and i'll forget the world that i knew, but i swear i won't forget you
brokenbravery
timestamp for the build your nest on tenderness verse, so you should read that (and it's other timestamps) first if you haven't already.
summary: louis runs into someone special from his past, zayn's still stupidly emotional about all that, and everything is happy and fluffy. (mostly, at least.)
so this one is a bit more louis centric, for obvious reasons, but it's got enough zouis that i think it'll suffice. it's mostly set up for some other timestamp ideas for this verse that i've been playing with.
trigger warning for mentions of past abuse and rape.
title and lyrics from on vanilla twilight by owl city.




The bell hanging above the coffee shop door jingles to life a few feet away, and Louis has to force his ears not to perk up. He’s sitting across from Zayn, watching fondly as he studies away for his uni classes, and he can’t help but admire his boyfriend’s Concentration Face, all forehead wrinkles and bitten lips. He’s pretty as always in the warm glow of the lamp beside them, and there’s a knowing smirk growing now, like he’s aware Louis is creeping. Proving that theory right, the boy in front of him glances up and laughs silently, reaching across the table to bop him on the nose.


“What are you looking at, kitty?” He teases, cocking his head to the side.

Louis snorts, hiding it behind a sip of his milk. “Nothing, nothing. Just admiring.” He smiles.

Zayn rolls his eyes and stretches, back cracking from being hunched over for so long. “Sorry if I’m being boring, I just really don’t want to fail this class-”

“Shush babe, I know.” Louis interrupts. “I’m not bored or upset, or anything. I really am just. Admiring.”

Zayn’s cheeks tinge pink but he remains as confident as ever, winking across the table. “Well, enjoy yourself then.” He drawls, before glancing at the time.

“How about I get, like, twenty more minutes of solid studying done and then we can head out, yeah?”

“Sure.” Louis nods easily. “You mind if I buy a muffin or something? M’hungry.”

“Yeah, course, hang on.” Zayn mutters as he rummages about for his wallet, eventually coming up with a crinkled bill. “Grab me another coffee?”

“Yes Mr. Caffeine Freak.” Louis laughs, taking the money in hand and standing up, yawning big.

He bops slightly to the music playing overhead, top forty bubblegum pop that he really does hate, but can’t help but dance along to. Weaving around patrons and empty chairs, he makes his way to the counter and has to practice the order once or twice in his head, still not quite adapted to interacting with so many people over so many things. Normal life is a lot to get used to.

The barista is a kind looking woman with tattoos (much more colorful than Zayn’s) and dyed red hair, and she greets him with a big smile. “Hi love, what can I get for ya?” She asks, Scottish accent present. He likes it. (And in the back of his mind he wonders what Scotland is like, what Ireland and France and America are like. Now that he’s seen some of the world, he wants to see all of it.)

“Um, one blueberry muffin and a coffee, please.” Louis orders, handing her the money. She takes it with another smile, nodding.

“Sure thing, wait right over there and I’ll bring it to you in a mo.” She tells him, pointing to the other side of the counter, where all the sugar and milk and cream is. He takes his change and wanders over, eyes skimming artwork on the wall, flowers on the tables. He decides he very much likes this place, and if he ever has the confidence one day, he might come by himself while Zayn’s at school.

For now though, he watches his boyfriend from across the room, stomach dipping at the sight of him pushing his styled down hair out of his eyes.

Sometimes Zayn just mesmerizes him, in all that he is, all that he does. He’s a walking contradiction; all sharp features but soft words, fierce protectiveness but the biggest and warmest heart Louis’ ever encountered. And he’s all his. Talk about winning the life lottery.

There’s an amused chuckle to his right and he glances over to see the barista smirking knowingly, order on the counter between them. Louis flushes pink, but she doesn’t tease.

“That your boyfriend?” She asks, fiddling with her lip ring.

Louis ducks his head, nodding. “Yeah.” He smiles.

“You guys are cute.” She comments, and says nothing more.

He nods again, silently thanking her, before taking the coffee and muffin gratefully. The door chimes once more as he begins to make his way back to the table, and he’s about halfway there when his cat-like nose picks up a scent that sends all sorts of nostalgia zinging through him.

He stops in his tracks, mind flipping through memories of goodnight hugs, hands making music on cage bars, made up games to help pass the time. Louis knows that smell anywhere, knows that hybrid anywhere.

He spins quickly, and his heart jumps when he sees him. He’s older now, obviously, but he’s still boyish in the ways that count. His hair is a bit longer, no longer greasy or tangled, and it’s half hidden behind a beanie nearly identical to Louis’, covering his ears too. He’s got on just a plaid button up, but sweatpants as well, so Louis assumes his tail is wrapped round his thigh. It used to be like that a lot, except for other reasons.

But most important of all, he looks healthy. Taken care of. Maybe even happy, for all he knows.

He’s speaking to a human beside him, probably his owner, if the hand hovering on his back is anything to go by. Louis’ ears jump, and he has to force them down while trying to listen in. His voice is the same as it always was, asking, quietly but comfortably, “Milk, please? With a shot of chocolate?”

Louis can’t help but giggle lightly, because that boy had always loved his chocolate. (The few times they managed to get some, usually on birthdays or such, he’d eat only a little a day to make it last as long as possible. One time, he told Louis he had a dream about swimming in a pool of melted chocolate.) As soon as the sound has left his mouth, he watches as the other hybrid’s ears twitch under his hat too, and then his head is turning to search the shop.

It takes all of five seconds for their eyes to meet, and Stan’s light up immediately. His expression slackens at first, and then he’s grinning big, and then they both are, and then Louis is putting down his food on an empty table, and then they’re running at each other. They collide in a tight hug, Stan’s smell washing over him, arms squeezing tight, spinning in circles and laughing loudly despite the few onlookers with curious expressions.

“Holy shit, holy shit, holy shit.” Stan's repeating over and over, and it takes all Louis has not to just lose composure.

Instead, he breaks apart to cup the other boy’s cheeks, still beaming. “Oh my god, I never thought I’d see you again, I’ve missed you.” He gushes, still trying to wrap his head around the situation.

Stan grabs his hands in his and takes a step back, looking him over. “God, you look good, Louis.” He murmurs, making him do a little spin. Louis obliges like he always did. “Really healthy. You’re fucking glowing, mate.”

Louis huffs a laugh and pokes the other hybrid’s chin. “Not too bad yourself, Stan.” He tells him, amused when it gets him a bashful smile. “God, so you got bought? Or? I haven’t seen you since we got separated, please tell me you’re, like, alright and everything?”

They both know what he means by alright. (Not being hurt daily.)

Stan nods though, bright, and lowers the volume of his voice to explain “Yeah, yeah, I got sold off like two years ago? Was with this one shitty guy, who, like, well you know, but then he got fed up with me being sad n shit, so he sold me again and I ended up with Andy. I mean, I still have to have sex with him, but he treats me really well, and he’s actually a good friend? So I don’t really mind it at all? And I’ve got my own room, n a flat screen tv, and he takes me bloody everywhere Louis, it’s, it’s crazy, I never thought I’d have this.”

By the end, he’s almost teary eyed, and Louis hugs him again because he can.

“Jesus, I’m so happy for you, I always hoped you’d get saved. Used to stay up at night wishing and stuff, you know?” Louis whispers, nosing at his neck.

“Course I know, idiot, I did the same for you.” Stan tells him, squeezing him once more before breaking away.

Louis just gives him a look, one that he knows will convey the mess he’s feeling inside. Stan nods, giving him the same.

“So what are you doing here? Please tell me you got saved?” He asks, voice lilting hopefully, on the edge of desperate.

Louis opens his mouth to answer, giddy, but then there’s an arm snaking around his waist and the scent of Zayn’s familiar cologne filling his nose.

“Who’s this, Lou?” He asks, warm as ever. Louis leans into him and watches as Stan’s eyes flicker between the two of them quickly, curious but cautious.

“Yeah, Lou, who’s this?” He mocks playfully, but it's a little tentative, like he’s not sure about the new human holding his old cage mate. That seems fair, though.

“Erm, this is. This is Zayn.” He introduces, shrugging nervously. “He’s my boyfriend.”

“Boyfriend?” Stan repeats in surprise, before his eyes narrow. “Consensual boyfriend, right?”

“Yes, yes, oh god.” Louis stutters, face heating. “He, he bought me, and saved me, and, and I fell in love with him.”

Stan kind of looks like he wants to coo, expression softening immediately, smile warping his lips.

“We fell in love with each other.” Zayn corrects with a kiss to his hair. Turning slightly to address Stan, he adds “He’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

“Christ Louis, you got lucky, didn't you?” The other hybrid exhales, but it’s happy and thankful and supportive. God, Louis’ missed him.

He flushes further and nods, glancing down at his feet. “Yeah.”

“So, care to finish the introduction, love?” Zayn prompts, thumb stroking his hip, slipping under his shirt to press at a fading hickey.

Louis huffs a laugh and shakes his head, trying to collect his thoughts. They’re all over the place right now. (It’s strange, having his old life and new life mixing like this.)

“Right, um, Zayn, this is Stan, he was my, er.” He lowers his voice, knowing he needs to be careful in public. “My cage mate, for quite a long time. We were really close, and then he got taken away, and. It was shit, basically.”

“Really shit.” Stan sighs.

Louis tilts his head up to see Zayn’s eyes swirl like they always do when his past is brought up, when he talks about anything sad at all. (Once, he asked him why that happens, and Zayn had just said “Because you deserve all the happiness in the world, and it’s just fucking tragic that you didn’t have that.” Louis had frozen in surprise for a moment, unable to wrap his head around it, but when he found his wits again he’d replied “I do now. That’s what counts.”)

“And you didn't get to see each other again? Until now, I mean?” Zayn questions, frowning.

“Not really.” Stan answers easily. Louis remembers a time where he couldn’t look humans in the eye. “We saw each other in passing, if buyers and such were in the direction that took us past each other’s cages, but other than that, we couldn’t be together. Although, there was that one time I bribed the feeder with head to let me visit Louis for ten minutes.”

Zayn looks proper sorrowful, but Louis grins at the memory. “Ten minutes of hugging, was all it was. Needed that. You totally knew I had that rough buyer that day, didn’t you?”

Stan smirks, winking. “I know everything, deary.” He teases, making Louis snort.

“Glad to see the good parts of you haven’t changed.” Louis says approvingly.

Zayn’s gone quiet, but Louis knows why and he can deal with it later. For now, he reaches across to take Stan’s hand in his, needing to have contact with him. He feels like he might blink and the other hybrid will be gone.

“Just what are you on about you little wanker, all parts of me are good! I’m fabulous.” Stan remarks in mock outrage.

Louis tugs on his index finger, laughing.

“But, seriously, same goes. M’glad to see you’re still Louis. Just. Happier. Loads happier.” Stan says importantly, and the world is bipolar today because now Louis wants to cry again.

He sniffles it back and nods rather quickly, free hand finding its way to Zayn’s side, touching there gently. “Yeah.” He breathes.

Stan opens his mouth like he’s going to say something else, but then the man he came in with (Andy, his brain reminds him belatedly) is tapping him on the shoulder, sending cursory glances to Zayn and Louis. “Stan, we’re gonna be late if we don’t go soon.” He warns, but it seems friendly enough.

“Right, um, uh.” Stan stammers, looking from Louis to Andy and back. “Andy, this, actually, is Louis.”

The way he says Louis’ name makes it seem like he’s told Andy lots and lots about him, and judging by the comprehension dawning in his eyes, that’s probably the case.

“Oh, wow, hi.” Andy greets, smiling politely. Louis shuffles a little, not sure if he likes him or not. “I really hate to break up the reunion, honestly, but we have a gathering we need to get to.”

“Wait!” Is out of Louis’ mouth before he can stop it, broken and needy. “Wait, will I see you again?” He asks Stan, tightening his tail around himself like a hug. “I can't lose you again.”

Stan looks to Andy, eyes pleading. “Can I see him? Please? You have footy twice a week, can I see him while you’re out?” He begs, bouncing a little for effect.

“I’d be happy to take them out, or watch them wherever.” Zayn chimes in, nodding in greeting. “Just, if you’re worried about his safety, or anything.”

Andy squeezes Stan’s shoulder, telling Zayn “Yeah, I’m sure we can figure something out, mate. Why don't you give me your number and I’ll text you sometime to plan?”

Zayn smiles, kissing Louis’ temple as he moves away. “Yeah, hang on, my phone’s back at the table, just come with for a mo? Give these guys a minute to say goodbye.”

Both hybrids deflate at that, hands clinging tighter, but Zayn quickly amends “Only for a little while, this time.”

The two humans head back over to the corner table, and Louis turns to Stan, lip already wobbling. He’s in a similar state, eyes watery and cheeks pink.

“Shit, man. Don’t wanna leave you.” Stan mutters, tugging him close and kissing over where his ears are under his beanie.

“We’ll see each other soon, I swear.” Louis stresses, purring into his neck. “M’so glad we ran into you.”

“Me too, Louis.” Stan murmurs softly.

Louis shifts, heart skipping as he pipes up with “It’s. It’s Lou now, really. New life, new name, kinda. I like feeling like I can wash away all the bad stuff, you know?”

Stan nuzzles into his cheek before they pull apart, and then he nods, almost proud. “Yeah, course I do. And anyways, I think Lou suits you.” He grins.

“Thanks.” Louis shrugs. “It was Zayn’s nickname for me, originally.”

“Definitely not surprised.” Stan snorts. “Did you know your voice goes all soppy when you talk about him? Just did it now.”

Louis blushes deep and shoves him playfully, pouting. “Oh shush, you’re terrible.” He teases, but then sobers. “I. I’m really happy with him. He just. Makes me feel so safe.”

Stan’s tail flicks in his pant leg and both of them snicker, quickly making sure nobody saw. The coast is clear, but Zayn and Andy are heading back over, chatting lowly about footy teams. Louis’ heart sinks and he clings to Stan once more, surprised the other hybrid doesn’t take the piss. Instead, he’s clinging right back.

“Alright, Stan, ready to go? Zayn and I are gonna find some times for you two to hang out.” Andy announces, and the two finally separate properly, Zayn wrapping an arm around Louis right away, Andy doing the same with Stan. The other hybrid relaxes into the touch and Louis smiles, glad he got lucky too.

“Okay, well. Bye, Lou.” Stan frowns. “And Zayn, it was nice to meet you.”

“Same goes.” Zayn nods.

Louis’ stomach is tingling, missing him already, but he fights it off because he knows he’ll see him again soon, knows this isn’t a real goodbye this time. It just sucks, being separated again.

“Bye, Stan.” Louis sighs. Andy goes to lead them away, but Louis pushes past his nerves and adds “And, um, Andy?”

The blonde man turns back with an expectant but friendly raise of his eyebrow.

“Take care of him, yeah? Not that you don’t. Just. You know.” He struggles.

Andy nods, though. “Course, Louis, we’ll see you soon.”

And then they’re gone, walking out the door, drinks in hand. Stan looks over his shoulder outside, giving Louis one last lingering smile, before they’re out of sight. Sadness washes over him, obviously, but so does strong contentment. Knowing Stan is safe and loved is...comforting beyond all means. (He’s been worried nonstop in the back of his mind for years now, a weight that’s finally off his shoulders.)

He smiles big then, unable to contain it, and throws himself into Zayn’s arms, purring and snuggling into his neck.

“M’so happy he’s happy.” He whispers, not needing to explain further. Zayn understands him.

Sure enough, his boyfriend holds him tight and breathes warm into his hair. “Me too, kitten. D’you wanna go home now?”

“Yes please. Unless you need to study more?” Louis asks, but gets a shake of Zayn’s head.

“Nah, love, we’re done for the day.” He decides. Louis kisses his chest piece gratefully, leaning back with a sheepish wince.

“Er, your coffee’s gone cold now, sorry.” He apologizes, but Zayn hiccups a laugh and pecks him on the lips.

“S’alright sweetheart, we’ll get another and head home.” He soothes, chucking the old one in the trash and handing Louis his muffin.

Louis’ mostly caught up in thought as Zayn gathers his things, packing up schoolbooks and countless highlighters. Instead of helping like he usually would, he simply stands and stares at his feet. But soon Zayn slings his bag over his shoulder and takes Louis’ hand in his, walking up the counter once more.

Before he can even order, the same barista as before slides two already lidded cups across with a smile. “A coffee and a milk, on the house.”

“I. Really?” Zayn asks, caught off guard.

She nods, winking at Louis. “As I already told him, I think you two are cute.”

Zayn chuckles and kisses Louis’ heated cheek, handing him his cup. “Thank you, we appreciate it.”

“Not a problem, have a great day.” She smiles, waving. Zayn’s leading them out, but Louis gives her a little wave back, deciding that yeah, he’ll definitely make sure to come back here one day.

The air outside is refreshing, slightly cool breeze ruffling his loose jumper, that of course is actually Zayn’s. He likes that he’s smaller and can wear his boyfriend’s clothes all the time, with the exception of a few shirts that cling to his tummy. (He dislikes that bit of extra chub, but Zayn doesn't, Zayn pets it, kisses it, comes onto it. So it doesn't bother him that much.)

They hop into the car, Louis snuggling into the blanket that covers his seat (Zayn’s mother had sent it awhile back with some random junk they’d thrown out right away, but it smells just like him, apparently already from his childhood bedroom, and it’s soft and cozy and really just his absolute favorite) and turning to look at his boyfriend softly.

He’s looking better than before, but clearly still affected, one hand tight on the steering wheel, the other distracted where it strokes Louis’ own.

“D’you wanna just go for a drive and talk?” Louis asks knowingly, and Zayn nods right away.

“Yeah, if that’s what you want.” He inquires, sweet as ever.

“That’s what I want.” Louis confirms.

Zayn starts up the car and pulls out onto the road, Louis nursing his milk close to his lips, soaking up the warmth and unwinding his tail, no longer needing to hide it. He stretches it with a flick, landing across the space between their seats, and Zayn reaches over to pet at it lovingly.

The radio plays quiet alongside the engine’s hum as Louis waits for Zayn to break, because he knows his human better than anyone else (or so he likes to think) and he’s stubborn about his emotions, needs to dwell inside his head for a while before he speaks about them.

“Stan seems really nice.” The other boy says after a few minutes, like he knew he would.

Louis nods, careful. “The nicest.” He agrees.

“So how long have you known him, then? Like, how long were you two together?” Zayn questions, taking a gulp of his coffee and swallowing big.

“Mm, we were in the same cage for like, three years, maybe more? Didn’t exactly have a calendar.” Louis shrugs, watching people pass by outside. There’s so many people in the world, and it’s so hard to wrap his head around. (Especially because he’s scared of most of them.) “I’d already been there awhile when they did some switching around and I ended up with him, scared out of my mind.”

“Yeah?” Zayn asks sadly, taking advantage of a stop sign to glance over with sympathetic eyes.

“Yeah, I mean, that’s kinda how it is with all hybrids, you know? It’s the instincts, it gets in the way of trust. Though, I suppose when you think about it, I wasn't given much to trust all my life, so that didn't help. But I mean, eventually we learned to tolerate each other, and then we started getting more attention, cause we’re the same age so we were growing up together, and, like. Everyone just wanted a piece of us.” Louis explains, going a little cold at the memory.

But the ones after it are much nicer, and he smiles at his hands. “We ended up being each other’s support systems. Started with small things, like a smile before we were taken away, and then a hand touch when we came back, and, like, I guess just over time it grew like our bond did and next thing you know we’re all over each other, hugging and cuddling and laughing, and, like. Genuinely just having a good time. It was nice, you know? New. I’d never felt, like, content before, and Stan made me feel that way. At least when one of us wasn't being, I dunno, rented, or whatever the term actually is.”

“Well don’t use that term, it makes you sound like you’re nothing, Lou.” Zayn interrupts, twirling the soft hair of his tail. “You’re not nothing, darling.”

“I. I know.” Louis stammers, staring at his hands in his lap.

“No, you don’t. I mean, maybe you do, sometimes, but you’ve got really expressive eyes, you know that? You show everything, and I see everything, and that means I know when you’re pretending.” Zayn tells him bluntly. It’s gentle, though, and Louis manages a nod.

“Sorry.” He blushes. “I dunno, it’s not like I hate myself, or anything. I mean, I used to, but that’s what Stan helped with, and vice versa. Now it’s just. It’s whatever. I can deal with it, because I have you, and you make me feel, like, just so fucking happy, and. I’m past it. I mean, it comes back sometimes, sure, but I can handle it. You help me handle it.”

It’s not very coherent but Zayn sighs and gives his thigh a reassuring squeeze, letting him know he’ll let it go for the day, knowing it’s not the time to discuss it. Louis thanks him with a rumble-purr.

“So Stan helped with all that?” Zayn prompts, and Louis nods from behind the lid of his cup. The milk is heated up perfectly, and he’s pretty sure the barista included a very small shot of chocolate. It reminds him further of Stan, and his lips twitch up.

“Yeah, he really did. Knew just what to do to calm me down. I was just.” He cuts off, always wary of telling Zayn new information. (Purely because he never wants him to be sad, of course.) “I was always so messed up, after. Most of the other hybrids kinda took it in stride, but they were older, and had been there longer, and Stan and I both were just, like, so affected.”

Zayn bites his lip, but to his credit, doesn't overreact. He simply opens his window a crack and allows Louis time to continue.

“Anyways, I’d be escorted back to the cage, and I’d be hurt and upset and whatever else, and he’d just hold me close and kiss at my ears, sometimes he’d groom me. He was the only other hybrid to do that, other than my mother way back, so that’s why I was such a basket case when Harry did it that first time.” He smirks, Zayn mimicking it. “But yeah, he’d cuddle me, and talk to me, and wipe away my tears. He used to do this thing where he licked them off my cheeks, just to get me to crack a smile.”

Zayn’s looking a little misty eyed but Louis has a feeling it’s more out of thankfulness for Stan than anything else, so he breathes a nostalgic laugh.

“And I did the same for him, obviously. Knew just what to say, what to do. He loved when I sang to him, ‘specially when he was hurting.” Louis goes on airily, picking at his jeans. “We told each other everything, you know? We were all each other had, and we needed each other so much. It was more than a friendship, it was like, brothers, but even more than that, I dunno. He was my rock, and I was his.”

His boyfriend links their fingers, turning onto the street that will take them home. Louis’ glad.

“S’why it hurt so much when they took him away from me.” He mumbles, heart still aching from it now.

“Why’d they do that, anyways?” Zayn asks, real anger in his tone. Louis shrugs.

“Wanted to display us differently, I guess. Or, actually, there was a rumor that they just didn't like how close we’d gotten, were worried we’d end up together or something. Which, like. I love Stan, a lot, but not in that way.” He explains quickly, fidgety. “And then they took him away. We tried to hold onto each other but they just ripped him away and told me if I didn't stop crying they’d punish me. So I stopped crying. Didn't stop missing him, though.”

Zayn sags visibly, sniffing some of his emotions back. “Shit, m’sorry, Lou.”

“S’okay, we’ve been through this, babe.” He tuts emotionally, bringing their hands up to kiss the pad of Zayn’s thumb. It means his lips are probably pencil smudged, but he doesn’t mind.

“I know, but like. Fuck.” Zayn whines.

“Yeah.” Louis sighs in agreement. “I hated not having him anymore. It was even worse than before I had him at all, because I was so used to having him there to comfort me, and I had to, like, relearn how to handle everything without help. It was really hard, I cried myself to sleep most nights. Got the point where I was annoying everyone there, and all the other hybrids hissed at me, and all the human’s yelled, and like. I’d never felt so alone in my life.”

He fights off the feeling of worthlessness the best he can, remembering cowering in the corner of his cage, pressed up against the bars, whining under his breath and trying not to cry. Stan was his whole coping strategy, and without him. Well. He didn't cope.

“But then, as Stan said earlier, he managed to come see me that one time, and it was like an unofficial goodbye. Neither of us wanted to admit it, but I think we both knew deep down that the odds of us seeing each other again were just...slim to none, basically.” Louis utters, sounding a small, pleased noise in the back of his throat at the recent change of events. “I’d had a really rough buyer, he was always so mean, hurt me cause it was fun, you know those types? Anyways, Stan was always such a gossiper that he managed to find out everything as it was, and when he heard about me, he bribed one of the humans to let him see me for ten minutes.”

They’re five minutes away from home now, and Zayn’s got a continuous lip wobble going on, so Louis’ happy to skip to the parts that are, well, happy.

“He held me really close, and kissed my tears, and I did the same to him, and like, we didn't even really talk, just said how much we loved each other. Just kinda burrowed as close as possible and tried to get as much of each other’s smell as we could. Scent’s so important to us as hybrids, you know? It’s why I love yours so much. And it’s how I spotted Stan today in the cafe.” Louis explains, feeling lighter at the end of it all. Zayn’s still dim but he’s smiling now too, grateful.

“M’glad you guys found each other again.” He says with a squeeze of his hand.

“Yeah.” Louis grins. “Kinda feel like fate’s looking out for me. Like, I got you, and then Niall and Liam, and then Harry, and now I’ve found Stan again, and it’s like. S’just unbelievable.”

Zayn nods meaningfully, pulling into their parking spot and shutting off the car. He leans across to bring their lips together, and Louis melts into it, grappling at his collar and tugging him closer. His boyfriend guides him, tilts his head back and licks into his mouth, hot and slick, making him whimper a needy sound.

“You wanna know what I think?” Zayn murmurs when they’ve parted, noses brushing as they hover close together. “I think you’re finally getting what you deserve, sweetheart.”

Louis preens into his neck, nuzzling close and purring, overwhelmed with affection. “Maybe.” He whispers. “I love you, Zayn. M’so glad you picked me.”

“Love you too, kitten. Couldn’t have picked anyone else.”

Eventually they need to move, and disentangle to grab their cups and head out into parking lot. The sun is just starting to set, making their shadows long and warped, and Louis holds his hand out and tries to make shapes, much to Zayn’s amusement, both of them laughing by the time they reach the stairs.

They hold hands all the way up, only letting go when Zayn needs to unlock the door. Louis’ still not used to the rush of comfort that comes with having a home and re-entering it after being out, so he can’t help the pleased twitch of his lips and sag of his shoulders.

Zayn’s already in the living room, draining the last of his coffee and setting down all his uni books, so Louis just leans against the doorway and watches like he always has, from day one, finishing off his milk and feeling the familiar urge to lose himself in his boyfriend.

Said boyfriend is currently opening up schoolwork though, and no, that just simply won’t do.

“Can we snuggle?” Louis asks pleadingly, regardless of how dumb it sounds.

Zayn looks up with fondness written all over his face, and opens his arms wide. Louis sets down his cup and all but throws himself into them, wriggling as close as he can.

“Thank you, for earlier.” He purrs, as Zayn takes off his beanie and begins to stroke his ears, right where they’re most sensitive. It sends a shiver through him, making the other boy hum a laugh. “Like, setting up times with Andy for Stan and I to see each other again. Meant a lot.”

“Of course, angel.” Zayn tuts, kissing his temple. “I know how important he is to you. And, honestly, he seems really great to be around.”

“He is.” Louis beams, deciding to tangle their legs together. Any space between them is too much space between them. “He’s a riot, really. And he loves pranks, so you two will get along well.”

Zayn adjusts them carefully, sliding their bodies further down so they’re laying instead of sitting, before ruffling Louis’ hair. “Aces.” He cheers smugly.

“Yeah, yeah.” Louis mutters, completely enamoured sounding. “Anyways, are you alright?”

Zayn’s regular rhythm of inhales and exhales is delayed suddenly, and Louis brings their faces together so he can kiss his nose.

“Yeah, I’m fine.” The other boy says, but he’s not fooling anyone, what with the minimum of four lines creasing his forehead.

“Zayn, while I may be an emotionally unstable open book, you’re pretty easy to read too. I know what hearing about my past does to you, that’s why I’m always so hesitant. I hate when you’re sad, baby.” He pouts, bottom lip stuck out and everything. Zayn huffs and bites it.

“I want you to tell me these things Lou, I promise. They might not be easy to deal with, but I’m your boyfriend and it’s part of my job. And besides, I love learning more about you, and why you are the way that you are. You used to be such a puzzle, when I first got you. Never spoke a word, barely acknowledged me. I hated that, cause all I wanted to do was love you and protect you and be there for you. And that’s what I get to do now, because you’re so much more open, and it’s a good thing, okay? Please don’t ever hesitate to be honest with me.” Zayn tells him, pecking over his eyes when they fall shut. “Unless, of course, you’re ever uncomfortable, in which case you never have to tell me anything you don't want to, obviously.”

Louis rolls his eyes, burying himself back into Zayn’s chest.

“I know, obviously.” He echoes, and hooking his tail round Zayn’s waist to hold him closer, not let him move an inch. Zayn traces up and down his spine and his purring is overtaken by a languid yawn. “D’you think it’d be okay if we took a nap please?”

“Course, bub.” Zayn sounds, wrapping himself all around his hybrid like he knows Louis loves.

They fall quiet as they relax into each other, clock ticking on the wall, refrigerator humming in the kitchen, vent rattling below the window, and Louis’ never been more content. This is his home, the thing he always, always wanted, and the feeling of it all is staggering, bringing tears to his eyes once again.

Zayn must feel the wetness, because Louis hears him open his mouth to speak, but he cuts him off with his explanation.

“Everything’s falling into place.” He breathes thickly.

Zayn pauses for a moment, then holds him closer, tighter, better. “Good.” He says. “S’about time.”

And you know what? Yeah. It is about time.

And lying there all cocooned in his boyfriend’s arms, Louis can’t feel an ounce of denial to go against it.


And that’s pretty good too.


i'm on top of the world, waiting on this for a while now
brokenbravery
timestamp for the build your nest on tenderness verse, so you should read that (and it's other timestamp) first if you haven't already.
summary: harry triggers louis by accident, zayn is overprotective, everyone feels guilty, but cuddles and sleepovers can solve anything.
so this is very much focused on harry and louis' friendship, but there's a bunch of zouis as well, of course. hurt/comfort and fluff fluff fluff.
trigger warning for mentions of past abuse and rape.
title and lyrics from on top of the world by imagine dragons.




Louis is downright blissful. His tummy is being petted at by Zayn, flicking tail occasionally stroked by Liam or Niall, and Harry is nuzzling into his hair and purring almost as loud as him. It’s a lazy afternoon, setting sun streaming in through the window, forgotten film playing on the telly, and the carpet is just so soft, he never wants to move again.

Things have been going ridiculously well. It’s been somewhere between half a year and a full one since Zayn rescued him, though Louis doesn't count it, not having the need for a calendar or anything of the sort. Most days he stays home and sunbathes, naps, watches Doctor Who (thank god there’s eleven whole doctors to get through, or he would have had to find a new show by now) until his boyfriend gets home from school. Their time together depends on their mood, really. Some days they just lounge about, others they do much more than that (wink wink, nudge nudge). They’ve taken to going out on weekends, either to the cinema, or the occasional house party. It means Louis has to wear a baggy hoodie to hide his tail wrapped round his torso, and a beanie to cover his ears, but once in the company of people they know and deem safe, he can forget all that.

It’s a whole new world for Louis. Sure, some of the men who used to pay for him brought him to their houses, so he wasn't completely sheltered or anything. (Television shows and movies teach you enough about the world anyways.) But he’s never been free to roam (with Zayn, of course), never had these things at arm’s reach, never been able to just live. It's kind of fucking brilliant, honestly.

He has friends, real proper friends, that are like a family now, and an incredible owner turned boyfriend that he never wants to spend a day away from (like, ever ever), and he’s just. Cared for and loved and, and, and treasured, and. Yes, sometimes he feels like he doesn't deserve it, feels like he’s still just a slave meant to be kept in a cage, but. But most days he’s happy. Beyond happy. Blissful, even.

Harry’s tail is being stroked by his owners too, and he’s snuggling closer to Louis, legs slotted, arms wrapped round, rumbling against his neck. Louis smiles dazedly and pushes into Zayn’s ever lingering touch, breathing in Harry’s scent. It’s funny to think back to when he was so territorial and guarded against the other hybrid, convinced he was going to try and steal the only slice of happiness Louis’ ever had. But that’s how most hybrids are with each other at first, if not almost all the time. It comes from the feline in their DNA, makes them possessive and dominant and everything cats usually are. But once two hybrids get past whatever issue there is between them, they’re often like this, cuddly and affectionate and loving, and Louis loves Harry. He’s sweet and giggly and serene, and he makes Louis feel calm and safe and pleasant, like his whole past doesn't even matter.

The doorbell rings, startling him out of his dreamlike state. It seems Harry is the same, blinking sluggishly and yawning big. Louis noses at his jaw fondly as Liam and Niall get up (or, rather, Liam gets up and has to bodily drag a complaining Niall off the floor), announcing the takeaway has arrived. Zayn groans and stretches too, clambering up off the floor with a final loving touch to Louis’ tummy, making it flutter with butterflies. He’s still not used to that.

The humans make their way to the door and then the kitchen, as per usual. Harry and Louis don't like much food other than simple things, and of course, milk, so they mostly just stay wherever they are, dozing or grooming or playing. Louis likes those times, because Harry makes him laugh, and smile, and. Feel normal, really.

The younger kitten boy licks Louis’ cheek warmly, getting his attention. “Entertain me.” He pouts, sticking out his bottom lip for effect.

Louis rolls his eyes but hooks a thigh over his, fingers toying idly with Harry’s curls. “Not my job to entertain you, babe.”

Harry huffs petulantly but doesn't move, of course.

“S’your job to keep my dimples out, you said so yourself last weekend.” He says and, well, yeah okay, Louis did say that.

“Fine.” He fakes a grumble, sitting up and poking at Harry’s cheek. “Needy boy.”

This makes Harry stick his tongue out and reach up to tickle Louis’ ribs, getting a girlish squeak out of him. Embarrassed, but mostly just vengeful, Louis rolls on top of him to tickle right back, fingers digging into his armpits.

Somewhere between shrieks of laughter and playful growls, they tumble across couches and armchairs and coffee tables, chasing each other about and calling out insults, wrestling gently (well, mostly gently, Harry knocks his head on a table leg, plus Louis’ pretty sure that last tackle will bruise his knees) and trying to out tickle the other.

They can hear the others chatting in the kitchen, drinking wine and discussing school or work or whatever it is they talk about, but they pay it no attention, eyes focussed in on one another, shining bright with determination.

It’s all going fine and dandy, a tickle here, a kitten lick there, until Louis tries to scramble away from Harry’s hands again and they attempt to grab at his hips, missing and closing round his tail. It’s quick as lightning how fast the world around him changes, from fun and sweet to dark and scary. The flashback is strong, phantom hands pushing and hurting and taking taking taking.

He’s vaguely aware that he hisses and scoots himself into the space between the couches, curling into himself as tears threaten to fall. It’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s not, because his mind seems to be so focused on rough, horrible memories, whereas his body can feel Harry’s worried fingers flitting about.

“Louis? Louis, I’m sorry, are you okay, shit, um?” He’s stammering, and the words mingle in with the nightmare going on in his head, strange contrast between them and the grunts of another nameless stranger, using him, hurting him-

“Zayn?” Harry’s unsteady voice calls, sounding terribly scared.

Footsteps, probably the others looking round the corner, and then the sound of them coming closer. Louis tries his best not to shrink away, still squeezing his eyes shut against sudden nausea.

“I, I didn’t mean to do anything, he, we were just playing, and then I accidently grabbed his tail, and, I’m sorry.” Harry’s crying, and Louis’ heart pangs for him. He wants to coddle him, but he’s still trembling.

And then there’s a familiar half-fancy cologne half-cigarette smoke scent in front of him and warm, pencil smudged hands on his knees, and he knows Zayn’s there, checking him over.

He hears Liam soothe “Shh, Harry, it’s not your fault, it’s okay, relax honey.” but he still doesn't look.

Though, Zayn’s unique voice says “Louis, Lou, Lou darling, can you open your eyes please?” And maybe it’s the name choice, or maybe just his boyfriend, but Louis blurrily blinks his open to see Zayn crouched in front of him, features a soft sort of concerned. He notices Harry being hugged between Niall and Liam, which is good, because he looks very shaken.

“Hi there gorgeous, there you are.” Zayn coos, and Louis blushes, feeling a little less haunted. “Are you okay? Can you talk to me, tell me what’s wrong?”

Louis shakes his head, but speaks anyways. “Just, just similar.”

He knows it’s enough, and as he predicted, Zayn just nods and pulls him into his arms, kissing behind his ears. “You’re safe lovey, you’re perfectly safe, you’ve got me and Liam and Niall and Harry, and we’ll never let anyone hurt you ever again.” He murmurs quietly, so the others don't hear. Louis knows Harry will though, cat ears and all.

He sniffles but the storm in his head is fading, bad memories slinking back to where they belong, so he just focuses on the feeling of Zayn holding him, the others watching with caring eyes. He knows he’s safe, he knows, so it’s just a matter of waiting for himself to calm. This is nowhere near the first time he’s had an experience (flashback, episode, panic attack, whatever) like this.

After a little while, he doesn't feel dizzy anymore, so he peeks out from Zayn’s chest to see Harry watching with timid, tear filled eyes. He’s got his lip between his teeth, tail between his legs and ears pressed low, and Louis never wants to see that again.

He reaches out an arm and makes grabby hands at him, making a sad, impatient sound. The other hybrid looks wary, but Niall nudges him forward with an encouraging smile and Harry crawls towards him, reaching forward to rub his knuckles against his calve with a nervous expression.

Louis’ quick to sigh out a soft “C’mere, idiot.” and tug him into a tight embrace, nuzzling into his cheek.

“I’m okay Hazza, I promise, you just caught me off guard a bit, but everything’s okay, shh, I love you, don’t cry darling.” He hushes, overprotective of the shaking kitten in his arms.

“I didn’t mean to.” Harry says into his shoulder, voice wobbly. “I’m so sorry.”

“It’s okay, it happens.” He assures him, rubbing his back.

“It shouldn't.” Zayn mutters beside them, and Louis feels Harry tense in his arms. He’s quick to reach behind him and swat his boyfriend’s stomach angrily, before mewing into Harry’s neck.

“It’s okay Harry,” He repeats, stressing it. “I’m fine, I swear, it was their fault, not yours, never yours.”

“Not yours either.” Liam reminds him, and Louis flushes, ignoring it.

“What’d they do to you, Lou?” Harry asks, so quiet they almost don’t hear. “I mean, what would they even, your, your tail?”

Louis sighs, swallowing thickly. Zayn puts a hand on his back in comfort, and it’s nice.

“They, uh. Some people liked to pull on it when they were-” He cuts off, wrapping his tail around himself. “Guess they got off on hurting me, or something.”

Harry makes a muted anguished sound and squeezes them impossibly closer, Liam and Niall looking at the ground depressingly. He feels Zayn’s fingers stutter where they’re stroking the back of his neck, but they resume the motion barely a second later. Louis just frowns.

“M’so sorry.” Harry whispers, again.

“Shush, jesus Haz, it’s okay. It’s over, I’m fine, I’m better, I have a fucking amazing life now, and I have all you, and everything’s great, okay? I’m just. I’m just damaged.” He ends in a stammer, shrugging into their embrace.

“Obviously.” Niall says, and they all turn to look at him. He goes pink in the cheeks but clarifies “How couldn’t you be, I mean. That’s a lot to go through no matter how long it happened.”

Harry disentangles only to curl up in Louis’ lap, face buried in his neck, soft hair tickling his jaw.

“How long were you there, Lou?” He asks, like he’s not sure if he wants to know the answer. He shouldn’t.

“I, um.” Louis chokes. “That depends what you mean. I’ve always been in captivity, cause I was bred, but if you’re talking about how long I was being...used, then that’d be.”

He cuts off, glancing warily around him. Liam’s got his arms round Niall’s waist, holding him close with their fingers linked, and Zayn’s glaring at the floorboards like they’ve done him a personal offense, and Harry’s tail is wound tight around his leg, and. And he can’t tell them the truth. He can’t do it, he can’t hurt them more, especially not the sweet, wonderful, and most importantly, innocent boy cradled to his chest.

“Three years or so.” He lies.

They all deflate at that, stupidly sorrowful, but Harry’s finally calming now, purring ever so lightly as Louis scritches behind his ears, and Zayn’s hand has settled on his shoulder, a warm presence, only slightly tinged with anger at his earlier comment.

“Can we please stop being depressing?” Louis asks then, huffing exasperatedly. “I’m perfectly fine, and I’d rather not continue to ruin the night.”

“You haven’t ruined the night, Louis.” Liam assures him, reaching out to pat his knee. “Really.”

Louis falters, still not used to people treating him so ridiculously kindly. “Well. Thanks.” He mumbles.

“Course, love. But yes, let’s stop being so sad, yeah? There’s pizza to be eaten!” Niall gives a cheer, and they all snort in unison, Liam rolling his eyes at his boyfriend.

“I wanna stay here with Louis.” Harry says, clinging tighter to Louis’ jumper.

Liam and Niall nod right away, petting his head. “Sure, how about you two have a cuddle while we sort our food, and then we’ll all watch some telly while we eat? Movie night, maybe?” Liam suggests with a kind smile.

Louis’ ears perk up at the thought, and Zayn chuckles fondly, thumbing over them. “Yeah?”

“Yeah.” Louis and Harry say in unison. They both breathe a laugh and watch as the humans wander out of the living room once more.

As soon as they’re alone, Harry starts peppering kisses all over Louis’ neck, cheeks, face, making little giggles spill out of him. He shoves at the other hybrid’s shoulders lightly, just enough to see his still tentative expression, and kisses his nose just once.

“I promise everything’s perfect.” He murmurs, feeling Harry begin to go lax in his arms. “You didn't hurt me or anything, okay?”

“Okay.” Harry whispers, nosing his way into Louis’ neck. “Okay, good.”

“Yeah, good.” Louis hums.

It’s then that the others return, carrying paper plates with pizza and plastic cups with beer. They never seem to have proper dishware here, but maybe that’s just because they’re lazy. Or maybe because their dishwasher is crap, and maybe because Harry likes to cook so often that they don't have much room inside it left for plates and such. Probably the last one.

Regardless, they all topple onto the couches, Harry and Louis taking the smaller one so they can curl up together, tangled and purring, only joining in conversation when someone directly asks them something. It’s really nice.

They get through two films, shifting to the floor once again during the second one, Zayn linking fingers with Louis, Harry’s legs in Niall’s lap, which happens to be in Liam’s. Louis is fully relaxed again, no longer panicked or sad or nervous. He’s glad.

Around eleven, Zayn announces that they should probably head out, as it’s getting late and he has a morning class tomorrow. Louis doesn't particularly want to move, but he does, beginning to disentangle from a sleepy Harry. But the younger kitten boy frowns and tugs him closer, whining under his breath.

Quietly, privately, Louis asks him “What’s wrong, Hazza?”

Harry huffs and headbutts his neck. “Don’t want you to go. M’worried bout you.”

“Why?” Louis sounds into his cheek, pecking where his dimple should be.

“Dunno, just. Earlier. It. Scared me, and. Don’t wanna not be able to be here for you.” Harry shrugs, tail beginning to snake around his thigh like before. He looks upset, like he’s still blaming himself, and that’s a very Harry thing to do.

Knowing a repeated I’m fine won’t do, and protective as always, Louis glances up to meet Zayn’s pretty hazel eyes, questioning “Could we stay here tonight?”

He shakes his head, though. “The paper I have due tomorrow is at home, and I still need to do a last edit of it.” He explains, reaching down to stroke Louis’ cheek apologetically.

“Then could I stay? Just me?” Louis asks, and the stroking stops.

“You want to stay here? Instead of at home with me?” Zayn asks, trying for concerned, but ending up half hurt anyways.

“Love, I just wanna be here for Harry, I gave him a scare.” Louis explains, hoping he sounds genuine. (He is, obviously, but clearly his boyfriend is having doubts, judging by the repetitive licking of his stupidly pretty lips.)

“He gave you a scare, Louis, and you wanna spend the night?” Zayn asks, almost ludicrous.

He sees Niall and Liam quickly avert their eyes, Harry’s ears bending with guilt as he does the same, so Louis sighs, long and drawn out, before standing and grabbing Zayn’s hand, tugging him from the room. He leads him to the kitchen, thumb circling the back of his palm soothingly, turning to face him with an expectant eyebrow.

“What is your problem?” He demands immediately, remembering a time he’d be scared to do so. Not anymore.

“I’m just looking out for you.” Zayn begins, one hand on the counter, the other on his hip. Louis rolls his eyes.

“No, you’re being overbearing and overprotective and you need to stop. You say it all the time yourself Zayn, I’m your boyfriend, not your pet, and if I want to stay somewhere over night I should be able to. Yes?” He clarifies, watching as his boyfriend falters, blushing.

“But he hurt you-”

“He did not.” Louis cuts him off.

Zayn slumps slightly, but rubs at his temple tiredly. “Well, he triggered you, Louis.” He attempts to reason.

“Yeah, and how many times have you done that?” Louis asks sarcastically, both of them knowing the number is a decent amount. He doesn't blame him of course, because it’s not anyone’s fault but his past abusers, and maybe his a little bit, for still being so affected. He needs to work on that.

“You’re blaming me?” Zayn asks, like the idiot he is. (Louis’ idiot. He loves his idiot.)

“No, god no, just. Zayn, I. How would’ve you felt if I left you right after you triggered me? And, and keep in mind that this is Harry, and. You know how he is, babe.” Louis struggles, wishing there was some form of contact between them. This isn’t their first disagreement, but it is their first one out of the privacy of their own home, and it’s making him uneasy.

“I know, I know, just. I’m.” Zayn huffs, closing his eyes. It takes half a minute (a full thirty seconds that Louis counts in his head) before he opens them again, and his whole face is different, body language too. He puts a hand on Louis’, warm and gentle as ever, and says “I’m being overprotective, you’re right, course you are. M’sorry. Just wanna keep you happy all the time, you know?”

Louis smiles, nodding.

“Well, what would make me happy right now, is to stay here with Harry so he feels better, and then have you pick me up after your morning class and we can go for a drive? Please? It’s supposed to rain, and it’s always better when it does.” He asks, bouncing on his feet with excitement.

He loves when they do that, because they get Starbucks (or, rather, Zayn gets a proper Starbucks drink and Louis just gets heated milk, with a splash of caramel if he’s in the mood) and drive all around the city, aimlessly really, holding hands over the gearshift and listening to music. Louis usually wears his onesie (cutting a hole in the back of that for his tail was an event that took an entire hour because they were laughing so hard they couldn’t breathe) and leans his head against the window, watching the world pass by eagerly. He hasn’t seen much of it, after all.

“Yeah, we can do that. That sounds good.” Zayn tells him softly. He slides his hands up Zayn’s chest and around his neck to pull him into a hug, kissing behind his ear. They stay like that for a while, swaying back and forth like they always do, and when they pull back, it’s not far at all. “Hi.” Zayn smirks. “M’sorry for being a prat. Just. Love you so much it makes me a bit crazy sometimes.”

Louis feels his stomach somersault, overwhelmed by what his boyfriend instills in him, and grips Zayn’s jaw tight to pull him into a deep kiss. He tastes the same as ever, like cigarettes and his favorite brand of gum, and beyond that, simply Zayn. Louis’ very much in love with that taste, just like he is the boy himself.

“I know how you feel.” He murmurs when they break away, delighted to see Zayn’s eyes twinkle again.

“Alright, so I’ll pick you up around half ten, eleven tomorrow, yeah? You know you can call me if you need anything, right? Anything at all, and I’ll get here as fast as I can.” Zayn tells him importantly, cupping his cheek.

Louis goes misty eyed, still unable to wrap his head around how lucky he is to have someone care about him this much, let alone at all. He flicks his tail in unspoken gratitude, tongue tied.

“Yeah.” He breathes, before sniffing to get it together. Bopping Zayn on the nose, he adds “And go apologize to Harry, babe.”

Zayn at least has the courtesy to look sheepish, blushing and shrugging a shoulder. “I didn’t say anything-”

“But what you didn't say said plenty.” Louis states, levelling him a look. “Nobody’s mad at you, Zayn, but you made him feel guilty, and he doesn't deserve that.”

“No, he doesn't.” Zayn sighs in agreement. He runs his fingers through Louis’ hair, just like he likes, and gets a rumble of a purr in return. The taller boy grins fondly and takes Louis’ hand in his. “C’mon, darling.”

They wander back out to the living room, not even mildly surprised to see Niall and Liam laying on the floor beside Harry, all three on their back, trying to find shapes and creatures in the bumpy stucko ceiling, like you would when cloud watching.

“Hey, so, erm, Louis is gonna stay here for the night, if that’s alright?” Zayn questions, to which he gets three immediate nods. Louis smiles at his ankle-sock clad feet. “Right, okay, so can I talk to Harry for a moment?”

Harry looks nervous, slinking to his feet and hugging his torso, but Zayn wraps an arm around his shoulder warmly to lead him away and get some space. Louis sits down in the spot Harry just vacated, leaning into the simultaneous touches from Niall and Liam.

Louis can't help but listen in, having hypersensitive cat ears and all, but he makes an effort to pay attention to the boys on either side of him to avoid completely eavesdropping.

Zayn’s voice is genuine when it expresses “M’really sorry Harry, I didn't mean to be short with you before. I just, I hate seeing him like that, you know? I love him so much, I never want him to be sad.”

“No, it’s okay, I. I need to be gentler with him.” Harry’s saying, and Louis wishes he were there to ruffle his hair in comfort. But it seems Zayn’s in tune with him, as always, because he hears a quiet purr drift in from the hallway.

“No- well, yes, we all do, but it was an accident, okay? You’re not to blame, it’s happened with me as well, it’s out of our control, really. All we can do is treat him the best we can.” Zayn struggles to explain, and Louis knows he’s got that look on his face, the one he gets when he’s so worried he’ll say something wrong that he pre-rehearses every word. (Louis’ got plenty of experience with it.)

“Yeah.”

“M’not mad at you, alright? Promise, Haz.”  Zayn tells him, sounding like he’s smiling.

“Okay. Thanks for letting Louis stay over. ‘Preciate it.” Harry says, a low mumble.

“It’s not about letting him, he. If he wants to, he can. I’m his boyfriend, not his owner, remember?” Zayn repeats Louis’ earlier reasoning.

“I know, but still.” Harry snorts. “You two are, like, attached at the hip. So spending a night away from him isn’t, like, ideal for you.”

Louis rolls his eyes, despite them not being able to see.

“Not really, but I’ll be fine. We spend every day together, I can deal with twelve hours apart.”

There’s no further conversation after that, but there’s the rustling sound of them sharing another hug, and then they walk back in, Zayn pressing a tender kiss to Harry’s temple. Louis feels a tiny flare of jealousy in his stomach but stomps it down fast, knowing it’s just his stupid instincts.

Harry pounces on him right away, cheering “Yes, sleepover!”

Louis chuckles fondly and tickles his ribs, getting a meow-squeak that’s so ridiculous everyone bursts into laughter, shaking their heads.

“Alright, alright, I should go, I need sleep.” Zayn speaks up, still grinning. “Where are my goodbyes?”

Harry’s first, hugging him with a still pink blush high on his cheeks. Niall and Liam next, with friendly insults and kisses to his cheeks, and when it’s Louis’ turn, he leans up on his tiptoes to kiss him long and slow, knowing he won’t get another one till tomorrow. It lasts long enough that the other start to catcall, and Louis hides in Zayn’s chest, half out of embarrassment, half out of absolute love for his new family. Plus, he can smell him that way, and he wants a good long sniff before they have to part.

Which is about two minutes later, Zayn walking backwards out the door to prolong their eye contact. He calls out a loud “I love you!” as he’s trying to go down the outside steps backwards too (idiot), and Louis giggles, shouting the same back.

And then he’s gone, and though Louis does feel a little empty without him, he finds he’s content to walk back in with Harry, arms linked. Niall and Liam lead them to Harry’s room (which is so him it’s ridiculous, painted a light pink-red with a large (and ridiculously comfy) bed, soft puffy comforter and simple black lamp. There’s not much else, but that’s because he mostly prefers to sleep in Niall and Liam’s bed, and spend his time in the rest of the flat), and pat the mattress to get them on it.

Harry crawls up to the top and sprawls across the many pillows, Louis settling draped over him with his head on his chest. Liam clicks the lamp on and turns off the overhead light so it’s dim and cozy, and Niall pulls the blanket up over them caringly.

“You boys better at least try and sleep, okay?” Liam instructs, but Niall speaks before they can even nod.

“Oh shush babe, let them have some fun. This is the first sleepover ever for both of them, do you really expect them not to stay up late?” He banters, and Liam elbows him, contrasting it with a peck of a kiss.

“Fine, fine, but not too late, yeah?” He amends, and Harry sticks out his tongue.

“Yes, mum.” He teases.

Louis’ not sure what to say, because he’s never spent a night with anyone other than Zayn. (And his captors, occasionally, and back before he was sold the first time, his cage mates.)

But Liam hugs the both of them, and Niall kisses both foreheads, and they head to the door after murmuring their goodnights. Louis’ just about to jokingly ask Harry if those two genuinely think they’re children when Niall pops his head back in the room, just enough that they can see Liam’s hand on his waist.

“Love you, Harry. You too, Lou.” The blonde says seriously, eyes honest. “You’re welcome here anytime, okay? You’re our family as well.”

Louis can’t help the tears that spring to his eyes, and he blames it on the stressful day, instead of admitting he’s just so fucking grateful.

“Thank you.” He utters after a moment, voice breaking.

Niall just winks at him and shuts the door.

Harry slides down to nuzzle into his cheek, tutting “Don’t like when you cry.”

“S’good crying this time.” Louis assures him, sniffling it back. “Promise. M’just really, really happy. It’s weird.”

“Shouldn't be weird.” Harry pouts, nudging his jaw.

“S’just weird cause it’s new. Never had it before.” He explains, pulling the comforter up to their shoulders.

Harry sighs, grappling for his hand and holding it tight. His hands are a lot different than Zayn’s, bigger and broader and much softer, and Louis decides he still likes his boyfriend’s better. But Harry’s are nice anyways, so he squeezes back and speaks further, even though he knows he doesn't need to.

“I’ve never had a family. Or proper friends at all. And now I have three, and it’s new. And weird.” He teases at the end, tongue poking out to lick Harry’s nose.

“Mm.” Harry hums.

“And I’ve never had a best friend either.” Louis says importantly, kissing their twined fingers. Harry glances away, one ear twitching.

“Am I a good best friend?” He whisper-asks, insecure as ever. Louis movies into his line of vision to make him meet his eyes.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better one.” He tells him seriously.

Harry smiles right away, big and bright, preening into the pillow. Louis huffs a laugh and pokes at his cheek, muttering “There’s those dimples.”

Harry snorts and rolls half on top of him, kissing his forehead, hair, ears. He begins to groom them and Louis relaxes into it, tail swishing. He remembers the first time Harry did this, how completely scared and rigid he’d been, not used to other people touching him, or caring for him. Now though, he knows he’s glowing, basking in the attention.

The next hour or so is a mix of laughter and kitten licks and loads of cuddling, and when they do finally doze off, after saying their I love yous and spooning close, they’re purring soft and peaceful.

*

Morning with the three musketeers (as Zayn often calls them) is interesting, to say the least. They wake around nine and snuggle for a while, listening to Niall and Liam go about their routine, showering and such. When they do meander out of their room, they’re greeted with hugs and already heated mugs of milk. Louis takes his gratefully, ears perking happily, and though he’d much rather be drinking it out of his special mug from home (home, that’s still so strange to think), this is still good.

Harry puts on his kiss the cook apron with a flourish, and bops about the kitchen making pancakes for his owners. Louis has always found it funny that the hybrid loves cooking so much, even though he rarely eats any of it, but now he sees why. He’s good at it, really good at it, and when Niall and Liam exclaim over the deliciousness of their breakfast, Harry goes a smitten pink and accepts their kisses to his cheeks with a delighted giggle.

They lounge about and thoughtfully flick the tv channel to the one playing Doctor Who, knowing how important it is to Louis. He thanks them, and they tell him there’s no need. He’s definitely not used to that. But he likes it, having to hide his beaming smile in the crook of his arm. Liam sees though, and smirks knowingly.

Zayn texts to let them know he’s on his way, and they lend Louis a pair of Niall’s sweatpants and Harry’s jumper to change into. He refuses multiple times, feeling like a burden, but they’re quick to shush him and offer a spare toothbrush as well. Eventually he just has to accept it with a bashful thank you.

There’s a familiar knock on the front door (to the tune of shave and a haircut, two bits like Zayn always does) while he’s washing out his mouth and he nearly trips over his own two feet running down the hall. Zayn’s eyes light up when they spot him (making his heart stutter), and Louis runs towards him a bit overdramatically, jumping into his arms and snickering as he spins him round multiple times. He kisses him sweet and lingering, leaving Louis too dazed to respond to Harry’s ribbing.

There’s lots of hugging and kissing as they leave, Harry asking one last time in his ear “And you’re okay?”

Louis pulls back to kiss his forehead, whispering “Better than ever.”

Niall, Liam and Harry all wave from their window as Zayn and Louis head off in their car, doing the same, and once they’re down the street, Zayn looks over with a soft smile and greets “Well hello there, bub. Did you have fun?”

“Yeah.” Louis smiles instantly. “Yeah, it was really good. Do you think I could do that again sometime? Or both of us? It was nice.”

“Yeah, sure, we can work something out.” Zayn nods, reaching across to link their fingers. (Louis still gets butterflies to this day.)

“Promise?” Louis asks like always, mirth in his tone.

Zayn rolls his eyes fondly and repeats “Promise.”

“You still wanna go for a drive?” He questions a minute later, when they’ve reached Decision Street, as Louis likes to call it. (It’s the street on the way home from wherever they go that to the right will lead home, and to the left, Starbucks, of course.)

“Please?” Louis chirps, ears dislodging his beanie when they stand up straight. Zayn laughs and fixes it for him as they turn left.

“Sounds good, kitten.”

They go through the drive thru, both getting their usual, before flipping through the radio to find something, anything, that’s not too mainstream. Eventually they find some Imagine Dragons and hum along, and just as Louis predicted, it begins to rain lightly, drops collecting on the window and rolling on down. Louis follows them with a fingertip as Zayn talks about his earlier class, listening enough to get the gist, but mostly distracted.

He’s suddenly feeling guilty, and he knows exactly why. It’s such a contrast, this feeling of utter bliss, and knowing that he lied yesterday, told a deliberate lie and nobody was the wiser, is weighing heavy on his conscience. Sure, he did it to protect them, all of them, but Zayn is different. Zayn is lovely and caring and perfect and lying to him just seems fundamentally wrong. It is fundamentally wrong, in Louis’ brain.

So he interrupts whatever Zayn’s on about with a short “Hey Zayn?”

His boyfriend snaps his attention to him immediately, lowering the volume of the music. “Yeah, love? What’s up?”

Louis falters, staring out the window, watching umbrellas pass by.

“I lied yesterday.” He mumbles, hating himself.

“About what?” Zayn asks, remaining thankfully calm. His thumb strokes the back of Louis’ fingers, soothing.

“Um.” Louis stutters, huffing at himself. “Um, about. When Harry asked how long I was being, uh.”

“Raped, Lou. I know you don't like the word, but that’s what it was.” Zayn provides, and Louis groans, because he knows, but his boyfriend’s right, he hates that term. (He’s not quite sure why. Maybe because it was his whole life, it was all he was good for, and simply defining it as ‘rape’ makes it seem more like an act of violence, rather than his normal routine.)

“Yeah. Well, I lied about how many years. I’m sorry.” He whimpers, bringing his knees up to his chest. The sweatpants smell like Niall’s cologne, Liam’s hand cream and Harry’s unique scent. He likes it. (Not as much as Zayn’s smell, though. Nothing tops that. It’s like a safety blanket, and he wishes he could wrap himself up in it now.)

“Don’t be, I’m not angry, love.” Zayn tells him kissing his hand.

They’re quiet for a moment, listening to the speakers sing I know it’s hard when you’re falling down, and it’s a long way up when you’ve hit the ground.

“Do you wanna tell me how long it really was?” Zayn questions, turning to drive past the forest like he knows Louis loves.

Louis bites his lip and stares hard at the trees flying by, and Zayn doesn't push, simply giving him time to work himself up to it. He thanks him silently by hooking their thumbs. He knows the truth will hurt, hell, it hurts Louis himself, but he also knows he needs to get it out, needs to be honest with the boy he’s deeply in love with.

When he feels ready, he takes a shaky breath and turns to look Zayn in the eyes, feeling small. His boyfriend seems to see he needs prompting, because he murmurs “How many years more, hm? How many more than three?”

Louis watches the windshield wipers wave and admits, hushed and broken, “Double.”

He timidly peeks over to see Zayn’s reaction, and is both relieved and sad to see him focusing very, very hard on driving.

“Double.” The other boy whispers to himself, cursing. “Six fucking years. Shit, Louis. Shit.”

“Yeah.” Louis coughs, wrapping his tail around himself in a hug.

“That’s.” Zayn cuts off, tears beginning to brim over. He sniffs, trying to compose himself, and restarts. “That’s a long time. That’s so long.”

“Mm.” Louis hums. “Not as bad as it could have been. I was lucky, actually. Most start at eleven. I got to wait till thirteen, going on fourteen. I’m glad for that.”

“Me too.” Zayn mutters. “Me too, but it doesn't change the fact that you went through that for six years.”

Louis sighs, licking his lips.

“No. But you changed it. You saved me. And I never thought I’d be so happy. It’s like. It’s like I didn't even live before now. Like none of that mattered, you know?” He says, grateful they’re at a red light so he can see the emotions flicker across Zayn’s gorgeous face. (His canopy eyelashes flutter, pearly white teeth playing with his lower plump lip, nose wrinkling cutely. He’s perfect, and sometimes it’s hard to believe he’s real.) “I mean, yeah, I’m still messed up because of it, and yeah, it makes me who I am in a way, but. It’s nothing compared to what I have now. I got lucky, I got saved, and it just so happened to be by my soulmate, and that’s. That’s pretty fucking great, yeah?”

Zayn’s eyes widen, mouth parting slightly. “You think I’m your soulmate?” He breathes, and Louis’ stomach gives a worried pang.

“I. I think so. I mean. Yeah.” He stammers, cheeks heating as he scratches at the back of his neck. He looks away, feeling awkward.

“Hey. Hey, look here.” Zayn coaxes, and when Louis does, he smiles reassuringly. “We’re soulmates. We absolutely are. I just didn't know you felt that way.”

Louis shrugs, taking advantage of a stop sign to lean across and kiss him. “Course I do. You’re everything.” He says, staying as close as he can for as long as he can.

“So are you, baby.” Zayn tells him, and steps on the gas once more.

Louis grins big and watches the world pass by, heart beating loud in his chest.

hey sweetie i need you here tonight (tell me something sweet to get me by)
brokenbravery
larry oneshot
basically just sappy shit. i really dont even know what this is.
It’s then that Harry speaks up again, asking “Tell me something sweet to get me by?”
“Hmm?” Louis hums, shifting so their faces are together, barely two inches apart. He nearly goes cross eyed, but stays put, not wanting any space at all between them.
Harry flushes, stammering “Sorry, it’s, it’s a lyric, but. But do it anyways?”

rating: safe
title credit: if it means a lot to you by a day to remember.




The sheets are pulled up to their shoulders despite how warm it is on the tour bus, enough to be edging on uncomfortable, what with the way they’re pressed all against each other. Louis can feel Harry’s pulse where his thumb is stroking his neck, the younger boy’s bitten raw lips brushing against his collarbone tattoo.

They’re driving along another nameless highway, darkness outside making their reflections look ghostly against the windows. The others are still watching a film, something with car chases and too many explosions, but Louis and Harry had wandered off halfway in, finding themselves tangled up in their bunk, trading tired kisses.

It’s been days and days of the same, all promo promo promo, sing, dance, laugh, keep up the image. There’s not enough breaks, and the ones they do have are far too short, they’re lacking sleep, food and smiles, and it’s not going to change for quite some time.

Harry’s been moody, metaphorical hackles raising every time there’s a new rag mag article, and Louis’ been bossy and permanently irritated, this he knows, but it’s just so hard, faking it, faking everything, it seems. And it’s not just them; Liam’s gotten quiet and Niall’s easily angered and Zayn’s going through half a pack a day, but somehow they’re managing. Because they have to, if nothing else.

Today’s been particularly rough, new rumors arising and needing to be crushed down with the steel toe of management’s boot, which of course meant being instructed to stay far away from each other, cut down the touches and the heart eyes, stop being so obvious. (But it’s impossible, really, in Louis’ opinion. How can he just stop orbiting around Harry when he’s the center of his universe? How can he stop his eyes from trailing after him, when he feels like he’ll die if he misses even one moment? Every fibre of his being pulls towards him, pulses with his heart, thumping Harry Harry Harry. How can he just turn that off?) They’re sick of being talked to like children and expected to have the control of practiced adults.

And after days like this, their time is usually spent revelling in the much needed silence (the screams seem to be never ending, girls banging on windows, shoving past security guards, grasping and clasping and pulling, cameras always watching, honed in like predators stalking prey), simply losing themselves in each other and sharing air.

There’s the sound of television gunfire a few feet away but they’re calm and serene, isolated in the bubble of their bunk, feet bumping when they snuggle impossibly closer.

“Hey Lou?” Harry mumble-asks, sleepy soft and unbearable adorable.

“Yeah?”

“D’you think all this shit is gonna get better anytime soon?”

Louis sighs, worrying his lip between his teeth. “Dunno, love.” He says with a light tug at one of Harry’s curls. “Hope so. We’ll get through it no matter what though, we always do.”

Harry nods into him, long arms holding him tighter, and they both fall silent once more.

Music plays in the background and light flickers against the curtain, but they’re still in their own little world, and Louis lets his eyes flutter closed, inhaling the scent of apple shampoo in his boyfriend’s hair. He misses when things were simple like this, just the two of them being with each other, not needing to watch their every move, not having to refrain from looking, touching, having. He misses when things were good.

But even though things are not so good right now, this is, so he smiles lazily as the stress drains out of him.

It’s then that Harry speaks up again, asking “Tell me something sweet to get me by?”

“Hmm?” Louis hums, shifting so their faces are together, barely two inches apart. He nearly goes cross eyed, but stays put, not wanting any space at all between them.

Harry flushes, stammering “Sorry, it’s, it’s a lyric, but. But do it anyways?”

“You hipster fuck.” Louis tuts fondly, kissing his nose. Harry’s eyes fall shut with a smirk, and his canopy lashes cast dim shadows on his cheeks. “Alright, so like, what?”

“Dunno, just. Something good to get us through this. Something to hold onto.” Harry says, and he just looks so desperate, so in need of something to hold close to his heart, guard like a flame in a dark space, and Louis wants to give him that, of course he does.

“Okay,” He clucks, thinking on it. Something comes to mind immediately, and he has to force himself past the embarrassment. “Okay, so basically, if you tell a living soul about this I’ll have to kill you, cause Zayn would never stop taking the piss, kay?”

Harry furrows his eyebrows, mouth quirked in a half smile, but nods.

“Yeah, swear.”

Louis plays with their fingers as a distraction, and mutters “So...so when I can’t sleep, I. I write my wedding vows to you in my head.”

Harry’s eyes widen, expression going slack.

“You do?” He questions, awed.

“Yeah, Hazza.” Louis murmurs, reaching up to brush Harry’s puffed up fringe back into place. “I think about what I wanna tell you, what I wanna tease you about, what I wanna say to make you cry. You’re such a crier, I bet you’ll be sobbing the whole day.”

“Well duh, obviously.” Harry laughs, voice bathed in hope. “So you write your vows before you sleep? That’s...”

“Stupid.” Louis provides.

“Sweet. Sweet as fuck, actually.” The younger boy corrects with a gentle kiss between them. “I think I just fell in love with you all over again.”

Louis shoves his shoulder, but it’s light and flirty, no force behind it. “Idiot.” He huffs. “So what about you, then? What’s your something sweet for me?”

“Erm, I haven’t really got anything that bloody adorable, but. I, erm. I have little versions of our future kids in my head?” Harry says, like a question, and Louis’ heart melts.

It must show on his face, because Harry looks both amused and sheepish.

“Like, a girl and a boy, right, and when I see something that I think they’d like – which is dumb because they don't exist yet – I write it down so I can remember down the road. So like. Taking Darcy to get our nails done, or buying you and Luke a mini footie set for the backyard. Shit like that.” Harry shrugs, eyes flashing a brighter green when he shifts into the sliver of light streaming into the bunk.

“You really plan all that?” Louis whispers, grin spreading quick.

“Yeah, course. Figure I might as well, as you’re so unorganized.” Harry teases with a wink, sappiness over. (Mostly. There’s still a warm throb in Louis’ heart that he knows from experience wont lessen anytime soon.)

“Am not!” He argues, sticking his bottom lip out in a pout.

Harry levels him a look. “You forgot to pack underwear for tour. Underwear, Louis.”

“Ugh, shut up.” Louis groans, burrowing into Harry’s neck. “S’why I’ve got you to take care of me.”

He knows his boyfriend’s smiling, but stays where he is, because as much as he pretends he doesn't, he loves being wrapped up in the taller boy. Harry’s arms are strong around him, chin hooked on his deflated quiff, and Louis could stay here forever. In fact, he pretty much plans on it.

“You take care of me too.” Harry rumbles then, vibrations tingly against Louis’ cheek.

“I know I do.” He whispers.

There’s the sound of candy being spilled outside the bunks, and then impressive cursing from an exasperated Niall. The two lay there and listen as Liam chides Zayn for eating floor food, chuckling softly here and there. Again, it’s peaceful, and they need that.

“We’re gonna be okay, right? We’ll be alright?” Harry whimpers then, like he can’t keep it in, like the insecurities are boiling up and brimming over. Louis knows how that feels.

“Course, sweetheart, we’ll be fine.” The older boy soothes, kissing at the bird tattoos he spends so much time admiring.

A pause, and then “Pinky promise?”

Louis snorts, but traces down Harry’s arm to link their littlest fingers, squeezing tight.

“Pinky promise.” He confirms.

Harry breathes a laugh, barely heard under the noise of the engine, and noses at Louis' temple, guiding his face up to capture his lips once more.

“Okay. Love you, Lou. Never gonna stop.” He swears.

“Never ever.” Louis hushes, and kisses him harder.

The bus rolls on and so does life, but when it’s just the two of them, all that just kind of fades away.

so baby save me like you do
brokenbravery
timestamp for the build your nest on tenderness verse, so you should read that first if you haven't already.
summary: louis has a nightmare, zayn tries to make it all better.
fluffy, angsty, with just a little cheek.
title from amazing by hedley.



It’s a Thursday night and Zayn is hovering in that familiar half-sleep, mind in dreamland while also aware of what’s playing on telly. He knows if he opened his eyes he’d see a Doctor Who re-run, Chinese takeaway leftovers on the table, and Louis’ head in his lap, breath coming out in warm puffs against his thigh. Lazily, he strokes over Louis’ ear, feeling it twitch in response despite the hybrid being asleep. They’ve had a quiet night in, not exactly uncommon for them, but their visits to Niall and Liam’s to have dinner have increased tenfold (Louis’ best friends with Harry now), so alone time is something they covet.

There’s a whimpery sound (not unlike the ones his kitten boyfriend makes in bed) and Zayn forces himself to wake up, groggily looking down to see Louis stirring slightly, face scrunched up in obvious unease. He flinches then, seeming like a kneejerk reaction, and his ears press down against his scalp, as if scared.

Zayn furrows his eyebrows and strokes Louis’ cheek, trying to ease him out of sleep, but the smaller boy just whines and scrunches up his eyes further, mumbling a small “No.”

His tail has snaked between his legs and there’s a tremble to his fingers, where they rest on Zayn’s knee.

“No, no, please, no.” He whines, shaking his head in his sleep. “It hurts, no.”

With a jolt, Zayn realizes what’s happening. He’s having a nightmare about the abuse from his past, and with the way his kitten sharp teeth are biting into his lip, it must be vivid. He’s quick to try and jostle Louis out of it, murmuring “Sweetheart, Lou, wake up, it’s just a dream.”

But Louis shivers and chokes on a sob, stuck in sleep. “Please, please, I’ll do anything, stop, please stop.” He begs, and it’s heartbreaking, and Zayn doesn't know what to do.

He shifts Louis to lay on the couch and hovers over him, unsure. His nose is crinkled and there’s tear tracks on his pink cheeks, even though his eyes have yet to open. His ears are flattened and his hands grasp at his own shirt (one of Zayn’s, as always) desperately.

“Louis, baby, open your eyes, wake up, it’s just Zayn, I’m right here.” He tries to soothe, running his hand down Louis’ arm, but with a flash of movement, Louis’ curled in on himself, claws coming out and slashing across the back of Zayn’s hand, cutting him open.

He hisses and pulls away, examining the wound, and is thankful that it’s not deep or bleeding too much. He’ll deal with it later, putting his focus back on his boyfriend, because he’s much more important. Louis’ still shaking his head, slurring “No, no, stop, no, please.” like a mantra, over and over.

At this point, Zayn figures gentle isn’t going to work, so with a regretful sigh, he picks up the phonebook from where is rests tucked under the table, and drops it with a bang to the floor.

Louis startles awake with a yelp, eyes wide and red rimmed, tail wound tight around his torso. Zayn climbs back onto the sofa and gathers him into his arms, cooing “Shh, shh, you were having a nightmare, m’sorry to scare you, just needed you to wake up, love.”

Louis is quivering all over and mewling into his neck, breathing beyond uneven. Zayn presses kisses to his hair, over his still lowered ears, and continues hushing him with small sounds.

“You’re okay, you’re safe, they’ll never hurt you again, okay?” He reassures his hybrid, and Louis nods in a jerky movement.

A single sob escapes him but he seems to reel himself back in before he can get too far.

“I. How d-did you know it was about..?” He trails off, voice smaller than it’s been in a long time. Maybe even since Zayn first bought him.

“You were talking, kitten.” Zayn sighs, cradling him closer. “M’so sorry.”

“Mhm.” Louis whimpers, clinging closer. Zayn holds him just as tight.

They’re quiet for a little bit, waiting while Louis begins to calm, sniffling here and there as Zayn rubs circles into his back. Eventually he nuzzles into Zayn’s jaw before peeking out to meet his gaze, blushing in embarrassment. Zayn goes to cup his cheek, but Louis’ quick hands catch his and watery blue eyes widen as he takes in the sight of the sore looking back of his palm.

“Did I do that?” He stammers, mouth in a tiny, guilty o. “Oh god, Zayn, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.”

But Zayn shakes his head and kisses their linked fingers. “Hey, hush, it’s okay, you weren’t even awake darling, you can't be held accountable. I’m just glad you’re alright, yeah? I’m glad you’re safe. You know you’re safe, right?”

“Yeah.” Louis sniffs, wiping at his eyes. “Yeah, I know.”

“That’s good, Lou.” Zayn murmurs.

Louis flushes further and headbutts his chin, humming a pleased sound. “I like it when you call me Lou.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah, I. They named me Louis, right? And I didn't really have a name before that, just a number, but I never really liked Louis, cause...I dunno. They were bad people, and they hurt me, and I didn't like that they got to define me like that.” His hybrid mumbles, and Zayn feels his heart break. “But when you call me Lou, it’s so nice, cause. Cause it’s like you’re doing the same, except you’re amazing, and I love you, and it just. Makes me feel all. I dunno. Cared for. Special, I guess.”

“You are special. You’re the most beautiful thing I’ve ever laid my eyes on, Lou.” Zayn stresses, using the nickname purposefully. He strokes down Louis’ tail and hears him rumble-purr, eyes fluttering closed. “And I love you to death.”

“Yeah.” Louis breathes, like he’s reminding himself.

Zayn cuddles them closer, peppering kisses down his boyfriend’s neck tenderly. Louis hovers their faces close together to simply look him over, like he wants to brand the image into his brain forever, and Zayn smiles, because how could he not?

“Did you know you were the first person to smile at me?” Louis asks airily, as if not entirely present. “In all my life. I mean, they, they grinned, or whatever, but it was when. It was when they were using me to get off, and. And it was like, like a ‘you’re my slutty fuck toy’ grin. Wasn't nice.” He frowns, fingers twitching where they trace Zayn’s pulse point. “But you came in, and walked right up to my cage, and, and smiled, and. I nearly broke down crying then and there, really. You were so kind. Still are, obviously. It was just. Like a beacon of hope, you know?”

Zayn does know, because Louis is brighter than the sun, to him. “Well, you make me smile. Always. And I hate knowing people didn't treat you the way you deserve.”

Lou ducks his head. “Mm. S’okay. It’s not like I’m forever traumatized or anything, just. Damaged. Sorry ‘bout that.”

“Hey, don't you dare apologize to me, Louis. Lou. None of that was your fault, and none of this resulting damage is either.” Zayn tells him, bumping their noses. “You’re perfect, so perfect, and I knew from the second I got you what had happened to you, it was so obvious in the way that you were, but I still wanted you. I’ll always want you, bad past and all.”

Timidly, Louis presses his lips to his cheek. “Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

“And you’ll always protect me?” The smaller boy asks, caressing the back of his neck.

“Of course, god, of course.” Zayn affirms strongly with a squeeze.

“And you’ll make sure I never have to...” Louis trails off.

It takes a lot not to break down at how distressed he sounds. “Never again in your fucking life, babe. Never.”

“Okay. Okay, um. Can we just. Can we bandage your hand – please at least let me feel a little bad about that, alright – and then go to bed?” Louis stutter-asks. “I feel safer there, when you cuddle me, and wrap us up in the blankets.”

“Of course, yeah.” Zayn nods right away. “Would you like some milk beforehand?”

“Yes please.” Louis whispers, pink in the cheeks.

“Okay, c’mon then bub.”

Zayn leads him down the hall with his good hand and goes along with it as Louis plays nurse, sitting him up on the counter and carefully bandaging the scratches, kissing each fingertip apologetically. Zayn tells him again it’s not his fault, but it’s clear he won’t believe that. So instead he just gathers him close as he heats up the mug of milk in the microwave, swaying them back and forth softly in the dim light.

The timer beeps and he hands Louis his drink with a kiss to his mussed fringe, flicking off the tv as they migrate to their bedroom, silently deciding to deal with the leftover food in the morning. Zayn turns out the lights as they go, and leaves just the bedside lamp on to bathe the room in a soft orange glow.

Louis crawls carefully to his side of the bed and sits cross legged there, mug cradled in his hands, lines on his forehead evening out with each sip. Zayn sidles up next to him and holds him round the waist, head on his shoulder. They stay quiet as he finishes, comfortably, and once the mug is set down on the floor, Zayn guides him to lay with his head pillowed on his chest, pulling the blankets up to cocoon around them. He runs his fingers through Louis’ silky hair, scritching behind his triangular ears, reminding him once again “You’re safe, I’ve got you, I’m right here.”

Louis snuggles in closer and purrs, kiss-licking Zayn’s collarbone tattoo fondly. “Thank you. Thank you for saving me, and taking me away from them. And caring for me. And loving me.”

“Don’t need to thank me, s’impossible not to fall in love with you. You’re so precious, angel, I don't understand how anyone could ever hurt you.” Zayn sighs, trying not to picture it. He fails.

But Louis’ tail snakes across his bare chest, tickling pleasantly where it settles. “Some people are just. Horrible. S’the way it is. But you’re wonderful, and I don't think I could be happier. So thank you.”

“That’s good, I want you to be happy. Me too, you know. So thank you, really.” Zayn tells him, their fingers sliding between each other to link warmly.

“This is so sappy.” Louis snorts then, and Zayn subtly sighs in relief, glad to see his hybrid’s personality coming back.

“Sappy’s underrated.” He counters with a smirk, nosing at Louis’ temple.

“Mm. Is spooning underrated too? Cause I could go for that right now.” The smaller boy questions, and Zayn huffs a laugh, arranging them accordingly. He wraps around Louis from behind and nuzzles into the back of his neck, feeling Louis curl up and breathe a content exhale.

“Try and get some more sleep, okay? If you have another nightmare, I’ll be right here, darling.” Zayn says quietly.

“Promise?” Louis asks, as always.

“Promise.” Zayn says, as always.

*

The next day, Zayn comes home from class half an hour later than usual, and he knows Louis has been worrying, even though the kitten boy won’t admit it. He deflates into their hug and pours extra passion into their kiss, and Zayn chuckles fondly, soothing his worries with a scratch to Louis’ silky soft hair.

“Sorry I’m late, lovey, I stopped by somewhere to get you a present.” He explains, watching as Louis’ ears perk up, eyes widening.

“You got me a present?” He asks in surprise, lips threatening to break into a grin. “I’ve never got a present before.”

“I know, s’why I got you one.” Zayn winks, guiding him over to the kitchen, where he pulls out the box. It’s not huge, but not tiny either, and Louis’ dainty hands look even smaller where they cradle it. He’s silent as he pulls open the flaps and pushes aside the tissue paper, reaching inside and pulling out the gift.

It's a white coffee mug, simple but elegant, little kitty design on one side, scripted Lou on the other. Louis turns it over with his lip held between sharp teeth, tail flicking about like it does when he’s unsure of what to say.

His eyes go wet and Zayn kisses underneath one, smiling. “You said you liked when I called you Lou, yeah? Plus, I figured it’s about time you have your own special mug for milk. Just want you to feel as safe and loved as possible.”

“You do all of that already just by being you, Zayn.” Louis says, before flushing and half-hugging the mug to his chest. “I love it, though. Thank you. You’re spoiling me.”

“I’m your boyfriend, it’s my job to spoil you.” Zayn tells him seriously. “Now how about we christen this new mug with some warm milk, and then we can head over to Niall and Liam’s? They texted to say Harry’s been missing you.”

“He saw me on Tuesday.” Louis rolls his eyes, shaking his head for effect, but all it really does is show how stupidly fond he is of his fellow hybrid friend. “But, yeah, okay. That sounds good.”

Zayn pecks him on the lips and goes to the fridge to grab some milk, carefully pouring it into the new gift, thumb absentmindedly running over the lettering. He’s about to put it in the microwave when Louis’ honeysweet voice reaches his ears.

“Hey Zayn?” He calls, and the other boy turns back to raise an eyebrow in inquiry. “I can spoil you too, right?”

“Course.”

Louis smirks, and like a show of how much progress his personality has made over the past few months, drawls “I’m giving you one hell of a blowjob tonight.”

Zayn nearly drops the mug.

i've got nothing left inside of my chest, but it's all alright
brokenbravery
niall centric oneshot
pairing: ot5 friendship, mentions of harry/louis
rating: idk, pretty safe?
words: 3k
summary: niall gets sad, the boys get worried, sappiness ensues.
warnings: highly focused on depression
title credit: all alright by fun.

dedicated to the lovely lizzie <3



Niall felt dead. The bed sheets were warm but not warm enough, and he was distinctly uncomfortable, having been lying on his left side for too long. He didn't have the energy to turn over, though, so he let his skin indent with creases and his hair muck up against the flattened pillow. Each flicker of the red numbers on his alarm clock brought him out of his trance, but only momentarily. The room was dark, barely any light forcing its way through the thick curtains, and other than his own sometimes staggery breathing, it was silent. He liked it that way.

*

He started feeling down on a Monday. That’s probably why he wrote it off right away, too, because Mondays suck for everyone, don't they? They’re Mondays.

There was nothing different about this particular Monday, either. Niall woke up the blaring of his phone’s alarm, Black Eyed Peas’ I Gotta Feeling playing far too close to his ear. His shower was short but scalding hot, just the way he liked it, cheeks pink for a different reason than usual when he stepped out. Breakfast was two toaster waffles smeared messily with jam, because he was in a rush, needing to meet the car downstairs in- he glanced at his stupidly expensive watch, a Christmas gift from Harry, cursing- five minutes ago. He ran outside, using his bag as an umbrella against the light rain, and was met with fond judgments from the other lads as soon as he was buckled in.

A normal Monday.

Except, not. Because as they made their way through interviews and promo pictures and little video snippets for the film crew that rarely left them alone, Niall’s mood steadily declined. He couldn’t even blame it on one certain thing, it was like everything that happened knocked him down a peg, like he was on a ladder and each pay attention Niall, each stern look from Paul and meaning-to-be-friendly-but-ending-up-just-a-tad-hurtful tease from Louis, forced him down a step. He couldn’t seem to go back up, though, and by the time they sat together to eat lunch, his smile was gone and he couldn’t find it again.

But he ignored it, because it was a Monday, and everyone hates Mondays.

*

Soon it was a Wednesday, though. His laughter felt fake and his quips were off par, and though the others clearly noticed, they said nothing. (They’d regret that later.)

Thursday, too, and then Friday and Saturday and so on. It wasn't even so bad at first, really. It was manageable, and Niall could still grin happily when something was funny, could still jump around enthusiastically onstage, feeling the rush of the crowd and the beat of their music.

The good made up for the bad and Niall was coping.

*

Time went on, and so did Niall’s sadness. He didn't like to think about it, because it was all consuming and usually ended up with him sitting on the floor by himself, face tucked into his knees, just focusing on his breathing. It made him want to cry, but as the days ticked by, that became harder, too. The emotions just seemed to drain out of him, as if his heart had a leak and all his feelings were slowly escaping, and he couldn’t do a thing about it, instead being left with a numbness in his chest and a buzzing in his head.

Still, he ignored it.

*

His life became a struggle. It was hard not to let it show, hard not to just give up in the middle of a signing, hard not to just drop his plastered on smile and stop forcing out jokes and just lay down and sleep, he just wanted to sleep. He was so tired, even though he got plenty of rest.

But he soldiered on because he was Niall Horan of One Direction and the fans needed him boisterous and his boys needed him energetic, and management needed him on the top of his game. So that’s what he was.

That metaphorical ladder was harder to climb, but he still made himself do it.

*

Zayn asked him what was wrong, one day after he wandered off between photo shoots and ended up on the rooftop, counting the stories down. He had no intention of jumping, no, but it gave him a new perspective. He watched life bustle on below and thought of just how many people there were on Earth, and just how many of them were horrible, and how many of them were lovely but were treated as if horrible, and how many had become horrible because of it. He looked down and thought about how each human being had a world inside their brain just like he did, thoughts that had probably crossed his mind, some that maybe never would. He didn't like the vertigo it instilled in him.

Zayn’s footsteps made him startle and he tried his best to put a smile on his lips, but the other boy could see straight through it. He gave up and let his face fall into its natural slack expression, and stared at the grey clouds above.

“Mate, why’ve you been so down, lately? Is there something going on?” Zayn had asked, tone caring and sincere. It made Niall want to cry, but he didn't. The only moisture on his face was the light mist now falling down.

“No, I’m fine.” He said, still half believing it.

Zayn gave him a skeptical look, but Niall didn't worry about it.

“Just tired.” He added, that part not a lie at all.

Zayn sighed but nodded, putting a hand on his arm and not bothering to remove it after the usual few moments. Niall didn't mind. It was nice, feeling tethered. A bit like Zayn was trying to help him up one more step.

*

Soon a month and a half had passed since that first Monday, and things had gotten worse. Niall couldn’t quite drag himself out of bed on his days off, and when he did, it was to go get plastered. At least when he was drunk he didn't feel like he was being crushed. The heavy weight of this...whatever it was, was so overwhelming that he barely had enough focus to pretend it didn't exist. The boys were a bit worried, sure, but not on any large level. He forced a smile, squeezed some enthusiasm into his voice, and did a good enough job of distracting them with FIFA and beers that they didn't notice much was off. He was actually rather proud of that.

There were very few things that made him happy, anymore. When he got to visit his family in Ireland, his contentment was easier and he felt more relaxed, but it still wasn't quite right. He liked to go on walks through London, when time and fanbase craziness permitted, but even then, his thoughts would wander.

His thoughts were scary. He didn't like to listen to them. (They whispered, slow and daunting, reminding him how useless he was, how unsatisfying his life was, how nobody seemed to call him anymore and maybe that meant they didn't like him. He was just extra, just...there. Nobody needed him, not Louis and Harry, not Liam and Zayn. Friends seemed to just fade away, all the good feelings and memories going with them.)

But it was getting harder to ignore and Niall could barely cling to his invisible ladder.

*

Time seemed to blur after that, days and weeks of an empty chest and numb mind, appetite dwindling, energy nearly gone. People were definitely starting to notice. Management demanded to know why he couldn’t follow orders and give a big Niall smile, but he didn't feel like Niall anymore. Harry asked why he never went out with them now, but he couldn’t very well tell him he didn't have the confidence to walk out his front door. Even Liam got involved, usually being a watcher, but this time sitting Niall down and asking why he was like this, why he wasn't himself. But Niall didn't know why.

The only thing making him get up in the morning was the need to keep everyone happy. If he couldn’t be it himself, they should.

*

But it became too much. His limbs felt like lead and he was just so heavy. He slept for hours and his smiles wobbled and failed within seconds. He read online that the fans thought the ‘light in his eyes’ was gone, and he supposed that was accurate. He’d know, spending the time he wasn't in bed in front of the mirror, staring at himself and not recognizing what he saw. He didn’t understand what was happening, didn't understand how he could just lose himself, and it was just so hard.

So he went back to bed.

*

He was awoken one day by a pounding on his front door, and Louis’ familiar voice calling out.

“Niall! You better fucking let me in you wanker, you think you can just hide from us but you can't, okay, you can't shut us out like this! Please just talk to us, we haven’t seen you in a week, and you’ve been so distant, we’re worried sick! Hello? Are you even listening to me? You better fucking be! Open this door Niall James Horan, or I swear I’ll break it down!”

Niall closed his eyes and deflated further into the mattress, nonplussed. Louis couldn’t force his way in. He’d give up eventually.

“Okay, I can hear you thinking I can't, but I can! Or I’ll get one of the security blokes to do it! Come on Niall, I just want to see you, we just need to know you’re okay. Or, not okay. We just need to know, so we can help you. Please? Niall? Don't be such a tit!”

And, alright, that could be a potential problem, but Niall couldn’t find it in himself to feel bad, let alone get up and answer him.

So instead he finally rolled over onto his right side, clumsily pulling the spare pillow over his head. He’d deal with it later. Or, not at all. Who gave a shit.

*

Niall stayed in his flat and didn't leave, even when he ran out of food, ordering takeaway instead. He didn't want to go out in the world, there was nothing there for him, nothing but too nosy fans and too pushy paparazzi, and as of late, too loud voices calling from the hallway, the boys all trying to coax him out. He didn't listen.

*

There was a weight settling onto the mattress beside him, and then a second and a third and a fourth, and Niall blinked open his dreary eyes to see his boys sitting in front of him, various looks of concern on their faces. Nobody said anything, not an uncomfortable silence per se, but not necessarily nice either.

Niall sighed and rolled over onto his back to make more room, rubbing at his eyes and mumbling “What the fuck?”

“Hi to you too.” Zayn smirked, Louis shoving him lightly.

Niall rolled his eyes with the small amount of energy he could muster and glanced between the four of them, noting the way Liam had a hand on a deeply worried looking Harry’s back. While the world tended to forget, he really was the baby of the group.

“Yeah, well, hello and all that shit, but why are you in here?” Niall questioned, frowning. “Actually, how are you in here?”

At that, Louis lit up devilishly. “We broke into the building manager's office! Proper ‘007 style!”

“Did you actually?” Niall asked ludicrously. They all nodded as a unit.

“Yes!” Zayn said excitedly. “Harry and Louis basically started dry humping beside the lift – not that that’s anything new – and while they were getting yelled at, Liam and I managed to sneak in and get into the key drawer to grab yours.”

Niall was frozen for a moment, running it through his head. They broke into an office for him. To see him. Because they cared that much. Jesus. His throat felt thicker suddenly.

“You guys...you could have got in so much trouble for that, you know.” He uttered, propping himself up on his elbows sluggishly.

“Yeah. We know.” Harry shrugged, serious. “You’re more important.”

That’s when Niall slipped off the final step on the ladder and the tears broke free, rolling down his cheeks with a whimpery sound that was all too pathetic. But Louis was quick to tut “Oh, sweetheart.” and lean close to pull him into his arms, sliding down to lay with him. “Niall, please just tell us what’s been going on with you.”

Niall sniffled and kept his face pressed to Louis’ neck, words muffled there. “I don’t know. I can't tell you something I don't know.”

There was a sigh and another set of arms around his middle, and with a ghost of a smile he immediately knew they were Harry’s, just by the feel of them.

“What can you tell us?” He asked softly, breathing warm onto his back.

Niall closed his eyes and felt Liam’s hand settle on his knee, Zayn’s on his hip. “I dunno, I just. I had a bad day, like, two months ago maybe. And then, then they just kind of all became bad days, until I couldn’t find any good anymore. It just happened, and, like, I tried so hard to keep up with everything, I really did, but eventually I just couldn’t, anymore. I can’t. S’too much, I’m so tired. M’fucking exhausted.”

There was another moment of dwelling silence, all of them holding him tighter.

“Niall, love, maybe you should talk to someone?” Zayn suggested, thumb stroking at the skin under the hem of his shirt.

“Like who? A bloody shrink? I’m not crazy.” Niall cried, shaking his head firmly.

“Hey, no, we don't think you are.” Liam explained with a squeeze of his knee. “But maybe it would be helpful to have someone who knows about this kind of stuff, so they can figure it out and you can understand it too, yeah? Can’t solve a problem if you don't understand it.”

Niall puffed a small breath onto Louis’ collarbone and sunk into the feeling of the four of them touching him, caring about him. It went against every thought he’d had recently, but he nodded.

“Yeah, um. Okay, I guess.” He frowned, tears mostly subsiding. “That might work.”

“Good, that’s good.” Louis murmured, kissing his hair. It was overly motherly for the normally loud and bossy boy, but that’s why it was so nice. “It’s not the same without your smiles.”

“Or your pranks.” Zayn added with a huff of a laugh.

“That’s true!” Harry piped up. “It’s been ages and I haven’t found some kind of food in my boots, I almost miss it.”

Niall managed a dull snort and muttered “You’ll regret those words someday.”

“He’ll regret all his words someday, you do talk an awful lot of shit Harold.” Louis teased as always, easy, normal. So easy and normal that it was a comfort, and Niall felt his lips twitch up in a fond fashion.

“Heeeyyyy.” Harry whined, but it was playful. “Aren’t we supposed to be cheering Niall up instead of taking the piss?”

“That’s true.” Liam chimed in. “What can we do, Nialler?”

They hadn’t used that nickname in a while, and Niall assumed his current state was why it had made an appearance once more. It felt nice.

He sighed, though, deep and guilty. “I don’t think anything can cheer me up. Doesn't exactly work like that.”

Another moment of quiet, this one finally comfortable. Louis stroked at the back of Niall’s neck, Harry’s arms warm around his stomach. Liam’s fingers drew circles on his knee, his bad one, and Zayn tapped the rhythm of his favorite Frank Ocean song into his hip. Niall prided himself on knowing that.

He nosed at Louis’ adam’s apple and whispered “Sorry.” because he felt the need to say it.

“Don’t you dare.” The eldest boy told him, threatening.

“None of this is your fault.” Liam added.

Niall just shrugged.

“Hey, how about we have a big cuddle here and watch a film, hm?” Harry suggested, sitting up half way. “Pick a sad romcom and have a good cry together?”

“That’s the gayest thing to ever come out of your mouth.” Zayn deadpanned.

Harry stuck out his tongue before mumbling something along the lines of “Louis’ dick would disagree.”

“Well I for one think that’s a brilliant idea, what’you say?” Louis pulled back to ask Niall, eyebrows raised hopefully.

Truth be told, it did sound lovely, however sappy. Niall could use sappy.

“Sure.” He agreed, reveling in the affectionate pat to his cheek. “But please not anything with an airport scene, those are so stupid.”

“They are not!” Liam argued at the same time Harry called out “But that completely writes off the good ones!”

“And by good ones you mean Love Actually.” Louis snorted, kicking a leg across to shove Harry’s arm out from under him. Niall noticed that even with their current bantering, none of them had stopped touching him.

“Airport scenes are completely unrealistic.” Zayn stated to Liam, who looked deeply offended.

“Nuh uh! They’re romantic!” He cried out, and was met with laughter.

As their bickering continued, Niall relaxed back onto his pillow and smiled, for real this time, the feeling strange on his lips. These boys were fucking perfect, and he loved them more than anything. He’d missed them the past couple weeks. Their dispute lasted even as they decided on a film and pressed play on his flat screen, settling down on the mattress all heaped together, limbs overlapping, hands providing an occasional tickle.

Niall’s eyes started to droop halfway in, snarky remarks blurring in with the movie’s dialogue, body heat keeping him cozy, and the last thing he heard before he dropped off was Liam hissing “Look, if someone ran through an airport to stop me from getting on a flight, I’d marry them then and there.” And Louis coughing a “Slut.”

He dreamed of climbing easily up a ladder, and when he woke here and there through the night, there was never a time he wasn't encased in their warmth.

can't laugh too hard, i'm on a diet
brokenbravery
au oneshot
pairing: louis/harry
rating: nc-17?
words: 10k
summary: louis is a chef with an eating disorder, and harry is a waiter who doesn't find the irony as funny as he does.
warnings: eating disorder
title credit: cause and effect by maria mena, because of course




The restaurant bathroom is always busy and Louis hates it. If he’s going to spend time on his knees in front of a toilet, he at least needs privacy. There’s always a constant stream of customers, haughty businessmen chatting as they wipe their hands on expensive towels, and all Louis wants is some peace and fucking quiet to throw back up whatever he’s eaten.

There’s a staff loo he could use as well, of course, but he can't really risk that because Harry might be in there.

He’s known Harry for at least five months now, or so he thinks. The kid (yes, kid, he was barely nineteen when he sauntered on in with a head of loose curls and a baggy jumper that had holes in it) said he needed a job, desperately, and while Louis isn’t in charge of hiring, he is the head chef, well acclaimed with a few awards, even, so what he says, goes. And he’d liked the look of him, especially after Harry nearly tripped over absolutely nothing, glass of water spilling onto his hand. That’s probably exactly why everyone doubted his choice, even thought he was crazy, but. Louis just found him endearing.

By now, Harry’s learned the ropes and he’s the best on their staff. He’s got charm up to his ears that he can turn on in a millisecond, always able to convince women (and men; nobody is immune to Harry Style’s twinkle eyes) to order another dessert, another glass of wine, etcetera. The amount of tips he gets is ridiculous, but Louis definitely understands why.

It’s probably the reason Harry is the only person who knows about Louis’ diet. Well. He always argues that it’s not a diet, that it’s a disorder and it’s not healthy, but Louis ignores him because he knows what it is and he knows all he needs to do is lose some more weight and he’ll be satisfied, and stop. He swears.

Harry’d found out in a very mundane way, no big reveal, no shit-I-just-walked-in-on-you-purging or something movie-scene-dramatic like that. He’d stayed behind with Louis like he started doing a month in, watching him meticulously scrub at his cooking surfaces (there are cleaning people for that, yes, but they never do it quite right and it gives him a distraction from the almost never ending pain in his stomach), and when Harry mentioned he hadn’t had time for dinner, Louis offered to make him anything he wanted. He picked ravioli, and sang top forty songs while Louis worked.

They sat on the counter with topped off glasses of wine and ate together. Except, Harry devoured a whole bowl, and Louis only picked at one square, having trouble forcing it down. Harry’d asked why, and Louis told him he was on a diet. Harry asked how extreme that diet was, and
Louis shrugged, mumbling something about not really eating much.  It was clear Harry figured out the rest himself, but he didn't push, because he’s Harry, and he’s not like that.

But from there on out he dropped hints about his worrying, tried to charm Louis the way he charmed customers (which worked, actually, but as soon as he left Louis was rushing to get his fingers down his throat), and has done basically everything that could still be considered subtle to make Louis eat normally. He hasn’t succeeded.

It’s after hours now, waiters clocking out with tired eyes and tired legs, sous-chef Greg bidding Louis farewell, stains on his white t-shirt from a minor bolognese incident they’d had. It takes a while for everyone to file out, as it’s a large restaurant, one of the best in the country, and certainly the top rated. Critics give fabulous reviews and though Louis nitpicks, as every chef surely does, he is aware of how good he is, is aware that he makes this place run. It just means there’s more people around to stall him.

He’s itching to get the earlier chicken parm out of his stomach, having needed to taste test their new recipe like all cooks do, and he knows he has about a ten minute window. Everyone leaves to have a smoke outside, and Harry will join them, before meandering back in. Louis waits until the last apron is hung up on the shiny silver hooks in the shiny silver kitchen, before hurrying through the hall to the staff toilet.

It’s empty, of course, but he locks the door just in case, because he’s not one to forget stupid things like that. He slides to his knees easily, practiced by now, and rolls his sleeves up like a person would before a fight. He supposes this is close enough. Two fingers past his tongue, a bit of stroking and it all comes back up, with barely any noise. Practiced.

He goes again, just to get the last of it, not wanting any leftover calories and such. When he’s done, he flushes, washes his hands, rinses out his mouth and checks his hair, of course, because he hates when his quiff deflates from being in front of steaming pots and pans all night. It’s decent, he supposes, definitely not as bad as it could be, or has in the past.

He walks back out the door, the hallway, and into the kitchen where Harry is standing with his arms crossed, unamused expression on his face. Louis should probably feel his heart drop or his stomach swoop but he doesn't, because he’d have to care to feel those. And he doesn't.

So he hops up onto the counter across from Harry, reminding himself that it should be easier to do so, he needs to be lighter, he could lift himself so much easier, before properly meeting the other man’s sage green eyes.

“Louis-”

“Don't.” He sighs.

“But you can’t just-”

“Don’t.” He sing-songs.

“It’s not healthy-”

“Hey, how about you don't?” He asks sarcastically, and Harry finally slumps in defeat.

“Fine. Fine, but purely because I hate when you storm off or give me the silent treatment.” He grumbles, sliding up onto his usual perch.

There’s still a concerned pout to his lips but he swings his long legs back and forth, and from experience, Louis knows that's a good sign.

“I’m a teenage girl at heart, what can I say.” He shrugs with a smirk.

“Uhuh.” Harry hums, trying to look unamused. It doesn't quite work. “So Matt was just telling me about some flying pasta sauce occurrence? Is that why Greg looked like something out of a cheap horror movie?”

Louis snorts and bumps Harry’s knee with his foot, contently launching into the story and liking the way his attention never leaves him.

It’s a good night.

*

Harry is Louis’ best friend. He doesn't really have any others. There’s work friends, sure, but they’re not the same thing. Greg is funny and throws good parties, and the waiter staff is great too, Matt kind and entertaining, Pixie sweet and quirky, and Aimee’s basically flawless, but none of them are Harry. Louis can tell Harry anything. He doesn't, no, because he’s far too guarded for that, far too scared, but he knows that he could. He could tell him anything and everything and Harry would sit there quietly, nodding along at the right parts, offering a hand to hold or a shoulder to cry on because he’s Harry Styles and he’s basically a perfect human being. Louis often tells him he doesn't believe he’s real, to which Harry will pinch his bum and laugh at his undignified squeak.

It’s a busy night, a Saturday, and Louis is bustling around the kitchen, correcting techniques and adding seasoning however he sees fit, when there’s hands over his eyes and a cheesy “Guess who?”

He spins and raises a slightly impatient eyebrow, because he’s busy, but Harry just purses his lips, saying “So, erm, there’s a couple at one of my tables who wants vegan food? Do we even have vegan food? What even is vegan food?”

Louis huffs a laugh and weaves around busy staff, back over to a boiling pot where he stirs the noodles inside. “S’food without meat or dairy products.” He explains to a slightly disturbed looking Harry.

“How do people live like that?” The other man asks, aghast, and Louis hip bumps him.

“I dunno. Point is, there’s nothing on the menu, but tell them I’ll make them something special.” Louis tells him, pushing him towards the door in a mostly friendly get-out-of-my-workspace-before-I-hurt-you fashion.

“Well aren’t you a just a saint.” Harry winks, halfway through the door.

“Oh you know it.” Louis drawls, before shoving him out.

He makes a vegan burger plate and hands it to Harry fifteen minutes later, slapping his ass at the disgusted expression on his face. He peeks nervously through the old style circle window, up on straining tiptoes to watch the middle aged couple receive their food, and eat it. They seem pleased enough, but of course, he worries.

Harry’s busy for a while with other orders, so Louis can't ask, but when he’s nervously drizzling chocolate sauce over tiramisu, the younger man leans in close to his ear and murmurs “They loved it, calm your tits.” on his way past.

It’s a good night.

*

Louis’ mood is a dangerous thing. It teeters precariously on a scale, and on good nights, ones where he gets astounding reviews from critics, or everything goes seamlessly, or Harry and him have one of their stupidly deep life chats, he’s perfectly fine. Perfectly perfect, even. But on bad nights, ones with complaints from customers, or kitchen accidents, or arguments with just about anyone, the scale doesn't just tip, it drops, and Louis does too.

The thing is, Louis is meticulous about his cooking. He knew from an early age it’s what he wanted to do, loved to do. He used to make dinner for his family, sometimes different meals for each sister, and it was never a burden but instead a joy, something he felt accomplished for, something he just enjoyed. He took the few cooking classes available before uni, and then studied hard, and then culinary school. He was good, great even, and his teachers often used him as an example. He worked hard to get a job here, tried his best and climbed the metaphorical ladder to get this position. He found his niche, and he stayed there.

So he’s not used to screwing up. It happens, once in a while, because he’s not a machine, but. But this is idiotic. He’s burned two sandwiches, overcooked a pasta dish and now he’s dropped a salad on the floor with a bang, scattering everywhere. There’s a dreadful moment of side eyeing from the others while he presses at his temples, before he hisses “Can someone fucking help me over here?” and a few people jump into action.

He needs out, so he rips off the silly chef’s hat Harry bought him for his birthday/Christmas gift and slinks out into the restaurant, scanning with his eyes. He spots the curly haired man over by the bar, where Nick The Arsehole works, chatting with him animatedly. Louis sighs at the inevitably smart ass remarks he’s going to hear, and marches over there to grab Harry by the arm.

The younger man only has to look at him for a half a second to know something’s wrong. “Louis? What’s up?” He asks, frowning.

Before Louis can answer, Nick chimes in with “Finally venturing out of your cave, then?”

“Shut up Grimshaw, I don't have time for your antics.” Louis huffs, not sparing him a glance.

“Antics? Are you accusing me of being a child?” Nick asks, tone puffed up with as much arrogance as possible.

Louis has no time for this. He turns to the annoying fuck and states “Children have more maturity and manners than you, so no, I’m not.”

“Ouch, I’m wounded.” The too-old-to-be-working-as-a-part-time-bartender drones, clutching at his chest sarcastically.

Louis sighs, and feels it through his whole body. Harry notices, because of course he does, and leads him away quickly, giving Nick a stern look over his shoulder.

They make it outside into the cool spring air, Harry leading Louis to an empty spot on the brick wall. Louis slides down it immediately, elbows propped up on his knees, hands covering his face.

“What’s wrong, hm?” Harry hums, sitting beside him.

“I just. I’ve fucked everything up tonight, I keep fucking up, I don’t, I don’t wanna be a fuck up.” Louis whines, digging his palms into his eyes.

Harry wraps an arm around his shoulder and leans in close before saying, with seriousness he’s not used to, “Lou, you’re not a fuck up, and you know it. You’re the best chef in London, if not all of bloody England! You’re just having an off day.”

“I dropped salad everywhere.” Louis moans.

“And I walked into a glass door yesterday, so I’ve got you beat.” Is what Harry responds with.

Louis snaps his head up and looks at him half in surprise, half in utter glee. “You what?”

“Mhm, got the bruise and everything, wanna see?” The clumsy man taunts softly, face porcelain in the moonlight.

Louis sniffles and nods, watching as Harry lifts his fringe to reveal a purple-blue tinge to the corner of his forehead, not dark per se, but obvious still. He giggles, reaching out to touch, and when the younger man winces, he leans in and kisses it gently.

Harry breathes a silent laugh and pulls back with mirth in his eyes, making Louis roll his own.

“Okay, okay, I get it.” He mutters. “You’re more of a loser than I am.”

“Heyyyyyy.” Harry pouts, but it’s playful. “Do you wanna go get coffee to make you feel better? M’sure someone’ll cover for me no problem.”

And truth be told, that sounds lovely. Leaving here to spend time with just Harry, relaxing and talking and laughing. It would be heavenly. But he can't. Because coffee is never just coffee and Louis can't eat anything. Normally he could make up for it by starving for a day or two afterwards, but after screwing up so badly tonight, he feels the need to keep his stomach empty and growling. So he shakes his head with a sad smile.

“Nah, I should stay. Make sure nothing else goes wrong.” He says, forcing a smirk. “I’ll be alright. Thank you though, Haz. You’re too sweet for your own good.”

Harry sighs, as if disappointed, but uses the arm around Louis’ shoulders to turn him into his chest, hugging him warmly. “I try.” He mumbles, and they don't say anything else.

Louis doesn’t stick around after work this time, instead claiming he’s tired and needs to sleep. It’s not a lie, but when Harry makes him promise he’ll eat, it is. He curls up in bed and bites the pillow through the worst of the hunger pains, refusing to consume anything. He can’t, he can't, he can't. He needs to be thinner, better, he can't keep messing up.

It’s a bad night.

*

Louis gets over it though, because he has to. He goes back in the next night and cooks better than ever, and gets a ton of compliments from the patrons, and multiple from Harry later that night when they heat up leftovers. Louis even manages to keep down half of a chicken sandwich (minus the mayo of course), and though Harry doesn't say anything, anyone could tell he’s proud.

*

Louis is often very jealous of Harry. Others, too, but Harry especially. Because he can eat and eat and eat and never gain a pound. He’s got muscular arms, trim legs and a six pack, all while being attractive on a model like level. Louis on the other hand, is all pudge. He’s got thick thighs and a fat arse and his stupid fucking tummy, that just will not go away. It’s better now than it was before, but it’s still there, it’s still visible, and it tortures him to know his shirts cling to it and show it off. That’s why he wears his apron at work even when he’s not cooking,
because at least it covers that.

He tells himself five more pounds, five more pounds, and then maybe you’ll look good. Except he never looks good, only slightly less bad, and that’s not enough. So he pushes through dizzy spells and stabbing pains, because he just wants to be likable. He just wants someone to look at him and think wow. That’s sure as hell not happening when he looks like he does currently.

*

“Shit, shit, shit, Louis, shit.” Comes Harry’s voice from behind him, and he glances up in between glazes of meat to see him looking pretty damn terrified, which definitely doesn't suit his face.

“What? What’s wrong?”

“Fuck, there’s a guy out there, right? On a date, with this stupidly gorgeous other guy, like shit, and here I am, and I’m just, I mean.” He’s stuttering, and it takes all Louis has not to coo at how unorthodoxly cute it is.

“Harry? Maybe explain first and ramble-slash-freak out second?” He suggests calmly, guiding him out of the way of the bustling kitchen staff.

“Right, right, he’s my ex. He dumped me like a year ago but we’d been together for ages and he meant the world to me but he found someone else and now here he is with this fucking top model and I’m gonna be their server!” Harry whines desperately, looking up at the ceiling and asking “What the fuck kind of karma shit is this, whatever I did, I’m sorry!”

Louis winces and puts his hands on his shoulders, soothing “Harry, jesus, relax, okay? We can figure something out. Just get someone else to trade off tables with you, yeah? And then...we’ll get someone to walk by holding hands with you to make him think you’ve moved on too. That sound alright?”

Harry sags in relief. “Alright? That’s brilliant, you’re an angel, I have an angel for a best friend.”

“What can I say, I was a bit of a mastermind as a child. Had to be with four little sisters.” Louis says, leaving out the part about still needing to be one now, to hide his hunger from others, to find ways around eating, to weigh himself over and over and over and still keep the numbers going down.

“Mm, can't even imagine. Really though, thank you.” Harry tells him earnestly.

“Don’t thank me, you twat. Go convince someone to be your pretend lover.” Louis smirks, going back to the food he’s preparing.

“Can you?” Harry asks.

“What?”

“Can you do that? I want you to.”

“Why me? No, god no, take someone else, they’re all ten times prettier. Pix’ll do it if you buy her booze later. Nick’ll do it for free.” Louis is quick to deflect, head down.

“But I want you to.” Harry presses, and he really must be in idiot. Or blind. A blind idiot for a best friend.

“It won’t be convincing, you’re way out of my league.” Louis responds over the clatter of someone dropping cutlery. He doesn't bother looking over.

“League? Really? You believe in that bullshit? Come on, Louis, pretend to be my boyfriend, I want him to know I got someone hotter than him.” Harry pleads, tilting his head close to Louis’ to force himself into his line of sight.

“I’m hotter than nobody.” Louis mumbles.

“That’s one hundred percent not true and if you don't agree to this I can assure you I won’t be sticking around tonight.” Harry shrugs, voice steely like the stainless appliances surrounding them.

“We’re playing scrabble tonight!” Louis pouts, a little too loudly, because Greg snorts from behind them and Louis reaches back to smack him round the head without even looking.

“Yes and if you still want to beat my arse with your stupidly long words, you’ll be my pretend boyfriend.”

“I hate you.” Louis voices, and they both know it’s a yes.

Harry smirks and walks out of the kitchen doors backwards, all the while hushedly singing if I was your boyfriend I’d never let you go.

Louis’ disappointed when his brain decides to continue the song in his head, annoying swag, swag, swag on you making him want to bash his head in. Seriously. Why is this his life.

*

Harry’s hand feels lovely in his, despite its nervous state, fidgeting and clammy. Louis squeezes his fingers to calm him down, and follows Harry’s stare to see the man they’re attempting to one up, a guy with short hair and a sweet face. He’s cute, sure, but nothing compared to Harry. And the supposed model across from him doesn't stand a chance either. He whispers this to Harry, who scoffs and shakes his head in a jerky motion.

“Alright, come on, let’s go past.” Louis finally tells him, after they’ve stood there for at least two minutes.

Harry worries his lip between pearly white teeth and asks “Should I talk to him? Or is that desperate?”

“No, but we’re trying to be superior, so either he speaks to us, or nothing at all.” Louis nods. “You’re better than him.”

“Not really.”

“Yes really. Now c’mon.”

Louis leads Harry by the hand, specifically sucking in his stomach in the hopes of seeming skinnier, a little less way way way inferior. Harry’s eyes are nervous but when Louis smiles up at him, half for show and half to give him a confidence boost, he grins back in his usual coquette way.

They pass the table and Louis watches out of the corner of his eye as Harry’s ex notices them, and seems shocked for a moment, before looking them up and down with at least a bit of jealousy, and that’s a win, he supposes. Harry leans down to whisper in Louis’ ear as they go, saying “Do your little giggle laugh, like I told you something dirty.”

Louis doesn't know what he’s talking about, but he makes an attempt anyways, trying for a bashful laugh and a blushy look down. He feels Harry smile against his ear, a touch that gives him goosebumps, and he glances backwards to see the younger man’s ex frowning at the table.

As soon as they’re around the corner, Louis’ being pulled into a tight hug.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you.” Harry’s saying, before lifting him up to spin him in circles. Panic jumps to life in Louis’ stomach, warning bells going off, and he pushes at Harry’s shoulders.

“Put me down, down, Harry, please.” He bites out, and he’s instantly put on the ground, Harry pulling back with a furrowed brow and no sign of his earlier dimples.

“You okay?” He asks, and Louis falters, flushing for real as he stares at his small feet.

“Just don't like people picking me up.” He mumbles.

“Why?”

“You know why.”

Harry frowns, posture sagging. “Yeah, I do. You’re not heavy though, you-”

“Don’t. You know better than to try.” Louis shrugs, pinching the bridge of his nose. “But let’s stop being depressing please? We totally just made your ex jealous, we should be celebrating.”

Harry’s expression lightens and he shifts anxiously, asking “Do you really think it worked?”

“Well he didn't pay an ounce of attention to his current beau, so yeah, I’d think so.” Louis smirks.

“Awesome.” Harry beams, before looking a little sad again. He leans down to kiss Louis’ hair, which is delightful but it only makes him feel shorter, and. Ugh. “Thank you. Means a lot, even though it’s stupid.”

“It’s not stupid. How about I mess with their food a bit? Not anything he’ll notice, but I could lick the plate?” He suggests, voice lilting hopefully.

Harry lets out a bark of laughter, covering his mouth with a hand after, like he can take it back. Louis smiles at the sight, and raises his eyebrows as if to ask what? I totally could.

“Can I lick it?” Harry questions mischievously, and okay, so maybe he’s a bit of a mastermind too. That could work very, very well in the future.

“Absolutely.”

*

Harry misses their Taco Tuesday night that week because the rest of the staff is going out for drinks, and Louis doesn't feel comfortable. He stays back in the empty kitchen and makes the food anyways, stares at it for twenty minutes, and throws it out.

It’s a bad night until he gets a drunk text from Harry, apologizing and expressing through horribly misspelled words that he misses him and would rather be there.

Louis grins and reminds himself to bring paracetamol to work the next day.

*

Harry groans in relief when it’s placed in front of him alongside a plate of hearty breakfast foods, and hugs Louis tight, telling him he’s a god.

*

It’s almost eight o’clock the next Sunday and Louis is bouncing nervously in anticipation, incessantly fixing his side swooped hair, straightening his outfit, checking himself in the mirror. He’s lightheaded, not having eaten in two days, specifically for this night.

He has a date. He’s cutting his shift early, because he’s important and he can do that, and the guy, Noah, is going to pick him up and take him out. He’d met him a few days previous, gotten called out by Harry, saying some bloke wanted to give his compliments to the chef personally, especially if he’s cute. Apparently Harry falsely said he was, and that’s how Louis found himself being asked out to dinner by a fairly attractive guy with dark hair and stubbly cheeks.

The bathroom door opens and Harry’s head of curls leans in, lips pursed exasperatedly when he sees Louis’ nearly frantic state.

“Babe, you look fine.” He stresses, stepping inside. “Better than fine, you look amazing. Best you’ve ever looked.”

It’s all lies, that Louis is sure of, but he blushes anyways and shrugs one shoulder. “I hope so. S’been a long time since someone wanted to go out with me. What if he hates me?”

“He couldn’t. It’s impossible to hate you.” Harry tells him, rubbing his arm.

“That’s not true.” Louis grumbles, because Harry doesn't know, he’s never told the other man about his past, about his parents rejecting him and his friends abandoning him, and any boyfriend he’s ever had stomping on his heart on their way out. So no, Harry doesn't know.

But Louis doesn't tell him. Instead, he sighs and accepts the comforting hug he’s given, falling into Harry’s chest and breathing in his usual scent of cigarettes and vanilla candles. Louis often teases him for liking those so much, but it’s mostly so he doesn't have to think about how adorable it is.

“He’s gonna love you, cause you’re wonderful, and he’ll wine you and dine you and kiss you on the doorstep. And maybe fuck you into the mattress. Who knows.” Harry teases when they break apart, and though Louis snorts, he’s not convinced.

“And if he doesn't?” He questions, because it’s the bigger possibility.

“Lou-” Harry tries to argue, but Louis cuts him off.

“Humor me?”

Harry sighs and bops him on the nose. “And if he doesn't, I’ll be right here waiting for you. Say, eleven? If you don't show up, I’ll assume it went well. If you do, I’ll give you a big cuddle and we’ll get pissed. Sound good?”

Louis gives a half-smile, glad he’s got such an amazing best mate. “Yeah. Sounds good.” He whispers.

*

Louis tears through the basically empty kitchen at half ten, telling the one janitor in there that he’ll lock up for him. He’s surprised he has the composure to do so, because the second he’s in the bathroom he crumbles to pieces, falling to his knees and whimpering into his hand, face red with shame.

The date had gone so well at first, he was sure it was mutual, but by the end Noah made up a pretty terrible excuse as to why he needed to leave, and yeah, Louis can take a hint.

He hates himself and the food from dinner is churning in his stomach, even though he only ate a little over half of it. He crawls to the toilet and doesn't bother trying to calm himself, instead just waiting for a lull between hitches and plunges his fingers down his throat, gagging loudly.

The first bit comes up easy, as always, but it gets harder as he continues, because he can't stop crying.

He’s so boring and fat and ugly and all he wanted was one person not to agree with that. He pushes his fingers down further, more forcefully, and though it begins to hurt, he keeps going. More of his food comes up and he rakes his other hand through his hair, clutching at it, no longer caring about its state. He can't stop shaking, and the next heave brings up blood along with vomit.

It’s dangerous, but he doesn't care, he really doesn't. Instead he forces the last of the food up, and even then, makes himself gag over and over until it’s just dry heaves and spatters of blood, wiping his trembling hands with toilet paper as he coughs up more red, and that’s when the door swings open from behind him. Apparently when he’s this upset, he is stupid enough not to lock it.

There’s arms wrenching him back, away from the porcelain bowl he spends too much time in front of, and then Harry’s holding him tight, too tight, but he needs that right now.

“No, no Louis, sweetheart, it’s okay, you’re okay, he was an idiot, a complete idiot.” He says fiercely, as if trying to brand it into him. Louis shakes his head though, burrowing into his neck.

“No, he was right.” He croaks, voice hoarse and painful.

“He wasn't.” Harry insists with quick kisses to his hair. “Anyone stupid enough to give you up doesn't deserve you.”

Louis wants to scoff but that would probably hurt his throat further, so he just wriggles in the vice grip Harry’s got him in, arguing “Cut the fucking crap, Harry, I’m nothing s-special. I’m nothing at a-all. Why can't I ever just be enough?” He sobs, desperate and broken. “Why am I n-never enough?”

“You are enough, you are.” The younger man squeezes him harder.

“I’m not, nobody likes me, everyone gets s-sick of me and how stupid and awkward and fat I am, fuck, look at me! No wonder he bailed.” Louis cries, hands fisting in Harry’s shirt. He only notices now that Harry isn’t in his usual uniform, but instead a band t-shirt and ripped jeans. It’s different, but he doesn't bother thinking much on it.

“I am looking at you.” Harry says in his ear, bringing him back to the present. “I look at you every day. And you must be blind not to see what I see.”

There’s a pause, where all they can hear is the vacuuming janitor outside the room and Louis’ ragged breathing. Harry’s making these soft little sounds of comfort in the back of his throat, like he wants to help further but he’s not sure if there’s a point in trying.

Thinking about his statement, Louis realizes he’s never actually thought about what Harry thinks of him. He knows he’s his best friend too, but other than that, he’s got no idea. He’s curious to find out, even in the middle of his breakdown.

“What...what do you see?” He finally struggles to ask.

“I see someone wonderful.” Harry murmurs warmly into his temple. “Gorgeous hair, pretty eyes, short but with enough personality to make him seem tall. I see a perfect body, I see no fat whatsoever, and I see walls. I see a boy with walls put up in his head because he’s been treated like absolute shit in the past, and he’s convinced it’ll happen again so instead he closes off from the world and does the abuse himself.” He continues, even though Louis’ whining under his breath in denial. “I see someone who can't even acknowledge how talented he is, not just at cooking, but at being intuitive and patient and understanding. I see a guy who hired me, the clumsy, two left feet, awkward son of a bitch who didn't stand a damn chance, just because he knew I needed the job. I see a really wonderful person. It’s just a shame he can't see it too.”

Another silence where Louis bites his lip so hard it bleeds.

“I don't believe you.” He utters, because he doesn't, not for a second.

“I know you don't.” Harry tells him, in an I-know-I-can’t-change-your-mind-but-I’m-also-not-going-to-stop-trying way. He exhales deeply before adding “You need to stop this, Louis. There’s blood, for christ’s sake, you’re damaging yourself all to get to some completely unrealistic and unneeded number on the scale. You can't keep this up.”

“Not much longer. Just ten more pounds, maybe.” Louis mumbles tiredly, eyes falling shut.

“No, Lou, no more pounds. No more eating disorder.” Harry demands, or, as close to demanding as Harry Styles The Cupcake can manage.

“It's a diet.” Louis whispers, because it is.

“You’re lying to yourself.” Harry accuses.

“You’re lying to me.” He accuses back.

“But I’m not! I’m fucking not!” Harry growls, and disentangles them. Louis watches with heartbreak in his chest as Harry stands and paces back and forth, angry. He flushes the toilet to get rid of Louis’ stomach contents and then stalks back over to the sink, where he splashes water on his face, looking like he can't handle this.

Louis feels tremendously guilty, tentatively trying “I’m sorry.”

But Harry just huffs in further frustration, and Louis doesn't know what to do, everything he does, everything, just digs him further into the fucking ground. He scoots back against the wall and hugs his knees to his chest.

“Harry...Hazza please don't be mad at me. Not tonight. Please not tonight.” He begs, eyes welling up once more.

Harry spins back to take in his huddled form and then he looks guilty, crouching down in front of Louis to brush his ruined fringe out of his eyes, sighing. “Yeah, you’re right. Come on, I promised you a drunk cuddling, yes? But only if you at least have some crackers or something, I don't want you drinking on a broken heart and an empty stomach.”

Louis hates the cracker idea very very very much but he doesn't want to be alone right now either.

“Fine.” He grumbles, and takes the hand Harry offers. It feels even better than last time.

*

Louis can barely talk that night because of the damage his fingers did to his throat, but Harry tells wonderful stories to entertain him, and he dozes off with his face pressed into the younger man’s neck.

*

Louis gets over it because he’s Louis and that’s what he does. He throws himself into cooking, revamping the menu because he needs something to occupy his mind, and he tests all his recipes on Harry, who seems delighted that he’s found something to keep him busy and happy. Louis knows how upset he’d be if he found out it was actually because Louis’ realized he’s good for nothing other than cooking.

He’s currently sprinkling parmesan cheese into his tweaked lasagna recipe, Harry across the counter from him, tapping a rhythm onto his thighs with spare spoons. They’ve been a little off since the night of his utter meltdown, but Harry’s still wondrous Harry, so he hasn’t made a single comment.

“Is it ever weird?” Said man pipes up then, and Louis glances over to see him lying with his head hanging off the edge of the countertop, upside down. His cheeks are pink and hair finally out of his face, for once.

“What exactly?” Louis questions, adding another layer of noodle.

“Cooking. Like, you work with all this food, and make all this food, yet you know you’re never going to eat any of that food? Isn’t it, like, hard for you, or something?” Harry inquires, tongue poking at his cupid’s bow.

“Nah.” Louis shrugs.

“But don't you hate food? So how can you work with it so well?” The other man asks, strained as he struggles to sit up.

“I don’t hate food. I hate eating food. I can cook food no problem. I just like making people happy, you know? Good food makes people happy, and it makes me happy to provide that.” Louis explains as he slides on oversized oven mitts to place the dish in the oven.

“That’s good, I guess.” Harry hums, slinging an arm around Louis when he perches beside him on the counter. “S’just weird, you know? Award winning chef with an eating disorder.”

Louis doesn't bother correcting him, hissing an it’s a diet, because there’s not really a point. He chuckles, instead, because that’s the better option.

“But that’s the best part, you see? It’s irony at its finest. S’funny.” He smirks, honestly amused.

But Harry mutters a curse and replies with “It’s not funny.”

“It is! It can be. Just have to look at it the right way.” Louis says, tracing patterns on his too big thighs.

“That’s not the right way, though!” Harry snaps, sliding off the counter to stand there and rub at his eyes in irritation.

Louis watches warily and hates that he’s seemingly always the one making Harry do this. But the younger man turns to him and quirks an expectant brow wanting a response.

“And what is, huh?” Louis asks rhetorically, getting worked up as well. “It’s hardly gonna go away anytime soon! It’s better to laugh about it than torture myself over it.”

“But you’re already torturing yourself by starving and purging! You’re hurting yourself, Louis. This could kill you.” Harry yells. Louis’ never heard him yell. “I can't stand for that. I just can't.”

Louis stares at where his nails are digging into his jeans, feeling his belly roll with fear, knowing what’s going to happen next. Harry’ll get fed up with him, sick of all his shit, and then he’ll leave. He knows this, because it’s been the same with everyone else. So he figures he should just do it for the other man, and save himself the agony of watching his best friend make excuses. He can't go through that again.

“Then don't.” Louis breathes. “If you don't like it, leave.”

Harry’s mouth parts in surprise, defiance sparking in his eyes. “Excuse me?”

“Look, I’m not gonna bullshit you here. I am the way I am. If you don't like that, then get out.” Louis states, calmness in his tone betraying the way he feels like he’s falling apart.

“Lou.” Harry sounds through a whoosh of air, as if he can't believe this. Which is ridiculous, because he’d be doing this one way or another. Soon too, probably.

Louis just raises an eyebrow, mimicking his earlier action.

“Fine.” Harry seethes. “If you want me gone, I’ll go. But it’s not my fault that you’re too fucking cowardly to admit you need help.”

And then he’s out the door, slamming it behind him. Louis sits there in shock for a while, wondering why he isn’t feeling it, why he isn’t breaking down like he’s always done. He runs every abandonment through his head but he still can't make it real, still can't make it hit.

The timer goes on the oven and startles him out of his trance, and he numbly walks over to it, removing the dish and putting it in the fridge to cool, no one to eat it now. He’s gone and ruined everything like always, and now he’s alone again. It always seems to end up that way, doesn't it?

On second thought, he pulls the lasagna back out and sets it in front of him, grabbing a fork and stabbing lightly at the food. Why can't he ever just be normal? Harry just wants him to eat and while no, the other man doesn't understand why he can't, why he really actually can’t, he’s only doing it because he wants him normal.

Why can't he ever just fucking eat? He spends his days cooking for others, why can't he ever just do so for himself? He glares at the dish in front of him and determinedly spears a chunk on his fork, lifting it in mid air and examining it. It’s got so much cheese, so many calories that will turn into increments on the scale but fuck, other people eat that no problem, so why is it making him nauseous?

Determinedly, he brings the food to his lips, blows on it to cool it further, and puts it in his mouth. It tastes perfect, and he knows it’ll be a hit with customers, but he has to focus very hard on swallowing. Another bite, and another, and his stomach is starting to swirl uncomfortably, and his hand is sweating where the fork shakes in his fingers. He makes himself take mouthful after mouthful of the hot lasagna, tears beginning to spill over. He hates himself for every bite, but he hates himself for hating that, and goddammit, he’s gone and eaten half the lasagna.

He stands for a moment, gripping the countertop with white knuckles, throat clearing itself repeatedly, head dizzy. He looks at the half empty pan and sobs, wondering just how fucking fat that’s going to make him, and that’s when the first heave of his stomach occurs, hard and forceful.

He barely makes it to the bathroom in time, body throwing it all up for him, fingers staying where they grab at his shirt between coughing/crying/puking fits.

He can't be normal no matter how hard he tries. No wonder Harry got fed up with him.

*

They’re awkward. It’s hard working with an ex best friend, especially one as special as Harry. His eyes darken whenever he sees Louis, lip furling in anger. To be fair, Louis’ just as agitated, dropping plates with a little more force than necessary in front of him, once even spattering soup on the hem of Harry’s shirt. The younger man had stormed off growling something about what a complete and utter cunt he was, and Louis thought, yeah. He knows how worthless he is.

Greg hovers more often than not. He badgers Louis with questions, asking what on earth could have broken up the power couple. Louis tells him to piss off. He sees the others do the same to Harry, who gives them the finger and nothing more. It’s such a Harry thing to do that Louis almost smirks. Almost.

He’s too broken inside to do anything other than work on autopilot.

He passes out once, thankfully already on the bathroom floor, because he’s barely allowed any food inside him since that night. Enough to keep going, because he’s not suicidal, but he just hates it so much, hates that his issue with it caused the best and only thing he had to leave him.

He misses him so much it hurts.

*

Louis’ been called out into the seating area a few nights later because a critic wants to compliment him, so he forces his shoulders to unslump and sits down with her, accepting her kind words with mostly real enthusiasm, smiling his first real smile in days. She tells him he’s astounding and he laughs, thanks her very much and offers her any dessert she wants, on the house. She picks chocolate cake and he shakes her hand, stands, and is suddenly hit with an intense head rush, not enough sugar in his blood to keep going.

He wobbles and grabs at the table to steady himself, eyes closed and ignoring her concerned are you okay? He gets his bearings after a long moment of deep breaths, and he’s fine again, glancing around nervously to see if anyone noticed. It doesn't seem so, and he bullshits some excuse about having a migraine and hurries away.

He passes Harry on the way back to the kitchen and with that two point five seconds of eye contact, it’s clear the other man saw his stumble.

Louis ducks his head and keeps walking.

*

He’s been on the staff bathroom floor for a while now, just catching his breath. His eyes are closed and his head tipped back, tiles cold against his scalp. It’s been over a week and a half since he’s spoken to Harry, and god, he’s dying. His days are empty without the younger man, cold without his bear hugs, sad without his badly told jokes, far too long without his silly distraction games. He never realized just how much Harry meant to him until didn't have him to talk to. Some days he barely speaks a word at all.

He’s not in the loo to purge this time, instead just to stare at himself in the mirror and pinch at various areas of his body, rolling chubbiness between his fingers. It’s been a busy night, with a festival in town this weekend, so he felt the need to get away as soon as possible, and the only reason he’s still here is because he sank to the floor at some point and is too tired to move from there.

There’s noises coming from the kitchen and he assumes it’s the cleaning staff, because everyone else has gone home, but when he hears drawers being opened and cupboard doors being shut, he frowns and forces himself up off the ground, keeping a steadying hand on the wall just in case.

He ventures out into the hall and hears the distinct sound of something being chopped with a knife, fairly badly judging by the amount of scraping.

Leaning around the corner curiously, he’s met with the sight of Harry bustling about the kitchen, adding the finishing touches to what looks like turkey wraps. Maybe turkey wraps a ten year old would make. But still.

His curls are tucked behind his ears and his nose is scrunched in concentration, long, clumsy fingers trying to keep the filling in the tortilla, and failing. He’s muttering under his breath, and if they were still friends, Louis would tease him fondly. But they’re not.

So instead he tentatively steps into the room and asks, with as much haughty derision as he can muster, “What are you doing in my kitchen?”

Harry’s head snaps up and he rolls his eyes indignantly. “Cooking. What does it look like?”

“It looks like you’re trying to cook, and failing miserably.” Louis shrugs, trying to remain cool and collected. His heart is racing. Harry makes his heart race.

“Well excuse me for not being a master fucking chef like you.” Harry spits, and oh, right, he probably hates Louis now.

The older man sighs and fidgets for a moment, seeing Harry continue to struggle with the meal.

“You need to tuck it in tighter. Won’t stay otherwise.” Louis mumbles.

Harry tries to do so, but once back on the plate, the wrap falls apart once more. Louis huffs and stalks over there, taking it in his own hands.

“Here, look. You need to fold the bottom in, a bit like you would a paper airplane, yeah?” Louis guides, gesturing for Harry to do the same with the other wrap. He looks mildly annoyed, but does so. “And then you take this side and tuck it in tight, and then wrap the other side around, and then put the toothpick in to keep it together.”

Harry bites his lip, and after a fumble, manages to do it perfectly. Louis smiles proudly for a second before remembering their current situation, frowning instantly.

“So, um.” He clears his throat, avoiding Harry’s eyes. “Why are you cooking?”

He doesn't know what he’s expecting, but it’s definitely not “For you.”

“What?” He asks, doing a double take. Harry smirks in an I-knew-you’d-react-like-that way.

“I’m cooking for you.” He explains, arranging the plates. “Because you need to eat. And you need to have someone to make you do that. And you need me. And as much as my pride hates me for admitting this, I really, really need you too, Louis.”

Louis stands still in surprise, confusion halting his breath. “I?” Is all he stammers.

Harry laughs, pink in the cheeks. He pats the counter, indicating for Louis to sit on it, which he does. Harry takes one of his hands in his, warm and so much larger, the touch making him feel more than he has in days.

“Oh darling, you’re so stubborn sometimes.” He snorts, shaking his head. His fringe falls into his eyes and out of habit, Louis fixes it for him. When he realizes, he drops his arm quickly. “Lou, did you ever really listen to what I said to you? Well, I know you didn’t, cause you never believed it. But I mean, did you ever stop to think why tried so fucking hard to make you see what I do?”

It’s Louis’ turn to shake his head, not understanding. “No? You were bullshitting, I just. Assumed that was that.”

“I wasn't bullshitting, god, I just-” Harry cuts off, like he wants to continue arguing his point, but has better things to say. Which is proved true when he takes in a deep breath and continues with “Look, basically, I fell for you, okay? You’re just. You’re so amazing, and talented, and sweet, and goddamn fucking beautiful, and-”

And no, no, no, this is so not happening, no. That’s impossible, there’s no fucking way, and it’s all lies, and Louis’ shaking his head, trying to interrupt him with a whimpered “Harry-”

But the other man just talks right over him, never looking away.

“Nuh uh, not letting you shut me up this time. I’m getting this out whether you like it or not. I adore every bit of you, alright? I don't look at you the way you do. I don't see fat, or, or, or ugliness, or anything like that!” Harry tells him, pulling Louis into him when he attempts to hide his face. “I see a stunning smile, with a face to match, right, and skin I want to kiss every inch of, and, and a fit body that’s nothing but gorgeous! And I love you, your incredible personality and your silly sense of humor, and I just. I love you, with all your issues, and I promise I’ll love every number on that scale.”

Louis’ crying now, sniffling desperately into Harry’s chest, brain trying to force the words out, heart trying to drag them in.

“You just need to give me a chance, Louis. Give me a chance, and give food a chance, and you’ll be healthy, and we won’t ever fight like this again because I won’t be kept up at night panicking about you starving yourself to death, and.” Harry chokes up, and oh. They’re both crying. “God, Louis, all I want to do is make you happy. You try so hard to do that for everyone else, but can you just let me try doing that for you? You’re everything to me, and. I just wanna be the same to you.”

When Harry pulls back, he looks just as scared as Louis feels, so that’s something

“You are.” Louis half-sobs, hands clutching at Harry’s half unbuttoned uniform dress shirt. “You’re the only thing I have and I can’t live without you.”

“Then don’t.” Harry says, offering a small smile at the repetition of Louis’ two week old words.

And Louis wants to listen to him so fucking badly, but the doubts and defense mechanisms in his mind keep warning him against that, and his voice breaks as he disputes “But you’re not making sense-”

“No, I’m making perfect sense. You just don't believe anyone could want you. But I want you. Look at me right now.” Harry orders, cupping Louis’ face and thumbing away tears. “Do I look like I'm lying?”

His eyes are bright with yearning, lip held nervously between his teeth. There’s tear tracks on his blotchy cheeks, and. He’s never looked more gorgeous.

“No.” Louis whispers.

Harry nods. “Cause I'm not. So do you want me back?”

It barely takes a moment before Louis is nodding too, a needy noise spilling from his mouth. “I. Yes. Fuck.” He stutters, because he does, and he’s feeling it all now, feeling his fingers twitch with the need to hold him, lips tingle with the need to kiss him, heart beat double time with the need to love him. He was right. Louis needs him.

“So can I kiss-” Harry goes to ask, but Louis presses their lips together midsentence, soft but passionate, both breathing into it as if they can't believe it’s happening. That’s probably true.

Harry’s mouth is warm and Louis wants to memorize the way he feels, tastes, smells. He wants to be the only one to know Harry like this, and that’s the thought that overrides any of his worries.

Call him selfish, but he needs to keep Harry Styles.

When they break apart, Harry’s beaming, dimples deep. Louis smiles and wipes the last of his tears, before tugging the younger man into a tight hug.

“I missed you so much.” He murmurs, and Harry sags into him further.

“Me too.” He sounds.

They’re quiet for another minute or so before Harry pulls away, stroking Louis’ hip. “So, to answer your previous question, that is why I’m cooking for you in your kitchen."

Louis laughs wetly and shoves him, gentle, before hauling him back in again to crush their lips together, because he needs needs needs to feel them once more. Harry smiles into it, tongue flicking out playfully to jumpstart Louis’ nerves, making them zing with excitement.

“If you think kissing me to distract me from making you eat is going to work, you’re an idiot.” Harry slurs into his mouth, hands gripping his waist strongly.

Louis nuzzles their noses and questions “Can I kiss you again because I want to?”

“Yeah.” Harry smirks. “Yeah, you can.”

*

They sit with their legs overlapping, and Louis eats every single bite of his turkey wrap. Granted, it’s not very big, but Harry kisses his temple and congratulates him on finishing. Louis congratulates him on managing to make something edible.

This starts a tickle fight, which ends in a make out session on the kitchen floor.

It’s a perfect night.

*

The next day at work, after hours of flirting and staring and sneaking off between orders, Harry stands in front of Louis on the other side of the counter, looking thoroughly unamused.

“Give me the dish, Louis.” He demands unconvincingly, trying to reach across and grab for it once again.

Louis simply holds it out of his reach, hearing Greg snicker from behind him. He’s pretty sure all of the kitchen crew is watching, and only half are trying to hide it.

“No.” Louis grins, sickeningly sweet.

Harry groans, pinching the bridge of his nose. “I’m keeping customers waiting.” He threatens, and Louis shrugs.

He brings a finger to his lips, tapping there as an order. Harry rolls his eyes but leans across to kiss him tenderly, sounds around them going silent. He nips at Louis’ bottom lip to get him to open up and swipes inside with his tongue, passionate and searching.

And then he pulls back, because of course he does.

Louis’ dazed as Harry winks smugly and takes the plate from him easily, sauntering out the double doors.

A chortle brings Louis back to the present and he spins to see everyone looking at him bemusedly, Greg seeming far too pleased with himself, probably thinking he knew all along. Louis sniffs haughtily and claps his hands together, calling out “Do I need to remind you all that I have the power to fire each and every one of you? Back to bloody work, come on, I might not be Gordon Ramsay but that doesn't mean you can watch my boyfriend and I like a romcom.”

Everyone goes back to work with either blushes or rolling of their eyes, and Greg starts singing if I was your boyfriend I’d never let you go, because this is Louis’ life.

*

They fall into each other seamlessly. There’s bickering here and there, mostly about Louis’ eating habits, but in the end Harry always convinces him to eat something, and while sometimes he still purges it back up, his boyfriend is never angry. He just pecks him on the lips and makes him promise not to do it again. Over time, those promises start to mean more, and he follows them.

He often doubts Harry’s love for him but the younger man seems eager to show it, keeping to his earlier words and kissing Louis all over, even when he squirms away because he’s so fat there, ew, but Harry simply tells him he’s perfect and sucks a hickey into wherever he’s at.
It seems they’ve found the right balance.

Louis still has bad nights but they’re vastly outnumbered by the good, and waking up in Harry’s arms is something he doesn't think he’ll ever get used to.

He doesn't know how he got so lucky.

*

They stay behind at the restaurant a lot of nights because it’s tradition, and once when they get drunk off champagne (Louis hadn’t purged in five whole days and Harry wanted to celebrate) Louis finally tells Harry everything, his whole past, all of it. He figures it’s best to lay his cards on the table now.

Harry doesn't reply for a moment.

When he does, he tells Louis about his own past, and shit, they’re not so different after all. He knows rejection and abandonment too, and they end up holding each other close, sharing brushes of skin.

For the first time, he starts to believe Harry might need him just as much.

*

Louis wins another award for his cooking, and the prestigious event is held there at the restaurant, the whole staff sticking behind to cheer and tease and congratulate him, including Nick of all people. Louis never lets go of Harry’s hand, and with the constant praise he’s been whispering in his ear, Louis has the confidence to sit on his lap, not worrying about his weight. Harry kisses him through a proud smile.

Louis’ wonderful, and it stays that way.

your eyes, they tie me down so hard
brokenbravery
larry stylinson au oneshot.
rating: uh, nc-17? swearing, drinking, smoking. s'about it.
summary: harry's family moves to a trailer park and he's determined to hate it. his new neighbor makes that kind of difficult.
credit: title and lyrics from 'not with haste' by mumford and sons.
notes: this is for the amazing lauren, who as of today has been by best friend for two whole years. i'm really glad i messaged you that day, babe <3 hope you enjoy this anniversary present xxxx




Harry is far from amused. The trailer is cramped and humid and there’s barely enough room for the three of them. He’s thankful there’s running water and functioning appliances, but the telly is shit and the fridge is small and he really hates his dad right now. Not only did the bastard cheat on Harry’s mum (three times), but he managed to spend all their saved up money gambling and lose his job, leaving their home to be taken and their lives to be ruined and now here they are, Gemma, Anne and Harry, living in a trailer park. Life is unfair.

The whole area is strange, really. There’s lots of different sized trailers, some big enough to be small houses, others more like campers. There’s an above ground pool down the ‘road’, if you could call it that, where children are splashing in the summer sun and squealing happily as a bored looking man watches on. There’s an average sized building (looking huge compared to the trailers) that functions as a community center/town hall/gathering place that is at least air conditioned and just spacey enough that Harry doesn't feel claustrophobic, and beside it is an old jungle gym, rusted but sturdy.

The thing he notices immediately, is that the people here are close. Like, really close. There’s only forty of them or so, permanently living there, but they’re tight. They’re hanging out together over beers, helping each other move patio furniture, waving hello in such a neighborly fashion that he’s taken aback, because while Holmes Chapel was tiny and friendly, it was nothing like this. They’ve already had three people knock on their door with cookies and lemonade and greetings of Hello, welcome to Silver Birch! and Are you planning on staying? How’d you end up here? It’s lovely to meet you, really, you’ll love it here!

Harry doesn't think he will.

The heat is blazing when he steps outside in a cut off shorts and a baggy t-shirt with the sleeves rolled, showing off his star tattoo with an admittedly too large amount of pride. He’s seventeen, okay, he’s lucky his mum even let him get one, and he doesn't know any other seventeen year olds with ink. So he likes to subtly (not subtle at all) dress to frame it. Sue him.

Across the dirt street is one of the biggest trailers, twice or three times the size of theirs. It’s basically two and a half average ones put together, and he can hear the chatter of young girls inside, arguing over crayon colors while their mother tries to negotiate. He notes the peeling paint and wildflowers that don't look so wild, and thinks they’ve been here a long time. He hopes that isn’t the case for him. He already misses having his own room.

Fuck his stupid dad.

He’s startled when said trailer’s door opens (above it is a sign reading The Tomlinsons) and a boy steps out, shorter than him but clearly older, if by a year or so. He’s got lovely soft looking hair in a tousled fringe, tan skin and thick thick thighs, strong arms tight in his t-shirt and a bit of a tummy. His button nose is freckled and his lips are thin and pink. Baby blue eyes lock onto his and Harry is frozen like he’s never been before.

“Hey mate, you’re the new neighbors! The Styleses, right?” He says in a honeysweet voice, and Harry nods dumbly. “Nice to meet you, I’m Louis, I’ve lived here, like, five years now? I think. What’s your name?”

“Harry.” He responds with a clearing of his suddenly thick throat. “Ehm, my mum’s Anne and my sister’s Gemma.”

“Good to know.” Louis says with a wink, stepping closer. “Though I’m more interested in you, if I’m honest. We don’t get fresh faces around here often. Not voluntarily, at least.”

Harry huffs an only slightly awkward laugh.

“Yeah, uh, usual sob story I guess. Dad went on an alcoholic gambling spree, got fired, spent all our money, lost everything. And now we’re here.” He shrugs, hoping that didn't sound too self pitying.

Louis frowns though, sympathetic. “S’kinda similar to us, actually. Dad – well, stepdad to me – decided he didn't want to support us anymore, mum’s only a part time nurse so she couldn’t afford a house, and. Now I’m a trailer park boy.” He finishes with a smirk. It’s delicious.

“Sorry?” Harry offers, unsure.

Louis chuckles though, grabbing him lightly by the arm with soft fingers to start them walking. “Nah, s’okay. I actually like it here? I mean, it’s small and not really technology friendly, but everyone’s become a big family? We all look out for each other, and we have massively fun parties, and nobody cares what you do. S’bit of heaven, for me, as I’m quite mischievous.”

“Oh yeah?” Harry asks, watching the way the sunshine bounces off Louis, making him glow.

“Yep.” He smiles winningly. “And you better be as well, or I’ll be sorely disappointed.”

Harry straightens his shoulders slightly. “I am, I think. Got arrested when I was fifteen, I’d say that’s pretty impressive mischief.”

Louis lights up like a fucking Christmas tree, spring in his step. (What is this boy?) “Really? No way! What’d you do?”

And so Harry launches animatedly into the story of how he and Liam were playing truth or dare with some other buddies, and Harry got dared to run past the police station naked, and, naturally, he did just that. By the end, Louis is cackling, trying to hide his pearly whites behind a dainty hand. Harry wants to hold it.

Instead, he shrugs haughtily, as if to say yeah, that’s right, I’m a badass. (He’s not. He cries during Disney movies and his favorite afternoon activity is baking brownies with his mother in their big kitchen- oh. Right. Not anymore, really.)

“Harry, man, you are definitely going to be my new best friend. Zayn and Niall would never do that, they’re so fucking chicken shit. They live just up here, in that blue one.” He explains, pointing to a small trailer. “They met in school, right, but then they both dropped out and their parents wouldn’t support them, so they got jobs at McDicks and they live here together. Not, like, together together. Niall can't stand Zayn’s hair products and Zayn wants to smother Niall with a pillow when he snores. They’d kill each other if they were dating.”

And, okay, Harry thinks this is good. It seems Louis is already his friend, and he might have two more, and the way Louis’ talking about two boys being together is enough to assume he’s okay with that sort of thing. Which is good, because as much as Harry doesn't shout it from the rooftops, he’s gayer than Elton John. Did the beard thing in school and everything. He doesn't dress in sparkles or sequins, though. Not his style.

“Well, uh, that’s good, then.” Harry struggles. Louis gives another marvelous half giggle.

“Relax, would you? I’m not gonna, like, size you up or something. Anyone’s welcome here, like I said. I get along with everyone. Well, besides Mrs Reid. She’s a crusty old bitch who doesn't have room in her tiny little head for any fun at all.”

Harry tries very hard to stifle his enamoured smile, but can't. He knows his dimples are out, because Louis’ eyes get stuck on them for a moment, as most people’s do. It seems a little different this time, though.

“You live off mayhem, don't you?” Harry guesses, and is rewarded with a smug nod.

“Definitely. I’m a bit of a ringleader, I guess.” Louis affirms, spinning in a circle.

“Oh, that reminds me, if you’re, like, town leader as it seems, make sure nobody calls my mum Mrs Styles. She’ll probably explode, really. She goes by her maiden name now, Ms Cox.” Harry informs him with a sigh.

“Cox? As in cocks?” Louis clarifies, eyes crinkling.

“Yeah, I know, it’s worse. Fuck my fucking life when I have to introduce her to future boyfriends and such.” Harry grumbles.

He glances at Louis warily, but the boy just grins, crinkly eyed and bright. “Yeah, that’s priceless. Did you know talk of the town is that your mothers a milf? Apparently she’s got great tits. Or, that’s what Niall said after looking in your window last night like the fucking creep he is.”

“Oh god, no, not again. Shut up, shut up, shut up!” Harry groans, covering his face in shame.

Louis laughs again, like the wind chimes that dangle from Zayn and Niall’s trailer as they approach it.

“Get used to it love, we don't have brain to mouth filters around here. Where you from, by the way? Tell me your life story as if I’m Dr Drew.” He instructs.

Harry snorts embarrassingly, but recovers with a (hopefully) mindless looking shrug. “Not much to say? Lived about an hour from here; nice house, pet cat, few friends. Popular, I guess, but it’s a private school so everyone’s kind of popular. Although, I obviously don't go there now, I guess I’ll just enroll wherever’s closest to here in September.”

“Most of us are homeschooled, actually. Mr Doucette – call him Mr Douchette and you’ll get a smack to the head but it’s so worth it, I do it every time – used to teach at a college so he kind of holds classes for all the kids. I don't go anymore, but if you want to, you can.” Louis explains as they step up onto the creaky porch, door labelled Man Cave.

“It’ll be my mum that wants me to, really, she’s set on me having some super grand career and I’m-”

“Totally not into that at all.” Comes a rich voice and they break their stare to see a boy with chiseled features and a ridiculous quiff standing in the doorway.

“Exactly.” Harry nods.

“So you’re the new kid? Sup, man, I’m Zayn.” He greets, accent a strange mix. Harry likes it. Zayn turns to call back into the trailer “Niall! Get your fat arse out here and meet the new kid, Louis’ brought him around! And for fuck’s sake, you better have trousers on!”

Harry lets out a bark of laughter, quickly slapping a hand over his mouth in embarrassment, but Louis nudges him playfully, so he calls it a save.

A boy with blonde hair and brown roots comes into view, rosy cheeked and snaggle toothed. His voice is Irish when he says, loudly, “Hey, I’m Niall! Hello, welcome, all that shit. What’s your name?”

“Harry.” He smirks.

“Nice to meet ya, Harry. Lou, I’m bloody fucking starving and I heard Melinda’s making hotdogs again, let’s go grab one? Or a dozen, preferably?” Niall suggests. Or, not really a suggestion, as the three immediately set off to the left, making Harry follow quickly.

“Ooh, Melinda makes the best hotdogs, they’re very addictive, I feel like I should be in rehab.” Louis explains to Harry as they all walk on the dirt path.

“You really are like a big family here, aren’t you?” Harry asks, but it’s genuine, not judgemental.

Niall must see this, because after he takes a fag from Zayn, lighting it with a practiced flick of his finger, he crows out a “Yep! And if anyone needs hotdog rehab, it’s me. Do I need to remind you guys I’m the hotdog eating contest champion?”'

“You’re the anything eating contest champion.” Zayn mutters from up front.

“He’s disgusting, is what he is.” Louis drawls, fake whispering. Niall reaches back to smack him on the forehead without looking. Harry’s impressed.

“I once ate two whole pizzas that were meant for my sister and her friends.” He pipes up, trying to make his voice sound anything other than overwhelmed. It’s worrying, is all, that everyone is so close knit here, and he’s not sure if he and his family will fit in.

But Niall turns around immediately and states “Oh, I like you. You have potential.”

Harry tries not to preen, but does anyway.

“What can I say, I’m a rebel.” He teases, and Louis links arms with him, the soft skin on skin touch making him shiver, even in the summer heat.

“Join the club.” Zayn says between puffs of his cigarette.

At this, Louis begins to belt out “I don't give a damn bout my bad reputation!” Like it’s totally normal, but then Niall and Zayn join in and maybe it is totally normal, here at least, so Harry throws caution to the wind and sings along.

This is a lot better than he was expecting.

*

Melinda’s hotdogs are delicious, and very worth her kissing his cheeks like an aunt would her little nephew. He learns that she, like many of the other park occupants, is very unaware of normal personal space boundaries, but Harry adapts fairly quickly, being like that himself anyways.

There’s a small campfire going as the afternoon turns to evening, and the boys sprawl out on the ground together, drinking soda and swapping stories. It’s just so easy, and Harry’s well and truly surprised, because this doesn't just happen to him. He’s the kid who needs to work for friends, focus on not being awkward and stupid and childish, but Zayn and Niall treat him like a brother, already, and Louis- well. Louis treats him like a friend, teetering on the edge of something more. But Harry thinks maybe he’s being too hopeful and reading into things more than he should. He’s done it before.

More people come over and greet him, and his mother and sister stop by as well. He introduces them briefly to the boys, before they keep exploring their new community. As they retreat, Niall speaks up, saying “Man, your sister is as fit as your mum, look at-”

“Finish that sentence and I’ll punch you so hard all six of those hotdogs come right back up, my friend.” Harry is quick to threaten, but it’s calm.

Niall’s eyes widen, but Zayn snickers a hiccuppy laugh, and Louis slings an arm around Harry’s neck, pulling him close.

“I dunno, you don’t seem so strong, little Harry.” He drawls, ignoring Harry’s protest of You’re smaller than me! “You’re all lanky, why are people even attracted to you?”

He’s joking, clearly, judging by the mirth in his stupidly pretty eyes. Harry rolls his own and shoves him gently.

“It’s the curls, obviously. Dimples, too. And the tattoo certainly helps.”

“Aw, mate, you have a tat?” Zayn speaks up excitedly, fully grinning for the first time. Harry nods a little smugly. “Sick, I’ve got two, but I’ve been wanting another for ages, it’s bullshit that they’re so expensive.”

“Wait, wait, wait.” Louis cuts him off, disentangling from Harry to straddle his laid out legs, pouting adorably. “Where’s this ink? I wanna see!”

Harry chuckles, blushing like a schoolgirl as he lifts his arm to show it off, watching as Louis’ eyes go a shade darker when he reaches out to trace its points, a feather light touch.

“What’s it mean?” He questions, and now Harry’s beet red.

“Erm, it’s kind of half just because it looks cool, shut up, and half because of some shit that went down about, like, my sexuality and it’s just a reminder, that, like, I’m me and that’s it and everyone else can go fuck themselves, really.”

Louis’ silent for a moment, as are the others, before the tan angel (yes, angel, what with the way his frame looks in the setting sun) nods, almost proudly. “S’a good reason to get it. And it does look cool, actually. Sorry Zayn, I might even like this better than your skull.”

“But I got that for you!” He protests.

“Oi!” Niall calls out through a mouthful of hotdog bun.

And you, Niall, shut your stupid mouth.”

“Yes, well, sorry Zayners, Harry is seventeen and has a star tattoo and is very comfortable with his sexuality and that makes him cooler than you.” Louis states with a too sweet smile.

“Um, how?” Zayn asks, ludicrous.

“Because you’re eighteen and can't make up your mind! First you’re straight, then you’re gay, that one week you were bi and now you’re all oh, no labels for me, I’m too good for that shit, and, mate, that’s not that interesting to listen to.” Louis huffs, raising his hands in a don't hate me for being honest kind of way.

“Oh piss off, just because I’m not a label whore like you-”

“Language!” Someone shouts, mostly playful, but they ignore it.

“Scuse you, it’s not my fault I like to wear good clothes.” Louis sniffs.

“You live in a trailer park, Louis, not the center of London or somewhere else nice.” Zayn informs him, as if he didn't know.

“Pssh, London Shmondon, it’s way better here. Isn’t that right, Harry? Haz? I’m calling you Haz, no complaining. Now, tell Zayn I’m right and he’s an idiot.” Louis says, all rather quickly.

Harry can't help himself, he’s so caught up in the boy who is still on his lap. He turns to Zayn and shrugs apologetically. “He’s right and you’re an idiot.” He recites.

Louis beams.

“Whipped already.” Niall mutters, and they all pretend they don't hear.

*

After a while, the sky is a dim orange fading to black, and someone’s broken out marshmallows. They’ve skewed them on sticks and are roasting them in a proper campfire fashion, fingers sticky and mouths sugary sweet. Harry hears his name being called during one of Louis’ elaborate tales (he likes to tell stories like a narrator would a movie, and it’s quite entertaining, all appropriate voices and big hand gestures) and when he glances behind him, Liam is there.

He scrambles up immediately and clobbers him in a hug, laughing. “What the fuck are you doing here? Thought you had to work till the bloody weekend or something?”

Liam forcefully pries him off with a half annoyed half fond expression. (At this point, that’s just his face whenever he’s with Harry.) “Yeah, yeah, I did a thing, managed to get my shift switched to a night one for today. You’ve got me for a good four hours.”

“Yes!” Harry cheers, with a kiss to his cheek. “Liam dear, did I tell you I love you?”

“Mm, I could get used to hearing it more often.” Liam teases, and then there’s a clearing of someone’s throat (they all know it’s Louis) and Harry spins back around, flushed with embarrassment over forgetting he was in their presence.

`“Right, uh, guys, this is my best mate Liam, and um, this is Louis, Zayn and Niall, they live here as well.” He introduces, and the three of them wave in a friendly way, Liam doing the same. Louis looks a little wary, but Harry wonders if it has anything to do with how seemingly possessive he is, already.

He sits back down beside the golden boy, not wanting to ruin any of what he’s got. Liam lowers himself between Harry and Zayn, and nobody misses the way the quiffed boy looks him over, making him go a dark pink.

Harry bites back a laugh and turns to Louis, prompting “So you were saying?”

Louis’ eyes light up once more, life in his face restored. “Right, so then the policeman asks me why the fuck I’m on the highway in a wagon, and I didn't want him to know we were high so I looked at his dumb little bicycle, and was like ‘well, I could ask you the same thing, sir’, and he was literally so embarrassed that he let us go!”

“He’s lying.” Niall cuts in right away. “He got charged and his mum grounded him for two weeks.”

“Niall! Why did you have to ruin it?” Louis whines, shoving Harry when he laughs.

“Why did you have to lie?” Niall counters, quirking an eyebrow.

Louis pouts angrily, arguing “Because it’s boring otherwise, and I’m trying to impress the new additions to our circle of friends! Which, you are no longer a part of, for that.”

Niall flicks some ash from his fag onto Louis’ jeans but doesn't bat an eyelash, and Zayn explains to a mildly worried looking Liam “He shuns us about once a week, for various reasons of uncoolness,” he makes air quotations, “but then when he realizes he has no other mates and he’s stuck with us, he comes crawling back.”

“Usually with sweets. Or spliff.” Niall divulges.

“What can I say, I like to spoil my boys.” Louis shrugs with a haughty pursing of his lips, and Harry wonders how the hell such an enigma can exist.

Their fingers touch when they lean back on their arms, and neither of them move away. In fact, Louis hooks their pinkies together and Harry can't suppress his grin.

*

Soon the small children need to go to bed so their parents lead them away, and it’s just their little group, a few mingling adults and a small gaggle of teenage girls that are passing a single beer between them. Louis had mocked them openly and gotten an entire bottle of vodka, handing it to Harry with an expectant look. He took as big of a mouthful as he could.

And now they’re tipsy, legs overlapping as the alcohol goes from person to person, and it’s one of those times Harry thinks he’ll remember forever. The way Louis’ scent is blown into his face by the breeze, smooth cologne and boy, their laughter never quite ceasing, the stars peeking out in the dark sky above, the only clouds in sight being the ones of mosquitoes, which they bat at lazily between secret tellings.

“Do you want to get out of here?” Louis asks him in a hushed voice, conversation private. His face is so close that Harry yearns to close the gap, but he doesn't. “Not for long, just come for a walk with me?”

“Yeah.” Harry nods right away, smiling. “Zayn and Niall can look after Liam, right?”

“He’s a big boy, he’ll be fine.” Louis winks, and their noses just barely brush when he turns away to announce their departure.

“Haz and I are gonna get some fresh air-”

“We’re outside.” Niall deadpans, but is ignored.

“-but we’ll be back in a bit, so entertain Liam here accordingly.” He finishes, shooting Zayn an insinuative look.

Liam furrows his brow but seems not to deem it with worth his worry, instead taking another gulp of vodka, waving goodbye to Harry in a blissed out way.

*

The color from televisions flickers through trailer windows into the darkness as they walk, Louis’ phone screen lighting his face when he checks the time. Harry can't keep his eyes off him for more than ten seconds, wanting to drink him in until there’s nothing left to see, nothing left to discover. He wants to know everything.

He doesn't ask anything though, instead walking in amicable silence, arms bumping occasionally.

“So you and Liam seem close.” Louis says after a moment, and Harry just barely stops his I knew it scoff.

“It’s not like that, Louis.” He assures him, putting his hands in his pockets and scuffing the sides of his converse in the dirt as they go.

“Who said it was like anything? I was just observing.” Louis remarks, avoiding his eyes. Harry thinks this is the first time he’s seen him anything but ridiculously comfortable.

“Uhuh.” He hums sarcastically. “Anyways, he’s like a brother. Except also like a dad, and sometimes a babysitter.”

“Oh please tell me he’s not uptight.” Louis grumbles, pouting. “Too many people trying to cramp my style.”

Harry barks out a laugh and doesn't bother covering his mouth. “Don't worry, he’s easily corruptible.”

“Zayn’ll be happy to hear that. Did you see the way he was-”

“Devouring him with his eyes? Yeah, pretty sure the whole trailer park saw.” Harry smirks. “I don't even know if Liam swings that way, I haven’t talked to him about it. Maybe. He’s getting drunk, so there’s a good chance.”

Louis titters, bumping him with his hip. “Mm, alcohol trumps sexuality.”

“So it’s like the noodle rule?” Harry questions, fixing his fringe.

“The what?” Louis asks, looking bemused. He always does. Harry thinks that if there were pictures in dictionaries, Louis’ face would be under Bemused.

“The whole ‘I’m straight.’ ‘Yeah, well so is pasta until you get it wet.’ Or is it hot? I dunno, I’m buzzed, alcohol trumps intelligence as well.” He rambles, the voice in his head telling him he sounds like an idiot.

Louis giggles delightfully, though.

“I suppose it does, yes. Now come on, I wanna show you something.”

*

Louis leads him through his family trailer, waving a blushy hello to his mum, (Jay, he introduces in a hushed voice), and back past his sleeping sisters, a finger to his lips as a warning. Harry follows obediently as Louis climbs up a bunk bed and reaches up to push open a sunroof latch, raising himself out with the strength of his stupidly strong biceps.

Harry needs a little help, being so lanky as Louis put it earlier, but the older boy grabs his hand and pulls to allow him to clamber onto the roof, back into the cool breeze. Once settled, he closes the little door and gets cozy, laying back on the flat metal surface and beckoning Harry to do the same.

He does, obviously.

Louis shifts closer so their sides are pressed together, and butterflies flap their wings in his stomach.

“I like to come up here to think.” Louis states, rummaging around in his pocket. “We get a good view of the stars out here, cause we’re away from the city, so. S’nice to just lay back and watch them. Makes you feel small, you know? Sometimes you need that.”

“Yeah.” Harry hums, because it’s true. Louis holds up a cigarette to his mouth and lights it, inhaling deep before letting it out in a sigh.

He hands a fag to Harry, who puts it between his lips and raises an expectant eyebrow, waiting. Louis rolls his eyes but he’s grinning when he leans half over him to flick the flame against the end, muttering a small “Cheeky bastard.”

Harry blows smoke in his face and gets another laugh in return, Louis settling back down beside him. The stars up above are twinkling, and they can hear the noise of the party a few rows over, the distinct sound of Niall’s chortles and some chanting that’s almost definitely a drinking game of some sort. Even after only knowing them a while, Harry’s sure that’s something they do. Often, probably.

“You’re gonna leave soon, aren’t you?” Louis asks then, voice uncharacteristically soft. Harry frowns, taking a deep drag of smoke.

“What’you mean? I’m right here, I like spending time with you, I like you, idiot.” He huffs, and Louis makes an amused sound in the back of his throat.

“No, I meant, like, living arrangements. You’re gonna move away soon, this is just temporary.” He explains, sounding sad. “But, um. Thanks. That’s. Good to know.”

Harry feels his face go red and wants to roll right off the side and fall to the ground. It’d be less painful.

“No, I. I mean. It’s meant to be temporary, but I’m assuming your situation was too? And you’re still here. For what it’s worth, I really like it here. If my mum was to take us back tomorrow, I’d honestly probably tell her to fuck right off.” Harry shrugs. It’s harsh, but true.

“Really? Brave little lion you are, Hazza.” Louis teases, dripping with fondness. Harry lolls his head to nuzzle the other boy’s shoulder.

“Yeah, that’s me.” He snorts. “But, seriously...yeah. I probably would. I’d want to stay here with you. I. I plan on it.”

There’s a silence where they’re just smoking, Harry’s nerves zinging with worry. He doesn't know where they stand, what their boundaries are, and fuck Louis for being so hard to read. He spots constellations in the sky, and decides to point them out just for something to say.

“That’s the big dipper, yeah?” He guides, pointing at it. “And there’s the little one. Ursa Major’s over there, see?”

“Where?” Louis asks, brow furrowed adorably. “Was never good at science. Or whatever.”

Harry bites his lip and sucks in a steadying breath before reaching to take Louis’ hand in his own, loving how well it fits. He brings them up, Louis already pointing a finger for him, and directs him to Ursa Major once more.

“Right there, look.” He whispers, tracing it with their hands. “It looks like a bear.”

“Oh, I see it!” Louis exclaims with such joy in his eyes that Harry can't help but compare him to a child receiving a present. He’s so fucking cute. Goddammit.

“Pretty cool, huh?” Harry asks, and gets an eager nod.

“Is there more? Show me, star boy. Hey, star, cause your tattoo! I’m hilarious.” Louis snorts to himself, and, well, who is Harry to refuse?

He brings their hands down a bit and says “That’s Orion, right there. Looks a bit like a hunter? Bow and arrow, yeah?”

“Yeah.” Louis grins, tossing his forgotten cigarette over the edge, scooting close to settle his head on Harry’s chest, hair tickling his neck. Harry thinks he might have fallen in love in the span of a few hours, but under the bright stars with an even brighter boy, it only makes his dimples deepen.

“And, uh, that’s Pegasus, there.”

“Pegasus! I had a unicorn plushie named Pegasus when I was a wee lad.” Louis sing-songs, getting rid of Harry’s fag as well.

“Yeah? No teddy bears for Louis Tomlinson, gotta have a unicorn.” Harry jokes, bringing their hands down. Louis links their fingers, and his heart soars.

“Course not, that would be boring.” Louis smiles, faces close when he tilts towards him.

“Can't have that.” Harry says lowly, eyes flickering down to those painfully perfect lips.

“Nope.” The older boy utters, getting caught up as well.

There’s another silence, this one charged with electricity, sparking all around them. Their chests are pressed together now, heads hovering so close, just another inch and they’d be doing what Harry’s wanted to do since he first laid eyes on the should have been model who’s currently trailing a fingertip up Harry’s neck to brush over where his dimple is, the more prominent one, brought out by him and nothing else.

“I think I might just have to make you mine, new boy.” Louis whispers after a moment, breath warm when it tickles Harry’s face.

“And, um, what might that entail, exactly?” He asks, sufficiently distracted.

Louis cocks his head to side, eyes shining. “A lot of this.” He says quietly, before pressing their lips together.

The kiss is soft and warm and everything it should be, one of Louis’ hands cupping his cheek gently, thumb stroking, the other planted flat on his stomach, feeling each breath. (Not that there’s much breathing going on.) Harry slides his hands down Louis’ back and moves with him easily, mouths working together as music begins to blare from where the others are, seeming miles away.

Louis’ tongue presses forward and Harry lets him in, of course, unable to stop his whimper when the slickness overwhelms him. Louis’ lips twitch up into a smug smile and it ends up slowing the kiss (snog, really) to a fairly natural stop, both panting when they pull away, nearly going cross eyed in the dim light.

We will run and scream, you will dance with me, plays in their ears as they stare, thoughts slow like molasses.

“I think, um, I think that’d be good. Brilliant, actually.” Harry stutters, remembering their earlier words.

Louis smirks and pinches his cheek. “That’s what I like to hear.”

*

There’s a few more breathless bouts of kissing before they decide to go back to the other lads, choosing to hop off the side of the roof with an admittedly girlish squeak from Harry. Louis just chuckles and grabs for his hand, swinging them as they walk back over. Harry thinks he’s probably glowing, but maybe that’s how he’ll always be around this boy.

The party is going strong when they arrive, Niall dancing a circle around a clapping Liam, Zayn with a beer in one hand, fag in another. Adults are laughing and singing to top forty music, the fire is crackling, and those teenage girls are catcalling Niall, thoroughly entertained. It’s the best party Harry’s ever seen, and he doesn't have the sane mind to figure out why.

“Dance with me, babycakes!” Louis cheers, tugging on his arm, and oh, Harry likes that silly pet name too. He likes everything that comes out of Louis’ mouth.

So he grins and goes easily, spinning around and managing to grab a beer as he goes, feeling on top of the world, infinite, perfect. It’s perfect here.

Eventually they topple to the dirt ground and Harry’s lips eagerly find Louis’, swallowing his huff of laughter. Fingers muss hair and knees scrape the ground as they merge into one person, ignoring the wolf whistles coming from the adults nearby.

Harry doesn't have to look to know Liam and Zayn are close together, murmuring a private conversation, and Niall is drunkenly wooing all the girls he can.  Their kisses become choppy when Louis tries to talk between them, slurring “You’re out of this world, shit, don’t even know what you did to me stepping out of your trailer, fucking gorgeous, Harry, you’re-”

“Shut up, you little shit.” Harry hisses through a giggle, nipping Louis’ bottom lip. “M’tryin to snog the fuck out of you.”

Louis snaps at him with his teeth but quirks an eyebrow, daring “By all means.”

Harry takes that challenge, and kisses the air right out of his lungs.

*

They don't part ways until late late late, when Liam’s had to get a cab and lots of water to sober up for work, Niall’s gone off with some bird, and Zayn’s gone back to their trailer to text someone furiously, which they’re all ninety nine percent sure is actually Liam. Harry and Louis stand in the road between their homes, kissing desperately on and off, trying to part over and over but being unable to because one of them always pulls the other back in, addicted to the feeling.

“Go.” Harry snickers, shoving him away lightly. “Before I ravish you right here.”

“Ooh, exhibitionist? I’m down with that, I have a fantastic arse, the world deserves to see more of it-”

Harry cuts Louis off with another bruising kiss, before fully disentangling them. “Go. Sweet dreams, don't let the bed bugs bite, all that sappy shit.”

Louis smirks, bopping him on the nose. “Alright, fine. Goodnight babe, I’ll see you in the morning.”

“Bright and early, I’m guessing?” Harry asks as he walks backwards, prolonging the time with him.

“Naturally.” Louis nods.

“You’re gonna be the death of me, Lou.” He mutters playfully as he reaches his door.

“And proud of it!” Is called back.

*

“So how was your first day here, sweetheart?” Harry’s mum asks when he tromps into their trailer, lips still kiss swollen and hair ruffled. She graciously pretends not to notice, unlike Gemma, who is grotesquely pretending to snog the air from behind her.

“Good.” He smiles privately. “I don’t think this’ll be so bad, actually.”

“No? Are you sure? If I take some extra shifts we could maybe be out of here in a month-”

“No!” He calls out too fast, before pinching the bridge of his nose glaring at her amused expression. “No, I’d, um. I’d rather you didn't stress yourself, you know, it’s really okay here, and, like, I don’t think you get enough sleep as it is, and. Yeah.”

Gemma and Anne both roll their eyes, but she tells him “Alright, love, we’ll see how this goes, then. I’m glad you’ve made friends.”

His cheeks dust pink and he rushes past them to their set of bunk beds, hopping up on his where he can reach the sunroof latch, opening it and peeking out into the crisp night air. Sure enough, Louis’ face is in one of the windows of his family’s trailer, and he waves with a cheeky grin, waggling his tongue.

It takes all Harry has in him not to run right over there and tackle him to the bed. Instead, he blows him an overdramatic kiss and he sees rather than hears Louis’ snort. He’s delighted when the boy catches the kiss in his hand, and fucking guffaws when he shoves it down his pants with a wink.

Yeah. Harry could get used to living here.

been gone forty days, fell apart forty ways
brokenbravery
Larry Stylinson oneshot, could be au, could not be.
Harry leaves Louis. And slowly, so does his will to live. Spoiler alert there's a happy ending.
Trigger warning for self harm, attempted suicide, depression.
Rating would be nc17 I guess.



On the first day, Louis doesn't move. He sits on the kitchen floor where he was left, knees hugged to his chest, and he doesn't cry. He stares at the wall and barely moves, save for his rattling inhales and exhales. His limbs go numb but he doesn't care because his mind feels numb too.

*

On the second day, he manages to drag himself to their- his bed, and curl up in a ball under the covers, only getting up to go the loo. He doesn't eat and he doesn't sleep, instead counting the pattern on the sheets and tracing it with trembling fingers. He can't get warm enough no matter how many blankets he pulls on top of him.

*

On the third day, he showers and eats two bowls of cereal. And then he goes straight back to bed, burrows under the covers, and hugs the other pillow to himself, breathing in the scent he left behind, familiar cologne and fruity shampoo. It’s still in the shower. He knows, because he almost used it, and froze in place until the water went cold and startled him out of his trance.

*

On the fourth day, there’s a knocking on his door. He knows it’s one of the boys, but he doesn't get up, let alone answer it. He supposes he should, because he might be worrying them, not answering their calls and texts. He threw his phone out that morning, sick of hearing it vibrate from across the room. But he stays where he is, despite being sweaty and lonely and numb.

*

On the fifth, sixth and seventh days, not much changes. He showers occasionally, eats occasionally, even manages to move to the couch. But that’s where he stays, cocooned in his onesie, still clinging to the pillow like a child with their teddy. He wonders if it’s pathetic, but as soon as he does, he has to laugh. Because yes, it’s pathetic, Louis is pathetic. That’s why he left him.

*

On the eighth day, he cries. He’d been waiting for it to hit, knowing the timer was ticking down, and it does, when he accidentally pulls on one of the sweaters that belonged to him. He rips it off and falls to the floor, and it feels like his insides are being ripped out, it all hurts so much. He sobs until he can't breathe, ugly sounds leaving his mouth, hands scrubbing at his puffy eyes. It lasts for hours. He passes out right there on the carpet.

*

On the ninth day, he’s tired. He stays in bed and holds the pillow.

*

On the tenth and eleventh days, the others are there again. Banging on their- his door, calling to him, trying to coax him out. He takes the pillow and covers his ear with it, sniffling into the crook of his elbow. He misses being held.

*

On the twelfth day, he leaves the flat. Purely because they’re- he’s dead out of food and he’s never had to make it before, Harry always did the cooking. He can think his name now. He’s not sure if that’s a good or bad thing. He goes to Tesco and picks out mostly ice cream and microwave dinners, and when he gets home, he goes to bed, unable to handle anything more.

*

Days thirteen through sixteen pass in a hazy blur of tears and binge eating and tissues strewn in between beer bottles. The flat is so quiet without him, so empty, just like Louis. He’s missing his other half and Louis doesn't think he can function like this. He shouts a lot, throwing things in desperate anger, hoping he’ll feel better when the glass shatters. He never does.

*

On the seventeenth day, he takes a razor to his wrist. The blood is shiny and beautiful where it beads along the thin line, and he quickly adds four more. It doesn't make him feel any better, but it makes him feel less numb. When he’s done, he simply lies on the bathroom floor, pillow still held close. He stains it slightly red but he thinks that’s metaphorical.

*

On the eighteenth day he drinks himself into a stupor and is very glad he got rid of his phone. He would have done something stupid.

*

On the nineteenth day, he does the same.

*

On the twentieth day, he wakes up and finds Zayn staring down at him with a sympathetic frown. He doesn't have to ask to know he got Harry’s key, and the fact that he just gave it up like it was nothing makes him hide back under the covers to sob, trying to ignore the fact that the rubbing of his back is in the wrong direction. Harry did it so much better.

*

Days twenty one to twenty four consist of Zayn, Niall and Liam taking shifts watching him, forcing him to eat, bathe, move around the flat. He doesn't speak a word, and they look worried. They probably should be.

*

On the twenty fifth day, he locks himself in the bathroom and cuts his thighs until they’re sore and bleeding everywhere, and his head falls back and hits the wall in relief, finally feeling a different kind of pain. He winces the rest of the day, sweatpants sticking to the healing wounds, but if Liam notices, he doesn't say anything. Probably assumes it’s emotional. He’s not really wrong, because Louis had sworn he’d heard Harry whispering to him that morning, and he knew he needed to do something to distract himself. Razors are very distracting.

*

On the twenty sixth day, they sit him down for the talk. The ‘we’re here for you and we’re sorry and we’re really worried so can you just speak to us please’ talk. Louis clears his throat awkwardly and shrugs, asks them what they want him to say. They all kind of hesitate, and it’s a bit of a shock, because they’ve never hesitated with him before. He’s Louis, big and bright and their best friend, and now they’re hesitating. He leaves and lays in bed until he dozes off.

*

On the twenty seventh day, he makes an effort. Not for himself, certainly not for Harry, but for his boys. He gets out of bed in the morning, showers, puts on proper clothes, jeans and all. He styles his hair and makes breakfast and by the time they show up, he’s watching X Factor on telly. They’re surprised, but pleasantly, and they hug him extra tight. He manages a small smile.

*

On the twenty eighth day, he does the same. He’s okay, good even, listening to Niall rave on about this club he went to where the bartenders wear bras female or not, and then Liam gets a call, and thinks he can't hear, but he can. He thinks he’s trained himself to know Harry’s voice anywhere. He hears his b- ex boyfriend laugh over the phone and his progress tumbles to the ground. Zayn sees it happen and tries to stop him, but he’s locked himself in the bathroom again, razor in his bloodstained fingers. Everything hurts.

*

On the twenty ninth day, he stays in there, never having got up off the floor. They’ve all tried to get him out, but he won’t move. He sits in the tub and lets the shower wash over him, still clothed. He can't stop shivering, and he’s not sure whether it’s because the water’s gone cold or because he’s so fucking broken at the thought of Harry smiling and being happy when he’s...this. He wonders if he could drown himself in the bath.

*

On the thirtieth day, it’s been a month. One whole month since Harry left him, broke his heart and moved on. Louis sure as hell hasn’t. He doesn't think he ever will. He thinks that if he can't have Harry he doesn't want anyone or anything. Harry’s fine and Harry’s happy and Louis’ broken and sad and currently swallowing twice the amount of painkillers he should take. He doesn't give one fuck. He curls up in bed and cries.

*

Over days thirty one to thirty three, he makes some changes. He switches his lock, sick of the others trying to fix him. He doesn't want to be fixed. He takes the pictures of Harry and him off the wall and shoves them in a closet, slamming the door. He disables the home phone, blares The Fray and spirals. He cuts and he drinks and he swallows capsules. He smokes shakily on the balcony and wonders what would happen if he just tipped over the edge.

*

On the thirty fourth day, he goes to the shop because he needs more cigarettes. He spends a little while wandering the aisles, anxious being outside the safety of their- his, his goddammit, flat. He grabs some sweets and alcohol, and heads to the counter, asking for two packs of the brand Zayn buys. He hears a cough behind him and turns to see none other than Harry there, awkward and shy. He looks just the same as ever, if not better. Louis throws a wad of cash on the counter, probably far too much, grabs his bag, and runs. He chain smokes the entire way home to avoid falling to pieces, and once behind closed doors, he hyperventilates.

*

On the thirty fifth day, he sits in the tub naked and cuts deeper and more than ever before, letting the blood roll down to pool by his feet. It should be gross, and it is, but Louis feels gross. He feels ugly and fat and weak and stupid, so stupid. He gets lightheaded after a while and when he closes his eyes, he sees green ones. He cuts a few more times just to see red instead.

*

On the thirty sixth day, he has a dream about Harry. It’s memories, mostly, all the ones he’s been forcing out until now. Little smiles, soft kisses, lingering touches. The way one dimple is more elusive than the other, but Louis can- could, fuck, could always bring it out with a simple joke. His lungs feel like they’re collapsing and his heart is beaten to a pulp, at this point. There’s knocking at the door and he ignores it, swallowing a handful of capsules dry and letting sleep take over once more. He kind of doesn't want to wake up. He wakes up anyways.

*
On the thirty seventh day, he doesn't move much. He thinks a lot, though. About his mum, his sisters, Stan, the other boys. Harry, most of all. Harry, who has moved on and is fine, laughing and hanging out with friends, probably. Did Louis mean that little to him, in the end? It seems crazy, because Harry was Louis’ whole world. Is his whole world. The pillow doesn't smell like him anymore, instead sleep sweat and tears. Louis still doesn't let go of it.

*

On the thirty eighth day, he stops eating. He hasn’t been doing much of that anyways, just a small something here and there when he has the energy and brief emotional stability to make it to the kitchen, but now he just stops. The growling in his stomach is like the growling in his heart, and it’s better that way. He counts his scars and thinks I love you, I still fucking love you, why did you leave me, why don't you love me too? There’s no answer, of course. Just the stuttery hum of the radiator.

*

On the thirty ninth day, he draws himself a bath, lets it stain slightly red with blood from newly sliced skin, and then lowers back into it, eyes closed and lungs still. He doesn't try to breathe. He remembers sweet whispers, thinks about true love, misses the warmth of Harry’s body against his and he doesn't try to breathe. He inhales water when he can't hold off any longer, and chokes on it. He’s disappointed when he ends up hunched over the edge, coughing it up between ragged sobs. He leans his head against the tile and wishes everything would stop.

*

On the fortieth day, there’s a knocking on his door that doesn't stop. He screams at them to go away, telling Niall and Liam and Zayn to fuck off and leave him alone, but the banging just continues, and after ten minutes has passed and he’s literally rocking back and forth, clutching at his hair, he wrenches it open and comes face to face with Harry.

He freezes, and his stomach drops and his fingers shake and his heart beats double time. He thinks about slamming the door in his face but he can't, he knows he can't, because he’s still so painfully in love with him that his lungs are constricting at the sight of his mussed curls and frowning green eyes.

He holds his breath and prays prays prays.

“Hi.” Harry says in his deep rumble of a voice, and Louis’ legs go to jelly.

“Um, hey.” He manages, shifting on his cold bare feet. “Are you here for your stuff, or..?”

Harry huffs a laugh, cheeks pinking. It’s beautiful.

“No, Lou.” He smiles, stepping forward. “I’m here for you.”

Louis might actually be in shock. He’s feeling more than he has in over a month, surprise and hope and love and fear and so, so much confusion. It must show, because his ex – is he his ex, still? – reaches out to rub his arm. The simple contact almost makes his knees buckle.

“There’s no way to explain it that’ll make what I did better, or okay, but. I miss you. Fuck, I miss you.” He stresses. Louis’ knuckles go white around the doorknob. “And the others said you’ve been a right mess and honestly, I have too, I’ve just been lying to them. I’ve been worried sick about you, love, and I really did think it was for the best but I was an absolute idiot, okay, because as much as we fight a lot and disagree on tons, we just fit, despite that. I miss fitting together with you. I’m lost, now. I don't feel like me anymore.”

When he’s finished, he bites his lip and looks at Louis nervously. “I understand if you want me to fuck right off, but. Do you think we could maybe get back toge-”

“Fuck.” Louis whimpers brokenly, and then he’s collapsing into Harry’s chest, clinging to him and completely losing it, falling apart and being put back together all at once.

His sobs are hitching and his body is shivering but Harry lowers them to the ground and holds him close, lips on his temple, arms strong and warm around him. Louis can't breathe because this is what he’s missed so, so, so much.

“Don’t leave me again.” He cries, shame long gone. “Please, please don't leave, I love you so much, I, I got so bad, shit, you can't do that ever again, Harry, no.”

A tremor wracks him and Harry at once, and his boyfriend squeezes him tighter, sniffling as well.

“I won’t, I promise, I’m so sorry, I’m here sweetheart.” He tells him, kissing his hair over and over. “I’m here, I’m here, I’m here.”

Louis whines and presses his face into his neck, inhaling the smell his pillow lost. “I thought you didn't want me anymore.” He chokes out, trying to meld them into one person.

“I always want you, I could never stop wanting you.” Harry says into his greasy hair, and Louis closes his eyes.

“Even if now I'm covered in scars?” He asks, because he has to. He can't allow himself to break once more.

Harry tugs back with a shocked expression, eyes flashing with regret and guilt, mouth open. “I...Louis. You...what?”

Louis swallows the lump in his throat. He has to protect himself, even if there’s barely anything left to protect.

“Even if now I’m covered in scars?” He repeats, voice a little more even, but still so very thick. He watches as Harry’s heart visibly breaks.

But the younger boy nods right away, and says “Of course. God, of course.”

That’s enough, and Louis crushes their lips together in a desperate kiss, all small sounds and fingers wound tight in clothes. He feels like he’s numb, and for once, that’s a good thing. All his mind can focus on is Harry Harry Harry, he loves you, he’s here, you’re not alone anymore and Harry loves you, HarryHarryHarry.

Their hands link somewhere in between, and Louis smiles. He smiles so big that it breaks their kiss and he has to just lean their foreheads together, breathing in and out and positively beaming. To be fair, Harry looks pretty overjoyed too.

“You’re everything.” Louis tells him in a gush of a breath.

His heart soars when Harry whispers “You’re more.”

*

On the forty first day, Louis lays in bed with Harry and tells him everything. Harry kisses every single scar, and apologizes for every single day apart, and Louis shuts him up with their joined hands over his mouth. The pillows smell like cologne and fruity shampoo again.

baby you were born to bloom
brokenbravery
Oneshot for the like a petal from a fallen rose verse. You should read that first, if you haven't already.
Summary: Harry yells, Louis panics, then they're okay again.
Rating is safe, title from Bloom by Moriah Peters.




It’s been four months of living with Harry, and Louis is happy. He smiles freely and teases and laughs and he’s comfortable in his own skin, no longer jumping at the smallest touch, or closing off when someone shows the slightest sign of not liking him. He feels like who he should be. Louis. Or, Harry’s Louis. Not Mitch’s Louis, who was a shell of himself. He’s whole, he’s complete, and he loves it.

Though, there are still signs. They show up here and there, when they least expect it. Harry grips his hips the wrong way in bed and Louis gasps (and not in a good way), before he’s quickly hushed by his boyfriend, reassured and apologized to. But it’s okay, he’s okay. Or there’s the time Louis accidentally breaks a wine glass and out of instinct, says sorry about twenty times through tears, crying on the floor and only calming once Harry’s wrapped around him, promising he’s not angry, it’s just a glass, sweetheart, we can get another, it’s alright Lou. And then he’s okay again.

Because he’s never seen Harry angry. Or, at least not directed at him. He’s seen him frustrated with customers, annoyed with his mother, furious with Mitch after he finds out another horrible thing he did to Louis. But he’s never been mad at him.

Until now.

It’s a stupid fight. A stupid, stupid fight. Louis still works at the coffee shop two blocks over, and sometimes he takes an extra shift for the money so long as it doesn't interfere with one of their dates. Unfortunately, he forgets about their plans to watch old movies and eat cheap Chinese food, and when he gets home, it’s to a testy Harry.

It starts with “How could you forget? I ordered the food and everything and you stood me up!”

And transitions into “I’m sorry, I just thought I’d get us some extra cash, god knows we could use it.”

Which of course leads to “Well, it’s not my fault going out is expensive! You never want to stay in, no wonder you skipped our date tonight!”

But the way the fight ends, isn’t with words. It’s with a flinch.

They’re not quite yelling, but their voices are loud and that has Louis distinctly wrong footed, because this is Harry, soft and gentle Harry, except now he’s harsh and angry and loud. He doesn't like it.

They’re standing in the living room, arguing and raking fingers through their hair, and then Louis is shouting that Harry’s overreacting, and then Harry is stepping forward with fierceness in his eyes and-

And as Harry rants about how he’s very much not overreacting, thank you, Louis’ blood runs cold because he knows that look, he knows it all too well, and he doesn't want to be hurt, or hit, or forced, and he flinches backward with a sharp inhale.

There’s half a second of dead silence, as they stare at each other, and then Louis is running, hurrying into the bathroom and locking the door, shaking. He spins, disoriented, before hopping into the far end of the tub, hugging his knees to his chest and trying to make himself small.

He doesn't want this, he never thought it would happen (and still kind of doesn't) but that look, that rage filled look, it always leads to pain and abuse and no no no.

There’s a knock at the door, Harry calling out his name, and Louis whines under his breath, eyes welling up.

“Please, baby, answer me. I’m so sorry, I’m sorry darling, are you okay? Answer me, please.” He’s calling out, and Louis wants to answer, but he also doesn't, so he makes a somewhat inhuman noise, nails digging into his jeans.

It seems Harry heard it though, because then he’s asking “Can I come in? It’s okay Louis, I promise.”

And Louis wants to believe him, of course he does, but what if his instincts were right and Harry’s turning into what Mitch was? What if he opens the door and Harry hurts him like Mitch did? What if it all goes to hell?

“You’re not mad?” He calls back uncertainly, worrying his bottom lip between his teeth.

“No, I’m not, I promise.” Harry says through the door. Louis thinks he sounds honest. If not, he’s a good liar.

“I...” Louis cuts off as tears spill over. “I’ll unlock the door, but. But c-can you just...not come in until I say so, please?”

There’s a regretful sigh before “Of course.”

Louis nods numbly, even though there’s no one to see. He forces himself to clamber over the edge and walk carefully to the door, stomach twisting. His trembling fingers turn the lock, despite the voice in the back of his head screaming in protest. This is Harry, right? Just Harry. Harry is lovely. (But what if he’s not, anymore?)

He can hear Harry’s breathing through the wooden barrier and can't decide if it’s reassuring or scary, so he just climbs back in the tub, to his earlier spot and position. He counts his breaths, in and out, you can do this, it’s okay.

And then he calls out “You can. Come in.”

Louis holds himself tighter as the door opens and Harry peeks in, expression falling the second his eyes land on him. (That’s strange. Mitch usually became further enraged.) “Oh, sweetheart.” Harry mumbles after he gently shuts the door behind him, posture unsure.

Louis doesn't know what to say, and he’s still scared, so he just sniffles pathetically and glances at the porcelain below him.

Harry shuffles forward to lower to his knees, at the other side of the tub, still on the outside, but it’s closer, and closer means he can hurt him, which is why Louis winces, making Harry look downright self loathing.

“I’m not going to hurt you, Lou. You know that, right?” He chances. “I’d never, never ever. I’m so sorry I scared you, I shouldn't have lost my temper, please just. Please believe me when I say I’m not going to lay a hand on you.”

“I...I know.” Louis settles on, voice wobbly. “I know, but I don’t, and. I don’t know.”

He feels stupid and confused and still pretty scared, but when Harry shifts an inch or two towards him, he doesn’t freak out. That’s good, he thinks.

“It’s okay, you don't need to explain. I love you, yeah? I’m here, and I’ll do whatever you need, okay? Do you need me to leave?” Harry asks, but by the end he’s frowning, clearly not wanting to go. Louis kind of doesn't want him to either.

He shakes his head, tears still rolling down his cheeks. “No, I. I just need you to wait. Please?”

Harry gives him a small smile and nods quickly. “Of course, yeah, I’ll wait. Do you think you’d be okay if I got in the tub with you? I can stay on this end, if that’s easier.”

Louis debates it internally, most of his brain now decided that he’s safe, but still on edge and jumpy and all around lost. He swallows the lump in his throat and tells him “Yeah, uh. On that end, and. That’d be okay.”

Harry’s eyes warm then, clearly less terrified he’s ruined everything. He keeps his movements slow as he sits in his half of the tub, carefully avoiding the faucet, their legs brushing together. Louis doesn't freak out.

Harry leans back and rubs at his eyes, not saying anything. So Louis doesn't either. He just stays where he is, forehead against his knees, and breathes. It’s better this way, feeling his boyfriend’s presence, reassuring him that he’s not going to get hit today, or ever, maybe.

When his tears have stopped and his fingers are steady where they rub at his thighs, he lifts his head to meet Harry’s eyes, noting that they’re slightly wet.

“Just...” He warns, the end going unspoken. Stay still for me? Harry nods, spreading his legs and opening his arms.

Louis ignores the way his heart stammers and timidly crawls to him, fitting into his chest perfectly, as always. Harry cautiously snakes his arms around him and Louis melts, because he’s okay, he’s not going to be hurt, Harry would never. He knows that now. (He always did, really.)

“There you go, shh, everything’s okay, you’re safe, nobody will ever hurt you again.” Harry soothes immediately, and Louis turns his face into his neck, lump suddenly back in his throat.

“I’m sorry.” He sobs, clinging to him. “I’m sorry, I just got so scared, you scared me, shit.”

“I know, I know and I’m sorry, because I should have known better than to yell like that, I won’t do that again, I promise, okay? I just want you to be okay.” Harry tells him, kissing his hair over and over.

Louis smiles through his tears. “I am okay.” He whispers.

“That...that wasn't okay, though.” Harry mutters. “I feel fucking horrible.”

“Please don’t.” Louis says with a sniffle, reaching back to take Harry’s hand in his, their fingers slotting together perfectly. “I’m just...I’m damaged, we both know that. It’s gonna be a while before I stop...reverting, or whatever, back to how I was before. You know?”

“Yeah, I know.” The younger man sighs. “I just hate that I caused this.”

Louis huffs, pushing his forehead into Harry’s collarbone, nuzzling. “No, Mitch caused this. He ruined everything, and you saved me, and I’m happy now, honestly happy, I just. Still have some of that in me, I guess.”

Harry hooks his chin on Louis’ head, breath warm there. “It’ll go away, babe. With time.”

“Yeah.” Louis hums. “For now though, can we just stay like this a while?”

“Course.”

*

Louis stumbles out of bed the next morning to find Harry bustling about the kitchen, making pancakes, with a vase of yellow and pink roses on the table, meaning I’m sorry and I love you. Louis beams, still giddy about it even after months of being together. He kisses Harry deep, almost making him burn their breakfast.

Seated together at the small table, they play footsies while they eat.

“So how about as an apology for standing you up last night-” Louis goes to say, but is interrupted.

“Louis, it’s okay, I told you, yeah? I’m not angry.” Harry stresses, reaching across to hold his hand.

Louis rolls his eyes, kicking him lightly in the shin before continuing as if he hadn’t stopped “So, how about I call into work sick and spend the day with you down in the shop? We haven’t done that as much lately.”

Harry looks at him with all the fondness in the world, having to bite his lip to contain the giant grin threatening to take over.

“That’d be nice, yeah.” He murmurs, playing with their thumbs. “Love you so much.”

The butterflies in Louis’ gut dance about and he blows him a kiss.

“Love you more.” He smiles.

build your nest on tenderness
brokenbravery
Zouis oneshot, kitten hybrid au.
Zayn buys Louis out of a bad place, and promises to treat him right.
Title from Build Your Nest by Earth Wind And Fire.
Inspired by this gif.
Happy Valentines! xx



Zayn sees him on a Wednesday and he just can’t leave without him. He’s all tan skin and wide blue eyes, silky hair in a slightly messy fringe, triangular ears curving downward in nervousness, same caramel colour that complements his pink lips perfectly. He’s small, short and curvy, but his tail is long and fluffy, curled around his torso, as if to protect himself. His little white teeth peek out when he licks at his fingers, cleaning them with a feline like tongue. He’s. He’s stunning.

His name is Louis and Zayn spends all the money he had saved up on him.

He’s terribly shy, timid and jumpy, and it’s not hard to tell he’s been abused. He’s damaged, but that’s okay. Zayn doesn’t want him for the same reasons other people do. Hybrids are primarily sold like sex slaves, and are used as just that. Once in a while there’s a nicer owner, who properly cares for them, but it’s almost always still based on sex. And sure, Louis is gorgeous and would surely look even more gorgeous pink in the cheeks and panting on the bed. But Zayn doesn’t need that. He just wants to care for him, like a friend, like a good owner should.

When they get back to his small flat, Louis walks in carefully, scanning the space around him with scared eyes, tail between his legs. Zayn speaks to him, not sure if he’s even listening, introducing himself and explaining that he’ll get Louis some clothes in the morning, and a bed if he wants, or the couch is available for him. He catches Louis’ pretty eyes and gently reaches out to put a hand on his shoulder, trying for comforting, but the kitten boy flinches and scampers away in a flash.

Zayn finds him under the dining room table, knees hugged into his chest, nails sharper than before. His claws are out. He hisses when he spots him, ears pressing flat to his hair, and Zayn frowns, more sympathetic than anything. He gets an idea and wanders away, returning a minute or two later with a glass of milk.

Louis still looks defensive but his eyes light up just a little bit when he spots the drink, fingers flexing as if he wants to reach for it, but won’t. That’s alright. Zayn sits cross legged and slides it towards him on the floor, leaning away afterwards to give him space. He watches as Louis hesitantly cocks his head to the side and then snatches the glass for himself, cradling it with both hands as he takes a sip.

It must be good, because his posture relaxes slightly, tail unwinding from his thigh. He drinks it quickly after that, cheeks a rosy pink.

“There you go, kitty.” Zayn smiles. “I’m not going to hurt you.”

It takes a moment, but Louis whispers “Promise?”

“Promise.” Zayn confirms, crossing his heart with a finger.

His kitten boy nods.

*

From there on out, it gets easier. It’s a long process, waiting as Louis slowly starts to become comfortable, stop cowering in fear at the smallest of noises. But Zayn will wait it out.

He specifically keeps his friends away, not letting Liam or Niall over, certainly not with their hybrid Harry. He’s seen the damage cat claws can do. Instead he spends much of his time at home with Louis, glad his parents pay for his rent, so he only ever has to leave the flat for his uni classes. Other than that, he puts all his focus and energy into helping his new pet (he hates referring to him as that, because he doesn’t think of him that way, but there’s not really another word, he supposes) adapt.

Louis slinks about mostly, close to the walls, not confident in his movements. At first he won’t come near Zayn much, only to get milk and dinner, otherwise staying on his own, whether that be under a table, or in a closet, or sometimes, when he’s feeling braver, on the couch. But always alone. Eventually though, after much trial and error, Zayn manages to sit on one end while Louis is perched on the other, distracted by a television show. It’s obvious when he notices, tensing hugely, shoulders hunching, yet he doesn’t leave right away.

“You like this program?” Zayn questions softly, gesturing to the telly.

Louis nods, ears down halfway. He doesn’t elaborate, so Zayn raises an encouraging eyebrow, trying to seem inviting.

“Yes.” Louis lets out, small but there.

“What’s it about?” Zayn asks, despite already knowing it’s Doctor Who. He’s never seen it though, so his interest is genuine.

Louis seems to see that and curls his tail around himself before taking a deep breath. “It’s about The Doctor. He’s a time lord.” He stammers, the most he’s said since he got here. Zayn nods, quietly requesting he continue. He does. “He, um. Saves people, a lot. That’s why it’s my favorite.”

“Yeah?” Zayn smiles, noting the way he seems to be calming.

“Mhm.” Louis hums, but doesn’t say anything further. Again, that’s okay.

They watch the show in silence, and Louis doesn’t leave until after it’s over.

*

Louis is a little more loose lipped after that, able to speak in one or two word answers, a sentence if Zayn’s lucky. He has a lovely voice, honeysweet and just a little nasally, when he’s nervous. Which is slowly becoming less and less so, as he starts to believe Zayn’s earlier promise. He’s always sweet with him, never pushing boundaries, not wanting the hybrid to panic.

They grow accustomed to each other’s presence, Louis grooming himself as Zayn reads the paper, sitting on the far edge of the counter as he makes meals. They watch tv often, Doctor Who a lot of the time because Louis sometimes gets these little half smiles on his face while he watches, and it’s adorable. As the days go by, they sit closer and closer together, until they’re side by side, not quite touching, but feeling each other’s heat nonetheless.

Louis’ eyes start to droop during one episode, and with a check of the clock Zayn sees that it’s nearing midnight, just past the time he usually goes to bed, as does Louis. (He sleeps on the couch most nights, blanket under his body. He curls up, tail wrapped around himself, fingers twitching as he dreams. It’s lovely, but Zayn wishes he would be closer.) His head lolls after a while and it settles on Zayn’s shoulder, a small sound escaping his lips as he drifts.

Zayn doesn’t move for fear of waking him, and once he deems it safe, he slowly reclines them sideways so they’re lying together, Louis’ head tucked into his neck. He stirs but doesn’t wake, tail simply hooking on Zayn’s hip, soft and warm. They sleep like that all night.

When Zayn wakes, Louis is staring at him with terrified eyes, muscles tense, lip held between his teeth.

“Shh, shh.” Zayn soothes, rubbing his back. “S’okay, it’s just sleeping, nothing more.”

Louis whimpers but nods, seemingly forcing himself to relax a bit.

“D’you wanna stay like this a little bit? S’just cuddling, love. S’nice.” Zayn suggests, risking a small kiss to Louis’ forehead.

That seems to do it and he nods again, pressing his face back into his neck, hiding. Zayn holds him tighter and brings one hand up to gently scratch at his hair, and Louis melts, tail flicking about. It makes Zayn grin, and he scritches behind his kitten ears, and is met with the distinct sound of a purr, vibrating through the both of them.

“That good?” Zayn questions, and the rumbling increases as an answer.

They stay like that for a while.

*

Soon Louis is comfortable with affection. Not lots, but some. Zayn always waits for him to initiate it, never wanting to scare him off. It’s usually after a large glass of milk that he’s most pliant, guard down. He’ll sit beside Zayn if he’s on the couch and will (after a moment or two of hesitation and side eying) head butt his shoulder, nuzzling there slightly. Zayn will lift his arm for the hybrid to fit himself under it, and then he’ll bring his fingers up to his hair, petting and scratching around his ears. Louis’ eyes will fall shut and he’ll purr, quiet at first and then louder as he seems to fall into a trance.

He even sleeps in Zayn’s bed, eventually. On the bottom corner, and above the blankets, but still. His soft breathing lulls Zayn to sleep right away, more comforting than anything else he knows of. And sometimes, on a good day, Louis will poke Zayn awake, tracing his tattoos with soft fingertips, even licking his earlobe when he stubbornly tries to catch some more Zs.

“What’s so urgent that I need to wake up right now?” Zayn groans, turning his face into the pillow. “It’s a Saturday morning, I should be sleeping.”

He hears a high pitched laugh and his eyes snap open to see Louis smirking, and fuck, that’s a good look on him. He says as much, and Louis blushes, eyes flickering away.

“Just wanted to watch telly with you. There’s a Doctor Who marathon on, remember?” His kitten boy asks timidly, gaze hopeful and somewhat fond.

Zayn puts on a smile and forces himself to sit up, wiping the sleep out of his eyes.

“Yeah, alright. D’you want your milk warmed up today?” He questions, and Louis’ ears perk up.

“Yes please.” The hybrid nods, eyes open and unguarded.

Zayn needs to see that more often.

So he makes himself get up, and fixes himself some toast with jam, heated milk for Louis as promised. He walks in to find him on the couch in nothing but boxers and the sleep shirt he wears (it’s one of Zayn’s old ones, paint splattered on it from his artsy days), oversized and hanging off one shoulder. His collarbones look perfect for being marked, but they’re not there yet, and Zayn’s not sure they’ll ever be. That’s okay.

Louis tucks his feet beneath him and takes his mug gratefully, the two of them having breakfast as they watch The Doctor save a civilization. When finished, Louis sprawls across his lap like it’s a normal thing to do (which, for most hybrids it must be, but not him) and when Zayn tentatively reaches down to pet at his stomach, he moves into it, sleepy smile on his lips.

He rubs his tummy until he purrs, and both of them can't seem to wipe the grins off their faces.

*

When Louis meets Liam and Niall, he’s terrified. That much is clear. But Zayn sits him down beforehand, gently stroking his tail until he’s a bit less rigid.

“It’s okay, Lou. They’re nice, they’re like me, alright? They won’t hurt you, I swear.” He explains, but his kitten’s ears are still low, so he adds “I’d never let anyone hurt you, Lou.”

Louis purses his lips but nods, asking “Promise?”

“Promise.”

When the boys arrive, Louis presses himself back against the wall, ears flat, tail hidden, arms around himself. But Zayn introduces them, and plays with Louis’ hair until he leans against him, glancing up to meet their eyes.

“Hey, we’re not going to harm you, Louis.” Liam says. “We have a hybrid too, his name is Harry.”

But at that Louis shrinks backwards with a low whine that turns into a hiss. Zayn holds him tight and lets him hide in his chest.

“No, no, it’s not like that.” Niall tells him. “It’s like you and Zayn, we’d never hurt him, we love him to death.”

Louis peeks out and quietly, almost inaudibly, asks “No? You don’t...?” Have sex with him, is what he’s asking.

Liam and Niall shake their heads.

“Oh. Okay.” Louis stutters. Zayn kisses the back of his ear and his tail flicks.

They end up sitting around and watching a movie, and Louis perches himself in Zayn’s lap, not really participating in conversation, instead grooming himself and occasionally kitten licking Zayn’s neck, though the boy’s not sure whether it’s out of affection or for attention. He doesn’t mind either way.

They have to detach for dinner and Louis disappears then, as the three of them chat and cook in the kitchen. Zayn misses him, but he understands. They have their meal and a drink or two, and then Niall and Liam announce they need to go, should probably get back to Harry because he doesn’t like being alone after the sun’s gone down. Once they’ve left, Zayn goes looking for Louis.

He finds him in his closet, curled up with a few of Zayn’s sweaters. He sits in front of him and Louis pounces, straddling his waist and hugging him, pressing little kisses to his cheek and temple, tongue flicking out here and there.

“Hey, um, what’s. What’s gotten into you?” He asks, caught off guard. Lou pulls back enough to meet his eyes and pouts.

He bumps their foreheads together (something Zayn vaguely remembers is a claiming of sorts), and looks at him like that should be enough of an answer. It isn’t, and the expression on his face must say so, because Louis huffs moodily.

“I don’t like sharing you.” He mumbles. “You’re my owner and I don’t like other people having you.”

He head butts him again, gentle but firm, and Zayn smiles.

“Oh, darling, that’s different. They’re my friends, you’re more than that.” He assures him.

“M’just your pet.” Louis shrugs, tail tickling Zayn’s elbow.

“No, you’re my Louis, and I care about you a lot. Okay? I’d honestly rather be around you than them.” He says, and is surprised when he realizes it’s not a lie, but the complete truth.

Louis smiles and snuggles into his neck, purring lightly.

“Now how about we watch some Doctor Who, yeah? You’ve got me hooked on it.” Zayn says, and gets a swish of Louis’ tail in response.

They curl up together on the sofa and watch episode after episode, content to stay there for as long as they like.

*

Louis is showing so much progress. He’s more open, loose, comfortable. He talks to Zayn when a topic interests him and he’s much happier, eyes crinkling when he smiles, or when he giggles, caught off guard. He likes to cuddle with Zayn, or sit in his lap, or lay there as well. He likes to be touched. So much has changed.

A point that’s further proven when Zayn comes home from classes one day to find him sunbathing on the floor by the window, sprawled out and content, chest rising and falling evenly. He never used to feel safe enough to be out in the open while home alone, but now he clearly is. The sight is stunning, the sun hitting his tan skin and absolutely lighting him up, in all senses of the word. Zayn takes a few pictures before lowering himself down beside him and reaching out to run his fingers through his hair.

But Louis startles awake with a yelp and scurries under the table, eyes scared and lost. Zayn’s heart pangs and he crawls over, hushing him.

“Shh, baby, it’s just me. I’m not going to hurt you, I’d never, you know that.” He says, opening his arms welcomingly. Louis seems to fall out of his fear and he all but throws himself into Zayn’s chest, whimpering.

“Scared me.” He sounds, nudging into Zayn’s jaw.

“I know, I’m sorry.” He tuts, kissing the corner of his ear, where fur meets hair.

“It’s not your fault. It was theirs. I’m just so jumpy now.” Louis mutters, and it’s the first time he’s spoken of it, of the abuse, and Zayn tucks a hand under his shirt to pet at his tummy, hoping it’s reassuring.

“You’re okay now, I took you away from them, they’ll never hurt you again.” Zayn reminds him, feeling his tail wrap round his ankle.

“I know. You saved me. Like my own Doctor.” Louis teases lightly, pressing them all against each other, every available inch.

Zayn’s mouth quirks up proudly as he murmurs “Mm, does that mean you’re my companion?”

Louis pulls back to bump their foreheads, noses brushing. “I think so.” He smiles.

Zayn’s gaze flicks from Louis’ sparkling blue eyes to his soft pink lips and god, he wants to kiss him.

So he does.

Carefully, giving Louis more than enough time to stop it, he leans in close and lets their breath mingle, until the gap is closed. Their lips slot together and Zayn sighs contently into it, feeling Louis tense at first but then relax, moving with him, inexperienced but trying. It only lasts a few moments (Zayn knows he needs to stop it now or he’ll push too far and crush the progress they’ve made), yet when they break apart Louis is panting, eyes dilated.

He comes back to his senses though and quickly brings a hand to his front, covering the buttons of his shirt like he needs to keep them there and- oh. Zayn gently takes that hand in his own and slots their fingers together, nudging their noses at the fear on Louis’ face.

“Hey, no. Nothing you don’t want. Only what you want.” Zayn hushes.

“Promise?” Louis asks sheepishly, ears twitching.

“Promise.”

*

Kisses become fairly regular. A good morning peck, a few throughout the day, and if Louis is especially pliant (after sunbathing, drinking milk, being petted) it’ll go on for quite some time, closed mouthed but passionate, his slender fingers in Zayn’s hair, tail brushing where his shirt’s rucked up. It’s beyond nice. Zayn’s considering skipping half his classes, at this point. Anything to be with Louis more.

One day, he offers to give Louis a bath. Hybrids usually dislike water like cats do, but they’ll shower like a human, keeping it short and every other day, depending on what their owner wants. Zayn’s always left it up to Louis. When he suggests a bath though, Louis shifts uncomfortably.

“Sorry, right, you don’t like water much, do you?” He asks when he sees the reaction.

“No, it’s.” Louis sighs. “It’s not that? I don’t hate water, or baths. It’s just. I’d be. Naked, and. That’s.”

He shrugs, pink in the face as he avoids eye contact. Zayn frowns and holds his hand.

“Sweetheart, you know I’d never do anything you didn’t want, right?” He questions, hooking their thumbs together.

Louis nods, biting his lip. “Yeah, I know. S’just. Bad memories, I guess.”

“Right, so no bath. That’s alright.” Zayn says, but is met with a shake of Louis’ head.

He meets his eyes and shrugs. “I want to try.”

“Okay.” Zayn smiles. “How about I make it a bubble bath? That way you’re not as. Visibly naked.”

Louis smirks embarrassedly, but nods.

“Yeah, alright.”

*

Louis looks beautiful. His hair is wet, making his ears more prominent on the top of his head. He’s all slick tan skin and rosy cheeks and a wet tail resting on the edge of the tub. Zayn went a little overboard with the bubbles, but his hybrid seems comfortable, so he counts it as a job well done. He’s currently laughing at Louis’ unamused expression, after he tries to wet down his hair for the second time.

“Okay, I said I didn’t hate water, that doesn’t mean I particularly like it, either. My hair’s clean.” He pouts, flicking droplets at Zayn with his delicate fingers.

“Almost, bub, just wanna make sure there’s no soap left over. Don’t want your ears to be itchy, now do you?” He clucks, scrubbing them clean.

Louis rolls his eyes (and fuck, he’s so comfortable now, Zayn remembers when he couldn’t even answer him, and now he’s sassy) but heaves a sigh, muttering a tiny “No.”

Zayn smirks and finishes, resting his elbows on the edge to watch as Louis pushes his fringe out of his face, eyelashes thick and damp. His kitten boy catches him staring and leans up to touch their lips together, the first time he’s been the one to initiate it. Zayn responds eagerly, pressing small, fervent kisses between them, and when he breaks away, Louis is dazed.

“You’re so nice.” He states dreamily. “You’re so nice to me. Why are you so nice to me?”

“Because I love you, goofball.” Zayn says as he stands to grab a towel for him. “Wanna take care of you.”

“That’s nice.” Louis whispers.

*

Louis meets Harry the next week. He’s been cautious about it, seemingly against it, but Zayn asks him to please give it a try, for him, and he gives in, of course, kissing him into the couch. When Liam and Zayn arrive, Harry is behind them, ears lowered, eyes dark. He glares at Louis and Louis glares at him, standing half behind Zayn with a hand grasping the back of his sweater.

Guys, be civil.” Liam warns. “There’s no need to get testy.”

“Who said anything about testy?” Harry drawls, raising an eyebrow. (Zayn’s never seen him so confident and dangerous, he’s always been nothing but loving and overly sweet.) “So long as Louis doesn’t try and steal what’s mine, we’re good.”

He places one clawed hand on Niall’s shoulder and the other on Liam’s wrist. Zayn resists the urge to roll his eyes.

“And as long as Harry doesn’t fool himself into thinking he can walk in here and own what I do, we’re good.” Louis counters, and oh, that was cocky and defiant and a warning, and he grips both sides of Zayn’s waist, head on his shoulder.

Though, he can feel the way Louis’ fingers are trembling slightly, still a little scared, so he gives the side of his face a little nuzzle, and doesn’t have to look to know he’s relaxed.

Harry huffs.

“Well, now that we’ve sufficiently been talked about like possessions, how about we order pizza?” Niall asks with a grin.

*

Harry and Louis don’t exactly get along, but they cohabitate in peace. Harry sprawls all over Liam and Niall, constantly asking for affection, smirking smugly over at Louis each time he gets it. But Louis settles in Zayn’s lap and gets his own attention, licking Zayn’s jaw as a silent request. He knows it doesn’t help to give it to him, but he can’t say no. He can never say no to his kitten boy.

This time, Louis answers some of the questions Liam and Niall ask, and while the guys get up to retrieve the pizza, he and Harry even have a brief conversation that they think their owners don't hear (“Where did you come from, then?” “Um. Zayn saved me from these people that. Well. I’m assuming you know.” “I. Yeah, I was never. But I’ve heard about it.” “Mhm.”) and after that, they seem to relax into something more natural.

It’s a good night, overall, and by the time Zayn and Louis topple into bed, they’re exhausted. Louis snuggles into his side and nips at his neck, mumbling “Mine.”

“Course, babe.” Zayn tells him with a kiss to his head.

Louis purrs quietly and they fall asleep holding each other.

*

From there on out, visits with the others are more common, and Harry and Louis learn to get along. Once they realize that Louis only wants his Zayn, and Harry only wants his Niall and Liam, therefore there’s nothing to get territorial over, they become fast friends. Sometimes they’ll groom each other like hybrids often do, though Louis was shy at first, clearly bewildered.

Zayn pulls Harry aside and explains.

“He’s not...He’s damaged, yeah? He’s been through a lot, and it’s kind of changed the way he feels about personal space, and touching, yeah? He’ll come around, but you need to be careful with him, okay?”

Harry nods right away, ears bending in sadness. “Of course, yeah. I’ll be nice with him, I swear.”

And he is, and Louis (with the help of Zayn sneaking a hand down for him to hold while pretending to keep conversation with Niall and Liam) lets Harry lick at his ears, fingers rubbing his shoulders to help him stay calm.

They all sit and watch Doctor Who, fitting together at last.

Zayn’s ecstatic.

*

Kissing progresses to snogging soon enough, Louis letting out little sounds as his cat like tongue curls around Zayn’s own, hands nervously wandering, exploring, feeling. It’s in the middle of a make out session that he decides to tells Zayn that he loves him too, the words turning into a breathless sigh. Zayn beams.

It’s perfect, and Louis is all Zayn wants, all the time, ever, forever. He doesn’t care if that’s not the norm, or not what his parents may have had in mind. He just wakes up one morning, to Louis lying on his stomach, purring under his breath, and that’s it. He’s in love with his hybrid.

He doesn't tell him so, at least not then, because even with all the amazing, incredible progress he’s made, Louis is still Louis. He doesn't want to scare him.

But that’s okay. Because he brings him a warmed glass of milk in bed, and Louis looks at him with utter adoration, and he’s pretty sure the feeling’s mutual.

*

And two weeks later, when they’re snogging each other on the floor, fierce and heated, Louis raises his hips to push against Zayn’s, groins rubbing, and they let out identical (albeit different pitched) moans. Zayn kisses up his neck and chokes out a “Yeah?”

Louis drops his head down and nods, flushed and desperate. “Yeah. Please.”

Zayn brings a hand down and palms over his bulge, watching, entranced, as he mewls, the blue in his eyes almost swallowed by black.

He captures Zayn’s lips once again and says, into his mouth, “Just. You’ll be gentle?”

Zayn bumps their noses, ridiculously sweet for the situation, but it gets an almost drunken giggle of Louis.

“Always. I’ll take care of you.” He tells him.

Louis smiles and asks “Promise?”

Zayn smiles and says “Promise.”

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