liam laughs and Harry sits up, laughing, too, “What? You asked about my thinking. I’m just trying to keep you in the know, Liam.”

Liam rolls his eyes, pushing at Harry’s shoulder, “You’re --”

“Ridiculous,” Harry finishes for him, heart swelling in happiness at the way Liam’s eyes go soft and fond. “But you’d love me no other way.”

Liam’s voice is soft and full of laughter as he says, “Wouldn’t even dream it,” and Harry knows that that is his problem in getting over Liam.

“Good,” Harry says after a beat and Liam’s smile softens, making Harry’s heart flutter and his stomach swoop and Harry knows that it’s going to be hard to move on because Liam makes it so easy to love him.

He is kind and caring and he makes Harry feel loved no matter how little he knows about Harry’s true feelings. He’s full of laughter and joy and an enthusiasm for things that rubs off on people. He has an air about him that makes Harry want his attention, makes him want to see Liam laugh for as long as possible. He makes Harry want to be responsible for his happiness and though he’s gotten past imagining what life would be like if Sophia wasn’t around, he’s not sure he’ll ever be able shake this feeling. He’s not sure he’ll ever be able to stop loving Liam completely and maybe that’s okay.

  

October 5: Last day of tour. I told Liam and I think I’m finally where I need to be.

Louis’s covered in flour and he goes around hugging everyone; he presses his body against theirs extra hard to rub some of it off of them, but all Harry can pay attention to is Liam. He’s laughing at how Louis’s saying, “Come on, you can always change clothes. Flour’s not even that bad.”

Liam hugs him back, nose scrunching up as Louis’s hand comes up and pinches at his nipple as they pull apart, laughing, “Should have known better than to think we’d end a tour on a soft note.”

Louis’s eyes shine bright and smug and Harry wants Liam’s attention again, but not in the way he’s spent so much of this tour trying to fight. His chest feels tight and he doesn’t know what exactly compels him to finally say something, but Liam looks so soft and beautiful walking around hugging everyone backstage, thanking them for their hard work, that Harry thinks this might be his last chance to say it at all.

Liam stops at Harry and Harry shifts his weight, nervous and fidgety all of a sudden. He smiles, pulls Harry in for a hug and whispers, “Good show. Good tour.”

His lips brush against Harry’s cheek as he pulls away and Harry closes his eyes, the need to do this greater than ever before. He touches at Liam’s wrist, keeping him from going, and breathes in deep.

“I love you, Liam. You know that right?”

Liam laughs, the apples of his cheeks turning a faint shade of pink with the force of it, eyes crinkling like they do when he’s the happiest and Harry’s stomach flips, heart hammering uncomfortably. “Of course I do. I’ve never doubted that. You know that, right?”

Harry laughs, half relieved that Liam took it as any other I love you, half disappointed that Liam still can’t tell how in love with him he really is.

“Course. I know that but,” he scratches at his neck awkwardly, not knowing where to take this but needing Liam to know at least partially how he feels. “I just don’t say it as often as you do. You tell us all all the time and I wanted to make sure you knew.”

Liam’s face is soft and fond, smiling just for Harry and his heart flips as Liam asks, “Has the break got you feeling a bit emotional?”

Harry shakes his head, laughing, feeling lighter now that he’s finally said it outloud to Liam after so long, “Maybe just a little, don’t tease. Breaks are a good time to tell people you love them. Don’t want you to go forgetting while we’re away.”

Liam pulls Harry in for a hug again, laughing into his neck, “You’re a bit of a sap. A ridiculous sap.”

“It’s part of my charm,” Harry says quietly and Liam squeezes harder around his waist, saying, “Yeah, it is.”

Liam holds Harry at arms length and Harry’s heart flutters with how endeared he looks, how it’s all just for him as he says, “Could never forget it. Honestly.”

And Liam doesn’t know that when Harry says I love you he means it quite a bit more than he’s ever meant for anyone else. Liam doesn’t know that he’s spent so much of this tour fighting it and wanting it to go away nor how in the end the feeling had settled and made its home in his heart, making it almost impossible to look at Liam without thinking I’m in love with you. Liam doesn’t know any of that and maybe he never will, but Liam’s hands are firm on Harry’s arms, looking at him like he’s one of the best people he’s ever known and Harry finally feels like this will be enough. That even if he can’t have Liam in the way he wants, he always has Liam and that’s better than nothing at all.