Chapter 16 ~ Firefly

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"Boo?"  

An enormous shock ran down Louis's spine, his hazel eyes widening with alarm as the quiet, choked voice cut through the dull patter of rain over the woods.  He gasped sharply, his shoulders hunching instinctively as the sound startled him.  And he squeezed his eyes hut tightly for a moment, taking a deep breath as he recovered.  

"Harry?" he replied desperately, letting his eyes flutter open once more as they tore across his surroundings.  

"Here," the voice croaked weakly, and Louis spun around, his eyebrows furrowing in concentration, and he squinted through the downpour to see a familiar, deep shade of purple peering from behind a thick tree.  Louis shuffled quickly through to soggy, torn leaves and around the tree.  He looked down to see the huddled, drenched form of Harry bundled into a pathetic, sopping mound on the floor of the woods.  

"Haz," Louis said wretchedly, gazing helplessly down at him and lowering into a crouch beside him.  He did not hesitate to wrap his cold, wet hand around Harry's shoulder, squeezing gently, and a sudden, small shock of sadness bit at his chest when Harry cringed from his touch, his muscles tensing immediately.  Louis frowned, determine to comfort him.  He draped his arm across Harry's shoulders and cupped his fingers around the base of his neck, knowing exactly which places to touch in order to calm Harry.  What on earth was going on; what had Harry experienced in the past hour to make him seem so...distant?  

As Louis's fingers kneaded and rubbed the sore muscles of Harry's neck, however, he gradually felt Harry begin to relax beneath him, although his head was still bent slightly in a tense, defensive position.  

"Oh, Harry, why are you out here in the rain?  It's been hours," Louis said quietly, looking concernedly into Harry's face.  Frankly, he looked like he'd been through the ringer.  His curls were laying limply atop his head, plastered and dripping down his forehead, sending dribbles of rainwater trickling onto his long, brown eyelashes, causing them to clod messily together.  His cheekbones and the whites of his eyes were pink and raw, as if he had been rubbing them vigorously.  

Somehow, even with a swollen face and knotted hair, Louis still found himself thinking that he looked...Beautiful.  

Well, he is beautiful, Louis thought defensively.  Anyone in their right mind would agree.  He had never thought differently.  Surely, he could find his friends attractive without  it meaning anything, couldn't he? ...Couldn't he?  

Yet then again, Harry wasn't a normal friend.  He wasn't even like a brother to Louis.  He was...Harry was...

Louis swallowed dryly as he realised he was lost for words as to describe Harry.  Harry was simply Harry, and that would, always, always be good enough for Louis. The question was, would Louis be good enough in return?  

"Fell asleep," Harry mumbled, his voice slightly trembling as his lips shuddered.  As Louis's hazel eyes roamed anxiously over his lips, it dawned on him just how pale they were.  He sighed.  If Harry had been huddled here, no ability to shiver for warmth in his unconscious state, there was a very good chance he was ill.  

"Let's get you inside," Louis said quietly, but Harry's face crumpled pathetically, his green eyes widening in anguish, and he lay his head down on his knees.  Louis bit his lip, a rush of sympathy and sadness for the boy biting his chest.  "Come on, Harry, you can't stay out here, you idiot," he said with a breathy, affectionate laugh.  "Let's go."  He slid his hands beneath Harry's shoulders, lifting him gently under the arms, and Harry struggled weakly.  

"No," he croaked, his voice hoarse and raspy.  "I can't.  Please, Lou, just..." He trailed off, diverting his gaze from Louis's.

Louis bit back another sigh as he brought his lips to Harry's ear, whispering, "It's okay.  I've got you."  Harry seemed to contemplate resisting for a moment, before he realised that he was in no position to grapple, and he let himself go limp in Louis's grasp.  

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