The first day of school dawned bright and sunny, but Harry was feeling anything but happy. He missed his best friend. It’d been six weeks since he’d last seen Louis, and five weeks and three days since they’d last spoken, not that he was counting much. Louis couldn’t avoid him at school. They were best friends, or at least they had been before Louis kissed him six weeks ago.
Louis was two years older than Harry, at seventeen and they’d been inseparable since they were youngsters and Jay moved next door with Mark when Louis was seven and Harry was five. They played together after school, hung around when they got older, talked about everything and Louis would come to Harry’s house to hide out when Mark and Jay were arguing worse than ever.
Harry, he’d always said, was his safe space, but then Mark and Jay split up and suddenly Louis was going to spend the summer with his sisters at their grandparents in Dorset at seventeen. He’d been furious and had begged Jay to let him stay. He didn’t want to spend time with Mark’s parents, especially because they always treated him like an outsider. Louis was three when Mark and Jay met and although Mark had loved him like his own, his parent’s had never really accepted Louis as their grandkid, always giving more time, gifts and attention to his sisters.
He’d never felt accepted by them or loved and going there for six weeks on his own was infuriating but his mum said he needed to go and that it was final. He’d cried to Harry that last night that he was going to leave. He was old enough to leave home and when he’d been called by Jay to say she was outside he’d wrapped his arms around Harry, holding him tightly.
Seconds passed as they held onto each other, knowing they were about to go through their biggest separation yet, but neither of them spoke. Harry buried his face in Louis neck, wishing he was braver, wishing he could tell Louis that he’d started to have feelings for him, but he was scared. More scared than he’d ever been before because he didn’t want to lose Louis’ friendship.
Their relationship meant the world to Harry, though, not seeing him for the summer was going to be hard enough and every time they spoke Harry had to swallow down his urge to confess that he was falling a little more in love, every day with Louis. At least keeping quiet meant he’d still have his best friend. Harry couldn’t bear it if his love was unrequited so he decided to keep quiet and hope that the feelings would fade over time.
Just as Jay pressed on the horn for the third time Louis pulled back and stared into Harry’s eyes for a beat, then two ,before he leaned forwards and connected their lips. Tingles ran up and down Harry’s body and he tugged Louis closer, opening his mouth as Louis ran his tongue along the seam of his lips. The tongues tangled and their breaths quickened before Louis pulled away and pressed a soft, barely there kiss to Harry’s forehead.
“I’ll miss you so much, Haz,” he’d muttered, pressing a final soft kiss to Harry’s lips, before he spun around and walked out of the door, taking Harry’s heart with him. Harry dropped to his bed and put his head in his hands as he heard the front door close and just like that Louis was gone.
In the last six weeks Harry had heard from Louis a total of four times and all of those were in the first two days. There’d been absolutely no contact so as he sat on his bed, dressed in his black skinny jeans, red and black striped shirt and red high top nikes, kicking his feet back and forth as he waited on his mum calling him down to go to school. He was nervous, more nervous than ever before because he’d tried calling and texting Lou over the past few days, but he didn’t call back and the one time he’d gone over Jay had told him that Lou was out with his footie friends and would be back later.
“Harry, are you ready yet?” Anne’s voice broke into his thoughts and he sucked in a deep breath before he stood up, glancing once in the mirror to make sure he looked okay before he made his way slowly downstairs, ready to run the gauntlet of school.
He kept quiet on the way to school, answering only the basic questions and staring out the window as they got closer to school. His mum noticed his distraction and stopped trying to engage him in conversation.
As the car pulled onto the street he immediately saw Louis walking with Stan, Oli and Luke, but when he waved at them each boy turned away. It hurt him to see Lou completely ignore him and when he got out of the car he heard Oli making a joke about him looking gayer than ever.
Louis started laughing loudly and Harry wrapped his arms around his waist, trying to hold the hurt inside as he made his way past them.
“Hey Harry,’ Luke called out and Harry turned back to look at him, glancing at Louis from the corner of his eye and watching how he seemed entranced with kicking a stone at his foot.
“Did you get your clothes at Gay’s are Us?”
Harry felt his face tighten and he glanced at Louis who was looking at Stan with a wide smirk on his face that tore Harry to pieces.
“Oh, is that the best you’ve got?” Luke opened his mouth to retaliate when Niall appeared at Harry’s side, took the scene in and gave an irritated sigh as Harry called over to them.
“Seriously, why don’t you all just fuck off.”
Harry’s voice shook as he answered but he stood his ground and refused to back down as Louis led the boys past him. Harry refused to even look in Louis’ direction as he moved by with the boys, but it didn’t matter because Louis wasn’t looking at him anyway.
The rest of the day continued in the same vein and as Harry walked home after school, he ignored the chants and jeers from the football pitch, putting his music on and drowning out the slurs he could hear directed at him from the football team.
He didn’t hear from Louis that night or in fact speak to him for the rest of the week and the constant ache of missing his best friend was slowly being replaced with an almost uncontrollable fury at being left behind. Louis kissed him. He broke that boundary. Ever since that night he’d changed and Harry just didn’t know why, what he’d done wrong or if Louis would ever talk to him again.
Ignoring Harry was harder than Louis had ever expected. It was much easier over the phone to ignore the messages, the voicemails and the calls, but seeing how much the boys taunting him was hurting him was tearing Louis apart.
He never got involved, not directly at least, but he didn’t stop it either. He stood there laughing along as they insulted his boy like a damn coward, like the coward he’d been all summer as his grandfather called everyone gay and fags, as his grandfather told him in no uncertain terms that he wouldn’t be accepted in their family if he was anything other than straight. And while Jay and Mark had split up, Louis still craved their love and didn’t want to make things awkward or tense for his sisters, since they would still be in their lives.
It wasn’t fair. He was just seventeen and the moment he’d kissed Harry was the very first time he’d ever gone, ‘oh this is what love and lust’s supposed to feel like.’ He’d wanted to do it for a while, but he was scared; scared of his feelings, scared of being different, scared of Harry’s reaction.
Harry had always been one of the most important people in Louis’ life. He was there for Louis always and a part of him knew that if he just went and told Harry what was going on inside him, how lost and confused he felt, that Harry would talk things out with him, and he’d feel better.
Louis knew though that he didn’t deserve to feel better. He was dirty and wrong and there was something inside of him that made him other, so it would be better for Harry to forget about him, to leave him behind even though every day he didn’t talk to his best friend was harder than the day before.
It got worse one week back into school when he heard his mum and Anne speaking as he came in from football practice. The garage door was opened and he was taking off his boots and cleats in the garage because he was caked in mud when snippets of their conversation drifted through the door.
“Has Louis said anything about what’s going on with Harry?” Anne asked in a soft voice that made Louis freeze. His heart pounded in his ears and his eyes started stinging as he listened closely for what his mum would say next. She’d asked a few times about Harry’s absence, but didn’t push him for more information than he was ready to give.
“No, he hasn’t said anything. What’s going on?”
He could hear the worry lacing his mum’s voice and he hated that she was worried about Harry. She hadn’t been worried about him when she’d shipped him off to Mark’s parents for six weeks, so why was she worrying now.
“He’s just really down. He won’t tell me what’s wrong, but I’ve heard him crying a few times, but he just won’t talk about it. And whenever I ask about Louis, where he’s been or why he’s not been over, Harry either gets so sad he leaves the room or stops talking altogether.”
Fuck, Louis was fucked. He’d told his mum he’d been over at Anne’s three times this week, when in fact he’d been in the library until ten because he couldn’t face telling her he wasn’t talking to Harry anymore.
“Wait? I thought Louis was at yours last night?”
Louis quickly grabbed his joggers out of his gym back and pulled them on over his wet footie kit. He gently put his trainers on and snuck back out the door, refusing to listen to any more of their conversation and avoiding his mum like the plague because she was going to go bonkers at him for lying to her.
He walked through the pouring rain, not caring about getting wet or how much shit he was going to be in at home. He didn’t stop until he reached the park and he ducked around the playpark, going into the space between the trees that he and Harry always went to when they needed to get away.
Louis just sat in the clearing under one of the bigger trees not caring about the time passing, how hungry he was, how lost he felt, how much he was missing Harry and how much it tore at his chest knowing he was hurting Harry. But he just couldn’t do it. He couldn’t look his Harry in the eye or ask for forgiveness after hurting him so much for the last seven weeks. He missed Harry with everything he had and he hated himself more and more every single day that Harry sent him those longing glances or those hurt looks of confusion.
He’d left his phone at home in his school bag and he was shaking with a combination of the wind that was whistling through the trees, the raindrops that were hitting him at random and the pain constantly rushing through him. He hated himself and he knew he deserved to be cold and wet since he was making Harry cry.
For hours he sat there, zoning out and wondering if it would matter if he just left. Maybe he could go to Liverpool or London or something and go to college without anyone finding out, but before he could come to a conclusion there was a sound of a branch breaking and shuffling footsteps breaching the tree line.
He didn’t need to look up to confirm it was Harry who found him. He’d known it from the moment the twig snapped. Harry knew all his hiding spots, better than he did and he always knew where to find Louis depending on what had happened.
“Lou,” Harry muttered in a soft voice and Louis insides quivered. It was the first time in seven weeks he’d heard that voice say his name and he wanted to stand up and run into Harry’s arms. He wanted the comfort he knew he’d find in Harry’s embrace, but he was ashamed. Ashamed and embarrassed and he hated himself for it.
As soon as his mum called and said Louis hadn’t come home from football training Harry had known something was wrong. He’d told Jay he’d message around to see if anyone had seen Louis but he knew it was pointless. None of Lou’s football friends would tell him if he was with them or not, but it was worth a try.
Jay was worried because she’d found Louis’ phone in his school bag in the garage, so Harry messaged Luke, Oli, Stan and Calvin, all of whom told him that Louis wasn’t with them and even if he was they wouldn’t tell Harry either way.
He’d walked home but continued to watch Louis house waiting an hour to see if Louis had come home before he realised that he probably knew where Louis was. He didn’t know what had set him off, but he knew all of Louis’ hiding spots so he decided to go out and take a look around.
He jogged over to Louis’ and snuck into the garage hoping to miss his mum and Jay as they paced while waiting on Louis. Spotting Lou .is’ school bag near the door, he reaced in and grabbed Louis’ favourite hoodie from inside. It was an old one of Harry’s that he’d borrowed ages ago and his warm waterproof, tucking them into two plastic bags to keep them dry as he shoved them into an old backpack of Marks that was in the garage.
Something was wrong he could feel it and while he was still hurt and angry at Louis about his recent behaviour, he knew something was wrong and he needed to find Lou.
The wind was wild and he was soaked within minutes but he took off for Mrs. Nolan’s barn which was one of the places Lou loved to go when he needed to think. It was the closest spot, but there was nothing in the barn at all and no sign that Lou’d been there in ages.
Next he tried the library in town, but after searching both floors, bathrooms and the two study rooms he gave up and moved on, heading for their spot by the river. Harry wasn’t sure he’d be there, but it was worth a try. He walked through town and headed out towards Grant’s farm, but halfway there he bumped into Louis’ friends as they came out of the chip shop.
Harry kept his head down, but they followed him for ages calling out taunts about him and his hair, his style and his sexuality. Harry ignored them until it all got too much but when he turned around to confront them, they all scattered laughing wildly, knowing they’d gotten the reaction they wanted.
He walked in silence down by the riverside but there was no sign of Louis on their tree stump and since there was only one way in and out, Harry knew Louis hadn’t been there. With only one last place to check, Harry doubled back and headed towards the playpark.
The sky was darkening and the rain was falling heavier, but he managed to ignore the throbbing in his feet as his wellingtons rubbed the soles of his feet raw. The park was quiet but the closer he got to their clearing the more clearly he could hear sobs carrying over the wind.
Walking through the trees, he saw Louis sitting under their favourite tree, shaking with tears streaming down his face. He wanted to step closer and gather Louis into his arms, but the last seven weeks made him reticent to move so he stopped where he was and glanced down at the person who had been so important to him.
“Lou,” he called out and Louis stared determinedly at the ground. His eyes stayed on Harry’s boots for a while before he finally looked up and met Harry’s eyes with anguish filled crystal blue eyes.
“I’m sorry, Haz. I love you. I’m so sorry,” he spluttered out and began crawling across the ground until he was at Harry’s feet. Harry just stared down, shocked and broken inside at seeing Louis so upset.
He kept muttering over and over how sorry he was and he begged Harry to forgive him. Harry was frozen solid until Louis started sobbing again and he took a step back. Louis noticed and he began crying worse but Harry dropped to his knees and grabbed Louis, dragging him onto his lap and pressing soft kisses to his hair.
“Ssshh. It’s okay, Lou. It’s okay. I’m here. I’ve got you.”
Harry’s muttered words did little to soothe Louis, but he held fast even as Louis squirmed and tried to wriggle out of his hold.
“ No. Haz, let me go. I don’t deserve you comforting me. You should hate me.”
Louis’ voice broke on the words and Harry held on tighter.
“No. Lou, I could never hate you. Never.’
At this Louis buried his face in Harry’s shoulder and started crying again, muttering how sorry he was and pressing his lips to Harry’s neck every time he spoke.
“What’s wrong, Lou? Why haven’t you been speaking to me? Did I do something wrong?”
Harry’s voice was soft, pleading and Louis sucked in a breath and leaned back so he could look Harry in the eyes. Louis wiped the tears from Harry’s face and swallowed around the lump in his throat as he tried to answer. He wanted to protect the cherub faced innocence he was faced with, but he knew it wasn’t fair to Harry or to himself, so he had to be honest.
“I’m sorry, H. I really am,” he began, but Harry interrupted him.
“Yeah, you’ve said that. I need more than just an apology.”
“I know you do, but if you’d let me speak instead of interrupting me then I could maybe explain.”
He stared fondly at Harry as Harry mimed locking his lips and throwing away the key. A small smile broke out on his face, but then he remembered everything he had to tell Harry and his smile slipped away.
“So after I left for Dorset, I was buzzing. I was counting down the minutes until I could get back here, back to you, but everything changed when I was down there. My grandparents, Ralph and Marjory, aren’t like my mum’s parents or your grandparents. They are racist and h… hom… homophobic.”
It took three attempts to get the word out, but Harry nodded at him to continue when he managed it, giving his sides a soft squeeze to let him know he was there and he was listening.
“They started making comments almost immediately after I arrived, saying I was too camp, that I was such a little homo and that I was going to go to hell if I didn’t change my ways. They made me go with them to this awful church who said that boys who liked boys or girls who liked girls were all wired wrong and needed sorting, so I hid myself.”
Louis looked into Harry’s eyes and swallowed hard before continuing. It took a few minutes and while Harry was internally fuming at Lou’s grandparents, he wasn’t as angry at Lou as before. Another moment passed and Louis lifted his hand to Harry’s cheek, caressing it softly before he spoke in a low voice, continuing his story.
“They made me feel wrong inside and I was scared that if I was wrong, that I was going to corrupt you and make you wrong too, so I stopped replying. I hid my phone and started to laugh at their jokes, joined in with them as they made fun of people on TV and stopped allowing myself to look at anyone who wasn’t female.”
He paused again and dropped both his hands from Harry’s face, pushing himself down to the floor and wrapping his hands around his knees. He stared at the ground as he spoke in a whisper, but Harry heard him anyway.
“I also started talking with this girl, Ellie. She was the neighbor’s granddaughter and she was visiting too.”
His voice was shaking now and he knew he had to get through the next part. He had to be honest with Harry, even if Harry hated him, he deserved to know just how much of a coward Louis was.
“I kissed her once and we went out on a date, but I hated it. I hated it because she wasn’t you and I’m stupidly in love with you. I get it if you don’t feel the same, but fuck. I needed you to know that okay..”
As Harry sucked in a breath, Louis chanced a glance at him and saw untold anguish all over Harry’s face. He’d never wanted to see Harry looking like that, especially not because of him and he swallowed down the bile that threatened to rise up from his stomach.
“I’m sorry, Haz. I didn’t… It didn’t…”
He reached out to touch Harry’s hands, but Harry flinched away and Louis withdrew his hands, wrapping them back around his legs as Harry stood up. He paced around without speaking and didn’t stop moving for a few minutes before he spoke again in a dead sounding voice.
“We should get you home.”
He opened his backpack and tossed Louis a green jumper that Louis instantly recognised as the one he’d stolen from Harry and his own waterproof. Harry didn’t look his way as he tugged the jumper and jacket on. As soon as Louis had them on he spun around and started walking out of the trees.
“Haz, wait… please?”
Louis stood up on wobbly legs and ran towards Harry, grasping his arm and turning him around before surging forward and connecting their lips. Harry seemed frozen for a moment then he tore his mouth away.
Louis’ voice was small and he was standing shaking, but Harry refused to look at him, staring at something over his shoulder.
“Harry, look at me, please?”
Louis wasn’t above begging and he held on tightly to Harry’s wrists, but Harry shook his head.
“I can’t Lou. I’m not angry with you. It just… it hurts. You’ve hurt me so much…”
His voice broke and Louis wrapped his arms around Harry, holding him tightly before speaking in a small voice, just loud enough for Harry to hear.
“Our kiss scared me. It was so good and for weeks I could still feel tingles when I thought about it, but I was scared, Harry. I didn’t like kissing her and I felt so guilty that I started to hate myself. That was another reason I didn’t talk to you. I hate myself for being such a coward…”
Harry started to try to pull away, but this time Louis was the one who held firm.
“No. Stop. Harry, listen to me please. I’m begging you. Please. I can’t lose you. I’ve been so lost the past seven weeks and I wanted to talk to you every day but on our second day Lottie was joking about my Harry face with me and my grandad overheard. He banned me from speaking to you while I was there and when I got back I was too ashamed to face you.”
Harry stopped moving and stared at the ground and for a moment everything was still and quiet, until Louis lifted his chin and softly pressed their lips together.
“I’ve missed you so, so much, Haz. And I mean it, I’m so in love with you. Please forgive me, please.”
Harry opened his mouth to speak, closed it and then grabbed the top of Louis arms, pressing their lips together with a force that almost took Louis off his feet.
“God, Lou, I’m in love with you too. I think I always have been, but don’t do that to me ever again. You don’t kiss anyone but me ever again and I’m not asking you to come out or anything, but don’t gang up on me with your friends as they talk shit about me. That broke my heart..”
His words were possessive, but Louis’ heart soared, and he opened his mouth, tangling his tongue with Harry’s. For the first time in seven weeks ,he was where he wanted to be. For the first time since he left he was finally with his best friend, his boy, his person. For the first time in what felt like an age, he was home.
“Does this mean we’re boyfriends?” Louis asked with a giggle and Harry pulled back to smirk at him. His green eyes ablaze with happiness.
“Yes, and don’t you forget it.”
“I won’t. I love you. Now let’s go home before my mum murders me.”
They both grinned at each other as they joined hands and began the hour long walk back to Louis house, with Harry calling ahead to see he was with Louis and they were on their way back. They knew it wasn’t going to be easy to be together, but it would be easier than being apart. Louis was finally home and when Harry kissed him like he had before they left the clearing, he knew there was no place on earth he’d rather be.