You, the Rain, and Me

Entered in the AU category.

Harry and Louis met on a rainy day. But it wasn’t a light drizzle or a harmless type of rain. It was torrential, and it was dangerous. The type of rain you’re not supposed to drive in, the type of rain that soaks and chills you to the bone if you dare leave your house.

A violent type of rain. The type of rain that signals that a storm is coming. And indeed, one was.

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1. Chapter One

Harry had a busy day. Well, not busy for mundane people, but busy for him. You see, Harry was a photographer for a magazine. He didn’t do much regularly, maybe went to the warehouse to shoot a few photos a day, but it was relaxed. He never rushed and always took his time. He was the type of person who was generally slow. He spoke slowly as if his words were so precious and valuable that they needed to sink in, he walked slowly which was ironic because his legs were so long that he could walk twice as fast as the average person, and he even ate and drank slowly, savoring every bite and sip that he took as if it was his last. 

 

But today, he had a lot to do. The editor of the magazine, who was a dear friend, was being an ass. The editor, who was also his boss, was neurotic at times. His name was Liam and they’d known each other since university. They belonged to the same fraternity and even shared a room for a few years. In fact, they’d lived in the same house until last year when Liam had kicked him out and replaced him with his girlfriend Moira. Not that he’d minded. Harry’d been meaning to get his own place anyway, and it was a smooth transition. 

 

But I digress. 

 

Liam was being neurotic. Their October issue was supposed to be sent out for printing tomorrow but at the last moment, Liam had decided that everything had to be changed. The colors were wrong, the articles were dull, the pictures didn’t fit, and so on and so forth. So as a result he had spent the night devising an entirely new issue and at three o’clock in the morning had personally called each and every employee to give them an assignment on what they needed do to make the new issue happen. 

 

Harry’s job was to meet at the warehouse at two o’clock on the dot and reshoot some of the clothing pieces, photograph a couple being interviewed, get candids of working women in the city, head to the pier to shoot photos for one of the new articles, then immediately go back to headquarters and go over everything with the other photographers and reshoot everything if necessary. And he was supposed to find time to edit all of these photos. And eat.

 

There was one problem. Actually there were many problems, but one happened to stick out the most: it was raining. So, any and every outdoors piece that needed photos would be out of luck because none of the photos they needed could be shot in the rain. Even the drizzle was disruptive.

 

The rain had only just started at five o’clock and it was unforeseen by the weather reports, so there’s no way Liam could have known. It was still only seven but all of the weather reports were now saying the rain would continue over the course of the entire week. In other words, the new issue was fucked.

 

Harry was still in bed, a mug of coffee balanced precariously beside him and the TV on but turned quiet across from the bed. It was on the local channel, so that Harry could confirm the unfortunate weather before calling Liam and shoving another stick up his ass. He was wound up tightly enough as it was.

 

And at that moment, the weatherman came on screen. Harry jostled everything on his bed in search of the remote, and when he found it, turned up the volume.

 

Get your umbrellas and rain boots, folks! It appears this rain will not only be continuing, but getting worse. The rain will still be a drizzle but at around 10 AM it will gradually deepen into a torrential storm and carry on like that until Tuesday of next week. 

 

Harry let out a large sigh, and moved his body around, placing his hands all over the sheets around him, hoping one of them would stumble over his phone. But of course the movement didn’t help him find the phone, and instead knocked his coffee mug over. The scalding hot liquid tipped and sloshed all over his white sheets rapidly before Harry even knew what was happening. 

 

Once he realized, he yelled, “Oh, fuck!” and sprang out of bed like an agile cat. He immediately picked up the fallen mug, wincing and hissing through his teeth at the temperature of the liquid, and set it down on his night table. Before he could remove his now-ruined sheets from his bed, the familiar but muffled sound of his ringtone sounded throughout the room. He opened the top drawer of his night table, and voila, there it was. Now why couldn’t he have just checked there first? He could have avoided this whole mess. 

 

It was Liam. He slid his finger across the bottom of the screen to answer. Liam was shouting before Harry had even put the phone to his ear.

 

“Harry! Mate! We are so fucked! We are ruined! We are done for!” He took a breath. “This is how it ends, Styles,” he moaned at a less ear-splitting volume. Ah, so Liam had heard about the rain. He didn’t blame Liam for the outburst. He was a huge drama queen.

 

Harry would have laughed at Liam in crisis mode, but he couldn’t bear it. Liam was really broken up. Plus, he knew that if this were the other way around, Liam would be supportive. He sighed instead. “I know,” he replied gloomily. So much for the whole supportive thing. 

 

“What?!” Liam squawked on the other end. He sounded honestly surprised, but the naive type of surprise, like a child finding out his father couldn’t make it back from his business trip for his eighth birthday party. The type of surprise that brought with it sadness or anger.

 

Harry wandered into his kitchen and sat down at one of the bar stools in front of the kitchen counter, ignoring how cold this room compared to his bedroom. “What? I just repeated what you said,” he argued, considerably puzzled. God, Liam could be such a pill.

 

“Yeah but you’re not supposed to agree with me! You’re supposed to tell me that I am the best editor of the best magazine in all of London and if anyone can pull this off, it’s me, and I can,” he answered all in one breath. That was a lot, even for Liam, who tended to speak so fast that his words would often get jumbled together until they were unrecognizable. Luckily, Liam’s qualms could be eased because Harry knew him like the back of his hand. And if there was one thing that Liam could use at the moment, it was a joke or some type of humor to lighten his mood. Liam was tightly wound up like a balloon and could pop at any moment. The best way to let the air out was through laughter.

 

“Liam, you’re the best editor of the best magazine in all of London and if anyone can pull this off, it’s you, and you can,” Harry recited, a smile starting to tug at the edges of his mouth. He was being agitating in the way that never failed to make Liam chuckle, or at least smile.

 

Liam was silent for a minute. “Glad you’re finding humor in this,” he deadpanned, then hung up. What the fuck, Harry thought. This was the first time in all of human history that the humorous tactic hadn’t worked on Liam. Harry was so astonished that his jaw literally dropped. Liam was usually cranky, but this was unacceptable. At least Harry was trying. Most guys their age wouldn’t put up with these dramatics. Harry was making an effort. Wasn’t that enough? Rage replaced the confusion in his head. He called back immediately, scowling as the dial tone sounded.

 

Instead of Liam answering, it was his girlfriend. “Hi,” she answered quickly, knowing that he was about to go on a tirade without realizing it was her on the other end. Funny story: Moira and Harry went to primary school together and were friends up until university, so they knew each other just as well as Liam and Harry did. They were like the three musketeers, except two of them were sleeping with each other. To clarify, the two were Moira and Liam.

 

This slowed Harry down and he struggled to regain his bearings. “Oh. Moira. Hi.” Gradually he remembered his words. “What is the matter with him?”

 

“Oh, Harry, I don’t know. He’s not usually like this, you know.” Her Irish accent was clearer when she was stressed. And she was definitely stressed. “There’s something about the October issue that’s worrying him, but it’s his information to tell, not mine.” She paused, and he could picture the expression on her face. She would be biting her lip, arms crossed, eyebrows furrowed. “Come over, will you? I’ll make tea. You two can talk.” Another pause. “He needs a friend. He needs you.”

 

Harry pondered this for a moment. Liam had been a dick over the phone, but in all fairness, Harry was a dick way more often. Toss a couple shots down Harry’s throat, and he spews insults and makes an ass of himself. Over the years, Liam had dealt with more Harry crises than Harry would have liked to admit. He owed this to his friend. Besides, Liam was stressed. He never meant anything he said when he was stressed. 

 

Finally, Harry broke. “Yeah, okay. Okay. Yeah. I’ll throw on some clothes and come on over.” He strode back to his room, still holding the phone to his ear. Once in his room he remembered the ruined bed sheet. “Oh, fuck. Actually, Moira, I accidentally spilt coffee all over my bed and the sheet is ruined. I have to take care of that first.”

 

He sighed, and in dismay turned away from the bed and toward his wardrobe in hopes that the problem would disappear if he ignored it. “Oh, love, bring it over. I’ll get the stain out.”

 

Harry balked, his hand clutching a plain white t-shirt from his t-shirt drawer. “Moira, no, I can’t let you do that.”

 

“Why not? Love, my father owned a dry-cleaning business, you know that. It would be nothing. I’d be indebted to you if you made Liam normal and I didn’t do anything for you. This way we’re even.”

 

Harry grinned. “Moira, you are a goddess. I’ll be ten minutes.”

 

“See you soon,” she confirmed, and then the line went dead.

 

It took Harry a few seconds to pull the shirt over his head and roughly a minute or two to shimmy into his black skinny jeans. He must have looked crazy, hopping around the room and tugging on the belt loops of his jeans as he did so. But it was worth it once they finally slid up to rest on his hipbones. His shoes were by the door and the only thing out of the ordinary from his regular routine was folding his sheets and shoving them into a plastic bag. 

 

He left the house within three minutes of talking with Moira and he felt slightly proud of himself for the quick exit. Cloaked in a bright yellow raincoat, Harry secured the bag of sheets and made sure no water would seep in through any holes, and then stepped out into the rain. He was a funny sight. Harry was gangly and lanky and clumsy at the same time, which made him look like a giraffe trying to find its footing, especially when he danced, and especially in the wet rain where everything was slippery. His black skinny jeans made his legs look even thinner than they were, and his white shirt made him look like any average bloke, if you didn’t notice his stunning beauty. His sharp jawline, sloped nose, gorgeous jade eyes, and messy mop of curly brown hair made him anything but ordinary. And his yellow raincoat, too, was a help at letting him stand out. 

 

Thankfully the hard rain hadn’t begun yet, so the light drizzle was simply an annoyance. He was glad, though, that the wind was coming from behind him, or else the rain would have been flying in his eyes and obscuring his sight. It was difficult enough that there was wind at all, blowing his hair all over the place.

 

Harry arrived at Moira and Liam’s flat within a couple minutes, faster than he had assured Moira. He stepped into the primary room out of the rain and pressed the buzzer to be let in through the second set of doors. Moira instantly allowed him in and a green light next to the door handle shined, letting Harry know that the doors were unlocked. He opened them and sauntered in, waving a hello to the security guard who nodded in response. The elevator ride was short because their flat was on the third floor of the building. 

 

He stepped out of the elevator and moseyed through the halls of the building, halting in front of Moira and Liam’s door. He knocked twice and a moment later, the door swung open, revealing a petite blonde who looked no older than a teenager. Moira. 

 

She beamed and embraced Harry. “Thank God you’re here. I think he’s about to leave.” Worry and anxiety radiated off her body in waves, despite the angelic smile on her face. He pulled away, pecking her cheek as he did. 

 

“It’s good to see you too, Mo.” He grinned and walked into their home, following her into their living room where Liam sat with his head in his hands. 

 

The man glanced up the moment Harry’s presence appeared. His expression turned sour. “What are you doing here?”

 

“I was worried,” replied Harry, matching Liam’s icy tone. It was clear that Harry had his work cut out for him if he was going to get Liam back to the chuckling man he usually was. 

 

They simply glared at each other from opposite ends of the room and Moira sighed. “Come on, play nice.” A second later, they were still glaring. She frowned. “I’m leaving the flat, going to get a cuppa, and I will be back in an hour. Things better be fixed by the time I get back, and if they aren’t, both of you will be in hot water.” Moira pivoted on her heel and went back to the door to grab her coat. “Oh, and Harry, dear, just leave the sheets on the counter. And the water in the kettle is already hot. You know where to find everything,” she told him, referring the tea she promised on the phone. 

 

She folded her raincoat over her arm, shoved her phone in her pocket, and retrieved her wallet from the kitchen counter. Then, she blew a kiss at Liam and disappeared through the open door. It slammed when she closed it, and the sound reverberated throughout the flat, making the silence between Harry and Liam that more noticeable. 

 

Harry turned away from Liam and walked toward the counter, pulling his bag of sheets out and placing them on the edge. Then he shimmied out of his raincoat, folded it over one of the chairs, and rummaged around in the cabinets to find his and Liam’s favorite mugs. They were way in the back, so it took Harry a moment to locate them, but once he did, he pulled them from the cabinet and held them up to the light so he could get a good look at them. They were both blue and matching. Harry and Liam had made them when they were still in uni, at a charity event they held with one of the sororities. The whole idea was that college students would make tea and coffee mugs with inspirational or sweet designs and they would be donated to a struggling retirement home. Harry and Liam’d had a contest to see who could make the nicest looking mug for each other, and of course, Harry, the artsier one, had won. They’d traded mugs and had owned and cherished them ever since.

 

Blinking out of the flashback, Harry tugged the kettle from the stove and poured hot water into each of the cups. Without hesitation he dipped their favorite type of tea bag into the hot water, and then brought the two piping hot mugs over to where Liam sat. He placed both mugs on the coffee table between the couch and two chairs and nestled into the chair across from the couch where Liam still sat with his head in his hands.

 

Harry broke first. “What’s so important about this issue?” His words rang in the air between them and went unanswered for a minute or so. Then Liam pulled his head up and connected his eyes with Harry’s to make for an uncomfortably long stare.

 

“We have a buyer,” he said simply.

 

Harry raised his eyebrows, not entirely sure what Liam meant. “Sorry?” he said, as a way of encouraging Liam to explain.

 

His friend sighed. “You know Shahid Khan?” Harry shook his head. “How about Naughty Boy?” Liam tried again. The name clicked in Harry’s mind and suddenly he knew exactly what Liam was talking about. Naughty Boy was this man that fluttered around every type of business, and basically killed them. He was notorious for buying out successful businesses, running them to the ground, leaving all of their employees on the streets, and then vanishing for a few months before he repeated the pattern with another successful business. He’d been given that nickname because he was like a child who tinkered with things, broke them, and then left them so someone else could clean up the mess. Take MySpace for example. It used to be the hub of social networks, then Naughty Boy bought it. And now it was a fading memory.

 

“Naughty Boy is looking for a magazine to buy. And he has his eye on us.” Liam looked down and paused. Then, he glanced back up at Harry, and Harry saw a hint of desperation in his eye. Liam knew that Harry was judging him for even thinking about letting Naughty Boy buy them out, so he tried to justify his thought process. “Mate, he’s offering a lot of money. Like, so much money that if Moira and I had kids, I could just quit my job right now and still have enough money to support the kids and put them through uni. So much money that I could do that, and buy Moira and I a huge mansion on the countryside. And enough money to get you one too. And a dog. I could also get a dog.”

 

Harry whistled. “Damn.” But he was still confused. “So what’s all the fuss about the October issue?” he inquired, thirsty but too intrigued to pick up his tea and take a sip. 

 

“Well,” Liam began. “Khan has a few ground rules. In order to buy us out, the magazine has to contain a number of things. It can’t have any gay or trans references—“ Harry shot him a look that Liam promptly ignored, his face reddening in shame, “it can’t have a letter to the editor section, any ads concerning makeup or that shampoo brand Pantene, and about a million other nit-picky things. Plus we would have to do a piece on Naughty Boy.

 

“So, I tried to rework this issue to fit everything in, just so I would at least be able to decide if I even want to give up control over the magazine, but every time I move something around to fit in with one of his demands, another problem pops up.” 

 

Harry nodded, slowly understanding the tough position Liam had been put into. “Why didn’t you tell me?” he asked, just one part of the puzzle still missing.

 

“Mate, you’re a huge gossip.” Harry went to make a noise of protest, but realized that Liam was kind of right. “If I told you, you would probably go and tell everyone, and then everyone would be panicked that they were going to lose their jobs.”

 

Harry was silent for a moment. “Will they?”

 

Now it was Liam’s turn to be quiet. “I don’t know,” he answered truthfully. “I honestly don’t know.”

 

In unison they picked up their tea and took sips from the mugs. The warm liquid pooled in Harry’s stomach like a virus, and he felt worse than he had before. “So what are you going to do? About the October issue?”

 

Liam sighed and ran the hand not holding the mug through his sandy hair. He appeared worn out. Too worn out for a man in his twenties. “Well it would be easier to just reject the buyer and continue on like we’ve always been,” he reasoned. “But I feel like we need to change something up, you know? We’re all getting too comfortable in our jobs and the magazine is successful, but for how long?” His questions were all rhetorical so Harry kept silent. “I am positive now that I don’t want Naughty Boy buying us out. But I still want to make some changes to the issue.”

 

Relief flooded his system, but then panic quickly followed. What types of changes was Liam entertaining? Harry decided that he was here less as a member of a brainstorming group and more as someone to encourage Liam to brainstorm. “What types of changes?” he asked, prompting Liam, his ears practically perking up in curiosity.

 

Liam stood up and began pacing in front of the couch. Whenever Liam was thinking hard about something, he always paced. It was a nervous tick. “Well we need to add something new. But I can’t figure out what it could be. I know we’re missing something, but I can’t put my finger on it.”

 

Harry was beginning to get frustrated. What could the magazine possibly be missing? Harry couldn’t tell whether Liam was referring to a new piece, or a new writer, or a new section, but he was confused as hell. From what he could see, the magazine had included every possible thing a magazine could include. They had celebrity gossip and current events and articles and advertisements and games and absolutely everything that Harry could think of. Maybe it was possible that Liam was just crazy.

 

And out of absolutely nowhere, Liam just froze. He slowly turned, and Harry could see the wheels turning in his head as he did. Once he was facing Harry, he said, “Mate, I think I’ve got it.”

 

Well, Harry was interested to say the least. “What?”

 

“A website.”

 

Before Liam could continue, Harry interjected, “A website? We already have a website, mate. Take a sip of your tea and go back to bed. I think the lack of sleep is getting to you.”

 

“No, no, I’m serious. What could we improve on?” Before Harry could respond, Liam answered his own question. “Our website. It isn’t original. The only thing you can do on it is read the latest issue. I want to be different than the other magazines, and I also want to be superior to them. That is why, instead of having a traditional website, we are going to have a blog.”

 

“A blog?”

 

“Yes, a blog. There are so many social media sites and we need to be on all of them. We need to make our site a social media platform.”

 

Harry still didn’t understand. “Okay, I don’t follow.” 

 

Liam was pacing again, but this time his hands were moving as he spoke and he was explaining rapidly and animatedly. “I want our site to be fast reacting like Twitter. I want our site be as picture-heavy as Instagram. And I want it to be as creative as Tumblr.” He paused, his mouth trying to catch up with his thoughts. “It will have gossip and realtime news and pictures and videos and games and staff life posts and we will hold events and contests and giveaways and opportunities for self-expression.” He was breathless by the time he finished. His expression was nothing less than crazed.

 

But his excitement was helping Harry start to understand. “Wait, I think I get it. So basically we put together the best aspects of each social media platform to create website that is entertaining and stimulating on every possible level?”

 

Liam turned to him rapid fire and made finger guns at his chest. “Exactly!” 

 

Liam was too excited to work through the nitty gritty details, so Harry stood up and went to find a notepad. Once he located one, he found a pen randomly in the middle of their kitchen counter. Then he strode back into the living room where Liam was still muttering under his breath to himself, eyes straight on the ground. 

 

Harry made a list of all the questions he had off the top of his head and a second list of the possible features. As soon as he was done, he grasped Liam’s attention and they went over everything together in a brainstorm session so long that it was dark by the time they were finished and Moira was preparing dinner in the kitchen. 

 

When they were finally through talking about the new website, Moira interrupted them. “Dinner is ready,” she chirped, brighter and happier than before, no doubt because Liam was being extra affectionate. He crowded her to his side and kissed the top of her head like she was a precious little pixie.

 

“I’ll be out of your hair then,” Harry assured them, ambling over to the kitchen counter to retrieve his raincoat. His steps were faster than usual, eager to leave them to their romantic dinner for two.

 

Moira stepped out of Liam’s embrace to stand in front of Harry. “You’re not staying? You’re absolutely welcome to.”

 

Harry shook his head as he pulled the raincoat over his back and pushed his arms through the sleeves. “No, but thank you for the offer. I’m actually meeting some friends at a pub tonight and I should be going.”

 

Liam cracked up at this. “Harry with friends other than me? I don’t believe it.”

 

Harry froze in putting his hood over his head. “Ha-ha,” he deadpanned, giving Liam a playful glare. “I do have friends other than you. I’ll prove it. I’ll send you pictures tonight,” Harry told him matter-of-factly. 

 

Liam raised his eyebrows. “I look forward to those pictures.”

 

They exchanged a look, before Moira interrupted. “God, it sounds like you two are talking about sending each other nudes. It’s creeping me out.”

 

This broke the tension in the air and they all shared a hearty laugh before Harry hugged Moira and waved a goodbye to Liam. He was out the door in a jiffy, pulling his raincoat tight around his body as he bounded down the three flights of stairs that separated him from the main lobby. He had pent up energy now, and adrenaline running through his veins. 

 

He had lied to Liam. He wasn’t actually meeting friends. Harry had just been planning to head to the bar, get drunk, and then head home like he did many nights a week. And now, Harry had promised photos of him and his nonexistent friends.

 

He paused at the exit to the building, surveying what he was about to get himself into. The rain was torrential and the wind whipped all of the people outside around violently. It mirrored Harry’s anxiety. As he put a hand on the door to let himself into the chaotic storm, he wondered blandly, how did I get myself into this mess, and how the hell will I get myself out of it?

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