I LOVE YOU 3000!
The after-party was chaotic. Familiar faces all around, waving at Harry or congratulating him, but Harry couldn't be bothered. His eyes looked around for Louis, but he was nowhere to be seen. His heart sank and he sadly wondered if Louis had boarded the flight back home instead. Ten minutes later, to his utter joy, Louis arrived at the party with Liam and instantly struck up a conversation with a group of people who positively beamed at his presence. Louis really was everyone's favourite. Niall was right. People love him. Why had he not known him then before his interview? But that wasn't important now ; he had to talk to Louis.
He waited for a chance to corner Louis but with hardly any success. He always seemed to be talking with someone or the other.
But apparently his friends were upto something. Niall had texted Zayn the details of what had happened at the red carpet and they had a new plan at hand.
Niall had seen Louis walk towards the bathroom because "someone" spilled a bit of champagne on his shoes and asked Liam to execute the next part. Liam "accidentally" bumped into Harry and spilled some hot coffee on his hands and Zayn being the good friend that he was offered to show him the bathroom and led him exactly where Louis was.
"I'll wait outside Harry."
No sooner did Harry enter the bathroom than Zayn closed it from outside. Harry quickly turned back, not understanding what had happened, and was about to call out to Zayn when his eyes fell on the mirror and on the reflection of a man on it who looked stunned.
"What the hell?"
"I'm sorry, I didn't know you were here."
"Well now you do, so could you just go outside?" Louis tried his best to keep his voice level, not willing to show the panic he was feeling.
Harry tried the knob, but it was no use.
"Zayn? Zayn I'm kinda stuck here. Could you just see if you can open it?" Harry shouted.
Behind him, Louis' brows furrowed, "Zayn? What's he doing outside?"
"Oh he is waiting for me. I didn't know where the bathroom was."
Realisation seemed to dawn on Louis and he pounded the door.
"Zayn you idiot! You did this intentionally! Open the door right fucking now."
"Only if you guys talk," Zayn replied, voice strained from trying not to laugh.
"What do you think this is Zayn? Some teen rom-com? We're not in high school! Open the damn door!"
"Harry you better start talking," shouted Zayn, ignoring Louis, "I'm already giving you a headstart."
Louis quickly turned to face Harry, "This was your idea?!"
"No! I came to wash my hands. Liam accidentally spilled some coffee."
"Accident? Sure," Louis said, rolling his eyes.
"I'm not lying!"
"Well that's news."
"Louis you can't go on being like this with me when you won't even let me explain what happened!"
"Lou, you better listen, else I'm not opening the door," came Zayn's voice from the other side.
"I'll deal with you later Zayn," Louis shouted back, and turning to Harry said, "fine. You have five minutes."
"What? oh okay. This was a stunt."
Louis waited for Harry to say more but seeing that Harry wasn't going to, said, " that's it? That's your explanation for being a jerk?"
"No I mean, Louis I'm so sorry for behaving the way I did. But I had to keep myself away to do what the manager had asked of me. I had agreed to the stunt. I'm sorry. I should have told you."
"Yes, you should have. What did you think I'd go shouting about it like a child?"
"Of course not. Even though I don't like it, I have seen it happen. People date for movies. And you told me that previously too there were so many rumours about you."
"Oh thank g--"
"What I don't understand is why you lied to me?"
"You said you liked me and I thought like a fool, that what we had was something special, but you proved me wrong. What was I Harry? An experiment? You wanted to see what it is like to be with another man? Did you use me then?"
"Shut up Louis! You don't know what you're talking about," Harry said. His temper was rising at Louis' words. "How can you even think that? I'm not some monster Louis."
"Then why did you hide everything? Why did you agree to the stunt?"
"I didn't have an option," Harry replied slowly.
"Really Harry? You're a grown man and you didn't have an option? I'm supposed to believe that?"
"Why are you so intent on not believing a single word I say?"
"You've lost my trust Harry."
Harry took several deep breaths and started again, "look I'm sorry okay. I should have told you. And I've already been scolded about it, by multiple people. But you need to understand that I was scared and very new to these situations. Being with you was new and scary for me. You made everything easy Louis but I didn't have the heart to talk to you about it. Especially since I didn't have the option to back out."
"What do you mean?"
"My manager didn't give me an option, but I don't wanna go in the details." Harry knew very well that telling Louis what his manager had told him would only upset him more. Right now Louis didn't need to know that the stunt was initiated because of his and Louis' relation growing popular among the fans or about his manager threatening to get in the way of Louis' career. That was a conversation for when Louis would be calmer. "And he was the one who asked me to cut down my social interactions with you."
"And you listened?"
"I had to Louis. My career was at stake."
Getting no response from Louis, Harry said, "I get it if you're mad at me. But I just wanted you to know that I wouldn't ever hurt you intentionally. The situation I was in back then wasn't really in my control. I hope you can forgive me."
"Fine," Louis replied after a while.
"What?" Harry didn't dare to hope much but he could feel his spirits slowly rising at the prospect of Louis accepting his apology.
"You wanted to explain. You did. I listened. Now I want to go."
"Just like that?"
"Just like that."
Louis knocked the door a few times and called for Zayn, but getting no response, proceeded to call him.
Zayn came by in a minute, "Did you TALK?"
"Yes Zayn,open the door for fucks sake."
"Okay okay, I was talking to someone and guiding them away from this bathroom. Thank me later."
"How thoughtful," Louis scowled.
Zayn opened the door with a bright smile which faltered as soon as he saw Harry and Louis' face, "Uh I'm guessing that didn't go well."
Louis shoved past him and back into the party and Harry just nodded sadly at Zayn before walking away with him.
For the rest of the party, Harry sat in a corner with a dull expression, avoiding conversation whenever he could but talking politely when approached by someone. In the other side, Louis seemed to be having the time of his life with Taylor, Niall and some other artists. From what he could gather, Louis absolutely detested liars which is why he wasn't talking to him, and had absolutely no problem in hanging around with Taylor. He tried to catch Louis' eyes several times, but every time their eyes accidentally met, Louis diverted his gaze with such speed, that Harry was left to wonder whether or not Louis would ever talk to him. Anne's words rang in his ears, but he couldn't think of any way to soften Louis. He'd have to talk to Niall tomorrow.
As for Louis, his mind went back to how it was before he saw Harry with Taylor today, torn between wanting to stay mad at Harry and accepting his apology, giving him the benefit of doubt. Ultimately he decided on pushing all thoughts away for tonight and just enjoying the party. It's not everyday you attend the after-party with your favourite artists.
At the other end of the party, a small distance from Harry, sat Zayn and Liam. Zayn was dead tired for having to work back to back these past few days and wasn't particularly in the mood to dance or socialize. Liam was only too happy to keep him company.
They talked about the party, about their respective works and about Louis and Harry. Both of them were growing considerably drunk and slowly their conversation was ceasing to make sense.
They sat in silence, Zayn glancing in the direction where Louis was dancing with the others. Liam followed his line of sight and felt his heart sink. Louis was huddled with Taylor and Niall for selfies. With a pang of sadness he remembered the first time the five of them had hung out and how Zayn and Niall had connected instantly.
"Are you in love Zayn?"
"Cool I guess."
"Nah. Nope. Not cool. What is the use if I'm not loved back?" Zayn slurred, still looking at their friends some distance away.
"What kind of moron wouldn't love you?"
Zayn raised his eyebrows and nodded in aforesaid direction.
"Niall?" Liam asked slowly.
Zayn whipped his head back to Liam with an incredulous expression on his face, "this isn't Escapade Liam?"
"Nothing. It's Taylor."
"Oh." That had completely slipped out of his head.
Liam continued to gloomily look at the drink in his hand and Zayn nudged him.
"What about you? Are you in love? Who is it?"
It was probably the drink, but before he could stop himself, Liam blurted out, "you."
Zayn was going to laugh because it obviously had to be a joke, but one look at Liam's face told him it wasn't.
He almost spluttered the champagne he was drinking and said, "wait for real?"
Liam's expression was a mix of horror and embarrasment and he just groaned and his his face behind his hands.
"Tell me Liam," Zayn squeaked, trying to pry away Liam's hands.
"Yes," came a muffled reply.
"What the fuck, that was ages ago! And wait you have dated a decent number of people in the past years."
"It didn't matter."
"Aw Liam look at me. You're one of my best friends okay. You could have talked to me about it."
"And what good would that have done."
"You could have moved on idiot."
"I didn't want to," Liam said, holding Zayn gaze, who smiled and kissed him.
Liam froze and for a moment couldn't react, but he quickly leaned in to Zayn's touch. It wasn't heated and neither were desperate, but it felt a bit intimate and just as suddenly Zayn had approached, he broke the kiss too. Liam should have felt elated, but he wasn't. There were no fireworks, as he had been dreaming for years. It wasn't magic.
Zayn was still smiling and he could tell that Zayn hadn't felt it either.
"So?" Zayn asked tentatively.
"You knew what you were doing-"
"And you don't regret it?"
"No Liam, but wait, that doesn't mean that this is gonna continue" Zayn hastily replied.
Liam laughed slowly, "No no I understood that. And I think I'm okay with it."
"Yeah, I think I had this idea of a perfect relationship with you in my head ans this-"
"Didn't rise to your expectations? Are you calling me a bad kisser Liam? How incredulous!"
"No I mean you were great, but this, us, it didn't feel right. We're probably better off as friends."
"I'm glad to hear you say that. Liam, you and I are quite different people, similar enough to be the best of friends, but quite unfit for anything more."
"I can see that."
"So you're not heartbroken or anything."
"No," Liam huffed a laugh, "if anything you've cleared my head."
"My pleasure. It's pretty late man, we have an early flight tomorrow, lets head back."
"Yeah, you wait, I'm getting Louis."
Owing to the early flight, Louis had made sure that he didn't drink at the party and therefore was surprised to find Zayn grumpy with a headache the next day.
"I'm just gonna sleep throughout the flight and I'll be fine," Zayn groaned.
On reaching the boarding gate, Louis saw, to his horror that Niall and Harry were boarding the same flight too. He felt weak. He hadn't been able to stop thinking about what Harry said last night. A part of him wanted to forget everything and make a fresh start, but the other part was really mad because he was tired of people treating him like he was some kid. Didn't tell you because I didn't want to hurt you. That's the excuse everyone gave and it upset him that Harry saw him like that too. If there's anything he hated more than being treated as a kid, that was lying, which Harry low-key did. Maybe he ought to continue the silent treatment. That ought to teach him.
Harry parked his car a little distance away from Louis house, so as to give no hints to Louis about his presence.
He at once went to the backyard of the building and set to work with the fairly lights he'd bought.
Once he was satisfied with his work, he connected the lights to the portable battery and started looking around for stones to throw at Louis' balcony. It was past dinner time and Louis was likely to be in his room at the moment.
The second floor balcony seemed quite high from here, so he'd have to aim properly. He didn't wanna disturb the neighbours and certainly didn't wanna accidentally break something on Louis' balcony.
Soon he found a moderately sized pebble and threw it upwards. Luckily it did reach Louis' balcony, but made no sound. He attempted again with another pebble, and this time he could hear a distinct clunk of the pebble hitting the wall or the door.
He didn't have to wait for long, because Louis seemed to have run to his window clutching what looked like Theo's cricket bat, probably fearing a burglar. Louis was astonished to find Harry standing in the middle of the backyard all alone.
"What on earth are you doing here Harry? You gave me a scare."
"Well I wanted to talk."
"And this is how civilized people do that?"
"Well I would have called but you've blocked my number."
Louis sighed, "what did you wanna say?"
Truth be told, there was nothing more to say in his defence. Harry had already explained the entire situation to Louis. And now the only thing that remained was a confession.
Harry turned on the key to the battery and in an instant, the garden was illuminated with a golden glow coming from the fairy lights spread on the ground, set up in a manner that they read "I LOVE YOU 3000 ♡".
Louis' jaw dropped and Harry waited with bated breath. He'd expected Louis to say atleast something. What he hadn't expected was for Louis to turn around and go back inside, slamming the door behind him.
Dejected, he stood still for a while, wondering where he went wrong and then decided to pack everything up and leave. He'd only reached out to turn the battery off, when he heard fast footsteps approaching him and looked around to find Louis sprinting towards him. He barely had time to register what was happening, before Louis threw himself on Harry, resulting in Harry losing balance and both of them falling to the ground.
Harry's joy knew no bounds. Louis was here with him, in his arms and all was possibly forgotten and forgiven.
Harry started, "Louis I--"
But Louis stopped him with a kiss. Everything else could wait. Both Louis and Harry's face was completely flushed when they pulled back and in the silent night, when the only sound came from the rustling of leaves and the loud beating of their hearts, they started at each other.
Louis broke the silence,
"So, how about we complete the last movie we left unfinished?"
Harry blushed, "only if you're not too tired."
"For Marvel? Never." Both of them laughed and together, packed up all the fairy lights Harry had put up.
Back in the apartment, it was once again the familiar scene of projector, Clifford and cuddles on the couch.
They held each other close throughout the movie, neither willing to move away even for a second and during the heartbreaking scenes they couldn't control their tears, even Louis, who had watched the movie a dozen times. Maybe it was the fact that they were already emotional, that tears came so easily.
As they lay on the bed, side by side, Harry thought it'd be better to talk to Louis.
"Are you not mad anymore?"
"You wouldn't be here if I was."
"Hmm. So you've forgiven me?"
"Yeah," Louis turned on his side, to look at Harry, "And I would like to apologize too. I have been quite insensitive."
"It's natural. The way you reacted. You don't have to apologize for it."
"Still. You deserved an apology."
"It's okay Lou."
Louis smiled at the name. It had been a long time since Harry had used it and that made him feel immensely warm.
"There's something else I wanted to tell you too," said Harry
"So the thing about the contract - my manager was of the view that our relationship was not good for my career."
"Please calm down and listen to the whole thing first. So he basically initiated the stunt because fans were speculating too much about our relationship and he wanted to put a stop to that AND do some publicity work. Hence the stunt. He plainly told me I was not to tell anyone about us."
"Why did you not tell me Harry? All this time, you've been facing that ass of a manager alone."
"I couldn't, he kinda said that if I revealed the contract details to you, he'd sabotage both our careers."
"Like he has the power," Louis huffed in indignation.
"I know now. He doesn't have that power. But at that time I was really scared Lou, I didn't know what to do and I would have never been able to forgive myself if I became the reason of any problem you faced. So I agreed."
Tears welled up in Louis' eyes and he hugged Harry tightly, "I'm so sorry Haz, you had to face so much and I was being petty."
"Louis it's alright now. I'm with you and honestly, at the moment, I couldn't ask for anything more," Harry said, resting his head on Louis' chest and hugging him tighter.
"It's okay Lou. I was talking to someone at the party who was retiring from acting and we talked at length about managers and he told me about his last one. He said he'd arrange a meeting for us and if I like him, I can let go of my old one."
They lay in silence for a while and were slowly drifting off to sleep, when Harry said,
"There's another thing I wanna say."
"I love you."
Louis' eyes fluttered open and he smiled down at Harry, who was looking up at him and said, "and I, you."
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