tracedust (tracedust) wrote,

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so we're helpless in sleep and drowning

Title: so we're helpless in sleep and drowning
Pairing: Harry/Louis
Rating: PG-13
SummaryWe have swallowed him up, they said. It's beautiful, it really is. Set between Australia and Sweden. 
Word Count: ~4,200
Warnings: Mentions of sex, evil!management, far too many angsty Louis rants and general self-loathing.
A/N: So, I guess I write fanfiction sometimes? References this video and these photos and a lot of other things that I'm sure everyone's already seen. Also, timelines are confusing. Also, please excuse the shameless Sweet Disposition reference. BUT THAT SONG, YOU GUYS, THAT SONG. Title and summary are from Richard Siken.

It’s dark when they get back to their flats in London, and the thing is, Louis really wants to be mad at Harry. Nothing about this is easy, for either of them, but it’s…it’s okay for him. To wear obvious t-shirts and go to obvious clubs and be obvious, and maybe people who don’t know him will say mean things and maybe he’ll cry, but at least it’s out there. At least he’s himself. Louis wonders how Harry can be so simultaneously vulnerable and reckless and maybe that’s something else all together. Maybe that’s bravery.

Louis isn’t brave. He's so trapped inside himself that he wants to claw away at his own skin. Sometimes he can barely breathe from it. 

Zayn stays outside to smoke and they say goodbye to the other two boys in the lobby, pressing their hands with tired half-smiles. 

And then he and Harry are in the lift that'll take them to their flat, finally alone for the first time since they heard about the video that morning, and it’s quiet. Harry looks at the lift buttons and Louis looks at Harry.

When they get to their door, Harry presses his key into the lock and Louis feels his mobile buzz against his thigh. Knows already by the Darth Vader ringtone that it’s management. He remembers picking the song out on his back in Harry’s bed, with the younger boy giggling into his shoulder, before a call from management had even warranted a foreboding ringtone.

“What is it? We just got home.”

Louis shoulders off his bag and drops it on the kitchen counter with the phone pressed to his ear, flicking on lights and watching Harry pad across the floor to sit on the couch, not looking at him but obviously listening.

“So Harry’s there? Can you put me on speaker?” It’s Sarah, then.

Louis does and Harry looks up, finally meeting his eyes.

“Okay, so it’s not good. But it’s not as bad as we thought, either. Luckily, whoever took the video cut it off before anything too incriminating happened, but the guy who posted it has been answering tweets, saying you two were kissing.”

Louis drops his eyes from Harry’s and looks at his shoes, trying again to think back. They were so buzzed off of the concert and they were in New Zealand, they had fans in New Zealand, and they hadn't been out together in ages, hadn't been allowed, and he was so drunk and it makes him feel sick, that he can’t even really remember what happened, what he did, but so many other people have seen it. There’s a video. 

Sometimes he feels like he’s made of glass, muscles and veins and nerve endings exposed for everyone to see, to take parts out and rearrange others like ill-fitting puzzle pieces, making a distorted picture with holes and gaps and senseless images that leave him vacant and aha, that’s it, this is who we want, we the world, the faceless suits at Syco, the millions of screaming teenage girls and their mothers too and no, no, Harry’s the transparent one, with his heart on his sleeve, Harry’s honest, Harry’s already what people want, what everyone wants, and how is Louis supposed to compete with that. How is any of this worth it. He feels like his bones don't sit right in his skin anymore. He feels old.

“We got him to backpedal a bit, he took the video down and he's saying it wasn’t his, that he was just speculating, but, you know, it's the internet, and it’s already all over tumblr and twitter. We think you guys should watch the video sometime, we've emailed it to you, Louis, just so you’re aware of what's out there. Also to know what not to do next time."

Louis rolls his eyes, wishes she could see him.

"As for damage control, Louis, you need to see Eleanor again sometime this week. Maybe go visit her at uni, something, as long as people get pictures.”

"But I was just with her at the airport! There were paps everywhere." Louis doesn't hate Eleanor, she's a friend, even, but he only gets to be home for a week and he doesn't want to spend that time in Manchester.

"Louis, you've been apart for 3 weeks, people are going to expect you to see your girlfriend more than once before you go to America for the summer."

Louis feels his mouth twist and, yeah, Harry is looking at the ground now.

“Harry, you should be okay for now. You did good with Emma. That took a lot of the heat away from the blind item and we think it's cushioned us against too big of a fallout from the video. People are still talking about you two, which is what we wanted.”

Harry’s face looks white, and so, so tired and Louis knows how much he hates this, hates lying, playing this part, and Louis wants to hang up and sit down next to him, pull him into his side and into his neck and bury his face in his curls, feel him warm and solid and there. It’s shit that since realizing the extent of how much he wants to touch Harry he gets to do it less, that it’s harder. Less natural, because now he's always, always thinking. Even when they're alone, there's that instinctual panic, that moment of wondering who's watching, how each movement will be catalogued and analyzed and reposted a thousand times on a thousand websites. And the thing is, it's easy for Harry because he doesn't worry about it, does whatever the fuck he wants, and it's always Louis that has to hold back for the both of them. 

“That’s all we really have right now, we’ll keep you updated on any press that gets out. You're splitting up for a few days tomorrow, maybe that's a good thing. We don't want you guys out alone together anymore, we can't stress that enough, especially until the American tour starts. The press is too aware of you here."

"Got it, Sarah." Louis tries not to spit out the words, fails.

"Prove it then. You just need to try harder from now on, be more careful, okay? Now I know you've had a long flight, get some rest."

Louis hangs up and fights a bubbling, manic desire to laugh because try harder. God, god he’s so sick of this, fighting this, feeling this way, and there are so many other people in the world, and why does it have to be this person, this lazy talker with ridiculous hair and freakishly large eyes and a stupid bellowing laugh that makes his insides drop and twist and land somewhere in his throat.

He thinks about if he wasn't in One Direction and only a couple hundred people in the entire world were aware of his existence and if he’d fallen in love with a boy then. Any boy. He wonders if he could deal if the worst coming out meant was some teasing at school and a teary conversation with his mother. Thinks it probably sucks regardless, no matter who you are, and that makes it worse, means being a spokesperson, some kind of gay poster boy, and the weight of that potential pressure makes his hands shake, makes it hard to breathe.

He thinks of Hannah and wonders if she’s happy. Wonders if he’d be happy with her now, if things were different. He thinks about big capitalized things like Choice and Fate. Tries not to laugh at himself, though nothing about it's all that funny.

He looks back at Harry and Harry’s leaning over on the couch with his elbows on his thighs and his head in his hands, his hair everywhere, and Louis' fingers twitch. He shoves his hands in his pockets.

"I…should we talk?”

“What’s there to say?”  Harry's words are muffled. He lifts his head from his hands and fixes his eyes on Louis. Louis fights the desire to say something ridiculous and stupid, to cross the room and kneel between the other boy's legs, reach up and brush the hair off his forehead. The urge to touch him is unbearable, the air's heavy with it. He takes off his shoes and shuffles into the kitchen to put the kettle on, less because he actually wants tea and more to keep his hands busy and his eyes off Harry’s.

“You know how I feel about all this.” Harry speaks again and this time he’s closer, in the kitchen. Even after all this time, he can still sneak up on Louis. Harry lives surprisingly quietly for how much of a mark he leaves. Louis lives loudly. He grates.

"I don't understand what you're so afraid of, Lou. People you don’t even know judging you? You’ll still have the fans that matter. The good fans. You’ll have your family, the boys. You’ll have me."

The kettle's on and Louis' fetched the Yorkshire tea and two cups from the cupboard above his head and there’s really nothing else he can pretend to do in order to keep from turning around and meeting Harry’s gaze.

And really, if he could count the number of times they’ve had this conversation. This fight. Louis is tired.

He turns around so his back is to the counter and holds out his hand.

“Come here."

Harry’s deflates and steps into Louis’ arms, tangling their legs together, fisting his hands in Louis' shirt. Presses his lips to the place where Louis’ neck meets his shoulder and mutters it's okay, you know, and Louis finally, finally lets his hands tangle in the other boy’s hair, feels his skull. There's something malicious about the way their bodies were made to slot together so perfectly. It feels intentional. They stay wrapped together until the water boils.


The worst part is that, even in his head, he can't think of a time or reality where they could be together, can't think of a safe place where he could love him. Because without the band, without this amazing, amazing, invasive experience, there's no Harry. Or, there's no LouisandHarry. He thinks about not trying out for The X-Factor and not being aware of Harry's existence, ever, and them just living out their lives that way and he feels nauseous.

But maybe then Harry's hair would still curl like it used to, maybe he wouldn't be asleep on his feet half the time, dark circles under his eyes like ghostly thumbprints, needing steroid shots in the bum to keep him going, like he's some kind of fucking energy bunny that only needs to be recharged. Maybe in that universe Louis would be less of a coward.

It’s like a sick joke, it is, that what’s given him this person is what’s keeping him from having this person, like someone is setting him up for failure and cackling and fucking hell if Louis isn't following their script.

They curl up in Harry's bed later with Louis' laptop, clutching cups of tea, and watch the video. It's short, maybe 15 seconds long, and blurry as shit. Louis wants to laugh because really.

They're at the bar and Louis' swaying like an idiot, singing something loud and off-key and fuck he should never drink, ever, and okay, so maybe he leans in to kiss Harry because he always wants to kiss Harry, he does, and sometimes Louis thinks Harry doesn't understand that, like just because he's more careful, doesn't broadcast it to the whole world like Harry does, it means he wants Harry less. But he always wants Harry, feels dizzy with it, and they'd snuck out to this bar and he was drunk and not thinking and of course there's a fucking video the one time he slips up. But Harry stopped him, didn't he? Harry stopped him, putting an arm around his neck and whispering in his ear instead and Louis feels guilt unfurling in his stomach because he never gives Harry enough credit.

He forgets that Harry is aware, he's so aware sometimes it's unsettling. He's reckless, yeah, and too impulsive, but he's observant too, he watches, usually making Louis both uncomfortable and hot all over. Doubtlessly he wanted to kiss Louis in public, has before, launching himself at Louis' neck before Louis or Liam could stop him. But he wouldn't do it with Louis' guard down, when it'd be reciprocated, because even if he wants to come out, tell the world, he knows Louis doesn't. It's one more thing Louis has to feel guilty about. One more reminder that this is a problem with Louis. Maybe they're in this together, but Louis is the reason for the lies that make Harry curl in on himself at night and bite his knuckles in his sleep.

They replay the video one more time and then Louis closes the laptop, places both of their mugs on the bedside table and tips Harry back onto the bed, scraping his teeth over his collarbone, along his jaw, Harry's breath already stuttering hot in his ear, and Louis kisses him like he should have been able to in that stupid video, fighting the invasive prickle on his skin, the panic, pushes it down until it's just them, Harry's hands and Harry's tongue and HarryHaryHarry.


Louis wakes up on his back with Harry's leg thrown over his, his hand splayed out on Louis' stomach, breath soft on his neck. He knows it's early by the light coming through the window, the pink-gold shade it dusts over Harry's skin. He wonders when he started telling time by Harry, too. 

They're separating today, going home to stay with their families for a few days. And then he figures he's off to Manchester to be seen with Eleanor. He tangles his fingers with Harry's on his stomach and closes his eyes.

When he opens them again, Harry hasn't moved. Carefully, so as not to jostle the boy sprawled on top of him, Louis reaches for his phone on the bedside table: 9 am. They need to get ready. But he wants a few more moments of this.

Louis knows he takes some getting used to. He can be loud, abrasive, but in the end people kind of love how mental he is. And it's like, it's like maybe his nervous, manic energy distracts from whatever else everyone is constantly prying at, poking for, and maybe Louis needs it that way. Most of the time. But this is Harry, who he's not trying to distract from anything. And it's nice. The only time he feels still.

Louis blows softly out of the corner of his mouth at the stray curls tickling his cheek, above where Harry's face is pressed into his neck, until the other boy stirs, batting his hand at the nuisance, slapping lazily at Louis' face.

"Do you treat all your pillows this way? Fairly unappreciative if you ask me."

Harry snuffles a sleepy protest into Louis' neck and wriggles closer and Louis aches with the familiarity of it, can actually feel his heart contracting and fights the insane desire to squeeze the other boy to his chest until neither of them can breathe.

"What time is it?" Harry lifts his head, breathes the words over Louis' jaw. His voice is even huskier in the mornings and Louis feels goosebumps break out on the back of his neck. Rolls his eyes at himself.

"Time for us to have been packed and fed and ready to go at least half an hour ago. Up we go, Curly. I require breakfast. And tea."

He gently slides out from under Harry and mourns the loss of his body heat for much longer than it takes to put on one of the jumpers (Harry's) strewn across the floor. He slips into a pair of trousers (his) and pulls on a beanie (his, he's almost sure) and looks back at the other boy, who hasn't moved from where Louis rolled him.

Harry's watching him. He's always watching him. Louis used to flush and vibrate with it, pleased and craving his attention like air, something vital, but now it makes him feel guilty more often than not. Undeserving. Harry's gaze hasn't changed, he's not asking Louis for anything. Louis still feels indebted.

Harry blinks up at him slowly through his fringe and doesn't look away until Louis huffs a breath and climbs back into bed, letting Harry slide off the beanie and the trousers first, jumper last. Louis aches. They skip breakfast.


It's been two days. Two days and Louis misses him so much he feels sick, unwhole. He remembers reading about "phantom limbs" and thinks that's what this is like, like Harry is such a part of him that he still feels him there, like an itch, like as long as he doesn't turn around the other boy will be behind him, laughing at his jokes and shaking the hair out of his eyes or grasping Louis' shoulders, kissing the back of his head.

His mum knows something's wrong, his sisters too, and they're used to his moods but they're not used to him missing Harry, and they know it's that, his mum gazing at him so pityingly over the mug of her morning tea he wants to shake her and shake himself because there's something really, truly horrible about feeling like such a steaming pile of shit and knowing it's entirely your own fault. 

"You alright, love? Seem a bit off since you've been back."

He fakes a smile, feels guilty. Transparent. "Course, probably just jet lag and all that."

His mum nods and lets the conversation drop.

He sips his tea and presses at the bruises Harry had kissed into his sternum, his collarbone, when he pressed Louis against the door before they left, their bags piled around their feet, marking him in places he knew Louis would be able to hide. Harry doesn't cover his, wears them like a badge, something he's proud of, all reckless low cut shirts and exposed skin. Louis knows this. Familiar with the nervous thrill he gets when Harry pulls his jumper off in public, purposely leaving his shirt skewed, and Louis loves the contrast, the clean, delicate lines of his collarbones and the angry purple of the bruises Louis had sucked there, but he tries to be more careful with Harry's skin regardless. Finds other less visible ways to mark and possess. 

So they're listening to management. They're keeping their distance, literally, they're trying harder and if Louis wants to fall asleep in the t-shirt he stole from Harry and not wake up until the day after tomorrow when they're back in London together, that's just something he'll have to deal with on his own. Louis wonders when he crossed the line from unhealthily attached to pathetically, desperately dependent. Wonders if the line ever existed.

It's just that Louis literally can't remember a time when they were apart for more than two or three days, fuck, doesn't want to, because he's sure it'd be a really shitty memory anyway, feel a lot like this. Like missing the little desperate noise Harry makes when Louis licks under his hipbone, or Harry's breath hot and panting in his ear and ghosting over his ribcage and Harry's mouth on his cock, yeah, but also like missing tripping over his own shoes that Harry borrows and kicks off in the most ridiculous places, in front of the fridge or the bathroom door, or missing waking up sputtering on Harry's hair because jesus it's everywhere, stray curls always inexplicably finding their way into Louis' mouth while they're sleeping, the other boy pressed to his side like a leech, and maybe he misses the way he bites his lip and his dimples pop out like fucking craters when he's trying to stifle a laugh and the big stupid outburst when he can't, the one that's never fake and for the whole world to hear but mostly for Louis and fucking hell Tomlinson, pull yourself together.

He presses harder at the marks Harry left, like the sting will make them last longer.

He hasn't even called Harry since yesterday because he doesn't want to be the weak one, the one who couldn't handle it, and time apart, maybe that's a good thing. He'd tweet him, something simple and easy-affectionate, but they're not supposed to do that anymore either and Louis just wants to scream at how much his life isn't his anymore, and sometimes he's so weighed down with it all he feels like he's going to suffocate. It's like he's in the middle of the ocean and there's a stone tied to his waist and he's sinking, sinking, and that suffocating panic, that I can't breatheI'm sinking and I can't breathe is there always. And maybe Harry is there with him, but that doesn't make it any easier. Makes it infinitely more terrifying because it's Louis' weight bringing them down, it's Harry who's not strong enough to lift the both of them, shouldn't have to be.

It's barely noon, but he kisses his mum on the cheek, climbs the stairs to his room and sleeps. 


Louis wakes up sometime later that evening. Sweet Disposition is playing, muffled somewhere in his sheets, and he tries not to sob with relief.

Rolling over, he finds the phone tangled in his blankets and puts it to his ear, closing his eyes and pressing his face into his pillow.


"Hey, Lou." He says it on an exhale. Louis knows something's wrong.


"Sarah called again. They're flying me to LA the day after tomorrow. Some girl out there's agreed to be seen with me."

Louis sits up so fast he drops the phone. Grabs it. "What? They're making you go all the way to LA for that?"


"Can't they just start the rumor from over here, like they usually do? Since when do you actually have to be in pictures for people to believe shit?"

"Yeah, well, apparently they're going to start some story about me looking for a new place over there, too? Same as always. They know we refuse to actually split up or move out or whatever, but I guess the rumors are good?  Like, maybe we're not getting along or you're planning on moving in with Eleanor or something. I don't know."

Harry's voice sounds normal but Louis has seen Harry cry enough, senses, even through the phone, that his eyes are bright with tears, and now his own are prickling, and they were supposed to be back in London together in less than 2 days and he misses him and-

"Fuck this".

"Well, yeah, but I mean, it's basically what you want though, right? It's good fake press. And it's not like I'm complaining, I'll, uh, hopefully I'll get to go to Marvin's bachelor party while I'm over there. It's just..." His breath finally stutters, his voice tight. "Fuck, I miss you, Louis."

Louis squeezes his eyes shut, doesn't know whether to laugh or cry. "I miss you, too. You don't even know."

He hears a shaky exhale from the other end of the line and, well, fuck it.

"Let's meet up."


"Tomorrow. Before you have to go to LA and I have to see El. We'll meet up somewhere in between. Maybe go with Niall to that JLS concert in Sheffield. Get a hotel room after."

"But we're supposed to be keeping our distance or whatever. I mean, Wellington. People might see."

He feels a little hysterical because since when is Harry the logical one, the careful one, and it's just one more example of him covering for Louis' stupid fucking cowardice.

"I can't not see you before you fly to Los Angeles, Harry."

"Yeah. Yeah, okay."

Harry's trying to keep his voice neutral but Louis can feel the smile there anyway, happy Louis is the one taking the risk for once, knows his eyes are sparkling with it, and Harry's always been so easy to please. He hardly asks anything of Louis and just this one little thing is enough, this one day, and it makes Louis feel a little shitty but also more than a little in love. There's a whooshing in his stomach and his chest feels, well, light

And okay, so management won't be happy about it, and he still agrees with them, mostly, isn't ready to hold hands with Harry in the street, and maybe he won't be wearing Love is Equal t-shirts or posing for photos at gay bars, and it's hard, he still feels too vulnerable, exposed, but he wants to see Harry, needs to see him, and he may not be in complete control of everything in his life but he's not helpless. So he will. Thinks maybe they'll even go to dinner soon, at an actual restaurant, not order take out or room service like they usually do, and he realizes, pathetically, that he's actually grinning at the thought. 

And if choice, fate, Simon Cowell, whichever, whatever it was that put them in this shitty situation, he doesn't even care, should send them a fruit basket, because he feels...he feels lucky, he is lucky, and fuck if it isn't all worth it.

Louis starts packing.

Tags: fic, harry/louis
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