All These Things That I’ve Done
You’ve gotta help me out
When Harry heard the banging on the door, he rolled over and squeezed his eyes closed, willing it to go away. Because he wasn’t getting involved in that again. He was done – out. He was finished.
But then, the guilt wriggled its way into his stomach as the pounding became more pronounced and he realized that, if it was his door shaking beneath those persistent fists, things must really be bad. With the smallest of self-deprecating sighs, he pushed off the covers, sliding down from the bed and trudging hesitantly along the hallway.
As soon as he turned the knob, a small, wiry body stumbled through, shoving him unceremoniously out of the way. Niall looked just like he always had; the childish roundness hadn’t left his flushed cheeks, his eyes still shone bluer than the brightest summer sky, and his lips still curved into that familiar, triumphant smile as he slammed the door closed and pressed his back against it, breathing heavily. For a moment, Harry was transported back to a time when he would have laughed, too; when he would have tangled his fingers through those golden locks and pressed his mouth against those breathless lips and drank in all the thrill and the danger of the crime. A time when guilt hadn’t existed, and morals were for the weak. They were equals, once, but now Harry could only stand stock still as Niall slid the deadbolt closed and put his ear to the door, listening for footsteps in the hallway.
“You shouldn’t be here,” the curly-haired boy reminded him, put off by the coldness in his own voice. He crossed his house-coat clad arms over his chest, trying to appear bigger than he was. Too many times, he had allowed himself to get swept back into the heat of things. Too many times, he had taken a single, wary look into those forget-me-not eyes, only to find himself tumbling through the abyss again, back into the lying and the running and the fear. But no more. It had been months since the last relapse, and he had been good; he’d paid his bills with money that was his own, he’d bought everything in his flat… he could even walk past the police station without feeling like he ought to drop the act and turn himself in. But, as Niall’s weighted gaze travelled across his unkempt curls, his all-too-modest sleeping attire, his hesitant frown, he couldn’t help but feel like it was all in vain; like the paranoia and shame were better than the boring existence of being a law-abiding citizen.
Niall didn’t say what he was probably thinking – he didn’t say, “you wanted to be somebody, once.” He simply lowered his gaze, fiddling with the strap of the backpack that was slung over his shoulder.
“I’ve got nowhere else to run,” he replied. And, beneath his matter-of-fact tone and the excited glimmer that refused to fade from his eyes, Harry could hear the exhaustion. And the hope. And he knew that he was going to have to squash it before it made its way into those crystalline eyes. Because this wasn’t going to happen again.
“I told you I was done, and I meant it,” he returned his attention to Niall’s face, ignoring the subtle pout and the pleading lift of his eyebrows, and the heartbreaking innocence he’d thrown so easily across his pale features.
“I know,” came the soft reply. But Niall didn’t turn to leave, didn’t move to check that the coast was clear before running back into the night. He only remained where he was, glancing up into the blue-green eyes of his companion.
“Please, Harry. Please don’t make me leave.”
Please just give me a chance.
But Harry was all out of chances. Niall had asked one too many times – they were gone.
“You can’t stay, Niall,” he told him, ignoring his wounded expression, the way the joy seemed to be vacuumed from his face, “I can’t do this anymore.”
However, Niall was already pulling his backpack from his shoulders, jaw setting with determination. He moved further into the flat, clearly not about to take no for an answer. Harry followed fretfully.
“I know that, too,” Niall answered, dropping his bag onto the table with a pointed thud, “but you won’t have to.”
Harry eyed the object warily, lowering himself onto one of the chairs.
“Whatever you’re trying to do, it’s not gonna work. I’ve got a new life, now.”
He stared up at Niall, who seemed to be watching his every movement. He couldn’t help but wish, briefly, that things were the way they used to be; he couldn’t help but wish he’d never decided to grow up. This childish persistence, this never-giving-up, this unrestrainable excitement… he had had that, once, and seeing Niall brought it all back: nights spent slaving over blueprints and escape plans, grand schemes they would never carry out but which haunted their dreams and fuelled more petty thefts. Twelve-man bank heists and 45” revolvers turned into convenience store hold-ups with painted water guns, intricate plots surrounding the thwarting of extensive security systems translated into early-morning crowbars against unsuspecting ATMs. The sight of Niall’s flushed cheeks, the way he practically shook with adrenaline, almost made Harry wish he’d never given it up.
“Aren’t you going to ask what’s in the bag?” Niall urged, expression serious. As if he didn’t know just what he was doing to Harry’s already-muddled mind. Against his better judgment, Harry decided to humour the boy, leaning carefully back in his seat.
“What…” he began weakly, clearing his throat, “what’s in the bag?”
Immediately, Niall’s lips curved up in a proud smile, and his eyes glittered with victory. He reached over, slowly unzipping the main compartment. Harry tore his eyes away from the Irish boy’s face, following the movement of his hand, jaw dropping open in surprise as a few notes spilled onto the table and it became clear that the whole thing was full of handfuls and handfuls of money. His brain stopped functioning; he was suddenly unable to comprehend what was happening. Sure, they’d had their fair share of successful robberies, but they’d never left with this much. Too much. Here he was – now a fine, upstanding citizen, one who played by the rules – and there was a bag of money from god-knows-where sitting on his kitchen table. He was overwhelmed to the point of speechlessness. Niall took his silence as a cue to speak.
“I was thinking…” he began, slender fingers closing around a bill, lifting it to the light, “I was thinking this might be enough to start over.”
He glanced at Harry, trying to gauge his reaction. The curly-haired boy’s gaze was fixated on the note in his hand, following it as Niall lowered his arm, tucking it carefully back into the pack.
“I was thinking you could come with me.”
Harry swallowed thickly. His heart felt weak, and helpless, and that excruciating hopefulness returned to Niall’s voice; it brought back a deep, longing ache which he had so very nearly managed to forget.
“Come with you… where?” he looked numbly up at Niall, who was zipping the bag closed again. The Irish boy grinned, raising an eyebrow.
“Away. Far away, anywhere we wanted – Another World, remember?”
He leaned forward, eyeing Harry with tentative emotion, and suddenly all of the suspicion and fear and guilt that the younger boy had built around himself began to crumble, because he did remember. Every word, every detail, of their master plan. And the way they had designed it; tangled beneath the covers of what would soon be their bed, the moonlight splashing in fragmented pools across their bare skin. A plan that had been as much whispered promises as it was fingertips pioneering the newfound territory that was each other. After a night spent dreaming up complicated casino robberies to rival the brilliance of Danny Ocean and Rusty, they had somehow shed the guise of friendship and moved, with ease, in the direction of something deeper.
“And,” Niall’s breath had been hot and raw against the tender skin of Harry’s ear, eliciting a long-awaited shiver from the curly-haired boy, “once we’ve escaped with the cash, we’ll hop on the next plane out of the country. And they’ll never be able to find us.”
And Harry had grinned at the thought of leaving everything behind, of having to be nothing but with Niall.
“Where,” he asked, hands drifting slowly over Niall’s taught stomach, moving to his chest, leaving no dip or curve unexplored, “would we go?”
Niall slid an arm across Harry’s torso, pushing himself up so that he was hovering over the younger boy, eyes sparkling mischievously. Harry could remember the way those eyes had almost glowed in the moonlight, just like Niall’s pale skin, and how he couldn’t help but think, briefly, that something so celestial shouldn’t have to be restrained to such a mediocre planet as Earth. How must Harry look, laying beneath him, dull and grey and completely hypnotized by his beauty?
Pathetic, but the word meant nothing as Niall lowered himself once more, planting careless kisses all the way from the corner of Harry’s jaw to the dip of his collarbone.
“Anywhere we wanted.”
And, if possible, Harry’s smile had stretched even wider. Because the pure thrill of letting himself believe something so impossible was enough to make his heart burst into silent song. And then, on a whim, he’d murmured.
Niall had giggled against the skin of his shoulder, pressing his nose into it as he did so, so that the whole of his amusement was contained right there in that now-burning space.
“That’s what we’ll call it,” he agreed, shifting slightly, tangling his fingers through the thick chocolate of Harry’s curls, “operation Another World. Just when they think they’ve got us cornered… just when they think they’ve won…”
He moved his hand to Harry’s forehead, toying with the soft locks of hair that had fallen across it, smiling in a way that made Harry’s breath catch in his throat.
“We’ll tell them we’ve taken the daughter of the casino’s president hostage, and that – if they want her to live – they better put down their guns and call us a helicopter.”
Harry had shaken his head at this, tracing his thumb along the line of Niall’s jaw. Trying to be gentle, to avoid breaking the delicate perfection that someone so clumsy as him should have never been able to touch.
“Neither of us will be able to fly the helicopter,” he pointed out, smirking. Niall had laughed again – this time, with no way to smother the sound – and the room instantly filled with that soft, unbroken melody.
“I guess one of us will have to learn, then,” he decided, and they looked at each other, feeling the final tethers of their unspoken connection tighten around their wrists; binding them to each other indefinitely. Then, Niall pressed his lips firmly against Harry’s, and all speech was forgotten until he broke away a minute later and whispered, in a voice thick with lust, “roll over, Curly.”
They worked out the details the next morning, hugging their mugs of hot tea, pausing every so often to drink each other in.
And now, staring up at Niall, remembering how utterly right every second with him had been, Harry wondered where he had found the strength to leave that life. The excitement, the pleasure, the never knowing what was around the next corner… those were the parts he missed. But it was the other half of it which had exhausted him, he supposed – always having to look over his shoulder, always fearing an ambush, a clever cop waiting for the right moment to pounce. The more Harry hated it, the more Niall loved it, until the former was addicted to the idea of safety and the latter, to the idea of danger. And that, he knew, was when he’d decided to untie the knots that bound them together and start cleaning up his act.
“Niall –“ he began, trying not to wince as those blue eyes sparked eagerly. Harry sighed. He felt so… old, suddenly. So mature.
“Niall, we can’t. That was a different time. A different dream,” he tried to let him down easy, but Niall’s lips pressed into a thin little line and his expression was immediately awash with almost-furious unhappiness. Hurriedly, Harry continued, determined to get it all out before his companion could try to change his mind again.
“Another World… we’d need a hostage, for one. And the building would need to be surrounded by police, and – and the helicopter?”
Niall was shaking his head, now, shaking it quickly and pulling away, pushing himself off the table.
“You’ve gotta help me out, Harry. I have all in my head; it’s all in my head. Every detail. It’s perfect,” he insisted, but Harry only smiled softly, rising from his chair.
“That’s the problem, Niall. It’s all in your head. It’s always all been in your head – all the big things, anyway. We were never the world-class criminals we would have liked to be.”
Niall took in a shuddering breath, seemingly willing himself to stay strong. To not give up like Harry had.
“You should have seen the vault, Harry,” he continued, as if his companion hadn’t said anything at all, “you would have loved it. Nothing like on TV. Not really, anyway. There weren’t stacks of money just out in the open, obviously; there weren’t even locked boxes full of it, like in Oceans. Just all these drawers. But we rigged the wiring, or something – I didn’t do it, Louis did – and they opened, and there it was.”
His eyes shone as he described the scene, and Harry nodded, playing along with the story.
“I’ve never seen so much money, Harry,” Niall grinned. The curly-haired boy’s heart broke, to see such unfounded delight there; a delight that barely concealed the desperation swirling beneath it.
“Of course you haven’t,” he replied, stepping toward the blonde boy, “of course not.”
Niall grabbed his backpack, blinking over at his companion, holding it close to his chest.
“We grabbed everything we could, before the alarms went off. We stuffed our pockets, our bags, our shirts. There was so much of it. We kept waiting for the lights to start flashing, the sirens to go off, but… it didn’t come.”
He shuddered again, watching as Harry approached. He looked very much like a frightened, wild animal; cornered, with nowhere left to go – nowhere else to run.
“But then we realized,” he laughed, a harsh sound that was nothing like the joyous, carefree giggle Harry remembered, “the alarms were silent.”
Harry paused, eyeing him closely. He seemed almost feverish, now, staring at the wall as he spoke, gesticulating with the hand that wasn’t wrapped tightly around the money.
“And we started running, but they were already there. They were waiting, with their smoke bombs and the S.W.A.T. team and their guns, and a loudspeaker, and they were talking to us, telling us to come out, and there were just… so many,” his lips began to tremble. Harry’s face turned to stone as he watched. As he began to believe.
“I – I panicked. I ran, sprinted, away. The rest went out with their hands up, but I couldn’t do it. The thought of sitting in a – a cell, for months and months, and never being able to walk around in the open air, and having to eat prison food – “
Niall looked at him, surprised by the interruption. His eyes wandered over Harry’s shocked features, his rigid stance. His eyes, wide and pretty and full of a familiar, twisting fear. Niall blinked.
Now, it was Harry’s turn to shake his head, to draw in a ragged breath, to reach out for something to hold onto.
“You didn’t… you didn’t really rob a bank.”
Niall stared at him, brow wrinkling in confusion.
“But I just told you –“
He was cut off by a sharp ha! from the curly-haired boy, who now looked completely manic.
“No, Niall, you didn’t rob a bank. You couldn’t have! It’s – it’s a bank!”
Niall shifted uncertainly, gaze flickering around the room. Taking note of potential escape routes, Harry figured, just in case he ended up going completely insane. Which, judging from the way the blood was rushing in his ears and his heart was pounding out of his chest and his hands were slick with sweat, wasn’t too impossible. He felt his lips twist up into what could only be a ferociously large grin, a grin that probably didn’t fit his face, that probably made him look like the Cheshire cat.
Niall slowly shook his head, fingers curling against the fabric of his bag.
“You’ve been out of the loop for a while, Harry… things have changed.”
And now, staring at the boy before him, Harry simply knew he wasn’t making this up. Niall was a smooth talker. Most people didn’t realize it; the way he bumbled through his words, the way he stuttered, the way his always cheeks flushed – it threw them off. It had thrown Harry off, once, but he’d learned to see straight through it. He’d learned his lesson. Now, however, there were none of the tell-tale signs of a lie. Only the cold, blaring weight of the truth, and Harry was being crushed beneath it. There was a beat – a beat in which neither moved – and then Harry leapt to the phone and lifted it from its stand, fingers clumsily sliding over the buttons as he struggled to dial the number he knew too well.
Before he could even begin to think straight – before he could even begin to realize what he was doing – Niall was on top of him, tearing his arms away from the device, nails digging into his skin as he struggled to stop Harry from placing the call. It was the first time they’d touched in over half a year; the first time Harry had felt Niall’s slender warmth, the smoothness of his skin, the first time he had breathed in the soft, natural scent that had once been his oxygen. But he fought against it, against all of it, spinning and wincing as his elbow hit the lamp, knocking it to the floor. Niall was scrambling over his back, now, one arm clasped firmly around his neck, the other grappling with the phone.
“Don’t do it!” he cried angrily, as Harry grunted and leaned forward, trying to shake him off.
“You robbed a bank!” he shouted back, taking an uneven step, crying out in pain as Niall grabbed a handful of his hair and pulled. He automatically went to untangle the older boy’s fingers, accidentally releasing the phone. It dropped to the floor. Now, Niall was trying to propel himself over Harry’s shoulders so that he could dive down and grab the thing, but Harry fell forward before he could do it, smothering it with his body.
“So?” Niall cried, giving Harry a good, hard shove, hands sliding beneath him in search of the phone.
“So it’s a bank!” Harry insisted, squirming around, kicking his feet out in Niall’s direction. Niall threw his hands up, blocking himself from the attack, becoming momentarily distracted. Harry lifted himself up and grabbed the phone, getting ready to dial again.
“That doesn’t mean anything! I’m still the person I used to be, I’m still me. You never had a problem with me before! You never tried to call the police on me before!”
Niall reached out and grabbed Harry’s legs, shoving them uselessly to the side as he sprang across him, wrestling the phone from his grasp.
“Yeah, before! But then you robbed a bank! That’s serious; they’re going to be looking for you!”
Niall got a hold of the phone and rolled away and jumped up, sprinting toward the window. Realizing what he was going to do, Harry launched himself off the floor and leapt after him, grabbing him in a directionless tackle before the smaller boy could toss it out into the street. They tumbled to the ground, letting out twin oofs as, heavily, they landed.
“That’s why,” Niall groaned, twisting under the weight of the curly-haired boy, “I came to you. I thought you could help me.”
Harry wrapped his arms and legs around the writhing mass beneath him, struggling to keep him contained. Niall was like a cat – squishy and slippery, and quite talented at escaping from all sorts of situations.
“I told you,” he gasped, reaching blindly for the phone, “I wanted out.”
Niall dug his fingers into the carpet, trying to drag himself away from the long-limbed trap.
“But you were so good at it. The best – better than me, anyway,” he grimaced, lacing his fingers around the leg of the coffee table and sucking his stomach in, trying to simply slip out of Harry’s grasp, “you would have realized the alarm was silent. You would have gotten us out of there on time.”
And Harry couldn’t deny that. He had always been the more thoughtful of the two – of all of them. But, as the fabric of Niall’s shirt slid beneath his hands, and he caught a glimpse of the phone clutched in the smaller boy’s left hand, he remained adamant:
“I was good at it, but I didn’t want to be.”
He had the talent of a thief, but he wasn’t a thief. Niall knew that, but he refused to accept it. Refused to let go of Harry. If Harry said he couldn’t, Niall only tried harder to convince him that he could. The curly-haired boy took the chance of removing one arm from Niall’s waist in order to make a grab for the phone, but Niall pushed it out of reach, breathing heavily.
“It’s still your fault this happened,” he accused. Harry frowned, shifting over him without releasing him, stretching toward the phone.
“How is it my fault?”
“You put me on the back burner. You decided I wasn’t important enough. You stopped being fun.”
“I grew up, Niall.”
“No, you didn’t.”
“You’re still the person you used to be. You can fool the world, but you can’t fool me.”
Niall squirmed, half-turning so that he could look up at Harry, who was staring angrily down at him.
Niall rolled his eyes, taking a moment to catch his breath.
“I’m not bluffing. This isn’t a game. Us… we’re not a game.”
And now, he looked angry, too, and they were both glaring steadily at each other, and Niall was still half-clutching the phone and Harry could have grabbed it, if he wanted to, because it was right there. Except he didn’t, because there was just something so magnetic about the upset little creases in Niall’s forehead, and the tousled mess of his hair, and the irritated crinkle of his nose.
“I should turn you in,” Harry whispered, his curls falling forward as he leaned closer, trying to consume Niall with loathing.
“If I go down, I’m taking you with me,” Niall promised hotly, reflecting all of Harry’s own disgust right back up at him. And their breaths mingled, and their chests tightened, and then Harry slammed his mouth against Niall’s and it was like not a single second of separation had ever existed between them. Because their bodies fit together like a two-piece jigsaw puzzle, and even when Niall’s teeth grazed Harry’s lip a little bit too hard, and even when Harry’s nose smashed into Niall’s, and even when Harry’s knee slammed painfully onto the phone, and even when Niall managed to smack his head on the underside of the table, it didn’t feel like a mistake. And just as Harry was beginning to think that, maybe, it wouldn’t matter so much if they were caught because they were in this together, there was a pounding at the door.
The curly-haired boy’s eyes widened as a familiar, male voice rang through the apartment:
“Harry! Harold? Open up!”
He rolled off of Niall, pressing himself flat against the floor. Pretending like he wasn’t there. In a low voice, he whispered:
“Niall? There’s something I should probably tell you…”
Niall turned to him, but he didn’t seem worried, or surprised, or any of what Harry would have been feeling if they were in opposite positions.
“There’s something I should probably tell you, too,” was Niall’s reply. Harry frowned, but the pounding grew louder and the voice, more insistent, and in spite of his misgivings he mumbled, “me, first.”
Niall nodded, but his mouth pursed anxiously. Harry took a deep breath.
“My dad… my dad’s the chief of police. That’s why I had to stop. Because if he found out –“ emotion wormed its way into his voice, saturating the whispered confession, dripping stickily into the carpet. However, Niall cut him off before he could continue.
“I know,” he said simply. Harry’s face contorted into a mask of alarm, and he gave a start. Niall placed a calming hand on his cheek, gaze shifting between his eyes, begging – without words – for the younger boy to understand. Then, with a tiny sigh, he added:
“I learned how to fly a helicopter.”
Harry’s expression was a war zone between curiosity and horror, and Niall had to focus on the calming green of his irises in order to continue with the admission.
“The building is surrounded by police.”
Harry took a deep breath as Niall lowered his gaze, as he bit carefully down on his lip.
“You’re the hostage.”