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Constant Star

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Breathe, baby girl. That’s right. And again. 

Harry’s eyes stayed squeezed shut. She kept repeating the words to herself—the ones that reminded her to breathe, but also the ones that she was about to be singing for three very important, very hard-to-please judges. 

“Y’alright, darlin’?” 

Harry blinked. She smiled at the man in front of her—early twenties, impressive locs, headset and a clipboard and a nametag Harry couldn’t quite read—and nodded. 

“‘M just trying not to throw up, sir.” 

He laughed. “Sir? Aren’t you a polite one. C’mon, you’re up next. Let’s get you side stage.” 

Harry made a face. “Do we have to?” 

The man sent her a look over his shoulder, then motioned her to hurry up. “I’d feel for you if I couldn’t see this,” he said, shaking the clipboard at her. “You’ve applied three times for a spot. I know you’re wanting this, you can’t fool me.” 

Harry slung her guitar over her shoulder, keeping a tight grip on the strings as she followed the man out of the room, past all the other shortlisted applicants—talent, talent, talent, tassels, banjos, boots—and over to the thick black curtains that separated Harry from her dream. 

“You’re right, sir. I do want this,” Harry said, finally able to speak without being worried she’d lose her lunch. “I want it real bad.” Don't got much else to fall back on, she didn't say.

The man shot her a glance. He answered something in his headset, then covered the mic and leaned closer. “Darlin’, this variety show's got some big names attached to it. There’s only so many spots for undiscovered folks like yourself—you get me?”

Harry frowned. 

The man sighed impatiently. “So, you go out there and you show ‘em, arlight?”

Harry nodded. “Alright.” 

“Good. Coz you’re up.” 

And Harry was back to almost losing her lunch. 

Shuffling feet, exactly eighteen steps, a cleared throat into the mic, sweaty hands on the stand, adjusting it up. 

“Afternoon–” one of the judges glanced down at a sheet of paper, “Harry?”

“Yes, m'am,” Harry answered, flashing her widest grin. “I’d like to sing some songs for you.”

The judge’s lips lifted slightly. A man sitting next to her waved his hand impatiently.

“I should hope so, darlin’. That’s what we’re here for.” 

Harry laughed. She was used to laughing when she felt like she was being put down—it wasn’t always a bad trait to have, growing up. It did feel that way though, sometimes. 

“When you’re ready,” said the first judge.

Harry nodded and placed her fingers over the strings of her acoustic. She took a second to fiddle with the second, waist-height microphone so it was perfectly positioned to capture her guitar. 

She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. 

She pictured home—a home she hadn’t seen for four years, a home could be going back to if she did good enough today (empty though it now was)—and she pictured the knee-high grass behind her house in the summer, crickets and critters hopping all over each other in the bright sunlight.

She opened her eyes and smiled.

She started playing.

 


 

Harry’s life began when she picked up a guitar for the first time. She was just a little thing, dressed in rags and legs splattered with mud after playing with the piglets all morning. She was picking through the dusty attic, unafraid of the spiders and bugs that scurried into the dark corners from underfoot.

Her mother was somewhere downstairs trying to call her to lunch, but she wasn’t listening.

Because she’d just seen the edge of something—something smooth and wooden and familiar.

She pulled back the sheet covering her prize, sneezed, then grinned. 

It was her father’s acoustic. He hadn’t left many things behind; just a few scattered dreams in his daughter’s waking mind, a wife that wouldn’t miss him, and a few acres of land. And, apparently, his guitar.

Harry picked it up carefully, giggling as she did at how large it was (almost the same size as she was).

She parked herself down on the floor, smearing mud in with the dust, and settled the instrument in her lap.

She closed her eyes and tried to remember what she was supposed to do with it—fingers poised in a certain way, pressing down on the strings until they hurt. She pulled at the fattest one, then jumped at the loud, brassy twang that reverberated around the attic.

The noise settled into her bones like a promise.

She didn’t know what she was doing, yet. But like everything in life, all she had to do was learn.

And then this, this weight in her lap, this magical gift she’d been given; this could be something that was hers.

Only problem was, music belongs to everybody.

 


 

Harry didn’t bother to pack more than one bag.

Her roommate had been out all week, so there was no one even to tell that she was leaving.

Two months on tour, and this is my goodbye party, she thought, looking around her sparse room.

She hooked her bag over her shoulder, downed her last can of beer, and shut the door behind her.

 


 

There was a girl in her bunk.

Specifically, there was a Louis Tomlinson in her bunk.

Harry had known to expect to interact with her at some point—it wasn’t a secret that she was one of the touring artists that Harry would be sharing the spotlight with—but she hadn’t known to expect this.

Because this was Louis, and she was sitting right there. And she was smoking on the bus, tiny window cracked wide open, and her hair was in a messy undercut and she was wearing baggy jeans, she didn’t look like she belonged there (in a tiny bus for a mainstream country variety show).

Harry had recognised her name in a vague kind of way, but it wasn’t until she saw her last week at the first rehearsal that she realised who she was. She’d been through the grinder a bit since her days of being the ‘loud’ one in a cutesy girl band; she’s had her two years of fame, her three Disney original movies, and then fell off the face of the earth. She still released music, though. Her albums were dark, angry country—there was none of that blue jeans, cold beer, tractor ridin’ boot scootin’ for her; she sounded pissed as hell about the way of things and she only had three minutes and a guitar to tell you why.

But none of that explained what she was doing on Harry’s bunk.

You know, the one with her bag on it, clothes half unpacked. 

Louis’ bare foot was resting atop Harry’s favourite lacey bra, for fucks sake.

“This yours?” Louis asked, batting her ridiculous eyelashes. 

Harry nodded politely. “Yes, m'am. I can move, though. If you want that bed.”

Louis snorts. “M’am? What am I, your grandma? Don’t answer that, darlin’.”

Harry was at a loss for words. She looked around for something that might extract her from this situation. 

“Uh, well. I was just about to get some practice in before the bus leaves–”

“Sure,” Louis said, jumping up. She tucked her still-lit cigarette behind her ear, then squeezed past Harry. “Well?” she asked, looking back.. 

At Harry’s confused look, Louis rolled her eyes. “You coming, or what?” 

“Oh, um,” Harry mumbled.

Louis hissed, hand coming up to pluck the cigarette out from behind her ear. “Shit,” she cursed, licking her finger and pressing it to the small burn on her skin. “Pretend you didn’t see that, yeah? I promise I’m cool.”

Harry laughed, slightly strangled. “If you say so.”

“I do,” Louis announced. “And don’t you go thinking any different.”

On the way to the rehearsal space, Harry imagined what was about to happen (as she was want to do; her mother always used to say she had more imagination than sense). She pictured something awkward but friendly. Maybe Louis would play one of her songs, and Harry would get to hear it up close; maybe Louis would ask to hear one of Harry’s, maybe they could sing something together, maybe— 

But when they reached the rehearsal space, Louis was off faster than a frightened grasshopper. Before Harry could even speak, she was across the room and chatting with the tour manager.

Harry sighed and crossed over to the wall of instruments. It didn’t really matter. Louis probably wouldn’t have liked her songs, anyway. They were all about missing home.

 


 

Watching Louis was like watching a play, or some sort of performance art project—the ones her absentee roommate used to go on about, back when they used to keep the same hours.

She was just always in motion, perpetually moving; even when she was sitting still, she was talking or laughing or singing, strumming along on her red-stained electric guitar, soft without an amp.

It was easier to sit and just watch her than it was for Harry to focus on herself.

She’d tried that, night one; all it had gotten her was a face in a toilet bowl and an emptying stomach. 

There were just so many people, every single time. And none of them knew who she was, what she’d been through, how badly she wanted to do well.

Thank god she only had two songs to sing.

 


 

She stumbled off stage on night two before the dust had even settled on her set and ran right into Louis.

“You alright there, darlin’?” she said, steadying Harry with two hands on her shoulders.

Harry blinked. She was already dizzy, but the added effect of Louis’ attention—something she hadn’t had in days—made for a lethal combination.

“Fine,” Harry mumbled, looking behind herself as the lead singer in the next band started cracking jokes. The crowd laughed (more noise than they made for Harry’s entire set, not that she was counting). 

“Well…” Louis licked her lips, looking like she was trying not to laugh. “You sounded great.”

Harry frowned, trying to decide if she was being made fun of.

“Don’t worry yourself, darlin’.” Louis pressed her thumb into the wrinkle on Harry’s forehead. “Those nerves will settle all on their own, and…” she looked around them dramatically, then leaned in and whispered, “none of those fuckers out there will remember you, anyway.”

Harry gulped. “That’s real comforting, thank you.”

Louis’ eyebrows raised, two smooth arches practically disappearing into her messy fringe.

“Look at you,” she grinned. “Apple pie’s got sass.”

Harry laughed for the first time all night. “Apple pie?”

“You know, because of your whole,” she waved at Harry vaguely, “good little Christian country girl, vibe. You look like you never hurt a fly.”

Harry looked down at her outfit (floral dress, leather boots with a trim), then touched her hair. She didn’t feel self-conscious, necessarily, but she didn’t feel great either.

“Don’t worry yourself,” Louis repeated. An intern with a clipboard (Harry hadn’t learned names yet, she had other things on her mind) tapped Louis on the shoulder, and Louis nodded. “See you later, Apple Pie,” she said, shooting Harry a sly grin. 

Harry ducked her head, and when she looked back up Louis was disappearing around the corner—she was gone in flash of denim and dark leather.

 


 

"What's the deal with the feisty one and Bobby?" 

Harry's head perked up. It was town three of twenty, and to celebrate making it through her set without choking this time, she'd invited herself along to the local dive bar with the boys from that band who followed her in the line up (their name was something stupid to do with hearts or fields or the north star, possibly all three). 

It was the lead singer—Niall—who had spoken.

Harry followed his gaze to the bar, where Louis was leaning. She was sipping a whiskey, one hand hooked on her wallet chain casually, while Bobby—the tour manager—was talking himself red in the face. 

They were too far away to hear what he was saying, but it didn't look good. 

And Louis looked like she couldn't give a single shit. 

Harry felt equal parts worried, impressed, and captivated.

Just like everything Louis did, she managed to make being sworn out look effortless. 

"C'mon, Niall," Liam laughed.

Harry didn't like to choose favourites, but of the four boys in the booth with her, Liam was the only one she'd actually spent any time with. He'd offered her a capo at rehearsals, which was enough to pass Harry's low standards for friendship. 

It was something she needed to work on.

"What?" Niall asked, huffing. 

Liam shook his head. "Just feel like you should know who she is, that's all. She was a big thing a few years ago, you remember that show about a group of farm girls from Kansas starting a band and making it big?" 

"Movie," Harry corrected. 

"What was that?" 

Harry cleared her throat. "It was a movie trilogy. The first one was called Constant Star."

Niall's eyes widened. He took Louis in as if for the first time. "She's that Louis?" 

Liam nodded. "Bobby was her manager, back when. That's what I heard. She didn't even audition like the rest of us; she just walked right into it."

Harry twisted in her chair to look back at the bar in time to see Louis down the rest of her drink. She noticed Harry was staring as she dumped the glass back onto the bar, upside down with droplets of whiskey soaking into the wood, and winked. 

Bobby was still trying to talk to her. He made to grab her arm, but Louis twisted away. She laughed like it was all a great joke, but to Harry it seemed hollow. 

"He's not still her manager, is he?" she asked, turning back to Liam and cutting him off mid sentence. 

The conversation might have moved on, but she hadn't. 

"Who? Oh, right." Liam pinched his lip, frowning in thought. "Don't think so."

"What does it matter?" Aiden butted in. "Manager or not, she's getting special treatment because he wants to cash in on that cow. Doesn't seem fair to the other artists."

"What planet are you on? This ain't a backyard singalong, it's the big leagues. Nothing's been fair in the country music industry since the day the first record got sold. And get your head outta your damn ass, you can't call women cows," said Niall.

Aiden looked like he wanted to argue, but the quiet one—Zayn, Harry thought his name was—pushed a beer into his hand and he took a drink instead. 

 


 

Another town, another set, and this time Harry even managed to crack a joke between songs. 

It was just lame pun about the name of the venue, but it still got a few chuckles. 

Maybe next time she'd be brave enough to get people clapping along to Something Great

But for now, she was stumbling into her bunk after a night out with the banjo boys (it was easier to call them that then to admit that she refused to commit the name of their band to memory). 

"Well, if it isn't Apple Pie," she heard from above. 

Harry squinted into the darkness of the top bunk, one boot off and her hair half undone. 

Technically, Louis had claimed that bunk as hers, but Harry hadn't seen her actually sleep in it before. 

"Louis?"

"No, darlin', it's El Chupacabra. D'you bring me any goats?" 

Louis' usual quick wit seemed sharper tonight, wet by the cover of darkness and honed by the venom in her voice. 

But Harry still laughed. 

She finished taking her boot off, then combed her fingers through her hair. 

"I guess I was just getting used to that bunk being empty," she said. 

The banjo boys were making noise on the other side of the bus—angry whisper shouts, the padding of feet, hushed laughter. Normal Banjo Boys At Night sounds. 

"Well, I'm here now."

Harry stared at her empty bunk, lost in thought. She always had so much to say to Louis—an endless list of questions about what it was like to be in a movie, to grow up in the spotlight, what made her so angry all the time, why she could never sit still—but the second Louis was in front of her, flesh and blood and denim and leather, she could never seem to remember a single one. 

"Your set was great tonight," Harry offered. 

Louis snorted. "Awful kind of you to say," she simpered. "But I was flat through the whole bridge of Blood Red. Don't argue with me, darlin'," she added, somehow predicting Harry's response before Harry herself even thought to come up with one. "You don't gotta be so nice all the time, you know? Smiling for the crowd is one thing, but we're all assholes behind that curtain."

"I know," Harry said slowly, hunching to take a seat on her bunk. "It's just... my mom taught me to treat people with kindness, and that's what I intend to do."

Louis laughed. It was a disbelieving, strangled sound. 

"Apple Pie, you just keep getting sweeter and sweeter, you know that?"

The way she said that didn't sound much like a compliment. 

 


 

“Look at you go, Harry Styles!” Liam laughed, fiddling with the strap around his shoulder.

Harry laughed breathlessly. “I can’t believe that worked,” she grinned. “And they didn’t even throw off my rhythm too much!”

Liam offered her a high five, which she happily accepted. She was still buzzing with energy; Someone Great went amazing with the audience clapping along, and tonight was the first time she’d walked off that stage feeling how she’d alway used to feel, growing up and singing for anyone she could get her voice out to: happy, and heard, and free.

Liam didn’t have time to respond—he was too busy running on stage to join the rest of his boys—but Harry didn’t hold that against him.

She stuck around for their set, then the next. The high of the performance was already fading. She’d hoped going bigger with her art as the answer; that the bigger the crowd, the bigger the payoff would be. And that wasn’t wrong, per se. But it wasn’t right, either. 

She went to find some fresh air instead of thinking about it.

What she failed to consider was that fresh air meant Louis. 

“Want one?” Louis offered, leaning against the back wall of the venue with a lit cigarette in her mouth and an open packet in her hand.

“No, thank you, m’am,” Harry replied, just to see Louis roll her eyes and try not to smile.

“Suit yourself, darlin’.”

She tucked the packet back into her coat pocket, then took a deep drag. 

Harry looked behind her at the still-open door, then stepped out into the night.

“I heard Bobby used to be your manager,” she said, smoothing out the skirt of her dress. “That must’ve been something.”

“‘Something’ alright,” Louis snorted. 

Harry looked at her and was surprised to notice, for the first time, how much taller she was than Louis. It didn’t feel like that should be the case; Louis was larger than life, wasn’t she?

Louis sighed, apparently having finished with answering Harry’s question.

Harry chose to offer her a new one. “How’s your night going?” 

“Peaches,” Louis answered, too quickly.

Harry hummed. She smoothed her skirt down again, but this time it was just to feel the soft cotton of it against her sweaty hands.

“I miss my dog, actually,” Louis said.

“Yeah?”

Louis nodded. “He’s with my parents until I’m done with this circus. You’d love him, Apple Pie; he’s big and dumb and full of love.”

The like you was implied. 

Harry wasn’t as offended as she probably would be to hear that from someone else.

“Maybe I can meet him, when we’re done?” she asked, breath held.

Louis looked at her, really looked. She looked harder at Harry than she’d looked before, and for the first time Harry hoped that maybe she’d see her.

But then Louis snorted, an ugly sharpness in her smile. “Sure,” she said, clearly meaning the exact opposite.

Harry nodded, cheeks burning. She turned away and stepped towards the door.

It wasn’t so much the rejection that was doing her in—Harry had always been one to lie down on the train tracks of love, happily waiting to be run over time after time—as it was the frustration.

It didn’t seem to matter how badly she wanted to make contact, or how much she was trying. Every casual offer to practice together, every invite to out to a bar, even so much as a packet of goddam twizzlers was too much pressure for Louis Tomlinson.

Harry wished she could hold it against her.

“Goodnight, Louis,” she said.

“Night, Apple Pie,” she shot back, hackles still raised.

Harry left her be.

 


 

“This is actually not as bad as I remember it being,” Niall offered. 

The one thing Harry hadn’t been expecting about living a life on the road was how much downtime it involved. She and the boys were slowly running out of games to play, and that was how they ended up here, crowded on a dusty couch in the latest venue of the latest town, streaming Constant Star on Liam’s laptop.

“You’re lying to yourself, Niall,” Aiden said, “I feel like my brain is leaking out of my ears.”

They were only twenty minutes in.

“The music’s solid, though,” Liam argued. “And look at little Louis go.” He pointed to the screen, where said Little Louis was dancing around on a tiny stage with three other girls. Her hair was down to her waist, and she didn’t look at all like herself—flowing dress, flower tucked behind her ear, not a tattoo in sight. 

There wasn’t much talking after that; even Aiden was captured up in the story. Louis’ character, Daisy, had her heart broken by a handsome stable boy, and the other girls in the band were there to pick her back up.

“I take it all back, this is damn good cinema,” Aiden commented, slightly misty eyed.

“Shh,” Harry hushed urgently. “This is my favourite part.”

The girls were sitting around a campfire, and Louis had her guitar out, fingers plucking the strings with expert ease. 

She couldn’t have been more than sixteen (and god, did Harry wish she had looked that good at sixteen) but when she started singing Fools Gold, she sounded like she’d lived a lifetime worth of hurts.

I’m like a crow on a wire, you’re the shining distraction that makes me fly, she sang, and the other girls started harmonising around her.

“Oh, god.”

Harry turned in her seat to see Louis standing in the doorway, a look of disgust on her face. 

“You’re watching that shit?”

“It’s actually a solid movie, Louis,” Liam defended. “And you were so cute! Look,” he smiled, pointing at Louis’ soft cheeks and bright eyes.

“Yeah, thanks,” Louis spat. 

Liam shrugged and turned back to the movie, which left only Harry to watch as Louis hesitated in the doorway. 

She caught Harry’s eyes, and Harry patted the empty spot next to her on the couch.

For a moment, it seemed like Louis would take her offer; would come over and curl up next to her; would be still for a while.

But then she set her jaw and disappeared back into the hallway.

                                                               


 

Harry was drunk.

In her limited experience, that didn’t bode well for the rest of the evening. 

But for now, she was sitting in the back room of a venue (another town, another gig, and this time she wore high waisted flares and riffed in the chorus of Don’t Let Me Go—not exactly a story for the grandkids). She was drinking cheap beer, and there were so many people crammed into this room that sweat was pooling in the back of her neck.

“Evening, Apple Pie.”

Harry turned with a smile already on her face. 

Louis was wearing eyeshadow tonight—smears of gold on her lids, how fitting—and there was so much scrawled-on skin left uncovered by her black tank and jean shorts. Harry had no idea how she’d found enough time to get so many tattoos at the ripe young age of twenty three (something to add the neverending pile of Questions Louis Will Never Answer).

“Evening, darlin’,” Harry said, offering her beer.

Louis looked caught off guard. “Thanks,” she said. Their fingers brushed for a moment as she tugged the half-finished bottle from Harry’s hands. 

“Liked your set tonight,” she offered. 

Harry had been tuning out watching her painted thumbnail scratch the label off the bottle.

“Hm?” She blinked, then giggled. “You weren’t watching.”

Louis had the balls to look offended.

“Course I was,” she said. 

Harry stared at her.

Louis glanced over her shoulder, as if sensing Bobby’s arrival—he’d just appeared in the door, and the look he was sending Louis’ way told Harry that she didn’t want to be around to hear whatever he had to say. (And that she didn’t want Louis to be around him, either; sometimes, when Harry caught sight of him doing this or that in the background, just existing somewhere with all that fucking bad oozing off him, she wondered exactly what she might be capable of. Sometimes.)

“Hey,” Louis said urgently.

Harry turned to her attentively only to find a look on her face that she didn’t recognise. 

Louis was looking at her like she wasn’t looking at anything else; like her mind wasn’t straddling three different pits of awful.

Harry gulped. “Yeah?”

Louis didn’t answer. She did something much better: she hooked her hand on Harry’s neck and tugged her down. 

Louis Tomlinson tastes like beer. 

It was the only coherent thought Harry managed to produce through the entire kiss; from the first sure press of lips, and each magical second they were joined, to the final cheeky peck Louis gave her before she danced out of Harry’s greedy hands. 

“Thanks,” she said.

And then, she was ducking through the crowd and towards the door.

She squeezed past a stony-faced Bobby with nothing but a cocksure grin.

Harry was left leaning against the wall, empty handed, heavy hearted and leadened by Bobby’s indignant glare. 

I’m like a crow on a wire, she heard from a distant corner of her mind. 

It was probably the only thought that she could have had in that moment that would make her smile.

 




Harry didn’t try to talk to Louis, after that. 

It was something like self-preservation, but with a healthy amount of righteous anger mixed through. 

“Can you fucking believe that shit? An album?” Aiden was ranting.

Harry was zoned out staring at the stretch of black the tour bus was hurtling down. Past the black was dirt, and past the dirt was sky. There were worse views to be zoning out staring at. 

“Slow down, bro,” Liam laughed, throwing a pillow at Aiden’s face.

Aiden batted it away. “How are you not pissed about this?”

“Because I don’t know what you’re talking about?”

Bless his heart, Liam sounded genuinely confused. 

“Bobby’s organised an A&R rep for the next show,” Niall supplied. “There’s a rumour,”— significant glance towards Aiden—“that he’s trying to organise an album deal for Louis.”

“She’s already got two albums out!” Aiden huffed. “Save some for the rest of us, for fuck’s sake.”

“Those albums came out years ago,” Harry said, inserting herself into the conversation. “She’s not signed to anyone. It’s a good opportunity.”

Harry tried to sound enthusiastic, but she could hear it not working.

Liam sent her a sympathetic look. 

The conversation moved on past them, but Liam waited with her where they were. 

“You alright?”

Harry nodded, then offered Liam the notebook she’d been scribbling in. “Whadd’you think?”

Liam was quiet for a few minutes, reading through the notes, eyes skipping over the chord progression she’d worked out. “Change that to a barre,” he offered, and Harry nodded. “Other than that, looks good.” He sent Harry a cheeky grin. “Can’t wait to hear it.”

Harry fiddled with her pencil. “You’ll get to, tonight.”

Liam raised his eyebrows. “You cleared this with Bobby and the sound boys?”

Harry laughed. “Bobby? No. Sound boys? Yes.”

Liam jostled her shoulder. “Look at you; you’re a rockstar.”

Harry rolled her eyes. “One day, maybe.”

 




Another day, another town, another show; Harry had lost count after ten, but here she was anyway.

About to throw the fuck up.

It was a small venue tonight; the banjo boys had been complaining about it ever since they’d seen the stage. 

“How the fuck are we supposed to fit on there?” Aiden had asked.

Louis had been there, fucking around with the mics and amps as she was want to do when she had too much time on her hands before a show. “Portion control and frequent exercise,” she supplied, then eyed Aiden up and down. “And maybe cut down on the beer.”

Harry was the only one to laugh.

Louis ignored her: Bobby wasn’t there to piss off, after all.

“Funny,” Aiden shot back. 

Louis shrugged.

 

But now, Harry was feeling awful grateful the stage was so small. Less space for her to trip and fall flat on her face.

She took a deep breath, then another, then another. 

“Apple Pie?” 

Harry turned. Louis was there, watching her with concern. 

“Can you do me a favour?” Harry asked, trying to sound cool.

Louis’ eyebrows twisted. “Doubt it,” she said. She was already withdrawing. “Just wanted to check in, you looked like you were about to hurl.”

“Oh, I’m definitely about to hurl,” Harry laughed. The band before her was starting to wrap up. She adjusted the strap on her shoulder nervously. “You don’t want to miss that.”

Louis looked worried.

Harry walked onto the stage.

There was only two hundred people out there (one more important than the others, if Aiden was to be believed). 

But when Harry cleared her throat away from the microphone, it felt like two thousand.

“I’ll be trying something new tonight for you lovely folks,” she said. “It’s a classic country tune, sing along if you know it.”

There was a distant whoop from the audience—probably someone expecting her to break out into a Dolly cover—but it made Harry crack a smile.

She started plucking out the intro, and took a deep breath. 

She’d had to fuck with the pitch—Louis at sixteen had a very different range to Harry at twenty one—and her voice came out smooth and low.

I’m like a crow on a wire.”  She looked sidestage, even though the stage lights turned the space there pitch black. “You’re the shining distraction that makes me fly.”

 




Louis wasn’t anywhere to be found when Harry walked off stage on two shaky legs.

She wasn’t anywhere to be found when her set rolled around, either.

Bobby was running around frantically—headless chicken, still bleeding—and Harry got to stand there in the shadows and laugh to herself at the chaos. 

Eventually it was decided to skip right over her slot.

The moment the next artist stumbled awkwardly onto the stage, Harry’s phone lit up with a call.

It wasn’t a number that she recognised, but she knew to pick it up somehow. 

“Hello?” 

“Meet me outside.”

Harry bit her lip. “Who is this?” 

There was angry silence from the other end. 

Harry laughed and hung up.

 


 

Louis was leaning against a car. It was parked (quite illegally) next to the tour bus.

“Whose car is that?” she asked as she neared. 

Gooseflesh spread up her arms—the night air was getting crisper as Summer died—but Harry ignored it.

Louis shrugged, tossing a set of keys up into the air and catching them. “Bobby’s.”

Harry grinned. “He’s going to report that stolen, you know.”

Louis stared her down. “No, I don’t think he will, Apple Pie.”

Harry shook her head, the beginnings of a smile twisting her lips. 

“You know,” Louis said, scratching her cheek and trying to look casual, “I’m thinking of taking off–”

“Hadn’t noticed.”

“Cheeky. You could, um. You could come with me, if you want.” 

Harry crossed her arms. 

Louis’ head tilted; Harry hoped that meant she realised that she was going to have to do a little better than that. 

“I’ll get you a better gig than this, Apple Pie,” Louis offered.

Harry rolled her eyes. 

“I’ll let you cover all of my songs. And come meet my dog.” 

Harry didn’t react. 

Louis sighed, then pushed away from the car. “How about this,” she said, and Harry uncrossed her arms—Louis’ voice sounded darker than she’d ever heard it. “I’m an asshole and I dig myself into holes. I was thinking you’d be another one—girl’s gotta pass the time, right?” She laughed, but Harry didn’t. “But you just.” She huffed, cut herself off, then started again. “You just called me out on my shit up there, didn’t you? Brutal, darlin’. Carnage.”

Harry smiled down at her boots. 

“And you sounded so pretty doing it,” she said, daring to bridge the gap between them and place her hand on Harry’s waist.

“So you stole me a car?” Harry laughed, letting herself get reeled in. “Now that’s romance, baby. And you said you weren’t good at it.”

Louis snorted. “Now when did I say that?”

Harry shrugged. “You might’a thought it real loud.”

Louis opened her mouth, then closed it. She licked her lips, then tried again. “So, you up for a ride?”

“Is that what you’re offering? Because it seems like more than that.” 

Louis hummed, pressed closer and sneaking her arms all the way around Harry’s waist. Harry draped her arms over Louis’ shoulders. 

She’d known they’d fit well together. She was so glad to be proven right. 

“Might be, might be,” Louis admitted. “I’ll have you back for the next town?”

Next town, next show.

Harry shook her head. “Don’t think Bobby’ll let me anywhere near that stage again, Louis.”

Louis nodded. “Harry,” she said, and Harry closed her eyes at the sound of her name said with so much affection. “Will you come with me anyway? Just you and me, our guitars, this piece of junk–” the sound of a fist thunking against the hood of a car, and then the hand returned to her waist, “–and the road. C’mon, Apple Pie. I’m not done letting you down yet.”

Harry opened her eyes. 

She grinned.

“Yeah,” she said, “alright.”