sleepless I harry styles
synopsis: the party cleanup
disclaimer: mentions of selfharm, mentions of scars
just remember that sometimes, the way you think about a person isn’t the way they actually are - John Green
At 3am the party had finally started to die down, people slowly funneling their way out. And by 3:30, All the guests were gone, leaving Avery, Harry, and Francis. Avery was on her fourth cup of coffee, the caffeine keeping her awake enough to not pass out on the couch. Everyone was sitting in the living room, strewn around the space. All of them winding down from the energy that the party created. It was silent. Serene. Comforting, in a way.
Harry was the first to move, starting to pick up the mess that swept the entire flat. Avery and Francis joined him soon after. They collected all the cups and plates that were scattered about, bringing all of them to the kitchen. Francis washed the dishes, Avery dried and put them away, and Harry made several trips around the apartment to collect all the trash.
Avery was lost in her own world, taking her time in drying the dishes and figuring out where they were kept. A tap on her shoulder had broken her from her trance. When she looked back, she saw Francis with a big soapy beard on his face. His jaw was completely covered in bubbles.
“How do I look, Avery?”
“Absolutely fabulous, if I do say so myself.” They were giggling like children, the sound echoing through the kitchen.
The laughter had Harry making his way to the source, and the sight in front of him had him laughing too. It was nice seeing Avery and Francis smiling and laughing. It was something that he hadn’t seen in a while, mainly from his friend. Maybe this party really was what he needed. Maybe this was a fresh start.
“Alright Old Saint Nick, let's get the kitchen cleaned up, after that we are finished till the morning.”
Harry chuckled, throwing a towel to Francis, and after he wiped his face clean, they continued. The rest of the dishes were washed and put away, the counters were wiped down, and the floors were swept. Avery had the cake she made in her hands, about to put it in the fridge, before she heard someone protest.
“Nope. You're not putting that masterpiece away until you try a piece.”
Francis hastily took it out of her hands, grabbed a paper plate, and cut a small slice out of the cake. He just about shoved it into her hands, not taking his eyes off of her until she took a bite. "It's very sugary," She said, grimacing as she swallows her first bite. "I think I need to cut down on that the next time"
"I think it’s great," Francis shrugs, getting a new fork to take a bite from her piece. "I mean, considering this is one of your first cakes, this is amazing."
"Thank you." After tasting the cake herself, Avery doubted that he was telling the truth. It was awful. "Harry, you try a bite" She holds the fork out to Harry and he doesn't even take the utensil from her, but eats it straight from the fork. The silly action instantly made her blush, All the heat rushing to her face and making it beet red. But the redness of her cheeks quickly vanishes as Harry loudly coughs, and nearly downs a whole glass of water after swallowing the small bite of cake.
"I'm sorry, Ave, but..." He takes a breath. "that is revolting. Francis, how are you just eating that?" Avery giggles, looking over at Francis, who has almost finished her piece.
"I can feel the cavities forming in my teeth..." He takes another sip off his water.
"I like it." Francis concludes with a shrug. "Anyways, Avery, are you staying here or should we take you home? I can play my charm and convince Mrs Sheffield to give us her car keys."
"It's 4am," Harry frowns.
“Trust me, she loves me!"
They keep bantering back and forth while Avery contemplates if she should stay or go. She had been with Harry for a majority of the weekend, rarely leaving his side. She didn’t want to overwhelm him. Didn’t want him to get tired of her presence or feel like she was clinging to him. "You can stay, Ave. It's no problem." Harry says, bringing her back into reality with his green eyes looking into her own.
"I don't want to bother you guys"
"You're not bothering anyone. Stay. I can walk you home after breakfast"
Her gaze moves over to Francis, who was putting the cake back into its container. She was looking for him to protest, for him to say that he didn’t want her there. But he didn’t seem bothered in the slightest, so she nods. "Alright, just til after breakfast."
Harry breaks into a smile and Francis puts the dessert in the fridge, slowly closing the door. "Great, now that this has been discussed, I am going to bed." Francis said goodnight to the two before vanishing in his bedroom. Avery noticed how Harry's eyes stayed fixed on his friends door for a moment.
"He likes you." Harry then says, turning back to her with a gleaming smile.
He walks over to her, leaning against the kitchen counter. "When do you go back to work?"
"You're going to be tired."
"I'll be fine." She murmurs. In the dim kitchen light, Harry can see the three freckles on her nose, and the different shades of blue in her eyes. There had been numerous times where he’d thought about kissing Avery. More than he would like to admit. So many times where he wanted to sweep the loose strand of hair behind her ear, cup her cheek, and put his lips onto her own. He believed that, maybe, her pain would leave after he kissed her. He knew that it was stupid. That it was impossible. That something that mundane could ever fix the pain that she had felt.
So, out of all these times, he picked this one. He picked this time because he was tired. He picked this time because he still had some liquid courage coursing through his veins. He picked this time because she looked just… so unbearably sad. Even though he knew she had a great time that night, there was this underlying look to her. Even at her happiest, she always looked to be sad. Like she was in a great world of pain. Always.
He slowly leaned closer, his gaze fixed on hers. She didn't move away from him as their eyes met. "I don't think we should do that," Her breath is warm against his lips. "You'd regret it."
"I doubt that." His words are hushed, and if he leaned a bit closer, just the smallest bit, their lips would touch. Averys gaze switched between his eyes and his lips. She wants to be brave enough to close the gap. She does. But there is a small voice in her head telling her that it's wrong. That she will destroy everything that she has created if she moves forward with what's happening.
"You're so soft nobody knows how to take care of you".. "You know what you are? An ungrateful brat. That's all that you are, and that’s all you’ll ever be".
"You're pathetic, I can't deal with you anymore. No one can."
"I'm sorry but... I can't." She whispers and she doesn't have to tell him that's it because of her mind, her past, and everything that she continues to hide from him. He knows.
"I get it." Harry reassures her and instead of kissing her lips, he kisses her forehead.
“I’m sorry… I’m so sorry.” He leaned in again, pressing his lips to her forehead once more. This time letting them linger.
“It’s okay, Ave. It’s alright. You don't need to be sorry.”
So, instead of kissing, they watch Lost In Translation. Harry had fallen asleep shortly after, his head resting on her thigh, and Avery’s fingers gently carted through his soft, honey brown curls. Somewhen, the morning sun illuminated the living room. The early morning rays casting a golden shadow over the room. Bathing everything in what could only be described as eternal light.
Francis emerged from his bedroom soon after the sun rose, stopping for a short second to look at his friend. Harry was asleep on Avery's lap, his face cuddled into her stomach with her hand resting on his head. He looked so at peace, even youthful in his sleep. He was getting the rest that Francis knew he deserved. That he needed.
Seeing him and Avery together made Francis happy. He saw the way that they had interacted during the party. They were always together, never spending much time apart.
Francis made his way to the kitchen, getting himself a glass of water. He got a cup out of a cabinet, one that had been washed only hours ago, and filled it at the kitchen sink. not bothering with ice, it was too early for ice cold water. Once the cup was full, he turned off the tap and turned around. He jumped and nearly dropped his cup, startled to see Avery stood at the entrance of the small space.
“Jesus! You scared me.” Francis leaned against the counter, holding a hand up to his chest in an effort to slow his racing heart.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to.”
They stood there in silence for a while. Avery eventually made her way into the kitchen, sitting atop of the counter closest to the entrance. Francis was looking out the small window they had in the kitchen, and Avery watched. He didn’t seem to be actively in the room. His mind was elsewhere. This was a different kind of silence. Not like the atmosphere that they had experienced after everyone had left hours ago. This one was darker, in a way.
Somehow, Avery knew. She just knew. She knew that he was troubled. Maybe it was the worry that Harry always had in his eyes when looking at his friend. Maybe it was the dread that showed in Harry’s face whenever he called. Or maybe it was her own personal experience. But, either way, she knew. She could see the scars that littered his arms, the ones he had tried so desperately to cover, and it made her angry. Did she have a real right to be angry? No. She didn’t truly know the boy that was standing in front of her, but she knew enough. She knew enough to know that he shouldn’t feel that kind of pain. From what she had seen, he was funny, caring, and he stood by his friends. He cared for his friends. She didn’t want anyone to know half of what she had been through, what she had felt. And she knew that he had.
“Just… thank you.”
He looked bewildered by her words, not knowing what they were for. “For what, Avery?”
“For earlier. Eric. You saw that he was bothering me and you told him off. I never got to thank you for it.”
“Oh… it was no problem. He was being a prick. He kept on advancing towards you when you told him no, and I won't stand by to see that.” He made his way to the kitchen sink, Avery not too far from him, and started to rinse out his empty glass. Avery watched as he did so, closing her eyes shortly after to let them rest for a minute.
“Can you promise me something?” He looked into her eyes, a serious glint inside of them.
“I guess so… what is it?”
“This probably isn’t my place, and I apologize if I offend you in any way. But, just… please stand up for yourself. Okay? There are loads of blokes like Eric, people who will take advantage of you because you are too nice, people who will disregard your rejection of their actions. You have to stand up for yourself. I would hate to see you get hurt because of something like that.”
She was taken aback by what he was saying. She didn’t know how to respond, at least not right now. So she simply nodded her head, casting her eyes downward.
“And thank you for the cake, I really appreciate it.”
“Of course. I'm glad.”
Avery’s apartment was a wreck. Various papers and notebooks littered every surface as she tried to find a good sample she could send over to Hughes Magazine. This was a real opportunity, one that needed to be taken seriously. She has the chance to be a published writer, to have something that she had written somewhere in the world for people to see. To say that this was nerve wracking was a major understatement. Avery was sitting in the middle of her living room looking like a mad woman, frantically flipping through notebooks in hopes of finding something that she deemed good enough.
After going through every piece of writing she had, she decided to submit two short stories and a handful of poems. She chose pieces that, she hopes, shows her diversity as a writer. Avery wanted this to be something, just once. She added her CV and all the other required information before attaching the poems and stories at the end of the e-mail, sending it off to their office in London before closing her laptop, pushing every bad thought aside.
As she began to pick up the mess she had made in the process, Avery's phone lit up showing her a message from Tom.
Tom: Hey, is there any chance you could come in early tomorrow? I've found a potential new employee and I would like you to show her around a bit.
Avery: Sure. How much earlier?
Tom: Thirty minutes early will be fine, just need a second opinion on her. She would be starting work soon, if she is decent at everything.
Avery: I'll be there.
Tom: Thank you, Avery :)
"What do you think about the editing?" Harry questions Francis, showing his laptop with the edited photo on the screen. He spent the whole Sunday in front of the computer, trying to finish editing the set his boss needed for an upcoming ad. His eyes were exhausted and his head ached from the hours he spent looking at the monitor screen.
"I like it," Francis says with a shrug, continuing to eat his Ben and Jerry's out of the paper container.
"I need constructive criticism, Frany. Saying you like it is not cutting it anymore." Harry groans, putting his head back to regain composure and stretch his sore neck.
"You know I'm devoted to the numbers.'" Francis replies with a sigh. "I can't give you constructive criticism when I don't understand it."
"It's art. Most of the time you don't have to understand it."
"Why are you not doing your black and white photography? I love it and I know you do too, I'm sure there are some people who would buy it."
"Those “some people” aren't going to pay rent," Harry closes the laptop, realizing Francis really wouldn't be much help here, and layed down on the sofa, his head atop the arm rest. "I wish I could just do that."
"I’d say do it. Do what makes you happy. That's what you always tell me, anyway."
"Yes, but you're different," Harry murmurs, his eyes closed and his forearm shielding them from the sunlight. "And what would I photograph? I don't go out anymore, I barely see James or Emily or Anais anymore. And God, I have a million photographs of you already."
"First of all, you make that sound like a bad thing." Francis replies, before eating another spoon of his ice cream. "Why don't you do a series on Avery?"
"She doesn't like being photographed."
“May I remind you that that's what you do? Take photographs without people noticing, so it's not staged."
"Yes I know, but-" Before Harry can finish his sentence Francis makes his way to Harry's room only to come out a minute later with a large black and white print. Harry remembered that day as if it were yesterday. It was Anais’s birthday party. Francis wasn't well that day so Harry had to take him to the party, he didn’t trust him enough to leave him home alone. He had spent the whole evening making rounds around the house, camera in tow, capturing every guest he could.
The photo in front of him showed Francis in an armchair in Anais’s living room. There was a half empty glass of champagne in his hand and a red balloon tied to his pinky, and at the first glance it almost looked comical. This sad boy with all the balloons, presents, and dancing people around him.
That same night, Harry had gotten absolutely wasted. So, when Francis told him that he wanted to go home, he didn't hold him back. He didn't look at him, not really, not like he should have. Once he had finally made his way back to their flat, he found Francis cutting himself on the bathroom floor and immediately sobered up. They didn't talk while Harry gently patched his friend up, doing so with so much care that it made Francis cry. And they didn't talk while Harry sent Francis to bed before he cleaned the bathroom, blaming himself for everything that had happened in the process.
Despite everything that came after, this was still one of his favorite photographs he had ever taken. The black and white didn't seem dramatic, but natural. He caught Francis without a mask, just Francis. It was safe to say that his best friend despised the whole thing, he didn't like it one bit and Harry was sure that if he hadn't stopped him, Francis would have ripped the print to shreds immediately.
"I really like that print..." Harry mumbles, eyeing the photograph that feels like it was taken so long ago. When he was still so naive and inexperienced, thinking he could just do this his whole life. "But I can't do it. I have to think about earning money, this dream won't take me anywhere."
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