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if being afraid is a crime, we hang side by side

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Words are unpredictable. They dissolve too quickly. They build up, climb through your throat, and then, if they don't get stuck, as words so often do, they tumble out past your lips. They crash heavily onto the ground and shatter into an infinite amount of pieces, unless you're lucky and someone catches it. Harry isn't lucky. His words have shattered too often for him to release them freely. He's been cut and hurt by the innumerable shards every time. So, now he writes. In his journal, his mind is safe. No one can judge him but himself. No one can harm him if he keeps his words locked up tight.

Hidden in the corner of his unlit room, he scribbles away with one hand while the other is used to push his dark ringlets out of his face. The scratch of his pencil on the paper before him is comforting, familiar. The too-bright lights of the city filter in through the dingy window behind him. Yells and laughter, friends calling to one another on their way to their second club of the night, float through the open glass and reach Harry's ears. He cringes, like he does every night. He doesn't close the window. He never does.

Instead, he stays quiet, continues to keep writing. He never knows what he writes about. He doesn't like to pay attention to the words choking the page with graphite scribbles. When he lets himself think, the words aren't as pure. When he lets them take their own course, they travel right from his mind to his fingers and are so truthful, so clear. He writes until his hand stops then leans back. Harry sighs, though unsure as to why, as he leans his head and back against the cool wall behind him.

He stays there for seconds, minutes, hours, days, until his flatmate walks in. In Harry's eyes, his best mate's fiery hair looks even brighter in the shadows. Green eyes meet grey, as Ed shakes his head softly. His stance gives off everything he doesn't say. Harry wants to write about it, to put down in words the way Ed hesitates to move closer, how his lips open and close silently because he can't think of anything new to say. Ed has used as many words as he could on Harry. He never listened. Now, Ed only looks at him with those sad eyes as Harry distances himself from the world.

"It's getting late, Harry. Let's go to bed, yeah?" Ed says nonchalantly, but the lilt of his voice gives him away. He's tired of this. He wants to see his best mate smile again, laugh and make shit jokes that his friends pretend are funny. Whoever this was in front of him, it wasn't his Harry. This boy was a shell of who he used to be, locked deep inside himself.

Harry nods and whispers a soft "Okay," the most he's said to anyone in days. Ed walks over to the tall boy, all shrunk up in a ball of a too big sweater that smells too much like a dark eyed and dark haired man that left too many scars on Harry's mind. Ed picks up Harry, who barely seems to notice, and lays him down in his bed on the other side of the room, pulling the blankets tight around him. Ed crawls in besides him. Harry can't sleep alone anymore. Too much pining and loneliness. It tears Ed apart when he wakes up to Harry crying and screaming in the middle of the night. It's better this way, for both of them. Ed wraps his arms around the curly haired boy, who immediately burrows his head into Ed's chest, already half asleep. If Harry could write about these moments, he could fill pages and pages. But these moments are private, only between Ed and him. Not even his pencil could learn these secrets.


Mornings are better for Harry. The brightness and warm rays of sun help to chase away the demons that took up residence in his mind. He can pretend, for a few hours, that nothing is wrong, that his heart isn't patched together with a few pieces of loose tape. He can fool himself into believing that everything is right with the world.
He works at the bakery near his and Ed's flat until the stars take their place in the dark night. After Ni - no, he promised himself he wouldn't say his name anymore - he took on more and more shifts, anything to distract himself from the burning gap in his chest. He couldn't deal with standing behind the counter anymore, though he once loved it. He couldn't bear to look at all the people that came in. He hated seeing their smiles falter as their cheerful gazes and bright eyes met his blank face and saw how dark heavy the bags under his eyes were. The old lady who owned the shop, Barbara, seemed to understand. The elderly women said his empty look was bad for business, but her eyes revealed another story, one full of pity for the curly haired boy. She sent him to the ovens where he could beat his anger at himself into dough and call it kneading. That was what did now, day in and day out. He came to the shop while the sky was still made up of brilliant reds and oranges as the sun rose and didn't leave until he could see the moon sewn into the sky and sometimes a brave little star or two that dared to battle against the strangling lights of the city.

He'd stayed late tonight. Barbara made him take a day off each week. He'd shown up on those days anyway. Brenda threatened to run him out of the bakery with a whisk in her hand if he turned up the next day. The visual of short and stout Barbara chasing him while brandishing a whisk (dripping with batter, no doubt) has Harry cracking a private smile. In his mind's eye, of course. Harry didn't smile for others to see. He'd promised to stay away from the bakery, so long as he was able to work late tonight. By the time Harry left, the moon was high in the night and cast a white glow onto the world below. The heavens had opened up, just a crack, and rain was drizzling from the night sky. Harry darted in between the huddles of people dashing around to take shelter from the light rain.

Harry, so set up in his outcast ways, goes where everyone else isn't. The park. It's always been his safe haven. Even now, with soft droplets of water falling from the sky, all he wanted to do was climb up his tree and watch a city that never sleeps mull into a peaceful haze. His tree. One right on the bank of the park's small lake, a tall birch. It had a Harry sized nook high in its branches. He was relieved he had never brought anyone else here, though he frequently wanted to. He could escape from his thoughts here, pretend the Nick-shaped hole in him was full.

In his hidden corner of the world, he could watch the small drops of rain hit the lake below him. Even the tiniest of pellets rippled the normally still water below him. He could see himself in that lake, the bullets of Nick splashing against him and causing the tiny waves of instability that still flow through him. It's not that he still loves Nick. He doesn't. He's in love with the memories, with the feeling of being loved and loving in return. He wonders what kind of ripples he would make if he fell into the dark water underneath him. How far would they reach? How long would they last? That was something he could write about. He pulled his ever present journal and pencil from his deep jacket pockets, opened to a new page somewhere in the middle of the notebook and wrote by the light of the moon that filtered through the thick foliage.

Prompt: Write about falling, how it feels and what goes through your mind as you get closer and closer to what is below you. Write about the final splash into churning water. Do you suffocate and drown? Do you resurface? What awaits you if you do?

He closed the notebook and leaned against the trunk of the tree. He kept looking down into the lake. How would it feel to drop into it? He hung his long legs over the branch, feeling the electric tingle that arose at the sight of seeing his feet so far above anything solid. He sat there, who knows how long, slowly letting more and more of himself hang off, but never quite letting go. He felt his precious notebook start to slip out of his pocket and his eyes widened in silent horror as he waited for the splash that never came. Confused, he looked down and almost lost his grip as he saw a pair of eyes staring back up at him. "Don't jump!" A deliciously high but clearly masculine voice called up, sending chills down Harry's spine.

"I- I wasn't planning to," he whispered, more to himself than anyone else. Evidently the boy standing at the bottom of the tree sensed the irrelevant soft shift in the air when Harry spoke for he yelled back to Harry.

"I can't hear you! Come down. Besides, I have your notebook and I'm quite sure you want that back," Harry could practically hear the mischievous smirk in the stranger's words. In spite of himself, he nodded and started to climb down the tree. The mystery man's voice held a degree of confidence and dominance that Harry simply couldn't refuse. When his feet hit the wet grass with a squelch, he was immediately wrapped up in an embrace. There was a head buried into his neck and arms holding him so tight he couldn't breathe. He wasn't sure he wanted to. Automatically, he wrapped his own arms around the strange hugger.

They stayed that way for a few confused seconds, before the stranger untangled himself from Harry. "Sorry about that, mate. I was just so relieved you came down. Suicide isn't EVER the answer, you know that right? Whatever has been done to get you to this point isn't worth it I promise. Everything gets better and all that bull. But please, don't ever try -"

Harry cut him off with a barely audible "I'm not suicidal."

"I just saw you almost jump into a lake," the boy responded stubbornly.

"Falling. I was wondering how it felt to fall. I didn't.. I never intended to let go," Harry mumbled, not realizing he spoke aloud.

"Oh, well sorry about that then," the strange boy said. "Here's your notebook, by the way. Lucky I caught that then, Harry." Harry reached out for his journal, dazed, before clutching it to his chest. "How do I know your name? Good question. I was wondering when you were going to ask. Your name's on the cover. I'm Louis." Harry nodded his understanding. Louis. It seemed to fit him somehow. He decided he liked it.

"Not one for talking, are you Harold? No matter, my mum used to say I spoke more than enough for two people. Here, it's quite late and my mate will be wondering where I am. But I definitely want to see you again, Curly." Harry briefly wondered when they had become friendly enough for nicknames, but found himself nodding again. "Tomorrow then, Harry? We can meet right here at, say 2 in the afternoon?" Again, Harry nodded and couldn't help but let a hesitant smile spread across his lips.

"Brilliant! Give me your mobile, I'll add my number," Louis said cheerfully as Harry fumbled around for his phone and pressed it into Louis' hand. He typed into it quickly before passing it back to Harry. "See you around then Harry!"

And as suddenly as he appeared, he was gone in a blur, leaving Harry to stand startled with his phone and journal in his hands, wondering if Louis had just been some apparition with stars twinkling in his eyes, here one minute and gone the next.