I yawned as I drove to Harry's place. It was 6:30 in the morning and we were trying to get a head start to Virginia for the concert. It didn't help that I was wearing the joggers I slept in for the drive. I still felt like I was half asleep even after the coffee I drank at home. I had to wake up before I crashed the car.
There were two more cups of coffee in the cup holders and I was highly debating drinking them both. Since it was so early in the morning all the spots were taken outside Harry's place; I parked in them middle of the street and texted Harry and hoped he would get the message before a car came along. I took off my jacket and threw it in the backseat and put the heat on full blast. So far we didn't get much snow in the city but once you got away from the skyscrapers and into country roads you started seeing inches upon inches of snow on the ground. It was set to be a long drive and I feared hitting rush hour traffic getting out of the city even though most of it would be coming in. Plus when snow is in the forecast everyone starts driving like it's the first time they've ever been behind the wheel.
"Hey, morning." Harry said when he opened the door. "Nice park job."
"Just toss your stuff in the backseat." I nodded.
"Just you and me haven't done a trip in a while this is nice." he smiled.
"We really haven't." I said put the car into drive. "Pretty sure the last one was Firefly two years ago."
"We've gotta do that again this year, I can't believe we haven't made that an annual thing yet." he said.
"Just us two though. No matter what." I added.
"I agree, absolutely."
Harry's responses were getting shorter and I knew he wouldn't be awake much longer. It didn't take more than ten minutes for him to doze off again for a while so I put the radio on quietly not to wake him. He was worn out from the past couple of days of Rhodes' nagging on him for not going to the conference and just all the work we've gotten lately in general. He slept for about an hour until he finally came to and I had already drank his coffee.
"Did you really have my cup too?" he asked groggy.
"Yeah it was gonna to cold by the time you got to it." I shrugged. "We'll stop at some point."
"We're gonna have to because you'll piss yourself with that much caffeine in you." he teased.
"You're not wrong." I laughed.
"Did you book a hotel or an Airbnb or something for us?" he asked.
"We're actually staying with Teddy. Kaine asked him if we could crash there and he said he lived like ten minutes from the venue and we were more than welcome to. His wife is out of town for business so it's just him and Cooper home." I said.
"That was nice of him." he nodded.
"I know I'm glad, I thought we got on with Teddy really well." I said.
Harry was quiet for a while which I thought meant he was still groggy but I saw his leg bouncing up and down which he normally did if he was thinking.
"What's with you? Rather be at a copywriting conference?" I asked.
"No it's not that, I'm glad I'm out of that. It's just you gotta be careful Niall. You can't get yourself into deep water with Kaine." he said.
"What do you mean?" I asked confused.
"You two obviously get along very well, and that's fine but as friends." he said.
"We are friends, that's all." I insisted.
"Then you've gotta start acting like it." he said.
"H, stop being vague and tell me what I'm doing wrong." I prodded.
"Kaine has a boyfriend. She has someone who fulfills her the way you want to. You are going to break your own heart if you continue on like this. You know, trying to sneakily get her to fall for you isn't going to happen while she's still with Everett." he said.
I contemplated what he said for a minute. I knew he was right, he wouldn't have said anything if he hadn't noticed. But Kaine, she was just such a breath of fresh air. She was like anyone else you've ever met. She was unlike any other girl, just so easy going and low maintenance but also so head strong and gracious. I didn't mean to make advances on her it was just coming naturally. She was the one who brought me out of the city to clear my head of Kira and she was the one who helped me get over her. It wasn't intentional, it was just happening.
I think that you only get one or two people that come into your life and completely change it for the best. I thought I got that one person when I first met Harry. When we were going through the interview process together at Wolfe we started hanging around with each other and we never stopped. We became best mates by accident but it was the best accident to ever happen to me. He opened me up and made me more outgoing and has been with me for the biggest moments in my life. He was half of me.
Then when my nephew Theo came I thought I knew I was lucky because I got another person to widen my horizons. I never knew that someone so small could have such an impact but when I held him for the first time at the hospital I felt this instant connection. I never knew I could be so comfortable around kids or even ever really want them down the road until he was there.
And then comes along Kaine. She is the breeze that keeps you cool on unbearably hot days. She is the silent moment when you drive under a bridge in a rainstorm. She is the song that you never get sick of no matter how many times you've heard it. She is finding a twenty dollar bill on the ground.
She is my number three. Some people aren't so lucky to get even one life changing person but I happened to get three. I couldn't risk losing any of these three, they made me who I am.
"I know you're right H, I just wish you weren't. I think maybe it's because she has just happened to be here the whole time with the demise of me and Kira and she took us away from the city and I feel so indebted to her for that." I sighed.
"You can feel like you owe her but you've just gotta get it through that thick head of yours that it's not gonna happen with you two." he said. "Not for a while at least."
"I'm trying to put the idea of it out of my head, I really am. But she's just such a good part of my life right now." I said.
"I get it, I do. But just remember that she has Everett next time you get all hot and bothered around her." he teased.
"Excuse me when have I been like that?" I felt myself flush.
"Well, your birthday in her bathroom she said you were getting a little flustered, and of course playing football and landing on top of her, don't think I didn't notice you taking all the time in the world to stand up. I'm a very observant person Niall, I know you better than anyone." he laughed.
"Alright alright enough." I said brushing it off best that I could.
"And we can't forget about the playlist you made for her." he added.
"What about that? She asked for one she wanted me to recommend some bands and singers to her." I said defending myself.
"Yeah but you think you can slip in songs like "Please Be Naked" and "True Affection" in there? And Bon Iver? I know what his songs do to you, you hopeless romantic." he said.
"When did you even look through this?" I asked.
"It's a public playlist on Spotify, and I only follow you. Of course I saw it. It's great by the way thinking about using it as my background music next time I get laid." he said.
"Oh no don't use that one, I'll make you a better one with a shit ton of John Mayer and some Drake probably." I laughed.
He finally dropped the conversation and turned up the music instead so we could sing a long. We stopped about halfway to Virginia so that I didn't piss myself from all the coffee I had earlier and for Harry to get some for himself.
The rest of the ride we chatted about anything we could think of besides work and we got live updates from Nate about how much he was hating his life at the conference he was at. Harry had been to one every year that we worked for Wolfe and dreaded going to it each time. He had thanked me at least twenty times for managing to get him out of it this year.
Finally we were about ten minutes out from Teddy's and I had Harry text him from my phone. It was a little after one when we pulled up to his driveway. The had a nice sized house for the three of them but you could tell that his father still must've helped them out. I didn't understand how their family could have so much money but be so humble about it.
I knocked at the front door and heard barking automatically followed by Teddy's voice trying to get it to stop.
"Hey long time no see guys!" Teddy said when he opened the door. He had his hand around the collar of a chocolate lab trying to hold him back. "Come in, come in."
"Nice to see you again, thanks for letting us crash." I said setting my stuff down by the staircase and gave him a hug.
"What have you been up to?" Harry asked.
"I've been off this week taking care of Coop while my wife's away so it's kind of nice. Never knew I wanted to be a stay at home dad." he joked. "This is Hector by the way." he added motioning to the dog.
Harry was already down on his knees petting the dog and letting him sniff and lick his face. I followed suit shortly after. He quieted down as soon as we were inside and he knew we were friends not foes. Though Hector was still mostly brown everywhere the fur around his face was starting to turn grey along with his ears.
"He's gonna be ten pretty soon. Him and Coop are best buds aren't you?" Teddy said his voice changing pitches.
"Where is the little guy?" Harry asked.
"He'll be up from a nap pretty soon, but come in I'll give you guys the tour." he said.
We tossed our coats on the couch and started following Teddy around. It was a two story house with three bedrooms and two and a half baths. It was a nice place, all the rooms had nice colors on the wall and it seemed well kept. The kitchen was large and opened up to a nice dining room and you could see the living room from wherever you were too.
"It's a nice setup, wish I had something like this rather than my little apartment." I said.
"Move out of the city then, get a place in Jersey." Teddy said.
Harry and I laughed, New Jersey, god even us who aren't pure bred New Yorkers know you shouldn't go to Jersey unless absolutely necessary. They'd eat us alive across state lines.
"When did you move way out here from home?" Harry asked.
"Lucy works for GE and they transferred her out here and I'm an accountant so I can find jobs most anywhere. But she really wanted to keep her position so we moved out here five years ago." he explained. "We've been in this house for about three years now and we're actually on the hunt for another."
My phone started ringing and I excused myself to the other room to grab it. I groaned when I realized it was a work number and reluctantly picked up.
"Hello?" I asked.
"Niall, it's Van."
"Oh, hey yeah what's up?" I said. "Sorry I left you your second day into this team thing."
"No problem. I'm working on some basic html sheets that Tim, the programmer near the stock room, gave me and he said I should be looking at some Objective-C. What does he even mean by that?" Van said nervously.
"Okay yeah he's right you should get exposed to some more code. Have Liam give you the files I gave him when I was teaching him C because what Tim told you to know is a superset of that. Objective-C is the default language Apple has developers make apps in and that will be good for you to learn down the line." I said.
"So should I bother with these html sheets? I remember most of the basics." he asked.
"Just breeze through them to familiarize yourself and then get studying on C." I said. "How's Louis holding up with the design work today?"
"He's doing the back of the label today working with Arlo on matching fonts to use with the handwritten stuff he's doing. Oh wait he wants to talk to you one second."
The line went blank for a minute and I heard my call get transferred.
"Niall, mate, how was the drive?" Louis asked.
"Not bad at all, we didn't hit any bad weather." I said.
"Good, good. Can you send me pictures of Harry's tattoos?" he asked nonchalantly.
"What?" I asked.
"For the branding. I need the mermaid and the anchor for sure. Maybe the swallows and the vines on his hips too." he said.
"Right now you want them?"
"As soon as possible would be nice. I've got my ropes on my wrist and my compass but those are the only nautical ones on me per say. None of Liam's are too great and the rest of you have none. Harry's the goldmine here." he said.
"Yeah I guess I can take pictures for you." I shrugged.
"I'm gonna do multiple drafts with a bunch of different designs so that the company has options." he explained. "Oh, the ship on his arm too and the butterfly. There's so many concepts running through my head right now and Arlo is gonna kill me I have too many ideas."
"Alright give me like ten minutes." I said.
"Thanks mate. I'll send you what we have by the end of the day. Text me after the concert too I've gotta know how they are." he said.
"Okay talk to you soon, I'll send those in a bit. Bye Lou." I said and hung up.
I walked back out into the kitchen where Harry had his head in the cabinet under the sink while Teddy held up a flashlight.
"Sorry, work called." I said. "Everything alright in there?"
"I had a leak I've been meaning to get fixed for weeks but I don't know anything about plumbing at all." Teddy said.
"And apparently I know how to fix a sink." Harry said peeking his head out. "Nothing a little duct tape and tightening can't fix. It's all set now."
"Thank you." he said. "Here, follow me I'll take you up to the guest room I've gotta get Coop up anyway."
We grabbed our stuff from the couch and followed him upstairs to the room down the hall.
"Just make yourself at home I might be a little while with him so go ahead and help yourself to anything in the kitchen and to just hang out on the couch turn the tv on, I don't care." he said.
"Thanks again for letting us stay here." I said.
"You guys are welcome anytime." he said and walked off.
Harry threw his bag up on the dresser and started digging around in it. I grabbed my charger out of my bag and plugged my phone in so that it would last the night through the concert. I changed out of my sweats to make myself look a touch more presentable and laid back on the bed for a little while stretching out after being in the car the whole morning. Harry grabbed his change of clothes out of his bag and tossed them on the bed.
"H, did you bring your computer?" I asked.
"Yeah I've got it. Do they need something back at Wolfe?" he asked.
"Yeah Louis needs me to take pictures of a few of your tattoos for some concepts." I said.
"Ah yeah he told me that yesterday I completely forgot. He said him and Arlo were gonna get to work on it today, was that who called?" he asked.
"First it was Van but he transferred me over to Lou after that." I said. "Alright, strip down, time for your close up."
"While you're add it send these to the rest of the agency, also any women in your contacts." Harry laughed.
"Oh I'm sure Rhodes would love half naked pictures of you." I said.
I took the pictures on Harry's phone and he uploaded them to his computer and toggled with the contrast so they would be more visible and sent them off to Louis. I texted him to tell him they were there and he sent back he'd send some concepts by the end of the day.
"Oddly enough I don't think you taking pictures of me shirtless is the strangest thing we've done together." Harry said and put on a fresh shirt.
"There must have been weirder we've known each other too long for this to be it." I said.
We head back downstairs and turned on the tv just trying to kill some time. Hector was laying down in the middle of the floor half asleep but raised his head when he saw Teddy walk down the stairs with Cooper on his hip and his stuffed bear in his other hand.
"Look who's here buddy remember these guys?" Teddy cooed in his ear.
"Hey Coop long time no see kid." Harry said and held out his arms.
Teddy handed him over to Harry who sat him in his lap. Cooper looked up at him with his big eyes and then over to me studying his audience. He grabbed onto Harry's shirt to steady himself and then looked over at his dad.
"Say hi." Teddy urged his son.
Harry kept his hands on Coop's torso to steady him while he bounced his knee up and down earning countless baby giggles from him. Whenever he would stop Cooper would tug on Harry's shirt to keep the fun going.
"Niall did you catch the Cardinals game Sunday night?" Teddy asked sitting down in the floor to pet Hector.
"Yeah I was doing work for a while but I was watching it. Palmer was lucky he managed to pull out a win there, it was hard to watch quite honestly." I said.
"It was close the whole time, I thought the 49ers were going to take them but the Cardinals were fighting through it." he said.
"That's how it goes for them though, at least all the games I've watched with you." Harry said.
Harry claimed his leg was falling asleep and handed Cooper off to me. He stood between my thighs and held onto my index fingers to support himself and just looked around. He was a good kid, really content. I wish I got to hang out with him all the time like I had in this past week.
Once he started to get a little restless I put him down on the floor to crawl around. Hector started paying extra attention to him at this point and got up from his spot on the floor.
"Look at him he always does this when Cooper is playing in here. He goes and sits in front of the doorway to entry way so that Cooper doesn't get up on the stairs and hurt himself." Teddy said and Hector did just that.
"I knew dogs liked to look out for their people but I never knew they could get so attached to babies." Harry said.
"Hector loves this kid maybe even more than he loves me now." he said. "He sleeps outside his door every night and just watches him everywhere he goes during the day. And when we're in the car we put Hector in way back but he has to peak his head over the row of seats so he can watch Cooper in his car seat. I tell Lucy we'll never need a babysitter for him because Hector does a good enough job."
Around five o'clock Harry and I left the house and went downtown into Richmond. We paid for parking and headed off to a pub not far from the venue to get some dinner. It was a small little place but was packed with people getting off of work for the day and winding down.
"What kind of people are gonna be at this show?" Harry asked me before he took a bite of his burger.
"I don't know, they've got a really wide fanbase. We could be standing next to some teenage girls or some fifty year old guys, couldn't really tell you." I said between bites of my fries.
"The fifty year old guys will probably be those teenage girl's dads." Harry said.
"But really though I think there'll be a lot more people around our age than we expect." I shrugged.
"I'm sure you're right they're actually crazy good musicians. We screwed up not seeing them when they toured Vessel that album is ridiculously good." he said.
"I know that always happens, we just don't get into someone's music at the right time and then we miss their shows." I said.
We finished up our food and posted up at the bar watching a game and drinking beers until about a half hour before the show started. We got inside the venue and grabbed a couple more overpriced beers before staking a claim to a spot as close to the front as we could get. It was an all general admission show and the floor was already filling up.
"I always get yelled at by short girls at concerts." Harry said and took a sip of his beer. "They try to get in front of me but I can't help my height."
"Happens to the best of us mate." I said with a smile.
Twenty One Pilots came out promptly at 9 after their opener and they were absolutely excellent. Tyler was quite the showman and kept the crowd going all night long and Josh was the single best drummer I had ever witnessed. They were quite the pair and though they don't interact much during their set you can tell they have great chemistry to keep things exciting and fun. Harry and I managed to push up further to the front and were holding Josh up on his drum during the finale of Trees which was the coolest performance I had ever seen.
The two were insanely talented and I wished that I could've seen them sooner. Now that they have become mainstream it was going to be totally impossible to get a ticket from here on out. They had the presence to play to stadiums if they wanted to.
Harry and I got back to Teddy's house late and went in through the back door he kept open for us. I took off my shoes and carried them back to the front by the stairs so I wouldn't track wet footprints all through his house. Harry locked the door and followed my lead. We walked upstairs to our room and got ready for bed. I was changed and laying back on the bed when I checked my email one last time that night.
"Oh cool, Louis sent those concepts earlier and they look sick." I said holding my phone toward Harry as he climbed into bed.
"That one looks so good." he said taking my phone out of my hand and scrolling through the rest. "What parts do you think are Arlo's and what parts are his?"
"I bet you all the font work is Lou's and then Arlo did the bulk of the illustrations."
"Who knew I was a work of art." he joked and handed my phone back to me.
We were silent for a while and Harry and I scrolled through our phones before we fell asleep.
"Niall, don't freak out, but did you see this?" he said out of the blue and held his phone out to me.
It was Kira's Instagram page and she put up a picture of her and a guy named Ethan. He was a tall brunette fellow, he looked familiar even but he could've been someone who worked around her agency. He could be anyone. I recognized a few of her friends in the background of the picture along with her manager Sarah.
"'Love it when babe visits me on set.'" I said out loud reading her caption.
"Have you talked to her at all?" he asked me.
"Not since I thanked her for the tickets, and not since she's started seeing him." I said handing the phone back.
My heart sunk into my chest a little. I was happy she was happy I guess, but it didn't suck any less seeing as we were together nearly four years and had broken up only a few months ago. As I kept thinking about it and her I just felt more and more like I got his by a truck.
"It must be something new." Harry said trying to make me feel better.
"Yeah maybe, who knows." I sighed.
"We should get some sleep. We've gotta leave a bit early don't we?" He asked trying to change the subject.
"Good idea." I said solemnly scrolling past the same picture on my timeline.
"Shut your phone then." he said nudging me.
"We've shared a lot of beds within the past month but I think this one is the smallest." I said plugging my phone in.
"I like to think it's just made us even closer."
We woke up at 6 the next morning to get a move on. Technically I was supposed to get Harry back for a half day but he would be able to work from home if we didn't get there in time. We packed up all of our shit and put on our sweats then went downstairs into the kitchen.
"I didn't expect you guys to be up so early." Teddy said while making coffee. "How was the show?"
"They were ridiculous, you should've came." Harry said.
"Too bad I was stuck babysitting." he joked.
"We're trying to get on the road within like a half hour. Technically he's supposed to be working today." I said.
"Well, you're going to have to come back and us again soon so I can actually take you out and show you the good spots around here." he said.
"You've gotta come up to the city and see your sister and us. You're always welcome." Harry said.
"Dylan and me and Kaine are trying to find a good weekend to all meet up there but it's not looking like it'll happen until spring sometime." he said.
"Well just tell her to let us know when that's happening because we'd love to see you guys." I said.
"Thank you for everything, for letting us crash here and showing us around at your parents last week it's been a lot of fun." Harry smiled.
We said our goodbyes to Teddy and Cooper and Hector and then got on the road home after a stop for breakfast. I cranked the heat up and pulled my beanie down over my ears within seconds of getting in my Jeep. It was an especially cold morning compared to how the city normally was. Harry, unsurprisingly, fell asleep within minutes of our drive while I listened to the radio quietly and sipped my coffee. We were about a half hour outside the city when we finally got stuck in traffic. There seemed to be an accident up ahead and everything was at a stand still so I gave up and just stuck the car in park. Harry felt the minor jolt in his sleep and opened up his eyes.
"Where the hell are we?" he asked.
"In traffic." I answered.
"We're a half hour from home. You want to go straight to Wolfe or do you want to stop at your place when we get in?" I asked.
"I would like to grab a sub or something to go for lunch and then go in to see what's happening." he said groggily.
"Better place an order now for pickup in an hour then." I said.
"We're gonna be stuck here that long?" he asked.
"That's what all the signs are saying. Just suck it up." I said and grabbed my phone out of the console.
I opened up Instagram and scrolled all the way back to the picture Kira put up last night. I studied the surroundings and tried to figure out where this guy seemed familiar from. I clicked her profile and started scrolling back through that to see if he ever popped up. My heart sunk further that it did yesterday when I saw the pictures of her and I together again. I thought she would've deleted them after everything that happened. I really didn't notice how much she posted of me until I was really looking, and longing for her once again. I clicked on the picture from our third anniversary where I was kissing her on the cheek to see that she merely just deleted the captions. She didn't have the heart to take the pictures down for good but just enough to make it clear to her followers we were over. It was almost worse than completely erasing me.
My emotions were so fucking screwed up all over again. Four months ago I was ready to propose to Kira and spend the rest of my life with her, and now it was just like it never happened. And just over the last week in Wisconsin I thought I got her out of my head and that she wasn't going to pop back up in it. I thought that Kaine was building me back up after I completely crumbled down after my break up. And I was beginning to think the chemistry that Kaine and I had wasn't all in my head, even though it needed to be. I thought I was starting over but really I felt I was just coming full circle.
Wisconsin wasn't enough to totally cure me of Kira. I was not enough for Kira. I was not enough.
"Niall, snap out of it." Harry said breaking me from my thoughts.
"What if Kira was my one shot at settling down." I asked.
"I knew you were thinking about her again, that damn picture triggered everything all over again didn't it." he said.
He took my phone out of my hand and put it back in the console.
"Can we just be real for a second, can you just answer that for me, please?" I asked.
"She wasn't your one shot at settling down. You need to stop thinking about things that way. Remember that conversation we had probably the first week we met? You thought that one person could just step into your life and change it all? And that that was it, nobody else could do that, just one. And I had to talk some sense into your head that not everything is set in stone and everyone has multiple people who have done that." he said.
"Of course I remember that, you know that was the one of the most important conversations I've ever had." I said.
"Well love works the same way. Sometimes people just don't get it right on that first try, there's love there but it's not the lasting kind. Take my mom for example. She married and had Gem and me, and she loved my father dearly at that time, but things just don't work out. It's not the right kind of love, it's like the kind of love that you have when you see a beautiful stranger on a subway, or the kind you have with your primary school girlfriend. Anne still loves my dad, but just as the father of her kids, not as her life partner. It's not something that is going to flourish and last forever and ever. If my mom thought like you do, that you only get one great love, she would've never met her husband now. She is so in love with Robin, and he is so good to her and he is kind and I've never seen two people more suited for each other." he paused.
Harry was quiet for a minute letting me take everything he just said in.
"Niall, you get more than one love in your life, you get two, you get an infinite amount. But you'll always see Kira and think she was your first great love, but there's some woman out there who is just dying for you to get to her. She's out there, she's just trying to find you too."
"How are you so god damn philosophical and smart, how do you know these things?" I asked.
"Is that your form of a 'Thank you Harry, you're my best friend, you're the greatest thing that has happened to me?'" he asked.
"Don't make me say it." I said.
"Say it." he prodded.
"You're right, you always are, and this is another conversation that I'm going to carry with me forever. Thank you." I said leaning across the console to hug him.
"You're welcome." he said hugging me back. "I'm glad I got to be your first life changer every day."
"I am too."