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tears don't mean you're losing (everybody's bruising)

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"Are you sure you'll be okay? Because we can stay and-"

"No, go, I'll be fine," Louis assured one of the boys for what seemed like the hundredth time. "I told you it's just a headache. I think I'll just go to sleep so it'd be pointless."

He was telling them the same thing over and over again. God, why couldn't they just leave?!

He felt Harry's concerned eyes looking at him, but he avoided his gaze. Harry would know something was up, he knew him. He couldn't risk having a breakdown in front of the boys.

"Okay, well, if you need something, call us," one of them, probably Liam, said and with one last worried look from Harry, the door behind them closed and Louis was finally left alone.

Okay, well, he lied, obviously. Of course he didn't have a headache. Although, he'd much rather have a headache for a week. Physical pain. That, he could handle. The stuff that was inside his head, that was something different.

He let out a frustrated sigh and sank to the edge of his (or Harry's?) bed. Today was awful. He didn't really know why some days were worse than others, it wasn't like he had a logical explanation to why he felt that way. He just did. And, well, today was really bad. He knew Harry saw he'd been a little off since the morning, but didn't say anything. After all, Louis had a headache. He was sure he looked like he had a headache. Like your brain wants to shut off and rest and not have to deal with the world for a while. He felt like that a lot. So yeah, he knew he looked like that. Not that he really cared. He was long past the caring point.

Louis lay down on the bed, which he realized was Harry's since his head hit a sweater in which Harry slept when he was cold. He let out a shaky breath and inhaled Harry's scent.

And then he broke down.

His head started spinning as suppressed tears found their way from his eyes to the soft cloth of the sweater (he couldn't even find it in himself to feel bad about it). Shaking, he curled up on himself, pressing his knees to his chest and hugging himself with his arms.

He really didn't know what set him off, what sent him over the edge. Maybe it was the way that girl was flirting with Harry. Or maybe it was when Liam took off his shirt after a long day and stretched his arms, showing off his masculine chest. Or maybe it was just the fact that he, Louis Tomlinson, was nothing more than a complete failure and disappointment.

He could feel that heaviness in his chest, weighing him down. It hurt, it hurt so bad. It was like something was ripping his insides out, tearing him apart, only it was all in his head.

He squeezed his fists so that he could feel his fingernails on the skin of his palms, but it didn't help. He thought if maybe he let himself cry, it would wear him off and he'd slip into the sweet, sweet emptiness that was his sleep, but it didn't help either. He didn't know how much time had passed but it felt like hours, and yet still he was there, crying on Harry's bed, unable to help himself.

Okay. Okay, deep breaths, he told himself. Only one way left to ease off his feelings. He tried to stop shaking and when he managed it enough to function, he sat up. His head was still spinning, but he ignored it.

Don't think, don't think, he was telling himself. For a minute. Don't think for a minute.

He slowly, trying not to fall, walked to the other side of the room, where he bent down over his suitcase. Please. He went through all of his belongings, not finding what he was searching for. He let out a frustrated breath, his hands shaking uncontrollably, and started throwing his clothes out of the case. When he found it at the bottom, he almost laughed with relief.

The blade was silver. He got it from a pencil sharpener which he, definitely not on purpose, broke himself a few years ago.

Louis sat down on the floor and leaned against the frame of his bed, his back turned to the door. He rolled up the sleeve on his left arm. He thought he'd be able to see the scars, but they were gone. They never stayed for long, anyway. He never went too deep. Sometimes he even doubted if it could be considered that, since most of the time all he did were just scratches, almost invisible red lines.

He could feel it again. The crushing emptiness, nothing and everything, getting back into his head, his chest, his whole body. He tried to close his eyes for a second to stop the tears, but it was pointless, so he opened them back. All of a sudden, he felt overwhelmed by an uncontrollable need of someone. He wanted someone to hold him, tell him it would be okay, that he'd be fine. He could feel tears streaming down his face.

Harry.

He wanted his Harry.

But Harry wasn't there. He wouldn't save him. He wouldn't want to, wouldn't bother to. Louis couldn't blame him. What was the point in saving the mess he was? Louis didn't want to hurt him, which this definitely would. For a second he felt guilty about doing this; he imagined what the boys or his parents or the fans would say.

Or Harry.

He pushed away the image of the lovely face of the boy he was oh so desperately in love with, although it cost him even more tears escaping from his eyes.

He took the blade down to his wrist.

He never knew why he always did it on his wrists. They were most visible. It was risky enough before One Direction, now it was just stupid. Or, well. Maybe he knew. Maybe he didn't want to do something so important to him on his so disgusting thighs. Or his tummy. Fat, with rolls. No. He wouldn't do it there. Wrists were thin, on the other hand, and pretty and pure. Well, as pure as they could be with such history.

He could still feel tears on his cheeks, he was still shaking, his chest was still hurting him. It was slowly fading, though, as the first red line appeared on his skin. Then another one. And another, another, another...

His breath was steady by the time he drew eight little red lines. He felt nothing, the good kind of nothing, the nothing that surrounded him and held him tight in its grip and sang silent lullabies in his ears.

He wanted more, wanted to see more red, wanted to draw more blood. He was about to put the blade next to the last cut when the door suddenly opened.

He was yanked out of his calm little universe by Harry's voice.

"Louis, good, I thought you'd be sleeping, I'm sorry, I just couldn't be there without you, I was so worried, you seemed really sick today, I-"

After Harry closed the door and gone through half of his speech, he noticed Louis sitting next to his bed, head turned around, puffy red eyes terrified and wide open, and a big pile of clothes near his suitcase.

"What-"

Louis felt tears running down his cheeks again. He started sobbing, neck twisted in an uncomfortable position but unable to move an inch. He knew Harry would be by his side in just a second and he wanted to stop him, wanted to tell him to go away, but couldn't, couldn't make his mouth move, so he just pulled his knees to his chest and his left hand between them, the blade hidden in his clenched fist. He put his head on his knees, sobs escaping his mouth and tears streaming down his cheeks.

He felt Harry's hand on him.

"Louis, what's wrong, Lou-" he heard Harry saying, his voice full of worry and fear. He tried to hug him, to pull him close to his chest, but Louis shoved him away.

"Lou, please, god, look at me, Lou," Harry said and Louis couldn't resist the pain he heard in his voice. He lifted hid head and saw Harry crying, which was ridiculous, why would he be crying- "Louis, oh my god, what happened-"

... to which Louis only started crying even more because, here he was, crying his eyes out with Harry comforting him even though he had no idea...

"Please, go away," he managed to say. He regretted it the moment it left his mouth, though, because the look in Harry's eyes was worse than anything he'd ever felt.

"W-what are you saying, no, no, I'd never leave you, tell me what's wrong, please, Louis," Harry was mumbling through his own tears and how was Louis so lucky to have this incredible human being in his life?

He realized Harry still hadn't seen his wrist and for a moment he wanted to really send him away, to leave him alone, but all it took was a look in his eyes for Harry to pull him to his chest and there he was, being comforted by a person whose heart he was about to break because there was no way he'd be able to hide the cuts on his wrist.

"H-Harry..."

"I'm here, love, it's okay, whatever it is," Harry said into Louis' hair.

Louis stopped sobbing, though tears were still falling from his eyes, and he looked at the boy in front of him. He was crying as well. Louis loved him in that moment so much - here he was, crying on the floor because of something the boy he was holding onto had done.

Louis pulled away, bit his lip and looked at his hand. He felt Harry following his gaze so he turned it around, making his wrist visible for Harry to see.

He closed his eyes as new round of tears started streaming down his face.

"Oh my god," he heard Harry sigh and he was sure that this would be it, he would leave him for good. "L-Lou."

Louis looked up at him. He thought he'd say something, and it seemed like Harry was going to, but he just shook his head, looking more broken than Louis'd ever seen him.

Harry held his hand and lay his head on Louis' shoulder. Maybe, for a second, Louis was more confused than anything else.

After a few moments of Louis' voice screaming at him to do something, anything, Harry looked up. He still had tears in his eyes, but wasn't crying.

"Come on," he stood up, slightly shaken up.

Louis stared at him. Was he going to make him tell someone else? What if he made him see a therapist? Oh god, what if he was going to call Louis' mom-

"I just - I just have to wash it," Harry said, understanding Louis' hesitation.

He followed Harry into the bathroom where he ran cold water over his wrist while rubbing soothing circles into his other palm. When he finished, he tried to put a bandage from a cabinet over it, but Louis stopped him.

"No, it's- it's better if you just leave it, it's not- it's not very deep, it won't bleed, I promise," he told him in a weak voice while looking at the floor.

"You've-" Harry stopped himself. Louis knew what he wanted to say, though, of course he did. You've done it before?

They returned to the room and Harry sat Louis on his bed, although Louis'd prefer Harry's; he wanted to go as far away from that place as possible. He expected Harry to sit down next to him, but he bent down - and oh, Louis dropped the blade before. He saw Harry put it into his pocket and he knew he'd never see it again.

Louis waited for Harry to say something, but he just lay down next to Louis, dragging him down as well. He pulled Louis as close as possible, careful not to touch his wrist. Louis held onto Harry's shirt as if his life was dependent on it.

He felt kind of awkward, lying there with Harry. He stopped crying. A wave of embarrassment washed over him, making him hide his face. What had he done...?

"Lou," he heard Harry's voice. "Louis, please, talk to me."

Louis looked up at him, but wasn't able to say anything.

"How... how long have you...?" Harry asked, staring Louis in the eyes.

He dropped his gaze, looking at Harry's collar bones. "Since I was sixteen."

"Oh, Lou..."

He felt Harry's hands tighten up around him. "Why?" he asked.

Louis licked his lip. "I don't want to kill myself."

"W-what?" Harry's voice was full of panic.

"Usually when you tell someone you cut, they think you want to kill yourself."

Louis felt Harry flinch at the word "cut".

"Who... who have you told?"

Louis was taken by surprise; that wasn't the response he was expecting.

"No- no one, but I'm not stupid. I know what people think. I also have the internet."

"Well... why do you do it, then?"

"To cope. Run away, if you'd like. But not leave."

"But... why?"

Louis hid his face in the crook of Harry's neck.

"You don't..." Harry said, "I mean, if you don't want to talk to me about it, I can-"

"If I'm ever going to tell someone, it's gonna be you," Louis said shakily.

"So why?"

Louis squeezed his eyes shut. "I just... I just hate myself so much. All the time. It's always there, whatever I do. I'm just so stupid, always doing the wrong things, always saying the wrong things. I can't even make myself change anything. Whatever I do, I do wrong. And I compare myself with everyone, which is stupid, I know, but I can't help myself and it's like, everyone else is so much better, a better person, better-looking and god, I hate my body so much, you have no idea. And my personality, it's just so, I'm such a bad person, always thinking only about myself, how much I hate myself and there are people who are bullied, Harry, or who starve or have abusing parents, but here I am thinking only about myself even though I have such an amazing life. The only thing wrong with it is me and sometimes I wish I could give my life to somebody who'd do the best with it, who'd be happy, who'd appreciate it, because clearly I can't. I just wish I was more like you, any of you, really, but you, Harry, you're so good, you're the best person I know, you care so much about other people. And like, I know nothing will change as long as I don't change, but I just, I just feel so lonely all the time, but like, I know nobody can love someone like me, god, even I can't love me, and it's like a vicious cycle and I'm so sorry I can't change myself and I'm so sorry you have to hear all of this, no one should have to put up with someone like me and I'm sorry, you have no idea-"

"God, stop."

Louis realized he had started crying again and did he really just say all of that to Harry?

He looked up and saw Harry's face, wet with tears and eyes red and sad, so sad - how could he do that, how could he make Harry so sad-

"I can't, I can't listen to you," Harry said and oh god, how could words hurt so much. "I wish you'd hear yourself saying all of that."

Harry buried his face in Louis' hair. He was glad he didn't have to look at him.

"You sound so wrong, god, Louis," Harry signed. "I had no idea you felt like that. You're saying I'm such a good person and yet I had no idea my best friend was feeling this way."

Louis muffled a sob. Best friend.

"Lou, you have no idea how amazing you are. Half the time I wish I was more like you."

"Stop-"

"No, please, I listened to you even though it was breaking my heart. Now, you listen to me," Harry said. "You're... perfect. Not, not flawless, but you're perfect to me. You're such a good person. You never complained about any of this, but you always cared about how other people were feeling. And you don't do and say everything wrong, Lou. You always have the perfect thing to say. You always make people happy, no matter if they're sad or okay, you just make them even more happy. You're so funny, Lou, you always make everybody laugh. And your body, god... you have no idea how attractive you are. I wish you looked at yourself and saw what I see. And, Louis, it doesn't matter if someone has it worse. You could have the most amazing life ever and still not be happy. Just, don't feel bad about feeling bad. Everyone would feel this way if they had the same thoughts as you. I mean, you don't have any reason to feel this way, Louis, really, you're none of the things you said. But it doesn't make you a bad person."

It wasn't like Louis believed any of that, but god, did that sound good. He felt stupid, crying so much, but he just couldn't help himself.

"And..." said Harry after a while, "you're not, you're not lonely. You've got me. A-and the boys, I mean. And your family. And fans. Fans really love you, Louis."

"Not like any of you. It's not like I'm the best at anything. My voice is weird, I'm not good-looking and like, I can't even interact with them the way I'd like to, so like, the only thing they could like about me are the jokes and stuff, which aren't even that funny, it's just me being ridiculously stupid, and that's really not enough for them to love me."

Louis felt Harry shake his head. "Oh my god, why can't you see yourself...?"

"I do."

"No, you don't. And I'm so sorry I didn't figure it out sooner. No, don't even go there, I'm not finished," he stopped Louis' attempt to interrupt, "I could've helped you. I will. I promise. I've got you."

Louis looked him in the eyes. "How are you so amazing?"

"It's only because of you," Harry said, a sad smile appearing on his face. "You bring out only the best in me, love."

Louis blushed at the nickname. It wasn't like they never called themselves that, but hey, he was lying on his bed with Harry's arms around him.

"Were you... feeling bad all day?" Harry asked.

Louis slowly nodded. Harry kissed him on his forehead and he felt butterflies in his stomach.

"Promise me something," said Harry.

"What?"

"Whenever you feel this bad again, tell me. Or call me, if I'm not with you. Even if it's four am, okay?"

Louis nodded.

"Lou."

"I promise I'll tell you."

"Thank you. You scared me to death."

"I'm sorry."

"Don't be."

They were lying there for quite some time after that, not saying a word. Louis felt kind of sleepy and Harry looked tired as well, so none of them said anything when Harry covered them with a blanket at the end of the bed. Louis was worried about what Harry'd say when they woke up, but he was really tired and wanted his thoughts to stop, and he was also in Harry's arms where he felt warm and safe, so he pushed the worries to the back of his mind.

He was slowly falling asleep when he heard Harry say, "Lou?"

"Mmm?"

"I promise I'll never leave you."

 

---

 

Things were better since then, they really were. A few days after Harry found out, Louis told him it wasn't that bad if he was preoccupied, since his mind didn't have the time to think about it. He felt bad about it afterwards, though, because it seemed like Harry made it his life mission to make Louis busy all the time.

"You've got your own life, Harry," Louis told him then, looking down at his shoes. "You can't forget to live just because of me."

"Don't say that," was Harry's response, "I am living my life. I'm just making sure you're living yours, too. Because I can't live my life without you in it."

Louis found himself blushing whenever he thought about what Harry said. He still felt bad about it, though, but didn't say anything.

One thing Louis noticed was that Harry was always looking at his wrists. Maybe he was making sure he hadn't cut again. Louis thought that would be really stupid, seeing that Harry was with him almost all the time, and it would be impossible to hide. But, well. Maybe Harry didn't trust him. Louis tried not to think about it too much. Although he wouldn't trust himself either, probably.

Once, when they were lying in Louis' bed in a hotel room, Louis asked Harry about it. He was holding Louis' hand and softly rubbing his fingers over now fading scars. Louis couldn't take it much longer.

"Why are you doing this?"

Harry immediately stopped. "I'm- I'm sorry if-"

"No, no," Louis interrupted him, "I'm just, you're always... I don't know, touching them, or looking at them, and I just... Isn't it kind of - weird - for you? Like, aren't they, you know, disgusting or something? Because I'm kind of used to them, but you're not and it's-"

"Stop it, I can feel your mind overthinking," Harry said. He looked from Louis' wrist into his eyes and back at his wrist and Louis felt really self-conscious, under his gaze and all.

"First of all, they're not disgusting. Second, I just... It's hard to understand how you could do this, it's just so - it makes me so, I don't know, sad, and I just have to remind myself all the time and I'm just trying to understand you, you know?"

"I'm sorry..."

"Don't be silly," Harry ruffled Louis' hair. "I'm not blaming you or anything."

"I thought you were making sure I didn't do it again..."

"Well..." Harry said and Louis knew he was right. "I'm sorry, okay? I just, I don't know how to... kind of... know if you want to do it again. I'm so scared you won't be able to - resist - and you'll go too deep. I can't lose you, okay? Maybe I have selfish reasons, but I just can't lose you."

"Thank you."

"For what?"

"Making me feel like I matter to you."

"You do. So much."

"You matter to me, too."

"I hope so."

They were looking into each other's eyes. Louis felt himself blushing, like every time when they were this close. Something was different now, though. It felt more intimate.

"You really matter to me," Harry said in a raspy voice.

"You really matter to me, too," Louis replied.

"No, you don't..." Harry seemed like he was searching for words. "You're so important to me, you know? When I - when I saw you back then, crying and scared and - I felt the same way, it was like I was you, I couldn't - but it was nothing compared to when you showed me, it was like - it was like my whole world was crushing and I - I never want to feel that way again, you know? But mostly I just don't want you to feel that way again, it's - it's torturing me, seeing you like that, and I'm probably not making any sense right now, I just, I realized I couldn't live without you and I really hope I won't ruin our friendship because I care about you so much and it's killing me that you don't, and I just wish I could make you at least accept yourself and I really hope you'll believe me when I say it and - you don't - you don't understand, do you?"

Louis was so lost. It seemed like Harry himself was kind of confused, like he didn't even know what he was saying.

"I have... no idea what you're talking about," Louis admitted.

Harry licked his lips. "I'm sorry," he said, moved a little so he was hovering above Louis, his hands supporting his weigh. He leaned down. Louis felt his breath catch in his throat.

Harry was so close he could see the almost invisible freckles on his nose.

"I'm sorry," Harry repeated. He moved closer.

He kissed him.

His lips were soft. So soft. Louis felt fireworks exploding everywhere in his body. He couldn't think, didn't even realize he closed his eyes. Harry's lips were only brushing over his in slow movements. Louis' mouth was opened a little, but none of them deepened the kiss. Louis wanted to kiss Harry back so much, he even tried, but didn't know how, couldn't bring himself to move his lips, so he mostly let Harry do everything.

Okay, it lasted probably only a couple of seconds. For him, though, it was like a lifetime. When Harry pulled away, he let out a shaky breath and collapsed next to him. Louis left his eyes closed in an attempt to remember the feeling, but the second Harry moved, he missed him. He missed him so much, even though he was right beside him.

Oh. Right. Harry was lying beside him.

He looked at him. Harry's eyes were closed, lips parted. Okay, Louis let himself look at his lips for a longer time than needed, but hey. He was in love with those lips for a long time now.

To be honest, he probably wouldn't hear Harry say anything if it wasn't for the movement of those lips.

"I'm so sorry," he said for the third time.

And okay, Louis was bad with feelings, you see. He didn't know how to tell Harry he didn't have to be sorry at all. There was a voice in his head that was telling him he only kissed him because he wanted to know what it was like, or because he wanted Louis to feel wanted, or something. But, well, Harry was feeling sorry and he really didn't want him to regret doing it. So, pushing all the thoughts of embarrassment to the back of his mind, he said, "I've wanted to kiss you for so long."

Harry's eyes snapped open. Louis felt himself blushing like crazy.

"What?"

He looked at the ceiling. He felt Harry's gaze on him.

"I've liked you since the beginning. I mean, I didn't know then, because we were friends and everything was new and stuff. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized, I guess? Like, I knew it was weird that I liked spending time with you more than with others. At first I thought it was just because we were best friends, but it didn't sound right, you know? And I was noticing more things about you, and like, I kind of knew then? And it was kind of, like, deeper and deeper every day. I was always thinking about you. I didn't want to tell you, because, like, why would you want me, but it was hard not to have you, and I got jealous all the time, but then I realized that I'd rather have you as a friend than nothing at all, and I kind of realized that I was, like, really, really in love with you."

"God, I love you so much," he heard Harry say and then he was kissing him again, deeper this time. His head was spinning and he was trembling all over. He was so glad they weren't standing - he was sure his knees wouldn't be able to carry his weight.

When Harry pulled away this time, he stayed hovering above Louis, looking at him, his face as flushed as Louis'.

"You're blushing," Louis couldn't help himself.

"So are you."

"But it's more unusual with you."

Harry rested his forehead on Louis', smiling. "We could've been doing this for so long now."

"We also could've been oblivious forever."

"Don't even say that."

And he brushed his lips over Louis' again.

"I love you," Louis whispered and god, did it feel good.

"I never want you to stop saying it," Harry murmured into the soft kiss.

And Louis was really glad he said that instead of the usual I love you, too. It made him feel like he really mattered. Like he really was important. Like someone else really needed him.

He thought that maybe, maybe - with Harry - he'd be alright one day.