Boys of Summer

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(Artwork by hazstylestrash)

"For excellence in pitching, your 2016 National League Cy Young Award winner, Harry Styles." As the raucous crowd in San Francisco cheered, the commissioner presented a black plaque with a steel-cast hand holding a baseball.

Harry took the award, traced his fingernail over his name etched into the metal, and looked out at the cheering fans. Camera lights flashed, temporarily dazing him. When he was announced as the winner months ago, Harry knew an address would be expected; still, he wasn't ready. Nerves were crawling up his throat, digging their burning claws into his esophagus. He cleared his throat, met his mother's eyes in the dugout, and began his prepared speech with shaking hands.

"This is the zenith of my career: a World Series ring on my finger and a Cy Young award in my hands. I'm so incredibly proud and humbled. I never could have made it here without my family supporting me, great coaches teaching me, and an incredible team beside me, playing hard and helping me shine." Harry paused and swallowed, looked down at the award in his hands. "I dedicate this award to all the kids who think they can't. Who may've been told they couldn't play sports because of who they are. Little boys who've ever been told to man up to be on a team." He inhaled, steadying himself for what was next. "I heard this myself as a child. I was told to toughen up, be more masculine. I'm gay," Harry almost swore the stadium fell silent, but maybe his memory just muted all the sound melodramatically, "and I'm proud of who I am. All of who I am. And I want young people to know it's okay to be who you are too. Be yourself, unapologetically. As hard as it may seem to be yourself, as afraid as you are of rejection or persecution, just know that you can do whatever you want and be whoever you want, and there will be people out there who will love and support you unconditionally."

The crowd definitely cheered at this point, Harry was certain, and he felt loved and supported, some of his fear dissolving in the roar of their applause.

Harry's mom moved forward from behind the cameras and wrapped her arms around him. He hugged her for a long time. "I love you," she cried into his chest. "I'm so proud of you, baby."

Tearing up himself, Harry kissed her head and smiled at the cameras. "This is my mom, everyone. The greatest woman on earth, who has always loved and supported me unconditionally. I've donated the monetary prize that accompanies this great honor to The Trevor Project, which supports LGBT youth struggling with depression. It gets better." He kissed his mom one more time as he handed her the plaque then waved to the crowd. "Thank you."

Harry's whole body was trembling as he went back into the dugout, met by stunned silence from his teammates. Thankfully, he wasn't pitching today, so he could sit and breathe and think about what he had just done. Maybe that wasn't something to be thankful for. Maybe pitching would have been a valuable diversion. Harry felt small, and scared, and so very vulnerable.

After a few minutes, once the game was underway, his pitching coach sat beside him. "Congratulations, Styles," his voice was low and steady, as always.

"Thank you, coach. I couldn't have gotten here without you."

"You're welcome, Haz, but I meant your speech." He patted Harry's knee with his knuckles as he stood and moved along to sit with the other coaches.

The rest of the game passed by in a daze. In the locker room afterwards, the odd distance and silence continued. Harry changed into his street clothes and left without a word. For the next several weeks, he was isolated. He showed up for practice and games, did his job, and left again. He didn't communicate with anyone unless he had to, and always only about the game. But he often read the sports news. Big mistake. Huge mistake. Hall of fame level mistake. Most of his teammates simply had no comment, but others, including an outfielder Harry considered to be a friend, expressed concern about locker room ogling, lamented the forthcoming media frenzy, called him fame-hungry. Players from other teams said far worse. Fans...he couldn't believe the words that were still in use, the horrible things they called him. He cried himself to sleep more often than not.

Boys of Summer // A Larry Stylinson ShortWhere stories live. Discover now