Summary: We 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.
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.