Louis has an abusive boyfriend and meets Harry in a flower shop.
Warnings: abuse, mentions of dubcon/noncon, smut.
Title and lyric from Petals From A Fallen Rose by Aura. (Never listened to it, I just needed a good title.)
Louis has always loved flowers. He can never really figure out why. Maybe it’s how pretty they are, or the way they smell. Maybe it’s their bright colors, or delicate petals. Or maybe it’s the way each has a different meaning. He’d spent hours of his childhood out in the garden with his mother, planting new ones and asking about the connotations that came with each. He often picked some for her, and she always told him he would have a happy relationship later in life if he kept up the romance like that.
Now, he laughs at that memory. Because if only his mother knew. If only she knew about the hidden bruises, the scratches, the blood. If only she knew about the abuse he dealt with daily. If only she knew about his boyfriend, Mitch.
Mitch started off sweet. He was caring and loving and protective. He charmed him on their first date, kissed him on the doorstep, fawned over him as their relationship started. They fell in love and moved in together and never fought. Mitch was the man of Louis’ dreams.
Until he wasn’t.
Until his temper got out of control, until he took his anger out on Louis, until that fateful Tuesday where Louis forgot to pick up the car from the shop and Mitch lost it, shouting and hitting him across the face, making him stumble back and try to hold back tears.
He’ll always remember the words Mitch had spoken next. “Don’t tell anyone. Nobody else will ever love you, Louis. You know that.”
And he did.
Louis loves flower shops. They’re pretty and homey and smell perfect, and he could spend hours walking through the rows of flowers. When he finds a new shop downtown, he makes sure to go in. It’s nice, and the flowers are gorgeous, all fresh and nicely arranged. Louis meanders around, smelling the roses, admiring the lilies, touching the daisies.
“Can I help you with anything?” Comes a deep voice, and Louis spins to see a curly haired man, maybe a year or two younger, smiling helpfully with a store apron on.
“Um, no.” Louis says timidly, trying to remember when he became so cautious of people. Well. He knows, deep down.
“Alright, well if you need anything, I’m Harry, and I’ll be up at the cash, yeah?” Harry tells him, and Louis smiles, nodding.
He watches a little too long as the other man walks away.
Louis doesn’t cry. He used to. He used to tear up at every new bruise, every scratch, every cut. But now, he knows better, as that just makes Mitch angrier. And honestly? He’s not sure he knows how to cry anymore.
He got used to the pain. He knows how to cover up marks with makeup, knows which shirts won’t ride up the wrong way. He’s used to this. It’s been happening for months now.
When he doesn’t make Mitch’s pasta perfectly that night, he gets pushed up against the wall and choked.
He sucks Mitch off as an apology.
He stops by the shop again the next day, because he’s starting to think flowers are the only things that make him happy anymore. That man, Harry, is there, and waves at him as he enters. Louis offers a polite smile and loses himself in the plants, inhaling the scent of them.
After a while of walking around, Harry comes up to him and points at the arrangement he’s looking at, white carnations with the tips dyed pink, saying “That’s something popular for funerals. White carnations mean remembrance, and pink means-”
“Gratitude.” Louis interrupts. “Yeah, I know.”
Harry grins at him, dimples flashing on his cheeks. “So you like flowers then?” He questions, and Louis shrugs, wandering in the other direction.
Harry follows him, and he finds himself talking without thinking. “I suppose. I’ve always liked them. They’re just pretty.”
“Very true.” Harry nods. “You wanting anything today, or just here to look?”
“Just look.” Louis says, leaning in to smell some more.
“Lavender.” Harry comments. “Means distrust.”
Louis falters awkwardly and moves on, knowing he’s acting jumpy, but not being able to stop it.
“Mm.” He hums, pointing at more and raising an eyebrow at Harry.
“Sweet pea. Shyness.” Harry provides, and Louis nods.
“Mhm.” He says, walking a little further and pointing again.
“Orchid. Refined beauty.” Harry tells him, not so subtly looking him over.
Louis blushes and keeps going, letting the other man trail behind. “Not bad.” He says, hearing Harry laugh.
“My uncle taught me everything I know. You?” Harry asks, spritzing a few pots with a spray bottle.
“Learned it myself. Library and such.” Louis explains.
“Huh. Never met anyone else who knows as much as me.” Harry smirks, green eyes twinkling.
Louis feels his stomach flutter. He can’t do this, he can’t feel this. He can’t let it happen.
“Yeah, uh, I have to go, but, see you around.” He stutters, hurrying out of the shop and down the street.
He misses Harry and hates himself for it.
Mitch pins him down and fucks him so hard it hurts, and even when he begs for him to stop, it’s no use. The other man falls asleep and Louis lays awake, wondering if Harry would be gentle with him.
But that’s ridiculous. Because he’s with Mitch, and Mitch loves him, and no one else ever could.
“Marigold. Pain or grief, or the desire for wealth.” Louis answers as Harry holds up the flower. The younger man smirks at him and nods proudly, walking a little further down an aisle.
“Okay, but that was kind of easy.” He mumbles, holding up a pot of red chrysanthemums.
“Sharing your love.” Louis says without pause.
“Damn you.” Harry chuckles, setting it down.
He then grabs hibiscus and looks at Louis with a devilish grin.
“Rare beauty.” Louis says, but Harry shakes his head.
“Nope! That’s a common mistake. It’s actually delicate beauty.” Harry tells him, softening his smile and adding “Fragility.”
Louis’ cheeks heat up and he wishes he could undo his high collared top, but knows there’s finger shaped bruises there.
He moves along quickly, focusing on a bouquet of plumeria, meaning a new beginning, by the window.
The first few times Mitch hit him, Louis figured it would stop. Figured it was a phase, figured he was going through a hard time at work. But it never stopped. And no matter what Louis did, no matter how much he pleaded or tried to be strong or yelled, it got worse. And Louis couldn’t fight him off, he was half the size of him.
And he knew he should leave, knew it was abuse, but god, where would he go? He couldn’t go back to his family, and he had no friends, and no one would ever love him. And, of course, he did love Mitch. He loved him with all his heart. Just not when he got violent.
So Louis just tried his best to be what Mitch wanted.
Mitch tells Louis he wants him to lose a few pounds, because he’d be prettier if he did. Louis swallows the lump in his throat and nods, skipping dinner. Mitch kisses him deep and gets him off in the shower, telling him he’s all his.
Louis almost feels loved, until Mitch tells him to clean the kitchen while he watches the game.
Harry greets him with a hug, and a single purple lilac.
“First love?” Louis asks with a raised eyebrow.
“First emotion of love.” Harry says with a wink, and Louis lets himself be led into the back room, where they have tea and chat about life.
He turns down the biscuits Harry offers him.
Louis flinches a lot. He’s so used to anticipating a blow from Mitch that the slightest movement makes him jump, wince away. It’s gotten him some curious looks before, and he tries to tone it down, but he can’t. He has to be able to know when Mitch will get especially angry.
“You have a boyfriend?” Harry asks when Louis lets it slip.
“Um, yeah.” He says, shrugging.
“You love him?” Harry questions, clipping a few wilting flowers.
“Yes.” Louis answers a bit too quickly.
Harry gives him a sidelong glance and leaves it at that, asking him to help water some plants.
Louis starts hanging out with Harry more and more. He heads over to the flower shop nearly every day after his shift at the coffee shop ends, sometimes even staying with Harry until it makes him late getting home. It means Mitch will hit him or shove him up against the door, but. It’s worth it, to have what he has with Harry. What exactly that is, he doesn’t know.
They talk about flowers mostly, but often segway into other topics, like school and literature. Louis doesn't miss the spark in Harry’s eyes when he learns something new about him, and he certainly isn’t unaware of the crackling tension between them when they get too close.
But he has Mitch and Mitch loves him and no one else ever will.
“Do you want to bring your boyfriend some flowers?” Harry asks him one day, and Louis bites his lip.
“Uh, sure, yeah.” He stammers, glancing around at his options.
“Er...” Louis trails off, thinking about it.
“Roses? Something about your devotion?” Harry suggests, standing a little too close to him, allowing Louis to smell his cinnamon cologne.
“No...white tulips. Give me white tulips.” Louis says, knowing full well what he’s doing.
“Forgiveness?” Harry asks skeptically, wariness in his tone. He opens his mouth to say something else, but Louis interrupts.
“Harry, just. White tulips.” He mutters.
“Alright.” Harry nods knowingly, wandering away.
Louis should feel bad, but. He doesn’t. Harry knows what they mean, Louis knows what they mean, but Mitch won’t.
When he gives Mitch the tulips, he whisks him upstairs with light in his eyes Louis hasn’t seen in a while. He giggles happily as they kiss and undress each other, happy to see this Mitch again, his Mitch, the one who doesn’t hit him. The sex is slow, could even be considered making love, and Louis feels his heart beating out of his chest, because maybe he can turn this all around.
But when they’re laying in bed afterwards, Mitch asks “Where’d you get those flowers?”
“A shop downtown I found a while back.” He answers, playing with their fingers in the evening light.
“Oh? You like it there?” Mitch asks, and god, that’s the first time he’s seemed interested in Louis’ life in a long, long time.
“I do, yeah. The owner is nice, we can talk about all the flowers together.” Louis says without thinking.
“Is that where you’ve been spending so much of your time?” Mitch asks, and there’s coldness in his tone that’s far too familiar. Louis tenses.
“And does the owner like you?” Mitch asks, turning to look at Louis fiercely, eyes regaining that darkness.
“I, I don’t know? Maybe? It doesn’t matter, he’s just a friend-” Louis stutters, but is cut off.
“Just a friend. Uhuh. I bet he’s trying to steal you.” Mitch tells him, getting off the bed to pace.
“Harry’s not trying to steal me.” Louis shakes his head, standing up as well.
“Well I don’t give a shit, Louis. You’re not allowed to see Harry anymore. You’re banned from there, you hear me?” Mitch raises his voice, and Louis feels anger flare in him.
“You can’t ban me-” He says, but a fist collides with his face and he falls to the floor, crying out in pain.
“I can and I am. You won’t set foot in that shop again, you understand me? You don’t disobey me.” Mitch spits, and Louis whimpers.
He scoots back to sit against the chest of drawers, breathing hard, trying hard not to hiss as he covers the spot that will surely be a purple bruise within hours.
“Do you understand me?” Mitch repeats angrily.
“Yes.” Louis says, voice cracking. “I’m sorry.”
“You better be.” The other man growls. “You shouldn’t upset the only person who’ll ever love you.”
“I know.” Louis whispers.
Louis can never decide if he loves Mitch, or is scared of him. He supposes it’s both. Because he loves him, yes, but not like he used to. He doesn’t get butterflies, he doesn’t feel his heart skip a beat. Now he’s just obedient and scared and very, very careful. There’s lots of days where he wants to leave. But there’s lots of reasons why he can’t.
Louis shouldn’t go back to the shop.
Louis goes back to the shop.
He’s covered his bruise with makeup like he’s done many times before, and Harry lights up when he sees him. He hurries through the empty shop (it’s almost always empty) to pull him into a tight hug that Louis falls into. He knows he shouldn’t get attached to someone who’ll leave when they find out his problems, but...there’s something about Harry.
“Hey! Did boyfriend like the flowers?” Harry asks, and Louis knows the younger man feels him tense up.
“Yeah, he did.” Louis half-lies, and Harry doesn’t push.
“So I got a new shipment in,” He begins, leading Louis back through the aisles, “and I ordered something special for you.”
“You did?” Louis asks in surprise, feeling his heart jump.
“Yeah, I figured you’d like them. C’mere.” Harry says, pointing to a beautiful pot of white and yellow flowers, something he’s never seen before.
“Oh, Harry, these are gorgeous.” He says, picking them up to get a better look.
“Yeah? You know what they are? What they mean?” Harry questions eagerly, and Louis shakes his head.
“No, I actually don’t.” He mumbles, setting them back down.
“Aha!” Harry laughs, and Louis rolls his eyes.
“Oh shut up. Tell me?” He asks, playfully pouting.
“Narcissus. They usually mean unrequited love. But in classical Persian literature, they often mean beautiful eyes.” Harry tells him, flushing a slight pink color.
Louis blushes as well, shifting awkwardly and smelling the white and yellow flowers as a distraction. “Well, they’re really pretty, Harry.”
“I’m glad you like them. I want you to take them, yeah? As a gift.” Harry tells him, and Louis feels guilt hit hard.
“I, I can’t.” He stammers, wincing.
“Yes you can-”
“No, I mean I actually can’t.” Louis insists, watching as Harry deflates slightly.
“Why?” The younger man asks, biting his lip.
“I...I kind of promised Mitch I wouldn’t come here anymore.” Louis admits shamefully, biting his fingernail.
“You did?” Harry asks, voice hurt. Louis wishes he could take it back. But lying to Harry is something he doesn't want to do.
“Yeah, he. He’s really overprotective?” He tries, but Harry is looking sadder and sadder.
“Mhm.” He hums.
“I. I’m sorry, Harry.” Louis whispers, but Harry turns away and pretends to fix a bouquet.
“S’fine. Go home to him. Don’t want him worrying.” Harry says.
Louis should argue.
Louis doesn’t argue.
When he gets home, he makes Mitch dinner and a special dessert, trying to make everything up to him. But the bigger man just orders him to get on his knees, which he does quickly, knowing better than to argue. Mitch fucks his face until he’s crying and choking, and then shoves him on his way out of the room.
Louis sits on the floor for a long time.
Louis pauses outside the flower shop on his way home the next day, but doesn’t go in.
Mitch is more and more violent, leaving bruises on Louis’ legs and chest, scratches on his back. Louis does his best to be good for him, make him nice again, but he can’t, nothing is enough. Mitch finds a reason to be mad at him, to fuck him hard against the wall, to throw a glass at him during dinner.
Louis finds himself thinking about Harry all the time, thinking about his soft brown curls, his emerald eyes, his pink lips. He thinks about his laughter and his care, and wonders if maybe there really was something there, something he could have had, but ruined his chances.
But those thoughts are gone when Mitch walks into the room and tells him to strip.
Louis can’t stay away from Harry, even though he knows the younger man wants him to. He stops by a different flower place and gets a hyacinth for him. When he gets to the shop, Harry is grooming an arrangement, watering hose in hand as he squirts different plants.
“Those look good.” Louis says, and Harry whips around, eyes wide.
“I guess.” He mumbles, crossing his arms.
“I, um.” Louis stammers, cheeks pinking. “I’m really sorry.”
Harry sighs and walks towards him. “Hyacinth?” He asks, raising an eyebrow as Louis hands the flower over.
“Sincerity.” Louis shrugs. “Cause I mean it, Harry. I’m sorry.”
“Can you at least explain it to me, then?” Harry asks, running his fingers through his curls.
“I, uh.” Louis stammers again. “No?”
“No?” Harry asks, eyes hardening again.
“I can’t, I just, I.” Louis struggles to get out, but Harry is already stalking off, going to water other plants.
“See ya, Lou.” He mutters.
“Harry, wait!” Louis says before he knows what he’s doing. He walks over and tries to ignore the way his heart feels like it might burst, instead focussing on the hopeful look in Harry’s eyes.
He grabs the hose out of Harry’s fingers and sprays some water into his hand, reaching up to scrub at his jaw, where a dark mark has been for days. The makeup washes off to reveal the bruise and he looks at Harry timidly, hoping he understands, because god, he can’t say it out loud.
“Mitch..?” Harry trails off, voice quiet.
Louis nods, a whimper escaping him involuntarily.
“Oh fuck.” Harry lets out before he pulls Louis into a tight hug, kissing the side of his head. “I’m so sorry, I’m sorry, shit, sorry.”
“No, you didn’t do anything wrong, I just. I can’t get him mad.” Louis admits into Harry’s neck, inhaling his scent and clinging to him.
“I know, I know.” Harry says. “God, are you okay?”
“I’m fine, Harry.” Louis sighs, pulling back to watch Harry falter.
“I. How often does he. I mean.” He tries to ask, and Louis winces.
“Let’s not talk about it.” He mumbles.
Harry looks like he wants to argue, but instead he slumps in defeat, taking Louis’ hand (which may or may not make his heart flutter) and leading him through the rows of flowers. He stops in front of a pot of aster, clipping a few and tying them together with string from his apron pocket.
He hands them to Louis, who smiles softly at him. “Trust?”
“Trust. Also understanding and contentment. I can give you that, you know.” Harry says with a shrug. Louis lifts the small bouquet and smells them, looking at him over the top of the purple petals.
“Okay.” He whispers.
Harry helps him cover up the bruise again and lets him leave, knowing he needs to get home to Mitch. Before he can go though, he hugs Louis tight and doesn’t let go for a long while.
“If you ever need me, you come here, alright? I live in the flat above the shop, so I’m here all the time, just. If you need me, please come.” Harry tells him, and Louis sighs.
“You know I can’t do that. He’d kill me.” Louis says.
“I’d protect you.” Harry urges, rubbing his back.
“He’d kill you and then he’d kill me.” Louis mutters, regretfully pulling back to see Harry teary eyed. He feels weird having the other boy cry and not him.
“Shit, just. Stop by tomorrow please. I need to know you’re okay. You have to come see me.” Harry begs, eyes desperate.
“I will. I promise.” Louis nods, taking a risk and kissing Harry on the cheek.
“Okay. Go, you don’t wanna be late.” The younger man says with a blush.
“No, I don’t.” Louis sighs.
Mitch isn’t so bad that night, and Louis only has a small bruise on his wrist the next day. He heads over to the flower shop right after his shift at his coffee place and is immediately pulled into a bone crushing hug by Harry.
“Oh, good, you’re okay, I was so worried, I just.” He rambles, cutting off when he pulls away to examine Louis. “Did he hurt you?”
“No.” Louis says, and it’s not really a lie, he supposes.
“No?” Harry asks, unimpressed.
“Not badly.” Louis allows, walking past him to examine a new arrangement on the display table.
“And what does that mean?” Harry asks, following him.
“It means that I don’t want to have this discussion, Harry. Can we just drop it?” He asks pathetically, squeezing his eyes shut and willing his heart to slow down.
“I can’t just drop it, Louis, he’s hurting you and-”
“And he loves me!” Louis interrupts loudly. “He loves me and I love him and I have to stay with him.”
They’re silent for a moment, before Harry asks “Why?”
“Because I’ll never find anyone else.” Louis whispers, fiddling with a fallen leaf.
“Leave it. Are we making those rose bouquets for that wedding, or what?” He asks, regaining composure and turning to Harry expectantly.
“I, uh, yeah.” Harry stutters, walking towards the back.
Louis follows and they make the bouquets without talking, simply listening to the radio and sneaking looks at each other.
Louis comes back the next day, and the next. He’s terrified that Mitch will find out, but he can’t stay away from Harry, he just can’t. Harry is everything he wants, everything he needs, even if actually having it is impossible.
He slowly starts feeling more relaxed around him, starts letting him in. Not too much, because he doesn’t want him to leave, but more than anyone else. He doesn’t worry about rolling up his sleeves and having Harry see the bruises. He doesn’t feel shame when Harry reaches for something and he flinches away quickly, noting the sad look on the other man’s face. He no longer tenses when Harry touches him, whether it be a hand on the small of his back, a squeeze of his shoulder, a brush of their hands.
Because Harry is gentle and kind and caring, and he’s so, so special. Louis could listen to him talk forever, and he hates that he has to leave each day to go back to Mitch, who is the absolute opposite.
But Harry makes him smile anyways, greeting him each day with a new flower and an explanation that he usually already knows. Gladiolas for strength, larkspur for beautiful spirit, sunflowers for adoration. Each time, Louis will blush and say thank you with a kiss to Harry’s cheek, before they begin their work for the afternoon.
Louis forgets to pick up crisps on the way home and Mitch punches him in the stomach, leaving him doubled over and gasping for air.
It hurts to walk, move, breathe. Everything hurts, but Louis still goes to see Harry, because he has to, he has to see him. Harry hugs him tight and he cries out in pain, making the younger boy pull back frantically.
“How bad did he hurt you? Fuck, Louis, what’s wrong?” Harry asks, and Louis just leans against the wall, trying to breathe.
“I don’t know.” He stammers. “I think he bruised my ribs.”
“Lou, god, I’m taking you to the hospital.” Harry tells him, and Louis panics.
“No, no, no.” He chants, but Harry sighs and steps a foot away to clip off a few little pink flowers.
“Yes.” Harry says, handing him the nice smelling flowers. “Healing. Yeah?”
“I read that Eglantine roses meant sweetness.” Louis comments, trying not to move too much.
“They can. C’mon, love.” Harry says, taking his hand and leading him carefully out the door.
Louis has been to the hospital a few times since Mitch started getting violent. Once for a sprained wrist, then again for a concussion. Both times, he lied and said he fell, and though they probably didn’t believe him, no one pressed the issue. Louis was thankful, because nobody could ever know.
His ribs are indeed minorly bruised.
The doctor wraps them and informs him of the care procedures, prescribing him pain medication as well. When he asks Louis how he got injured, Louis doesn’t hesitate to say “I fell down the stairs.”
“You did?” The doctor asks, raising a knowing eyebrow. “It looks more like you got punched, as the bruising is focused in one area. You being honest?”
Louis glances over to Harry, and knows he’ll be disappointed, but. He can’t do it.
“Yes. I hit the railing, that’s why it looks like that.” He says.
Nobody believes him, but they don’t push.
Harry drops him back at his place and he kisses his cheek before hurrying up to his and Mitch’s flat, not wanting anyone to see. Mitch is already home though, and Louis’ heart sinks, watching him saunter over.
“You’re late.” He comments casually, but Louis knows he’s anything but.
“Sorry.” Louis says.
“Were you at that flower shop again? With Harry?” Mitch questions, crossing his arms.
“No.” Louis whispers, backing up till he hits the wall.
“Then where were you?” Mitch asks, walking closer, eyes threatening.
“The hospital.” Louis manages to say, feeling fear fill him as Mitch puts a hand on each side of his head against the wall.
“Why?” He asks, raising an eyebrow.
“You bruised my ribs last night. I had to get treated.” Louis answers, avoiding eye contact and turning his head to the side.
Mitch presses in closer until Louis is pinned. “And what did you tell them happened?”
“I fell down the stairs.” Louis tells him hopelessly.
“That’s right, you did.” Mitch says, pulling away and leaving without another word.
Louis slumps against the wall and wonders when he became such a shell of himself.