Title: Said Too Much (It's Not Enough) by
radiantmint on ao3
He ends up with one hundred and sixty-seven words and a boy under his arm.
Word count: 8,815
There’s grass poking through the holes in his shirt and his forehead feels greasier than usual, but he doesn’t bother standing up when it starts raining because it’s better out here than it was in there, anyway.
Harry thinks so, at least. He’s aware that he’s a little judgement-impaired, but there isn’t much he can do about that, so.
He tries standing up slowly, slowly, but the ground beneath him goes wobbly again and he slips and ends up where he started so he doesn’t bother trying that again.
There’s a lot of chatter coming from inside the house for a group of people who can only say so much, and he wants to remind them but he doesn’t think it’s worth it. He’s got beer slathered on his shirt and he doesn’t remember how to string a sentence together and he’d much rather fall asleep in the mud than try standing up again.
Harry finds himself trying to count how many raindrops he can catch on his tongue. His record is two.
“It’s crazy, huh?”
Harry nods. He doesn’t know who’s talking to him nor what they’re talking about, but they’re probably right and he’s too drunk to disagree.
“It hurt like a bitch, too, when they put it on. I nearly cried.” Oh, that.
Harry reaches down to trace his own wrist slowly, softly, and the skin there is still raised from the needle hidden underneath. The doctor said the swelling would be gone by next week at the latest, but he isn’t really sure he wants it to. It’s nice having a reminder right there on his skin. It’s nice having a reason to shut up and it’s a little scary having something so foreign sitting so close.
“When’d you get yours?” The boy talks fast. Harry decides he must be nervous. Harry can’t imagine why. He wants to offer him his beer but he realizes he’s got none left. He wants to laugh, but he doesn’t know if a laugh counts as a word. He doesn’t know if he can laugh once his counter’s run out. He doesn’t know if he should care.
When the counter hits zero, the shot slides in and his mouth turns off, and at midnight he starts all over again. He doesn’t think too hard about it.
Harry pokes at the numbers on his arm for a few more seconds before looking up, “A few months ago. They fixed it yesterday.” He pauses, and then, “You?”
“Last month,” The boy laughs, “I’m a late birthday. Still adjusting to it; does it get any easier?”
“Not really, no. I haven’t run out yet. I’m being careful. I want to always be careful. Careful, careful.” He slurs every word he says, but he knows the point gets across. The boy smiles and his teeth are too white, Harry thinks. Everything is a little lopsided, though, so it’s probably just the beer making his eyes all fuzzy again.
The boy nods along as he speaks and his hair is matted to his forehead from the rain. It’s a nice look on him.
“Careful isn’t any fun.” The boy looks straight up into the rain and when Harry copies him a raindrop falls straight into his eye. It dries out the his tear ducts and he decides not to try that again. The boy sticks out a hand, “The name’s Louis.”
Harry smiles, and it’s so broad his lips ache from a lack of chapstick. Louis’ hand is warm and solid in his own.
Zayn’s just a downer, really, and Harry can’t blame him.
“It’s not a good idea.”
Harry nods because he doesn’t know what else to say. He flicks the television on just to ignore the lack of sound and all that comes up is a woman with her hair pulled back nicely, pointing to a sign of what she’d be saying if she could. It’s boring, Harry thinks. He can’t do anything about it though, so he lets it go.
“I wouldn’t, if I were you.”
In red ink written on the bottom of the sign is a note reminding the public that if they don’t update their counters, they’ll be fined. Harry updated his last week and had watched as the small black numbers on his wrist dialed back from 8,000 to 5,000, and something inside him had died. He read up on the internet that only weeks before they put in the counters, people would speak an average of 16,000 words a day. And now that’s out the window.
“It’s just getting smaller.” Zayn pauses. Everyone pauses, trying to let what they’ve said sink in. It’s ridiculous and Harry doesn’t ever want to adapt to any of this. “How’re you supposed to start a relationship when you can’t even speak?”
Harry shrugs, “I can speak, though.”
It hits him during English.
It’s a paper airplane, and Harry fights the urge to turn around and see who threw it because it feels a little like giving in.
“Harry.” He doesn’t turn around, but he realizes that it’s Louis talking to him and he has to fight the blush rising from his chest to his hairline. The air around his shoulders is tight, he can feel Louis pulling him in, closer, warmer. He didn’t even know Louis existed until Friday, didn’t even know they shared an English class until this morning, but he can’t breathe. Knowing that Louis is trying to get his attention with a paper airplane is weighing down his chest might be the cutest thing he’s ever witnessed. He can’t speak.
“What?” He hopes Niall is taking good notes because it’s hard to pay attention when he knows a boy this pretty can see the back of his neck.
“Look down.” Louis goes back to staring at his blank page of notes intently and Harry wishes he sat beside him so they could draw dicks in the margins. He thinks that’s something Louis would enjoy.
He reaches down to pick up the paper airplane, his fingers going shaky. Scrawled on the paper in tiny, messy writing is a simple you and me: lunch later?, and really, Harry can’t say no to a letter as eloquent as that.
He gives him a thumbs up from behind his chair and ignores every fucking thing Zayn warned him about because talking less shouldn’t keep him from doing more.
Harry laughs because, like, “No, you don’t.”
Niall nods and stares down at the grass under him a little longer before shrugging and Harry knows he hasn’t been adjusting to any of this very well. He shrugs more often, shrinking down, smaller, smaller, think more, speak less. That’s all anyones been saying and it’s hard to watch it affect the people around him that used to take up so much space on the planet.
“You’re right, I don’t, but I don’t see how it could be that big of a deal.” Niall smiles but Harry knows he’s keeping an eye on his wrist. It’s painful to know, it’s painful to see.
“Zayn thinks it is.”
“It’s your life.”
Harry nods and pulls a few strands of grass out of the ground. The grass hasn’t been affected by any of this, the grass doesn’t ask questions. He doesn’t appreciate the grass as much as he could.
“He invited me out to lunch.”
“Who, Louis?” They haven’t been discussing Louis so much as discussing the idea of meeting new people without saying a word, but, yeah, Louis is really the only person on his mind.
Harry nods instead of speaking and he’s proud of himself for it. Maybe that’s ridiculous.
“And you’re going?”
“Might as well.”
Niall looks down at his shoes and picks at the laces, “It doesn’t really work like that anymore, Harry.”
It’s weird, all of this. How all of this works. Harry’s pretty sure the counters are a power thing, a way for those in power to control to poor, a way to remain in power because no one can speak up even if they disagree. The counters run down, the number hits zero, and suddenly your vocal chords don’t work. It’s as simple as that, and Harry wonders if anyone else can see how none of this makes sense, he wonders if anyone else can see how this isn’t a status symbol.
It was so easy to pull grass from the ground and it was so easy to break Niall down and Harry knows the planet doesn’t work like it used to, but he isn’t really sure that matters. Not when he can breathe and not when he knows everyone is going to learn to adjust to all this. Not right now, at least.
He meets up with Louis in front of the library and Louis smiles at him the same way he did when Harry was drunk and trying to choke on condensation.
“Nice seeing you here.”
“I could say the same.” Harry looks down at their feet and tries to walk in stride with Louis as they make their way to wherever they’re going, “How are you?”
Louis looks him over and laughs quietly, like it wasn’t meant for Harry, “I’m good, I’m good. I’m adjusting, but I’ve only run out once and that’s an accomplishment, I think.” Louis looks nice like this. He hasn’t done anything special, really, but he looks nice. This is a first date of sorts, and Harry tries to memorize the setting, Louis’ outfit, his own ripped jeans. It all goes to waste when Louis brushes their hands together.
Harry raises an eyebrow at that but tries to sound nonchalant, “Really? I haven’t yet; what’s it like?” The space between their hands burns and the way Louis is looking at him makes him want to swallow every word he’s ever said.
“It stings for a few seconds, and it’s scary as hell when you realize you can’t talk, but you get over it.”
Harry reaches over to stroke the faint outline of the needle in his wrist, eyebrows folding in the middle as he presses down, trying to feel for the end. He wonders if he could speed up the process.
“It’s just a little prick, nothing to be scared of. It’s kind of cool, really, like. How they can make you shut up with a little liquid and numbers and laws.” Louis lifts an arm to steer Harry in the right direction and his hand feels warm on Harry’s shoulder. Harry nearly reaches up to hold it in place.
“Why do you think they did it?”
Louis seems tired, done, his hand is loose on Harry’s t-shirt and the corners of his eyes are tense, “Who knows. I haven’t been watching the news lately. Last I saw it was an experiment, only for the upper class, only for us, you know?”
Harry nods in response because, yeah, he does. It was a luxury, at first, it was something to be admired. Now, though, everyone on the planet is silent and no one knows why. He needs to go to bed, maybe.
“That’s enough of that, I guess.” Louis holds the door to Taco Bell open for Harry like a gentleman, “Ladies first.” It isn’t the classiest place Harrys ever been to, but he’ll manage if Louis is here.
“Don’t mind if I do.” Harry takes a moment to place his right hand behind his back and wonders briefly is maybe he’ll run out of words today. It’s as good a day as any, and it’d be nice to shut up for a bit. It’d be nice to go silent.
Niall seems to be adjusting and it’s sort of a sign of hope for Harry. Zayn, on the other hand, looks about ready to smash himself into a wall, but they’re growing into this and that’s enough.
Harry smiles because this is all a joke to Zayn, probably.
“Yeah. He’s really nice. I like him a lot, I think.”
Zayn sighs and lies down on the couch, his head buried where the cushion meets the armrest
“Ignore him, he’s being dramatic.” Niall throws an arm around Harry’s shoulder and sometimes Harry thinks he likes him best.
“I know, I know.” Harry lets his head roll back and looks Niall in the eyes, “I wish it was a thing, though. I wish we could skip this whole introduction stage, you know? I’m so tried of being single.”
Zayn groans from where he’s taking up most of the space in the room and rolls off the couch, “You really like him?”
Harry laughs and nods, “Maybe.”
Niall is smiling and Zayn thinks of them as his inferiors and everything is almost normal. He remembers that there’s been charity groups flying out to Botswana and Angola to give the residents there their own counters, something that’s equal parts a second industrialization and bullshit, and they’re making their way to the heart of Africa and the edges of Asia. People are eating this up, they think speaking less will actually change something, and Harry thinks it does to a certain extent, but when he looks Niall in the eyes he isn’t sure it’s really for the better.
“What the fuck, Zayn.”
Zayn’s got on that weird half smile he always does when something’s worked out in his favour, “It’ll be good for you.”
“You have no idea what’s good for me.”
“Of course I do,” He shoves Harry to the right a little and Harry doesn’t know what to with his hands he’s so nervous, “Now go talk to him. Turn on the charm.”
Harry coughs into his sleeve and looks Zayn right in the eye, but Zayn doesn’t budge, “I’m your ride and we’re not leaving until you two talk.”
“Will he think I’m creepy?”
“No.” And that’s all Zayn says about that, so.
“Alright, I’ll go, but.” He doesn’t know how to end his sentence so he shuts himself up and starts walking, the room growing smaller and warmer as his heart rate grows faster and louder.
And, like, there’s no turning back now.
“Hey.” His voice is too high, but he lets it go for the sake of memorizing the way Louis looks at ten a.m. on a Saturday, “Why’re you here?”
“To make fun of modern art. You?”
Harry nods and shrugs, “Looked fun, I don’t know.”
“Are you- I mean, are you alone?”
Harry nearly looks back at Zayn but decides against it, “Yeah.”
Louis smiles, grabbing Harry by the arm and leading him to a section of the building without giving him any direction, “So how’ve you been?”
“Good, I guess. Stressed.”
Louis laughs at that and something in Harry swells with pride, “Aren’t we all?”
Harry looks down and shrugs, “I guess so.” The tiles beneath them look old and he briefly wonders how long this building’s been standing for. He wonders when they’ll knock it down. He doesn’t know if he wants them to, he doesn’t know why he cares.
“Come on, over here.” He leads Harry to a woman dressed in all black standing behind a counter, “Two, please.” Harry doesn’t know why they’re here but he doesn’t want to question it, he wants Louis to drag him anywhere he pleases.
“We’re watching a movie.”
Harry laughs briefly and stands too close to Louis in line, “What's it about?” There’s a sign in front of him that reads Behind the Mask: The Study of Egyptian Art, but he wants to hear Louis explain it to him anyway.
“Something about Egyptian art, I don’t know. It’s in 3D.”
“I could’ve paid, you know. I feel bad.”
“Don’t.” And that’s that.
The screen ends up giving him a headache and his glasses don’t fit, but the movie was fairly interesting and Louis was by his side the entire time to fill in the lack of a narrator with lame jokes, so it wasn’t too bad, really. Louis also held his hand halfway through and Harry was so giddy that he choked on absolutely nothing.
Louis continues holding his hand all the way until they reach the elevator and Harry is sure he’s smiling so wide that Zayn can sense it from wherever he is in the museum, “Where to next?”
Louis shrugs and he’s smiling too and Harry wants to hold him down and kiss him right on the mouth. He points to an area at the other end of the building and Harry nods even though he has no idea where they’re going.
They don’t talk the entire way to their destination and maybe that’s fitting, maybe that’s just how things work now.
Harry squeezes Louis’ hand instead of responding.
“Do you- do you think it’d be hard to, like.” He pauses and coughs and Harry is so, so gone and he only met this boy last week, “Be with someone if you couldn’t talk to them?”
Harry stops walking and Louis stops too, almost like he expected it which is a little weird, maybe, “I mean, yeah, it’d be hard, but not impossible, you know?”
Louis nods and looks down, “Alright.” Then he leans up and kisses Harry right on the mouth and Harry forgets how to function, he forgets what he’s supposed to do in a situation like this because Louis’ on his tiptoes and he can’t really think of anything cuter.
Louis leans back but leaves his hands on his Harry’s face, “Is that alright? Can I- can I do that?”
Harry nods and leans forward again and he knows he’s smiling too hard for get a proper kiss this time, but Louis kisses him anyway before turning around.
Harry nods at the floor and tries to memorize the way Louis’ hand fits in his because he doesn’t know if this is going to be a common recurrence or if a date like this is a one time thing, “I- yeah. Very.”
They end up wandering around through a few more exhibits and Harry doesn’t really pay attention to any of it because Louis won’t stop laughing and smiling and being a general nuisance. It’s lovely.
They’re staring at a piece titled Landscape Mississippi by Sally Mann when Louis mentions it, “Hey could I maybe ride home with you? I took the bus over but I don’t really feel like paying for another ticket.”
The piece is dark and wilting and Harry thinks it’s a little odd that she fell in love with the South like that. He nearly tells Louis ‘Of course’, but he doesn’t want to look desperate.
“Sure, I mean, I don’t think Zayn’ll mind.”
“Zayn?” Louis raises an eyebrow and Harry panics.
“Yeah, I, uh, I didn’t come alone. He came, too. Made me talk to you.” Harry’s staring at their hands now and he feels guilty of something but he has no idea of what. Nothing makes sense and he likes that the way they hold hands leaves their counters on the outsides of their bodies. He knows that means something.
“So, Louis, have fun?” Zayn’s voice fills up the entire car and doesn’t get swept out the window like Harry’s does. He thinks he might know why but he doesn’t mention it.
“Yeah, I did, actually. Thanks for that.”
Harry turns around to face the two of them and he’s a little offended. If Louis’ going to be thanking anyone, it should be Harry. He didn’t even talk to Zayn until they got to the car.
“Why’re you thanking him?”
Louis smiles down at his hands and Harry wants to kiss him again, “He, like-”
“Louis here asked me to bring you today.”
Harry laughs and he’s hyper aware now of how the car is shaking beneath him, “Why’s that?”
Louis shrugs and Harry’s so, so happy suddenly, “I wanted to see you.”
Harry nods and focuses on the way Louis’ lips move as he speaks. Harry wishes he was sitting in the backseat just so head could wrap his arms around Louis’ waist.
Harry can hear Zayn rolling his eyes but he ignores it and keeps his eyes trained on Louis’ skin, on the way his t-shirt clings to his shoulders, on how his ears peek out from under his well-styled hair.
Things are nice for a long while. Louis ends up spending the night after their day at the museum, and then he ends up spending most of the nights after that at Harry’s, too. He promises that his roommate doesn’t mind, and Harry knows Zayn doesn’t mind sleeping in Louis’ place (the boy Louis shares a dorm with is, evidently, very nice.) He lets Harry hold him and he kisses Harry every chance he gets and Harry doesn’t really see an end to any of this. He doesn’t see an end to the way Louis rolls his eyes at every pun he says and he doesn’t see an end to the way Louis looks down at his lap when he says something personal. He wants things to stay like this for a long time, and sometimes he thinks it might.
Louis kisses the back of his neck and Harry can feel the ends of his fingers shaking, his wrist arching. He nearly turns around and holds Louis to his chest but he knows that’s weird when Louis is already plastered to his back.
“They cut the count to 3,000. When do you think they’ll stop?”
“When we can’t speak at all, probably.”
Louis laughs and Harry can feel his head on his shoulder, “What’re you writing?”
“An essay for English.” Harry laughs because he can’t think of anything more ironic than writing an English paper while worrying about how long he’ll be allowed to speak the English language for. He doesn’t bring it up with Louis. Louis squeezes his waist once before letting go and the whole room feels silent, like they’re in an airplane and Harry hasn’t swallowed. The walls are caving in and that’s ridiculous, seeing as he still has nearly three thousand words left, but he has no idea how many words he says in a day.
He’s heard that when children are born, they aren’t given the count until they’re deemed fairly developed just so they can pronounce the few words they’ll be able to speak in the future. He thinks that’s a little cruel, being given the chance to speak your mind and then being told you’ve learned too much. Seems like a waste, he thinks. In less developed countries, however, children are given the count just hours after their born and Harry doesn’t think that’s any better. He knows there’s another motive there and he doesn’t want to imagine what it is. It’s all for power, he thinks, and that’s just about as sad as it gets.
When Louis drags him from his paper, Harry holds him close as they watch TV. He breathes easy when Louis is breathing, and Louis has nearly 3,000 words to spare, too.
Sometimes Harry wonders what it’s like in grade school, he wonders how the kids learn anything without a voice. He wonders how the teacher’s get their attention. He imagines the morning announcements are a pain. Here the professors simply write what they’d like to say on the board and yell when they have to. No one seems to enjoy it, but it works. He can’t imagine the same techniques work for 3rd graders.
Harry nods and doesn’t look up from his phone, “Alright.”
He can hear Louis slumping into the couch behind him, “It’s getting smaller.”
“You knew this was going to happen.”
Harry turns around to see Louis messing with the fabric of his jeans, his eyebrows wrinkled in the middle, and Harry stands to hold him.
“I know, but.” He ends his sentence there and Harry sighs but doesn’t respond.
“We’ll be fine.” He wraps his arms around him and buries his face into Louis’ back, breathing in.
Louis hums and Harry can feel the vibrations on his cheek.
“You know, when I was younger my parents used to make fun of me for talking too much and too loudly.”
“You’re still too loud.”
Louis laughs and wraps his hands around Harry’s own. The whole room is warm. “I know.”
They’re okay and smiling and Harry thinks even if he couldn’t ever speak again he’d be satisfied with this boy wrapped up inside him.
He kisses Louis between the shoulder blades and Louis seems happy like this, too.
But things don’t stay like that. Things can’t stay like that, and on some level Harry gets it, but on another level he just wants to be happy and he doesn’t know what to do with that knowledge.
“How is this going to work?”
“How’s what going to work?”
Louis looks down at his lap and Harry reaches over to rub at his shoulders to relieve some of the tension, but Louis just knocks him off, “Aren’t relationships about communication? I’m pretty sure I heard that somewhere.”
Harry shrugs and tries to take his eyes off of Louis lips and eyes and collarbones. He thinks Louis deserves some privacy for now. “I guess so. But everyone else is going through this too, you know.”
Now its Louis’ turn to shrug, and Harry wishes it wasn’t one in the morning so that he’d have even a chance of ending this conversation because he’s out of words. But he’s nowhere that point and he knows that Louis always gets frustrated when they talk like this, when they talk like they can see an end to what they are, and it scares him. It scares both of them.
“I know everyone else is, too, but. They aren’t us, Harry.”
Harry inches forward and this bedroom is going to smother them, he thinks. “I know. Maybe that’s a good thing.”
Louis picks at a string on the bedspread, “Maybe.”
“Come on, Lou.” Harry leans back and pats at the space beside him, “Lets go to sleep.”
Louis nods and lies his head on Harry’s chest before leaning up to kiss him right on the lips. Harry smiles so hard that Louis pulls back.
Soon enough Harry’s fucking Louis into the mattress (AN: whoa there wasn't expecting that) and its like nothing was wrong. There’s red marks covering Louis’ neck and Harry’s chest and, yeah, they’ll make it through this, Harry thinks.
He looks over at Louis, all soft limbs and softer skin, and he doesn’t know what he’ll do if they don’t. He doesn’t even think that’s an option.
Harry looks up slowly, but he’s disappointed when it’s just Zayn staring him down, his hand covering Harry’s to take away his glass.
Harry would normally argue with him, but it really, really isn’t worth it right now. He lets Zayn take his glass and set it down at the other end of the table, he lets himself be lifted to his feet, he lets himself lean onto Zayn’s shoulder as they make their way to the car. He wants to run into oncoming traffic to test his reflexes, but it’d end up being meaningless and he’s drunk.
They’re in Zayn’s car now, the seats cold and windows covered in rain. He hadn’t even noticed it was raining.
Zayn sighs but doesn’t argue, and it’s so nice to not hear.
“I really like him, you know.”
The entire ride home is silent save the music playing through the stereo. Zayn likes the oldies, he likes how each song has enough words to cut down the singer’s word count by a fourth. One song. Zayn says he thinks that’s incredible, he says that what’s on the radio isn’t enough for him. He needs a voice.
Harry thinks that’s a little ridiculous, though, seeing as Zayn barely talks at all anymore. It’s like that with most people, he thinks. They talk less, think more, careful, careful, careful. Harry sometimes thinks he should be a little more like that, maybe he should cut up his sentences and save up his words and write more things down.
He doesn’t care, though, because whether he runs out of words at noon or at nine, he’s still out of words at some point and he gets to start over the next day.
“I like him a lot, Zayn. I want to be with him all of the time.”
“Word count, Harry.”
“I want to spend the rest of my life with him, Zayn. I do.”
Zayn doesn’t respond to anything else Harry says for the rest of the car trip and Harry doesn’t even care.
The front door to Louis’ flat always looks a little sad; Harry makes a note to bring him a doormat at some point.
The door is cracked open and Louis looks so, so tired like this. Harry thinks they should both head to bed and maybe turn off the television for a few days. Pretend they won’t get fined if they don’t go to the nurse tomorrow to update their counters.
Harry tries to respond but he’s out of words, it seems. He doesn’t remember that happening. He doesn’t question it.
He points to his wrist and Louis sighs and he sounds so sad. Harry wants to hold him, he wants to hold him until none of this matters and they can talk as often as they want and he doesn’t have to worry about any of this.
“I’ll go get you a towel, stay here.” Louis isn’t cutting down on his words, either, it seems. ‘I’ll get a towel’ would’ve worked just fine. Harry doesn’t point it out. Harry couldn’t point it out even if he wanted to.
“Here.” Louis lays the towel on his head and Harry tries his best to laugh but his vocal chords don’t budge. He gives up. “Dry off, I’ll turn something on.” He wonders if that’s dangerous, if wonders if the crime rate has gone up at all because people can’t scream. He makes a note to never bother to check.
Louis starts flipping through the channels on the TV as Harry pats himself down, and he isn’t sure any of the water is actually drying up but he continues trying nonetheless.
They end up watching a crime drama that Harry can’t follow, and the background music is so, so loud because they actors can only say so much. He heard once that the director’s just use large whiteboards to tell the actors what to do and use airhorns instead of yelling cut. He’s also heard that it takes twice as long to record each scene because every blooper is another set of words off their count. Sounds a little scary, really.
Harry nods and tries to lean in for a cuddle because he always misses Louis, too, but Louis pushes him off with a laugh.
“You’re still wet, moron.”
Harry ignores him and sets his head down on Louis’ lap, watching as his pants grow darker from the rain. Louis brushes at Harry’s curls and Harry is smiling so big he’s afraid his skin might crack. He doesn’t stop smiling.
“I love you, you know?”
Something in Harry hits his ribcage so hard he nearly gasps. He can’t respond and that’s so fucking cruel, he thinks, it’s so fucking cruel to both him and Louis and he wants to cry. He gives up and turns to straddle Louis’ lap, head resting where Louis’ neck meets his shoulder. He nods and isn’t enough, he isn’t enough.
“It’s okay, you know. I know you love me, too.”
Harry nods and grips Louis’ hips, leaning forward so every part of them is touching. The room is dark now, the room is too big for the two of them, he wants nothing but the two of them here. He wants to touch Louis everywhere.
“We’re okay, babe. Come on, let’s head to bed.” Louis turns off the TV and Harry leans on his shoulder and when they make it to the room he lets Louis fuck him. He kisses every part of Louis’ body and Louis touches every part of his and he wants to tell him how nice he looks like this but he can’t, so he settles for smiling into Louis’ neck and holding onto Louis’ waist and praying that something about the two of them is more than words.
Harry’s been sitting in front of his phone for twenty minutes now and he wants nothing more than to show Louis new music, he wants to show Louis the tree down the street that fell over, he wants to show Louis the crack in the tile beneath his hand.
Earlier that day they’d both walked to the main office, standing in line behind a truck that looked far too clean for what it was destroying. They’d replaced his needle for the tenth time, and the nurse kept making small talk about how long just a vial of the stuff could last, about how incredibly cool it is that nothing’s messed up yet across the nation. Across the globe. That’s terrifying and Harry isn’t sure anyone’s noticed.
Louis picks up on the third ring and nothing feels quite right and the first thing he wants to say is “I love you,” but he can’t and he shouldn’t. He knows Louis is probably busy doing something at home but all he can really think about is why Louis might be home alone in the first place.
“Louis? You there?”
Phone calls are so rare that Harry thinks one of these days he’ll try calling Louis and his phone service simply won’t exist anymore, but that’s all for a time that isn’t right now because Louis is sighing into the receiver and Harry is holding his breath.
Neither of them speak and something is dying here. Harry doesn’t know what. Harry doesn’t care what, either.
Louis’ the one who breaks the ice.
“I haven’t spoken all day, Harry.” He laughs because it’s something neither of them have ever even tried to do, “I feel like, I don’t know. I feel like if I don’t talk, I can save up my words to something big, you know?”
Harry nods and nearly groans when he remembers Louis can’t see him.
“It doesn’t work like that.” Harry says eventually, and the words feel foreign when they come out.
“Of course it doesn’t, fucktard.”
There he is. There’s his boy.
“I’ll be there in twenty, turn on something good. Make popcorn.” He could probably text his plans to Louis, but it feels nice to speak without worrying about what his actions say, too.
Louis makes a sound of approval, and Harry nearly mentions how he’d seen on the news that sounds, laughs, groans are no longer misinterpreted as words. It was a big deal for everyone else on the planet and Harry found that he didn’t even care at all. Louis hangs up and Harry can’t feel his insides he’s so happy.
It’s a thing, kind of. A painful thing, a thing that sits in the back of his throat all week until he cries it out on the weekends. A heavy thing that breaks the ends of his ribs and presses against his heart and leaves him heaving for oxygen when all he can taste is blood.
“I love you, Louis.” The first time Louis doesn’t pick up the phone is when Harry decides it’s a thing. “I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you.”
He gets in 33 ‘I love you’s and one ‘I’ before he’s cut off, his throat closing briefly before his vocal chords run flat.
It’s the thirteenth night in a row he’s done this. It’s the thirteenth time he’s called Louis with the sole intent of telling him he loves him and it’s the first time Louis hasn’t bothered to answer and Harry doesn’t even fucking care. He loves him, he thinks, he knows, but this isn’t about telling Louis how he feels. It’s about having something important to say, it’s about having a reason to save the words he wants to say during the day, it’s about waiting at home until Louis gets off work and knowing he couldn’t speak even he wanted to and knowing that there’s a good reason for that.
He likes the way the words taste on his tongue and he likes the idea of Louis being able to hear 100 words in a row because he knows that’s refreshing.
Still, though. Louis didn’t pick up the phone and Harry gave those words away to a voice machine, and Harry just wants to kiss him all of the time. This shouldn’t be so hard.
Louis gets home at eleven and kisses the back of Harry’s neck and whispers, “I know, you don’t have to remind me,” before holding Harry to his chest and Harry smiles so, so broadly, he’s so happy Louis is here with him. He’s so happy Louis is touching him and he’s a little scared that he doesn’t know how to be happy in any other situation.
The whole room is silent.
“The word count. 300.”
Harry doesn’t respond. The room is shrinking, he thinks. Louis stays the same size. Louis is always the biggest thing in the room. Harry wants to kiss him. He wonders how warm his chest is right now, he wonders if he’s shattering as deeply as Harry is right now.
Louis stands and Harry thinks, yeah, he is. His eyebrows are wrinkled and his mouth is open and he looks ready to collapse. Harry steps forward to take him in his arms and Louis gives him his body weight. Harry squeezes lightly and he doesn’t move, he stays firms in his arms. Louis is real and that’s going to be enough for a while. That’s definitely enough.
Louis pushes at Harry’s waist and Harry takes a step back but keeps his arms on Louis’ back. Louis shakes them off so no part of them is touching and something in Harry’s chest snaps.
Harry nods and nearly rubs at Louis’ arm to sooth him, but he knows he shouldn’t. The ground is shaking and Harry wants to go to bed. He wants Louis to kiss him to sleep. He wants to pull Louis as close to him as possible, he wants every part of them to be touching so maybe he won’t feel so fucking alone all of the time.
Louis takes in a deep breath and it takes every part of Harry to leave him be, “That isn’t a lot of words.”
Harry nods, but words feel necessary for the first time in a long time, so he speaks up, “I know.”
Louis takes another step back and he’s on the other end of the rug at this point. Harry feels stranded and his heart of taking up too much space in his body.
“This is new, Harry. This is new for everyone.”
“It is.” Harry doesn’t know what to say. His vocal cords are wrapped around his lungs and he wants to take every part of himself and destroy it. He needs something new. He needs Louis by his side; he wants Louis by his side.
“I don’t-” He pauses and he’s wasting words, Harry knows it. “You call me every day to tell me you love me, Harry.”
Harry doesn’t smile. He isn’t proud, he shouldn’t be proud of saving that many words just for Louis. “I do. You’ve always said it back and I love you more than anything. I- I like telling you I love you.”
Louis smiles and nods at the ground. Harry wants to take him back to the party they met at so they could stare at that fence again, maybe. He could tell Louis his name and Louis could complain about the needle in his arm.
“I like it when you tell me you love me, too. I love you a lot, Harry.” Louis still hasn’t looked up.
Harry doesn’t speak.
“It’s just-” Every piece of Harry shatters and he doesn’t pay it any attention. He holds his breath to keep his bones suspended in mid-air. He can survive this conversation for a few more seconds. There’s only so much they can say, really. “It’s just that- I love you more than anything and it’s always been you, you know? We’re going to get married and have twelve kids and I’m going to kiss you all of the time and that’s that. And if you still feel like you need to tell me you love me thirty-three times in a row, then I don’t know how we’re ever going to get past this.”
Harry realizes it then. Louis just said all of that in one go and, like, they haven’t learned to limit what they say at all. Everyone else says ‘move’ while the two of them say ‘excuse me’ and while the rest of planet is shrinking, shortening, trimming, the two of them are trying to grow.
“Get past what?” He still hasn’t taken in a breath. There isn’t any oxygen in the room and he wants to melt into the ground. He wants to be crushed by an 18-wheeler. He wants to fall from a tall building and hit the concrete hard.
Louis points to his wrist and Harry wants to sob.
“I’ll shut up. I will, I promise.” Harry can feel his vocal chords tightening and it has nothing to do with the needle under his skin.
“I know, and you love me and I love you, and sometimes I wonder if that’s too much. I don’t think two people are supposed to feel like this, Harry.”
Harry feels himself take a step forward but he doesn’t remember how to control his limbs. He can feel his heart tightening and the room is so big suddenly. The two of them are small and the walls go on for miles.
“Shut up, Louis.”
Louis shakes his head.
“Shut up, Louis. You don’t get to do this.”
Louis takes a step back and Harry realizes he’s at the other end of the rug now, crowding Louis’ space. He doesn’t care.
“I don’t think it was meant to be you and me, Harry.”
“What the fuck, Louis.” He’s screaming, maybe. He doesn’t know. He can’t hear anything.
“We can’t cope with this. This is bigger than us.”
“You don’t get to leave because I’m clingy, Louis. You don’t.” He isn’t crying. Well, he is, but neither of them notice, so he isn’t crying.
“But it’s not just you, Harry. It’s me, too. Fuck- it’s both of us. I don’t think of anything but you and I wants to kiss you so, so often and I want to hold you all of the time and I can’t even tell you because I have a habit of talking too much. How are we going to do this, Harry?”
“We- we’ll make this work. We can do this, Louis.”
“I love you and I’m not scared of that, but,” Louis looks at the ground and Harry wants to shove him into the wall and remind him of how good they are together, “Maybe I should be. Maybe I want too much and we don’t even know how to say I love you the right way. Maybe a break is good for us.”
“It fucking isn’t.”
Louis nods but doesn’t look up, “Leave, Harry.”
The room goes silent.
“Fuck you, Louis.” And that’s it. Harry wants to leave Louis with enough words for when he’s crying and babbling nonsense later. Harry knows he’ll be doing the same. “Fuck you.” He says it again for good measure before opening the front door easily.
He slams the door shut as he leaves and nearly falls straight to the concrete.
He walks home alone for the first time in months and he wants to hold Louis’ hand. He wants to think that Louis is thinking the same thing, but it wasn’t meant to be LouisandHarry and at some point that’s going to sink in.
The first person he heads to is Zayn because he needs to hear the words “I told you so” loud and clear.
Zayn doesn’t say that at all, though. He leaves Harry in the middle of the room with a six pack of beer and grabs Niall from his dorm and by the time all three of them are together nothing feels fixed.
“Come on, Harry,” Niall is sitting by his side, he’s rubbing at Harry’s shoulder, and Harry is more frustrated that him and Louis don’t feel finished than he is at the fact that he can’t explain that to anyone.
“I’m so sorry,” Zayn says it, but it feels too honest for Harry to swallow.
“I just- it’s over.”
Zayn scoffs at that and something in Harry rings, loud, through his bloodstream, “It isn’t and you know it.”
Niall noses at Harry’s jawline and smiles so broadly that it fills the whole room and it’s nice to see the two of them like this. It’s nice to see them shaping up, it’s nice to see them reverting back to what they used to be.
“We’re going to go out and you’re going to get so drunk you can’t see and then you’re going to go back to Louis and make him apologize.” Zayn takes in a breath like he hasn’t done that before, like he hasn’t said that much in so, so long and Harry knows exactly how that feels.
So he agrees and he gets smashed at the bar on the other side of town with the two of them. He cries so hard he throws up and he doesn’t quite see how this all ends like Niall and Zayn do, but he’ll play along for the sake of breathing. He doesn’t run out of words for the first time in months and he nearly picks up the phone to tell Louis so.
The moon is dead and the sun is sleeping and Harry is here, standing in front of a broken wooden door with his hands held together because he doesn’t know how to function without Louis by his side.
He doesn’t knock at first because something about their whole relationship feels inevitable, it feels like it’s ending, burning, wilting, but he realizes he can’t fucking live with that and taps the wooden door for the first time in months because he doesn’t want to use his key. He’s an intruder on his own doorstep and he wants to grab Louis by the hips and kiss him until everything is over, kiss him until neither of them can breath, kiss him until they don’t have priorities and the world around them melts.
“Louis, please.” Two words in and he already wants to fling himself from a moving car.
Someone sighs on the other side of the door and Harry’s blood pools in his joints. He wants to cry he’s so relieved.
The door cracks open and Louis is staring at him intently, and, like, shit. He looks like he’s been crying and his skin is heavy and his hair is floppy and Harry wants to hold him.
“Yes?” Louis should’ve nodded, he shouldn't have spoken, that was a waste. Harry knows it.
Harry takes in a breath and holds his head up, he squares his shoulders, “Apologize.”
Louis physically crumbles at that, his mouth falls and his eyes drop and Harry nearly runs forward to take care of him but he holds out just to see what happens.
“I’m sorry. I’m so fucking sorry.”
Something in Harry is growing, it’s filling his limbs and mouth and lungs and he needs a release.
“I stand by what I said, though, about us not being ready for this.” Louis looks like he’s going to cry right here, right in front of Harry when Harry isn’t even sure he can reach out to comfort him the way Louis likes it best. “But I- I’m not ready to, you know. End this.”
Everything’s gone to shit, Harry thinks, and he doesn’t even know what to do.
He nearly points out that life doesn’t work like that, you can’t just apologize and let everything slide back into place because it simply doesn’t, but Harry can’t resist when Louis takes a step forward to fill in the space between the two of them. He ignores the pressure in his ears and the taste of his own tongue. He keeps his eyes on Louis and Louis keeps his eyes on something deeper.
Louis kisses him right on the mouth and Harry wishes he was surprised but he knows how Louis works, he knows how Louis thinks, and maybe it’s better this way. He’s got Louis on his lips again and he holds Louis’ hips and, yeah. It’s better this way.
“I- yeah.” Louis shuts himself up. Harry isn’t about to fall over because Louis is right here, his hands on Harry’s chest as he stands on Harry’s shoes.
“You’re such a fucking prick,” Harry whispers, but he can feel Louis’ smile against his cheek, “You don’t get to do that again.”
“I don’t think I could if I wanted to.” Louis gives Harry his entire body weight and Harry takes it easily. Something around them is heavy but Harry can’t feel a thing.
“Talk to me,” Is all Harry says, his mouth pressed to Louis’ ear so he doesn’t have to spare an inch between the two of them.
“Yeah, I- I will. Bedroom, please.”
“Of course.” Harry rubs between Louis’ shoulder blades because Louis loves it when he does before hoisting him up to his waist, Louis’ legs wrapped around his torso. Louis is a little taller than him now and he kisses Harry on the forehead softly.
“Why do I miss you so often, Harry?”
Harry laughs softly before making his way to the bedroom, “We’ll get over this.”
Louis nods and tucks his head into Harry’s neck and Harry can’t think of anything better than this right now. When they reach the bedroom Harry lets Louis fall to the bed before kissing his neck, softly, slowly, he’s in love, he’s in love, he never wants Louis to feel anything but his lips on his skin.
“I love you.”
“Do you know how hard I cried this week?”
Harry presses him into the mattress and Louis smiles and Harry watches the room turn to glass, he watches the bed fade into the floor, he watches their hands touch skin and everything is easy.
By the end of it all, Louis can’t speak and Harry can’t breathe and he’s only been up for two hours but he falls back asleep easily, Louis tucked into his body.
“I missed you and I love you.”
Louis’ out of words, but he noses at Harry’s collarbone in response and Harry doesn’t know what he’d do if Louis left.
“The word count?”
Louis smiles, his hands dropping to his lap.
“Wanna get drunk?”
“165 now, Lou.”
“Fuck off,” Louis grins when he says it and Harry walks past him to grab the beers they have hidden in the back of their fridge. He can feel Louis’ eyes on him when he leans over to pull four out of the box and he smiles despite himself.
“Enjoying the view?”
Louis laughs and nods, and it’s nice seeing him like this. It’s nice seeing everything boil down to a few smiles and nods and even though everything beyond their front door is bit dead, Harry doesn’t think they are just yet.
Harry is drunk and Louis is in his lap and he still has a few words to spare but he doesn’t really have much to say. He kisses Louis’ neck softly and smiles where his lips meet skin. The TV is dim and the walls are grey and the floor is probably sinking beneath them, but Louis is breathing and Harry can’t think of anything else he needs.
“Have you changed your mind?”
Louis lets his head roll back to watch Harry’s lips move, “What?”
Louis looks so soft like this, Harry never wants to stop touching him.
“Do you think it was it meant to be you and me?”
Louis leans back and Harry is buzzing, “Shut up, Harry.”
He’s got six words to spare and Louis has seven and they fall asleep on the couch like that, Louis breathing into his shoulder, the couch swallowing them whole, the television tuned to the news with the numbers dropping closer to zero every time they look up.
This was so well written UGH it's perfect