32: Explanations and Ed

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C H A P T E R    T H I R T Y T W O

Explanations and Ed

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THE BLISTERING COLD of these northern winds whipped around Louis as he trudged on, biting at the very tops of his cheekbones, nipping at his toes even through the boots he wore, freezing the moisture leaking around his eyes so that his eyelashes were probably frosted by now. He couldn't really make himself any smaller, any more compact to avoid the cold; his arms were already hugging his own torso, his shoulders already hunched, his chin tucked into Harry's scarf...

Harry. Northern winds. North Pole.

Louis closed his eyes and refused to let himself think about it. Not yet. Not now. He had to focus instead on remembering the directions to Ed's place, on not succumbing to this fucking weather. How did anyone survive here? Why did he think making this trek tonight was a good idea?

Maybe if Harry hadn't been such a...a dick, an insensitive, cruel... But no. Harry wasn't those things usually, ever. What had gotten into him tonight? Especially after Louis had told him everything? He'd come clean about this for the first time ever, and this is how Harry reacts?

It's Louis' fault, really. He knew this would all end up biting him in the ass, and though he didn't think his admitting something very personal to him would be the thing he did to screw it all up, he supposed he should have known. There's only so much you can tell a person, right? Before it's too much?

He guessed he just thought Harry would be able to take it. He waited long enough, spent enough time with him, he...he'd come to care about him far more than he planned to. Fuck.

Releasing something akin to a growl, Louis ripped the scarf off his neck – it smelled so much like Harry, even in the dead of this bloody winter – and threw it down onto the snow-covered path. He stepped on it, kicked it. Stepped on it again. He wouldn't cry, but dammit this felt like it would help.

Eventually he stepped over it and continued on, deciding he'd rather not spend any more time out here in this frigid wasteland than he had to. He was over halfway to Ed's house, if Harry's directions were accurate. It's time to keep moving.

Part of Louis hated that Ed's place was the only escape he had here. He didn't expect to need one, to be fair, when he agreed to come along, but he'd prefer to be alone. That's the best way he knew how to deal with things, to think them through. He never liked having an audience. It was of course different with Harry, but...

He stopped walking. The snow beneath his boots crunched as he came to a halt, and he began thinking about making the trip home in that bizarre, uncomfortable train alone. About going back to his flat alone, coming home to Lottie and explaining why Harry wasn't with him.

Something in his chest might have cracked at the thought.

Without considering how much time he'd be losing, he turned around and retraced his steps. When he encountered Harry's scarf, he picked it up, brushed it off as best he could with his frozen, gloved fingers, and then held it tightly as he wrapped his arms around himself again and hurried on his way.


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HARRY WAS RIGHT – Ed wasn't home. Louis was hoping he might be by now, as he's certain he's been walking for well over an hour. But the front door was unlocked, and Louis didn't think twice before hurrying inside, expecting warmth and a comfortable sofa to rest on.

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