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Louis wakes alone. He supposes he should have seen that coming. Still – it would have been nice not to be by himself after losing his virginity. Though Louis supposes it would have been nice if most of this never happened. Sure, there were a few moments in there that felt good. The multiple orgasms were nice. And the kissing.   

But now Louis is alone. And he can’t help but feel that his entire life is over. He’s mated to an alpha he’s met once.

Oh god he thinks, swinging his body into a sitting position and swallowing against the bile rising in his throat. If his suppressants failed – he could be pregnant.

            “Oh god,” he exhales. His heart gives two twisted thumps as he forces himself to keep breathing.

He’d always thought that he would have children, of course. He’s loved babies since his first sister was born. And the twins were just lovely. They ran in the family after all. But still…twins with his boss’ son. He feels ill.

Louis should never have taken this job. He should have just stayed home with his mum; they’d have made it somehow.

 

He glances around the room, actually taking it in for the first time. There are no clothes on the floor, no personal items on the dresser, it’s pristine. Louis realizes it must be one of the spare bedrooms.

He doesn’t see his phone anywhere. Louis inhales and exhales deeply again. All he wants to do is call his mum and cry until he feels better. Crying isn’t an option right now. He needs a shower, then some clothes, then he supposes he’ll have to face his mate.

Harry’s in the dining room, he isn’t eating. His laptop is sitting closed in front of him, his hair pulled back neatly in a bun.

Louis wonders if he closed it when he heard Louis on the stairs or if he’s just been sitting there like that. Louis feels wretched, like an imposter.
It doesn’t help that he’s wearing Harry’s clothes.

            “Sit,” Harry says, “please.” His jaw tics.

Louis doesn’t want to move any closer. Still, he creeps into the room and sits as far away as possible.

The screech of the chair on the floor makes his ears ache.

There’s a throb in his temples at the following beat of silence but Louis doesn’t move to touch them, much as he wants to.

“How many siblings do you have?” Harry asks. His tone is polite, still perfectly formal.

Louis knows how he growls when he’s knotting someone. It’s not the time to think of that now.

 

Harry opens his laptop, fingers swiping over the touchpad to wake it.

            “Sorry?” Louis manages. Croaks, really.

            “Siblings, Louis,” Harry repeats, tightly. “How many siblings do you have?”

            “I,” Louis pauses to frown, “five,” he admits. “Why?”

At this Harry rolls his eyes before licking over his teeth.

            “For the house,” he says, “obviously.”

It wasn’t obvious, not to Louis.

            “The house?”

            “Don’t play stupid with me, Louis. We both know you aren’t.”

 

Louis shouldn’t say anything to that.

Be quiet he thinks be a good omega.

            “You don’t know me,” he protests, he has to.
He keeps his words soft but he has to say something.

            “I know enough,” Harry says. He doesn’t make it sound like a good thing. “Can anyone share rooms?” he asks next.

Louis huffs out an irritated breath.

            “I don’t follow.”

            “Five siblings, you, me, your mother,” Harry ticks off. “Eight bedrooms is a bit much.”

            “What house?”

Didn’t he ask that already?

            “Louis,” Harry nearly shouts it, making Louis flinch back. “The house,” he says. “Our house – my house. The house I will be buying to care for your family. You’re not foolish enough to expect us to share a bed.”

            “Why are you buying a new house? Don’t you live here?”

Harry slams his laptop closed, the other hand coming up to pinch at the bridge of his nose. He remains like that as he speaks again.

            “Obviously I will provide for my mate. And my mate’s family. Is it not what you expected? Is it not why you planned this?”

 

Louis’ entire body runs cold. Bile rolls up his throat and he’s too paralyzed to even swallow it back down. It floods onto his tongue and Louis chokes, swallowing the bitter liquid desperately. All he needs is to throw up onto Harry’s table.

            “Planned?” he echoes weakly. “I didn’t – I wouldn’t.”

Harry inhales deeply enough for Louis to hear across the table. He drops his left hand and clasps them both in his lap. Then he takes another moment to control himself before speaking again.

            “Right,” Harry says, acerbic. “As if your sole job as an omega isn’t to ensure that you are on your suppressants so that this doesn’t happen.”

            “I only missed three days,” Louis protests. Too late he thinks he shouldn’t have admitted that out loud.

            “So you knew,” Harry demands, “you knew you were off your pills? And yet you still left your house? You still came here?”

To an unmated alpha goes unsaid.

            “Three days isn’t enough,” Louis protests. “You have to miss more-”

            “Clearly not.”

 

Louis wants to cry. He still thinks he might be ill.

“It’s done now,” Harry says after another calming breath. “I will do my duty. We can only hope no child comes from it.”

            “Ever?” Louis can’t help but choke out.

Harry’s lip curls in disdain.

            “You can’t possibly ask more of me,” he says.

Tears spill down Louis’ cheeks and he inhales sharply, surprised.

“Please contain yourself,” Harry adds. There’s no emotion in his voice at all, as if he’s speaking to a complete stranger. Wishing them a good day or something asinine like that.

 

He opens his laptop again.

            “Now, can anyone share rooms?”

            “The twins,” Louis manages, rubbing at his cheeks. “The twins can.”
He exhales carefully. “Seven bedrooms if you want a guest room.”

Louis tries to look on the bright side. His family will be taken care of. It’s fine. He can handle this.

Harry continues to type quietly and slowly it sinks in – Louis won’t be able to tell his mum what happened. Not if he doesn’t want her worrying about him for the rest of her life. He certainly can’t tell his sisters. How would he even explain it? They’re supposed to look up to him.

God, how did this happen?

Louis doesn’t know what to do and he feels terribly alone.

 

            “I’ll have it sorted soon,” Harry promises, closing his laptop again before standing.

Harry sighs again.

Louis wants to echo him but also doesn’t dare. He bites at the inside of his cheek before opening his mouth.

            “Will you hate me forever, then?”

            “Yes,” Harry says simply.
He turns to leave without another word, boots clicking on the floor.

Louis isn’t sure how to approach this situation. He’s standing on his doorstep, freshly showered and in clean clothes. And he doesn’t want to dig his key out and open his door.

How’s he going to tell his mum? What is he going to tell her?

Louis closes his eyes and breathes out. It’s early afternoon and the girls are still in school. He needs to do this now. Louis breathes in again and tugs his keys free of his pocket. Within five seconds he’s through the door.

Their house is small, cosy as anything. It’s Louis’ favorite place in the entire world. However, Louis only gets about a second and a half to enjoy it.

His mum is already bustling out of the kitchen, hair pulled up and bright yellow gloves all the way up to her elbows.

            “Lou!” she cries out. “There you are!”

Louis swallows with some difficulty.

            “Hey, Mum.”

            “Where have you been? We were all worried sick!”

He doesn’t know how she hasn’t already smelled the change in his scent. Maybe all she can smell is the cleaner.

            “Mum…” he sighs. Nothing else comes out.

She stops nearly a foot away, hands propping on her hips before her face crumples.

            “I don’t know why I said that,” she sighs. “I already know what happened.”

 

He feels so small and yet so relieved in that same moment.

            “You do?” he asks.

            “You went into heat,” she says.

Louis nods.

His mum sighs and then she nods as well.

“It’ll be all right Lou,” she says, “somehow.” She nods, almost as if she’s reassuring herself.
“Let’s have a cuppa, hm?”

They don’t speak as she makes the tea and as much as Louis wants to abandon the kitchen entirely, he stays.

She hands him his cup before gesturing to the living room.

It’s a short walk obviously, small house, but Louis still drags his feet and makes it last.

“I suppose you’re beating yourself up about missing those three days?” his mum asks.

 

Louis hesitates to answer, flopping down onto their sofa.

            “You even reminded me to take them.”

His mum settles next to him, free hand patting his knee.

            “Oh, Love,” she says, “I need to tell you something.”

She takes a large swallow of tea, wincing at the heat, before settling the cup on her leg and meeting his eyes again.

“It’s my fault,” she says.

            “What?” Louis asks.

Sure, his mum had forgotten to go to the pharmacy, thus why Louis had left for work without taking his suppressants with him. But he could have come home either night to get it. He’d chosen not to.

            “I needed medicine for your sisters,” his mum adds, very quietly.

Louis has only heard her like this twice before in his life. When her mother passed away and when his father left.

            “Right.”

            “I,” she pauses to sigh again. “I didn’t have the money, Lou.”

 

Louis feels his stomach sinking. If he’d started working earlier he could have helped more. Lots of omegas worked – his family didn’t have the luxury for him to stay home.

            “I sold a week’s worth of your suppressants,” his mum admits, shocking a gasp from Louis. “I know,” she says immediately, “I know and I’m so sorry Louis.”

Louis’ mind is buzzing.

            “I took pills though,” he says, numb.

She nods at this.

            “Aspirin.”

Sure, he’d known missing three days wasn’t enough to cause a heat. Maybe a pregnancy but not a heat. Ten days…that was a different story.

His mum is quiet then, letting him process. She settles her cup on the coffee table before dabbing at her eyes carefully.

            “Mum, it’s all right. I understand.”

She sobs quietly then, covering her eyes.

            “I’m so sorry, baby.”

            “I understand,” Louis repeats. “It’s really okay. Harry’s…he’s lovely.”


Louis abandons his tea as well, scooting closer to his mum to hug her tightly.

“You did the right thing,” he says. “I would have given you the pills if you’d told me.”

            “And then you could have stayed home and this all could have been avoided,” his mum cries, wrapping her arms around him too. “But I was too ashamed.”

            “It’s all right, Mum, promise. Harry’s nice and he’s rich. He’s buying us a house.”

            “I can’t just send you away with him,” his mum pulls back to protest.

            “No, like, he’s buying all of us a house.”

His mum’s eyes go wide.

            “Oh,” she says. “I didn’t know they were that rich.”

            “Apparently they are,” Louis laughs. “Could have been worse.”

            “Is he treating you alright?”

 

Louis hesitates too long. He should have answered immediately.

“I’ll tell him what happened,” his mum says, “I won’t let him treat you poorly.”

            “He doesn’t,” Louis protests then, “he’s just a bit cold – justifiably. But he’s polite. He won’t harm me.”

            “I can’t do this to you.”

            “You can’t tell him,” Louis shakes his head. “It was illegal.”
Louis takes a breath.
“We can’t lose you, Mum.”

            “Lou…”

            “It’ll be fine, promise.”

Louis waits until the next day to call Zayn. With everything going on he doesn’t really have the energy for anyone else.

Of course, Zayn’s phone rings through to voicemail. Louis rolls his eyes before calling again. This time it rings four times before Zayn picks up.

            “Lou?” he asks, groggy with sleep.

Louis laughs once.

            “Hey,” he says, “sorry to call.”

            “It’s fine,” Zayn says. He pauses. “What’s up?”

Louis reminds himself this isn’t something he should say over text. It’s important life altering shit.

            “I have good news,” he starts with, “sort of.”

Zayn doesn’t say anything to that, waiting.

“I’m moving closer to the city,” Louis adds. “Well – my mate is buying us a house.”

There are two precise beats of quiet.

            “Your mate?”

            “The funny thing about heats is-”

            “You went into heat?” Zayn demands.

 

Louis flops down, landing softly in the clothes that are currently piled up on his bed.

            “Yeah,” he says.

To his credit, Zayn doesn’t ask.

            “Anyone I know?” he asks instead.

Louis can’t hold back a sigh.

            “Harry Styles,” he admits.

            “The guy that’s too tall for you?” Zayn laughs. “Really?” He sounds half amused, half disbelieving.

            “It wasn’t an inaccurate statement.”

            “He bit you?” Zayn asks after another moment. “Why?”

            “It’s what alphas do, isn’t it?”

Of course, if Harry hadn’t bitten him a bond might not have formed. He might not have claimed Louis. It isn’t certain though.
At this point they are mates. Legally – Louis is bound to Harry.

 

His stomach twists a bit at the thought of it. There’s no telling what will happen. If they live together they’ll most likely end up bonding further, especially with Harry’s ruts. The more they mate the higher the chances the bond will become permanent. But if Harry’s determined to hate him…
Then of course there’s the bond to contend with as well. If the one they’ve formed continues to grow they’ll be connected more deeply than anyone else in Louis’ life. They’ll be able to feel some of the other’s emotions, even if they’re physically separated.

Louis used to think it sounded romantic. Now the thought of it sets his teeth on edge.

            “Louis,” Zayn says. By the tone of his voice it isn’t the first time.

            “Sorry,” Louis blurts. “Lots on my mind.”

            “You need any help?”

            “No,” Louis sighs. He forces a quick smile. “I’ll be fine.”

It becomes Louis’ mantra over the next two weeks as he packs up his entire life to move in with his mate.

Harry hardly speaks to him. In fact, there’s a lot of texting.

Louis is perfectly okay with this. It makes it a bit easier to pretend all of this isn’t happening.

The girls are thrilled to be moving into a larger house and Louis tries to focus on that.

He can do this. It could be a lot worse. He can do this.

Louis wasn’t expecting Harry to be at the house when they arrive. He’s disappointed though, because not only is Harry there but he comes outside to meet everyone.

He opens both arms to hug Louis’ mum, even dropping a kiss on her cheek.

            “It’s so lovely to meet you,” he says smoothly, smiling deep enough for a dimple to pop in his cheek.

Louis hates how pretty he is. He also hates that Harry will never smile at him like that.

            “Well,” Louis’ mum says, clearly taken aback. “It’s nice to meet you as well Mr Styles.”

            “Harry,” he says, “please.”

            “Call me Jay,” his mum answers.

Louis wonders if he should call Harry Mr Styles.

            “And these are the rest of your lovely children,” Harry says, turning to Louis’ sisters.

His sisters are slowly introduced to Harry, between themselves and Louis’ mum.

Louis hasn’t said a word the entire interaction. He doesn’t even think Harry’s looked at him. It’s alright though, Louis can do this.

 

He focuses on the house instead. It’s ridiculous. Huge even from where they’re standing.
There’s a Range Rover parked in the driveway. Fuck’s sake.

            “Please,” Harry says, “come inside. I’ll give you a tour.”

As if they have an option.

Still, Louis doesn’t say anything as they all follow Harry in.

His mum hangs back with him, looping an arm around his shoulders. She kisses his temple and Louis is endlessly thankful for her.     

            “Looks nice,” she whispers.

Louis hums in agreement.

            “This is the mud room,” Harry says, motioning inside as he holds the door for everyone. “Feel free to take your shoes off, if you like.”

Harry keeps his smile pasted on as Louis and his mum pass. Then he follows Louis in and Louis nearly shivers as the door closes and flings Harry’s scent into the house with them.

“Straight ahead we have the kitchen and breakfast nook, then the family room. Dining room, library, and bedrooms to the left. Three bedrooms upstairs, I thought for the girls?”

Harry looks to Louis’ mum.
Louis edges away from her and into the hallway.

            “I’m sure that would be fine,” she agrees.

            “The basement has lots of space, even though it isn’t all finished. There are bedrooms and an area for an entertainment room down there. Maybe a gym too. Thought it would give you some privacy,” he continues, still looking at her.

            “I’m sure,” she says again.

 

She flicks a glance to Louis.
He still stays silent even though he’s sure they’re wondering the same thing. Where will he be sleeping?

            “You could help the girls pick their rooms?” Harry suggests then, gesturing to the stairs.

            “Um,” his mum hesitates.

            “I’ll show Louis his room.”

            “Great,” Louis cuts in, watching his toes, “can’t wait to see it.” He exhales quickly and glances to his mum. “Help the girls pick out their rooms.”

            “Okay, let’s go girls.”

His sisters let out cheers, bolting for the stairs.
Laughing softly, Louis’ mum follows.

            “Stairs going down are this way,” Harry says.

Louis only hesitates a moment before following behind Harry.

Harry points out the entertainment room and the door for storage before showing Louis what his mum’s room will be.

“And through here,” Harry says opening another door, “is you.”

He stands back, letting Louis go into the room first.

 

There are two tiny windows across from the door, letting a scant amount of light in. Louis is horrified to see exposed beams and wall insulation. The room isn’t finished. Not to mention it looks like a dungeon.

Louis closes his eyes and takes exactly five seconds to breathe. He supposes it’s what Harry thinks he deserves. Louis can take it. He can do this.

 

After another moment of steeling his nerves, Louis heads back out to face Harry.

            “I suppose you wouldn’t mind if I put some posters up?”

Harry watches him, brow pinched.

            “No complaints?” he says.

Louis shrugs.

            “It’s your house.”

            “Our house,” Harry corrects.

If this is some sort of test to see if Louis really was expecting to be pampered, Harry has to be disappointed by his reaction. So, Louis doesn’t bother arguing, even though he has no desire to claim this as his house.  

“You did this for your family.”

            “I didn’t do this,” Louis says. “But I suppose it’s pointless to try and convince you.”

            “Yes,” Harry says, “it is. But at least I can respect your motives.”

Louis sighs. Again, he doesn’t argue.

“This isn’t actually your room,” Harry admits. “I’m not a monster.”

            “I didn’t say you were.”

 

They watch each other a moment and Louis bites down on the inside of his cheek to keep himself from saying anything else. Harry can keep testing him as long as he wants – he’ll never be able to prove what he thinks of Louis.

            “You’re on the main floor, down the hall from me,” Harry finally says.  

Louis can’t hide his relief. He doesn’t really try to.

            “Thank you,” he sighs.

            “Yeah,” Harry says, “we can go back to not speaking now.”

He heads back for the stairs without another word.

            “Right,” Louis mutters to himself, “that could have gone worse.”

He glances back to the dungeon before shivering and making his way to the stairs too.

 

Once Louis makes it back upstairs the girls are on the couches in the living room, arguing over paint colors.

            “You can have a sleepover in the basement while they’re being painted,” Harry suggests.

Louis has trouble breathing.

            “Sorry,” he says, “which one is mine?”

            “Down that hall,” Harry says, pointing, “last door before the bend.”

Louis nods before going to find it. He just needs a moment alone. Just a moment.
He can do this.

 

Louis’ room is wonderful. Even better when he closes the door and can’t hear anything happening beyond it. He’s sure it’s not totally soundproof but there’s certainly some dampening material within the walls. Louis breathes out.

He feels like he actually has privacy. It’s more than he expected. Probably more than he deserves. The room is already furnished and Louis crosses to the bed before sitting. He flops backwards, legs still hanging off the end.

This will all be fine. Somehow.

 

Harry suggests ordering takeout for dinner while they unpack. Of course, no one has a problem with this.

Louis and his mum tag team helping the girls. Then they break for dinner.

His mum helps him unpack next and Louis can’t quite control his emotions once they’re both in his room with the door closed.

            “All right, love?” his mum asks.

Louis shakes his head before nodding.

            “I’m okay,” he sniffles, “I can do this.”

            “He’s pleasant,” his mum says.
She rubs circles on his back.
“At least.”

            “I know,” Louis says. “I feel bad for even complaining.”

            “You also got saddled with a mate that you don’t know.”

            “That doesn’t want me,” Louis finishes.

One tear slips out and then another.

“I’m okay,” he says again.

His mum tuts and hugs him tighter anyway.

            “I love you, darling,” she says, “this will all work out. I know it.”

            “It will,” Louis agrees.

He’s not sure it’s true but he hopes.

A week later Louis’ life doesn’t feel any more real than it did the first day they moved in.

Harry’s hired a driver for his family and even offered to take care of everything so Louis’ mum can stop working.

It feels too good to be true. Harry’s too good. Louis is still waiting for the other shoe to drop – he can’t really help it though. Things don’t just work out like this. Surely, it isn’t going to last.

At some point, Harry has to actually start punishing Louis. Maybe he’s only being this nice so Louis will feel bad and punish himself? Is Harry that devious? Louis can’t be sure.

It isn’t like he can come out and ask Harry about it either. How would that conversation go? Hey remember when I trapped you into a possible lifelong bond? Are you still mad about that or are we cool now? Yeah, Louis doesn’t think so.

 

On top of all that, Louis doesn’t know what he’s going to do with himself now. Obviously his job as a house sitter for the Styles’. It wasn’t like he had any huge plans before but now his career options are even worse.

The part he is dreading the most is asking Harry. Now that they’re mates he’ll need Harry’s permission to do… well as much as Harry wants to control honestly. Harry taking them all in is great, save that.

Even if Louis wants to attempt to break the bond where will his family go? Where will he go? Harry obviously has zero interest in Louis being his mate.

Still, something is keeping Louis from bringing it up. Fear of the answer he supposes.

 

But Louis can’t actually stay home with his mum and help with the girls. Not all day, every day. Louis loves his family more than anything, he does, but he needs to do something for himself too.

Which brings him to where he’s pacing outside Harry’s office. It’s almost directly across the door to his bedroom so at least he’ll be able to make a quick escape.

The girls are in the living room watching a movie. His mum is at the store. It’s the perfect time for Louis to talk to Harry.

He just has to string together a single sentence without stumbling over his thoughts. Not a big deal. Right Louis thinks. Just do it. He huffs at himself before turning back to the door and stepping closer to knock.

Instead, the door swings open. Harry jerks back in surprise, Louis very nearly doing the same.

            “Christ,” Harry says, “can I help you?”

 

For a moment Louis tries to think about the last time they actually spoke. He’s drawing a blank.

            “Um, I wondered if we could talk?”

            “What?” Harry asks, crossing his arms before leaning in the doorway. “Do you need money?”

            “No,” Louis says immediately. Then, “Well, sort of. I guess.”

Harry doesn’t look impressed.

 

            “I’m bored,” Louis blurts out. “I mean,” he corrects, glancing down, “I wanted to get a job or something.”

            “Or something?” Harry questioned. “Like me paying for your uni?”

Louis feels himself flushing.

            “No,” he manages, horribly embarrassed. “I’m-no. Wasn’t really planning on uni.”

            “Which would be why you’re here.”

            “I just want a job,” Louis insists, anger sparking in his belly. “Something to do that isn’t sitting around here feeling like-”

            “A trophy wife?” Harry suggests, “Or worse?”

Louis grits his teeth. Harry isn’t wrong. And Louis doesn’t necessarily blame him for being a dick either.

            “Can I get a job or not?”

            “Do whatever you want,” Harry says. “Dan’ll drive you.”   

            “Great,” Louis says, all fake enthusiasm.

 

            “Not like I have to worry about anyone trying to steal you away from me.”

            “Yeah everyone loves a mated omega,” Louis can’t stop the sarcasm from spilling out, “gonna have even more alphas banging down my door.”

            “My door,” Harry points out.

Louis is too incensed to stay silent, even though he knows he should.

            “Goodnight, Mr Styles.”

            “Goodnight, Mr Tomlinson,” Harry returns, faking a salute.

Louis just narrows his eyes. He should have thought of that. Instead, he turns on one heel sharply. He doesn’t need to have the last word. He doesn’t.

            “Wanker,” he mutters before snapping the door to his room shut behind himself.

Never mind that he had been planning on going to find a snack. This is fine. He can do this.

 

His mum is back within the hour, and with Harry having disappeared to his room or perhaps out of the house totally, Louis feels safe enough to leave his room.

            “There’s my favorite boy,” his mum coos, piling vegetables into the fridge.

She’s glowing in a way he hasn’t seen lately.

            “Here I am,” Louis agrees. “How was the store?”

            “Huge,” his mum says, “quite lovely.”

Louis hums, waiting.

“Dan is quite nice too,” she adds, glancing around quickly.

Louis feels his lips curving without his permission.

            “Is he?”

His mum just sighs happily. She glances at him again, a pucker appearing in her brow.

 

            “How are you, Love?”

            “Perfect,” Louis says. “The girls are happy, you’re happy – I have everything that I need.”

            “You don’t have to protect me.”

            “Really,” Louis insists. “I’ll get a job to keep me busy and everything will be ace.”

            “One of these days I’ll finally teach you how to be selfish,” his mum says.

Louis laughs at that.

            “How? You don’t know either.”

 

            “Feel selfish now,” his mum sighs, hands pausing in the grocery bags.

It’s more food than Louis has ever seen her with. Save the holidays.

            “Don’t,” Louis says, stretching to press a kiss to her brow, “I want you to be happy.”

            “If Daisy’s not better by Monday we can take her to the doctor,” his mum sighs, smiling. “We could actually all go get checkups.”

            “We’re all fit as fiddles,” Louis says, “and Daisy will be fine – she’s got plenty of medicine.”

            “Now she does.”

            “Mum,” Louis huffs out a breath, “it’s fine.”

            “I’m so sorry, Lou.”

            “I’m fine,” Louis tries to sound firm.

            “Need any help with the groceries?” Harry asks, both of them jerking to look at him.

He’d been in his room then.

 

            “No,” his mum says, composing herself first, “we’re just fine, Harry. Thank you.”

Harry watches them for another moment before speaking again.

            “If I could actually borrow Louis?”

            “I’ll finish up.”

Louis holds back a sigh before crossing to Harry.

            “Do you have clothes to go out in?” Harry asks.

Louis’ jaw falls open but he doesn’t manage to say anything before Harry continues.

“My friends want to meet you.”

 

Louis swallows. Maybe this is his punishment. A night out with Harry and his, undoubtedly, rich friends while they all mock and judge him.

Whatever Louis thinks, he can handle it.

            “Tonight?”

            “If you aren’t busy.”

            “Fine.”

            “Fine,” Harry repeats.

Louis rolls his eyes and heads to his room.

 

Nearly an hour later he’s dressed in his only shoes that aren’t sneakers, black skinny jeans, and a black sheer t-shirt. His hair took most of the time. It’s not much but it will have to do.

Harry’s waiting in the living room with Daisy and Phoebe, legs crossed and hands folded in his lap. He stands as Louis approaches, the buttons on his shirt barely fastened over blue jeans and brown ankle boots. There’s a ridiculously large pearl draped around his neck.

Louis barely stops himself from rolling his eyes again.

Harry looks nice. In a rich way. Louis supposes.

            “Ready?”

Louis nods, not entirely trusting his voice.

 

The car is quiet like a cemetery, uncomfortable enough that Louis can’t stop clenching and unclenching his hands in his lap.

            “Where, uh, where are we going?”

            “Nice, quiet place,” Harry says.

            “Right,” Louis agrees.

Harry glances sideways at him.

            “Don’t tell me you’re nervous.”

            “How posh is it?”

 

At this, Harry snorts.

            “Didn’t you think about that when you planned this?”

Louis curls his fingers and slowly uncurls them again.

            “Are we really going to keep arguing about this?”

            “What are we arguing about?”

Louis thinks about saying it out loud. He rolls it around in his head a few times. I didn’t plan it he thinks. I didn’t want this.

            “You’ll never believe me,” Louis sighs instead.

Harry’s quiet for several beats of time.

 

            “Your sister didn’t have medication,” he says finally. “I understand. But I don’t have to like it.”

            “No, she didn’t,” Louis hums. “And now she does.”

He can’t bear to look at Harry, looking at the passing buildings instead.

“Thank you,” he says quietly, sincerely.

            “Uh,” Harry manages. “You’re welcome.”

 

Louis wonders why Harry didn’t have Dan drive them. Did he hire a driver just for Louis’ family? Louis sneaks a glance at Harry. He shouldn’t like his mate. Not in this situation they’re stuck in.

But Harry’s nice. Much nicer than he needs to be. He’s very kind to Louis’ family. He’s hasn’t been cruel to Louis. And he’s not bad looking.

Harry meets his gaze and Louis jerks to look out the window again, cheeks burning. God he’s embarrassing. It’s been two entire seconds and Louis likes him.

Not bad looking? Louis grits his teeth. For a moment he thinks about the fact that he’s going to be stuck in this bond for the rest of his life if he doesn’t figure something else out. Then Louis remembers his family. He’s going to be stuck in this bond for the rest of his life anyway.

Louis takes the quickest look at Harry he can, glad that Harry isn’t looking back anymore. He’s probably going to fall in love with his mate. The mate that is never, ever going to love him back. Fuck Louis thinks then.

 

The only good thing about Louis’ revelation is that arriving at the restaurant is small potatoes in comparison.

Harry pulls up to the valet and they each climb out.

The tremors in Louis are contained to his knees and his fingertips. He’ll be fine. He can do this.

            “How many people are coming?”

            “Just a few,” Harry says. He meets Louis on the kerb, fingertips dusting over the small of his back.

Louis tenses but doesn’t say a word. He doesn’t need to pick a fight right now. Especially over something as small as this. Not to mention, part of Louis thrills at the touch.

Harry’s his mate. Louis’ body has been aching for him. The worst part of it is, Louis didn’t even know until now. But his skin is zinging with it, teeny hairs rippling up in response. He bites his lip before he gets carried away with wanting more. He isn’t going to get more. No use working up to disappointment. No use at all.

 

The restaurant is quiet and dim, dark enough that Louis has to squint to see between the tables. He wonders how the servers find their way. Wonders even more intently why this place is popular. But Louis probably can’t understand the way rich people think. Even if he technically is one now.

It doesn’t feel real as Harry guides him. As he’s walking Louis is dizzy for exactly two beats. What if it wasn’t? What if all of this was a mad dream? Would Louis miss it when he woke up? Would he miss Harry? Or would he be glad to return to his old life? He didn’t know the answer.

But it didn’t matter because they both kept walking. The dream didn’t ripple away and Louis didn’t wake up in his bed. It wasn’t a dream. This was his life now. Harry was his life now.

Of course, calling Harry his life is not accurate, or fair to omegas. But Harry’s in his life now. That part is non-negotiable.

 

There are five, no six people at the table they stop at.

            “Harry!” the tallest one squeals, spilling out of his chair to hug Harry tightly.

The man towers over Louis and it’s all Louis can do not to reel back.

Harry’s hugging his friend back, expression amused.

            “Hey, Nick. How’re you?”

            “Not as amazing as you,” Nick says excitedly. “Look at this little thing!”

 

Louis bristles but holds his annoyance in. These are Harry’s friends and he’ll do his best to behave himself.

            “This is Louis,” Harry announces to the table.

The table cheers. They actually cheer.

Louis is frozen in place. He doesn’t know what to do or say. They seem genuinely happy to meet him and happy to see both of them together.

            “Come sit, come sit,” Nick is saying.
He pushes someone out of a chair to clear two seats for Harry and Louis.

“More drinks?” Nick calls next, still standing.

In the ensuing chaos, Louis leans close to Harry.

            “You didn’t tell them,” he whispers.

            “Telling my parents was embarrassing enough,” Harry bites back, not missing a beat.

Louis can’t say anything else. His throat is too tight.

 

Dinner isn’t bad. Not with Louis steadfastly pretending Harry doesn’t hate him. He pretends that Harry’s friends can be his friends. He pretends a lot of other things but he gets through it.

It isn’t until they’re standing to leave, Harry begging off early for a work project he needs to get back to, that Louis hits his wall. It’s the simplest thing. Could even be stupid in a different light.

One of Harry’s friends, Liam – Louis is fairly sure, pulls Louis aside a bit, one hand warm on the inside of Louis’ elbow.

            “It was really great meeting you,” he says, eyes warm and sincere. “Seeing you with Harry is amazing. He’s always talked about finding the one and falling in love and I’m so glad he’s finally found it; you know? I’m so glad he found you.”

            “Yeah,” Louis manages weakly. He doesn’t know how. “It’s great.”

Louis takes a breath. Then another. He should say goodbye. To Liam at least, if not the table.

He can’t though. He can’t.

 

Louis turns abruptly for the door, only hoping that Harry’s following him.

He can’t get enough air into his chest. It feels like something is crushing him from the inside.  His chest hurts. It aches in a way Louis can’t identify. He can’t breathe.

He hurt his mate. He ruined his mate’s life. All Harry wanted was to fall in love and find the right person. Louis took that from him, whether he meant to or not.

He sucks in a short breath, pressing his lips tightly together.

            “Louis,” Harry says, catching up to him, “are you alright?”

He takes Louis’ elbow in hand and tugs him to the side, the other hand finding a hold on the back of his neck.

            “Did you tell him to say that?” Louis chokes out.

Immediately he regrets it. The words used up all his air.

 

Harry looks confused a moment but then his expression clears as he focuses on Louis.

            “No,” Harry says.

It sounds like he means it.

“I told you, I’m not a monster.”

            “Well, neither am I.”

Harry only squeezes his neck tighter in response.

            “Let’s go home,” he finally tells Louis.

 

The next morning Louis feels better. Marginally.

It’s easier when he’s spending time with his family though. It seems almost worth being mated to Harry then.

It’s when he’s alone, late at night most especially, that Louis feels fragmented and worthless. He supposes if he’d grown up in a different family with a different mum this would have been the plan for his life. Harry wasn’t wrong about that, not in a general sense. Lots of omegas did seek out rich alphas and betas, hoping or planning to go into heat at the right time. Plenty of omegas saw this as their duty, especially if their families weren’t well off. Worse, Louis couldn’t honestly say he’d never thought about it.

If that had been his life, his goal, Louis would feel pretty good about himself now.
As it is…Louis feels like shit. Still, he’s going to get up and have breakfast with his family. Then he’s going to go and see about finding a job.

 

He isn’t entirely sure what he wants to do and as he gets ready for the day Louis debates internally. If money isn’t really the point of the job then he can really look for anything he wants. A coffee shop? Bookstore? The train of thought is making him feel much better and Louis hums quietly as he finishes dressing. Pulling a quick hand through his hair, Louis exits the safety of his room.

He can hear his sisters happily chattering in the kitchen and Louis rounds the corner to see Harry isn’t with them. His shoulders sag just a bit in relief.

            “What do you want in your pancakes, Lou?” his mum asks.

Louis scoffs before smiling.

            “Chocolate chips,” he says, “obviously.”

Life settles in fairly easy after that.

Louis finds a job in a comic shop that’s really quite cool and he’s happy with how relaxed his manager is. His family is happy which in turn makes him happy. Most importantly, possibly, is that Harry hardly spends any time at the house. He leaves for work early and stays late – some nights he doesn’t come home at all.

Louis doesn’t mind it. It’s lonely, sure. But he sees where Harry is coming from. Louis is grateful that this is the worst thing he has to deal with where Harry is concerned, feeling lonely that is. It could be worse. Really, it could be much, much worse. If Louis had been on the tube when he’d gone into heat or even just walking to the tube, it could have been anyone.

 

Sure his mum feels bad for him. And the older girls who understand what’s going on. None of them know about his mum’s involvement and Louis is going to keep it that way. It is what it is.
It’s in the past. Doesn’t matter now.

Louis can handle some pity. He can handle missing his mate and feeling unwanted. He can do this. He just needs to keep reminding himself.

Before Louis realizes, two months have passed. He knows the names of their maid’s children. His mum has totally finished redecorating the basement. The girls have left various scuffs and stains throughout the house and it’s really theirs by now. They’re home here. This is his life.

All the time Louis was worried about getting through this and he’s been doing it just fine. Of course, when you realize things are alright that’s when the scales start to shift again.

Louis doesn’t know what time it is when he wakes. All he knows is that he needs a drink. He takes a moment to yawn before untangling himself from the sheets and crossing to the door. He opens it only to jerk back as he gasps.

Harry’s standing maybe two inches from his door. Just… standing there.

            “Harry?”

 

Harry moves enough to cross his arms, eyes focusing on Louis. There’s a light on somewhere down the hall, maybe from Harry’s room.

            “Sorry,” Harry says. “Did I wake you?”

            “No,” Louis says.
Then he takes a moment to think about it.
“Maybe.”

Harry glances away before taking a moment to lick over his lips.

            “My rut’s coming soon.”

Judging by the look on his face that wasn’t what he was planning on saying. The words send a thrill through Louis either way.

            “Uhm,” Louis stutters out.
He bites at the inside of his cheek before releasing it.
“Come in.”

            “What?” Harry asks. “Soon I said, not now.”

 

Louis rolls his eyes quickly. Half of him wants to reach out and bring Harry in, the other half wants Harry to do it himself.

            “If you weren’t mated to me, wouldn’t you have found someone to spend it with by now?”

Harry nods once.

“Come in,” Louis says again.

Harry sways forward, like he was going to take a step and thought better of it.

            “You don’t have to,” he whispers.

            “I know that.”

Harry doesn’t say anything.

Louis sighs quietly before reaching out and taking hold of Harry’s wrist. He tugs him forward without looking at Harry’s face.

“Close the door,” he says, “and you’d better be quiet.”

Harry doesn’t protest, much as he probably wants to.

 

            “I’m serious,” Harry says, even as both hands close over Louis’ waist, “you don’t have to do this.”

            “Shut up,” Louis mutters. “I’m already getting wet for you.”

Not that he has to admit it. Harry will smell it soon enough.

Harry groans behind closed lips, rushing Louis to the bed.

Louis lets himself be herded, it feels pretty nice to have Harry’s body curling around his. He’s needed this even if he hasn’t let himself think about it. He certainly hasn’t let himself say it out loud. Sure, Louis is still half asleep and this probably isn’t the right time. He starts wiggling out of his pyjama bottoms anyway.

Harry strips off his shirt before helping where Louis has gotten his pants tangled around his knees. He parts Louis’ thighs with Louis’ pants still wrapped around one ankle and Louis can’t hold back a moan.

It’s so dark in the room Louis can barely see him – which he’s alright with. Louis gives up on watching completely, letting his head roll back into the pillow as his eyes close.

 

Harry’s touch is electric, zinging across Louis’ skin as a glob of slick slides down to the mattress. As if it draws Harry’s finger like a magnet he sinks one inside Louis.

Louis shudders, biting his lip to stop from crying out. He can’t very well tell Harry to keep quiet and then wake his family himself.

Harry’s rings are cold on Louis’ rim and it’s so hot. Everything is so hot.

Louis can barely stand to breathe.

            “More I’m – more,” Louis gasps out.

            “Should make you wait,” Harry mumbles, pressing in a second finger lazily, “make you beg.”

            “Please,” Louis tacks on.

            “Or maybe I should just take what I want,” Harry says then. “Like you did the first time.”

There’s a tense pause.

“Would you like that, Louis?”

            “Want what you want,” Louis admits on a whisper.

            “Wanna sink my knot into this,” Harry says, pulling at Louis’ arse.

It’s all Louis can do to nod. He’s nearly delirious with how badly he needs Harry to do just that.
Shouldn’t be possible to have gone this long without it and still need it the way that he does. Louis almost feels like he could die waiting.

 

            “Please,” he says again.

            “Shh,” Harry reminds him, straightening up and crawling off the bed.

Louis wriggles against the mattress, pouting.

Harry’s out of his pants in seconds, climbing back into bed and immediately rearranging Louis how he wants him. Which is on his belly, apparently. Louis arches his back, using his elbows for leverage.

Harry hums in appreciation and it’s all Louis can do not to grind his cock against the mattress.

“Ready?” Harry whispers into the shell of his ear.

The prep hasn’t exactly been thorough but Louis isn’t patient at the best of times.

            “Yeah,” he says, “yeah, please.”

Harry blankets his body, one hand clutching at Louis’ hip again. Harry’s careful sliding in, even with Louis still making quiet noises of encouragement.
It burns a little but it’s worth it.

Louis isn’t even sure he actually feels the pain. He just wants more.

 

            “God,” Harry says, “Lou.”

            “Feel so good,” Louis answers. “So, so good.”

Harry shifts, gaining more leverage somehow before sinking in even deeper.

Louis gasps, hands shooting out to fist in the sheets. It’s so much more than it was during his heat, somehow. Like his heat was a dream and this is real life. Of course, Louis knows that next heat – if they do this – he won’t think the same. But for now, Harry’s cock buried in him is almost more than he can handle.

Harry pulls back before thrusting in again and Louis shoves his face into the pillow to muffle his wail.

He lets Harry move him again, holding onto the pillow in his clutches just in case. There’s something really hot about letting Harry have total control of him. It’s more than worth it when Harry sinks in again.

Louis doesn’t make a sound other than a soft gasp, toes curling tight.

 

He feels like he could go mad with the pleasure, but all he wants is more. More of Harry’s hands on his skin, more of Harry’s hair brushing against his shoulder each time their bodies meet, and more of Harry fucking into him.

Low in his gut Louis is immensely pleased. His mate does want him. Even if it’s only hormones.

The omega in him doesn’t care – not at all.

 

Louis comes twice before Harry finally knots him, teeth scraping across his shoulder blade as he does.

            “Wanna do this every day,” Louis moans, fingers falling lax against the mattress.

Harry makes an amused noise above him.

            “Does that mean you’re up for my rut?”

            “You shouldn’t be alive enough to think yet,” Louis snarks, “not to mention string together a coherent sentence.”

            “You’re one to talk,” Harry laughs. “And anyway, it’s an important question.”

            “Up for it,” Louis says, wiggling slightly. “If you are,” he adds with a smirk to himself.

 

Harry giggles. Actually giggles.

Louis prides himself on his spectacular sex skills.

“And my heats?”

Harry actually jerks away at that, pain thrumming weakly through Louis’ arse until he settles again.

            “Are you not on your suppressants?” Harry demands sharply.

            “I am,” Louis answers.
He feels unbearably small and vulnerable with Harry’s knot still inside him but he answers.
“Suppressants and birth control. I just wasn’t sure if you would want them.”

            “You’d better be telling the truth.”

Louis wishes he could cover himself with the sheet. He wishes a lot of things.

 

            “Was only trying to be nice.”

            “Offering up your arse because you feel guilty isn’t being nice, Louis.”

            “Please stop.”

Louis can’t bear to look at him. As much as he wants to draw a pillow into his arms and hug it he feels like would only make him look more pathetic.

Harry gives him a beat of peace before,

            “No, I don’t want your heats.”

            “I realize that now, thank you,” Louis says sharply.

His voice is too loud and he sucks in a deep breath before releasing it. Tears burn at his eyes and as much as he doesn’t want to cry in front of Harry again he doesn’t have much choice in the matter.

“Why hasn’t your fucking knot gone down you gigantic wanker,” he chews out, trying in vain to keep the tears from falling.

 

Harry doesn’t say anything, rubbing a hand down his ribs and back up to soothe him. It only helps a bit.

There are words tugging at Louis’ mouth that he knows he can’t let out.

Harry doesn’t say anything and neither does he.

It’s a restless, pitiful quiet.

 

When Louis wakes up he slowly eases out of bed, hurrying into clean pyjamas before going downstairs and burrowing into one of the couches.

Part of Louis can’t believe he’s let Harry chase him from his own room.
Most of him doesn’t really care about the semantics of it.

 

His mum wakes him in the morning, eyes shining as she looks down at him.

            “I’m okay,” is the first thing out of Louis’ mouth, even though his brain is still groggy with sleep.

“I’m okay,” he repeats.

            “H-He didn’t…” his mum starts.

            “No,” Louis says, emphatic. “I offered.”

            “Why are you down here, love?”

            “We fought,” Louis admits.
He sits up and drags a hand through his hair.

            “Louis,” his mum chokes out, sniffling once, “I can tell him. I can tell him the truth and you two can actually have a chance.”

            “You can’t,” Louis says. “It isn’t worth it.”

            “You’re worth everything,” his mum says quietly.

 

The words are a sucker punch and Louis drags in a breath.

            “Mum, I’m fine. I promise. And this is good for us. It is.”

            “I can’t weigh you against the girls Louis. We were alright before, weren’t we? I can’t watch you suffer so they have separate rooms.”

            “It’ll be fine,” Louis says. “His rut’s coming. I’ll spend it with him and it’ll be fine.”

            “Lou-”

            “Mum, please,” Louis begs. “We’re mated. We can’t do anything about it anyway.”

His mum crashes down next to him, hugging him tightly.

            “I’m so sorry I did this to you.”

She’s full on crying then and Louis feels like joining her. He doesn’t though, biting his lip as he hugs her back.

 

By the time Louis makes it upstairs, his bedroom is empty. Louis showers and dresses for the day before walking down the hall to find Harry. He knocks on Harry’s bedroom door, even though it’s cracked open already.

            “Come in,” Harry calls.

Louis pushes open the door further to see Harry dropping clothes into a duffle bag on the bed.

            “Hey,” Louis offers, lamely.

            “Alright?”

            “Fine,” Louis agrees.

He waits a beat before,

“Going somewhere?”

 

Harry looks at him, only for a split second though.

            “M’ rut.”

Right. Louis thinks.

            “When do we need to be ready to go?”

Harry’s quiet for too long.

            “No,” he says finally. “I’m going.”
He zips the duffle before looking to Louis again.
“I’ll come back,” he adds. “Obviously.”

 

            “You’d rather spend your rut alone, really?” Louis demands.

            “I don’t need you using this as some sort of negotiation,” Harry mutters.

            “I wasn’t trying to.”

            “Right,” Harry agrees, hauling the strap of his bag over his shoulder.

Louis moves to let him pass.

“I’ll see you in a week.”

Louis should be relieved. Probably. But he just feels…foolish.

Three days in and Louis is doing well. All things considered.

He wants to be with his mate. Even though he can’t feel Harry from where he is – he knows Harry needs him. Not being with Harry and knowing this is the worst kind of agony. Louis feels empty and can barely stand to get out of bed.

He hasn’t been to work since Harry left. His family tries to cheer him up but there’s only so much they can do.

All in all, Louis spends a lot of time in bed.

Six days after Harry left, he arrives back at the house.

Not the greatest timing since Louis in the middle of a Disney marathon with his sisters, all of them ‘doing each other’s hair.’ Louis has about eight different types of barrettes twisted into his hair when the door opens and closes. At first, Louis assumes it’s his mum back from the store with Dan, but there’s no greeting. He looks up to see Harry standing in the hall.

Louis first thought is fuck. Then he stops thinking, shoving off the couch and kicking out of his blanket. He doesn’t remember actually crossing to Harry – all he knows is the moment their bodies finally knock together.

Harry’s arms wrap around him and Louis nuzzles as close as he can.

            “Hi,” Harry says.

Louis doesn’t respond, he holds on tighter.

“Lou,” Harry says, “I really need to sit down.”

Louis hums in agreement, drawing away enough to tug Harry towards his room.

 

Harry follows along easily enough, stopping to close the door behind them.

Louis tugs the sheets down and climbs into bed.

            “Louis.”

            “Hate me all you want,” Louis says, “just hate me tomorrow.”

Harry only pauses a moment longer before crossing to the bed as well. He climbs in, laying on his back and letting Louis come to him.

            “Cute,” Harry says, dragging a knuckle across one of the barrettes.

            “Shut up,” Louis huffs, laying a hand over Harry’s heart and closing his eyes.

One of Harry’s hands drifts into Louis’ hair, carefully removing every barrette before tossing them to the floor. He scratches his fingertips through Louis’ hair when he’s done.

Exhausted, Louis sleeps.

 

When Louis wakes he’s content, all he knows is he’s tired and sleepy sweet.

Harry’s curled around him now, soft puffs of breath hitting the back of Louis’ neck.

It takes Louis several more moments to realize he feels empty and slick. Probably an influx of hormones from Harry coming home. His body moves without his permission, hips rocking back to seek out Harry’s. He shifts his thighs, creating some space for a moment before letting them fall closed again. A small moan pulls itself out of his mouth.

There’s no way he can fall back asleep so he has two choices. He can go back to his own bed and wank – retaining some of his pride. Or he can wake Harry. Before he’s really decided though, his hips rock back again.

            “Mm, you keep doing that, I’m gonna fuck you.”

It’s all Louis can do to keep from squeaking. He hadn’t known Harry was awake.

 

Louis licks his lips carefully.

            “I can go,” he rasps out.

            “Don’t,” Harry says.

            “God,” Louis manages.

Harry grips his hips, rocking against Louis’ arse.

            “Please,” Louis whimpers.

He needs them to be naked and he needs Harry inside him.

Harry doesn’t seem to realize this though, he just keeps grinding tight circles against Louis’ arse.

“Harry,” Louis chokes out. “Please, will you please-”

            “Want more?”

Overconfident arsehole. But he isn’t wrong either.

            “Please.”

 

Harry doesn’t seem to have any trouble shoving Louis’ trackies down. That’s all he does though, grinding against Louis’ naked arse then. It’s better and worse.

“Harry, please.”

            “I’ll take care of you,” Harry promises.

Louis can hear him open the flies of his jeans but he barely moves away.

Harry grinds against him again.

            “Stop teasing,” Louis groans. “Harry, please.”

Louis’ hole is aching, leaking slick like that’s all it can do. He needs more than this too dry tease.

Harry grinds between his cheeks, still refusing to slide in. The head of his cock catches on Louis’ rim before sliding away again and it’s all Louis can do not to scream.

 

Louis squirms away, twisting around and pushing Harry onto his back in the same motion. He straddles Harry’s hips and catches his wrists before slamming them onto the mattress. For two moments they just watch each other, each of them gasping for air.

“Don’t move,” Louis pants, “don’t you dare.”

He releases one of Harry’s wrists to reach back and guide Harry’s dick as he sinks down. Louis seats himself in Harry’s lap, arse clenching deliciously around him. Finally. He doesn’t move for a few seconds, finally remembering to pin Harry’s other wrist down again.

“I told you to stop teasing me.”

Harry huffs out a weak laugh.

            “Yes, sir.”

 

Louis ignores him, rising up and sinking down slow. He pushes himself up again, Harry groaning. When Louis drops down again he can feel Harry’s knot, frustratingly not inside him.

            “Maybe while you’re busy punishing me you could not punish yourself too.”

Harry doesn’t respond, watching him through half lidded eyes.

“Could have knotted my arse all week,” Louis continues, “it doesn’t mean anything.”

It doesn’t, even as Louis wiggles, trying to get even a little bit of Harry’s knot into him. It’s only physical between them. Their bodies calling out to each other. It isn’t like Harry actually likes him. It isn’t like Louis actually needs him to. It’s just sex. It’s just really good sex, being mates and all. Still, would be better if Harry had knotted him.

 

Louis ignores the thought though, riding the part of Harry’s dick that isn’t too swollen to fit.

He’s still big enough to fill Louis up. More than. Even if Louis likes it when it hurts a bit. This is nice too. Nice to take control too. Louis holds down Harry’s wrists. Pins down his hips. He rides him at his own pace.

Louis half expects Harry to break his hold, to roll them and take control. But he doesn’t. He waits, eyes closed and biting at his lips.

Louis never would have expected it to turn him on this way. He never really thought he would be on top. Be quiet a voice says in the back of his brain be a good little omega. But a louder part of him is saying fuck that.

He wants this pleasure. His body needs it. And he’s going to take it.

 

Louis’ thighs start to burn and he gets sloppy chasing his orgasm. It’s only then that he releases Harry’s wrist to wrap a hand around his dick. Louis is coming faster than he expected, falling onto Harry as ecstasy rockets through every nerve ending in his body.

Harry grips at his thighs, pushing in as much as he can before he’s coming too.

Louis doesn’t even bother moving off Harry, panting shallowly. Just sex he reminds himself really good sex.

 

They spend most of the night cuddled together, which Louis blames on them not spending Harry’s rut together. Their bodies are craving each other. In the morning, Louis yawns loudly before looking to Harry.

            “We good?”

            “S’pose,” Harry hums.

            “It’s just sex,” Louis says.

            “You’re sure about that?”

 

Louis rolls his eyes delicately before huffing.

            “You’re an alpha. I’m an omega. And we’re mated. We want to have sex with each other.”

            “Yes,” Harry says, rolling his eyes as well.

            “So we should have sex.”

            “Aren’t you at all worried we could start bonding?”

            “It’s just sex,” Louis reminds him. “You’re still a wanker, anyway.”

            “And you’re so charming,” Harry sniffs, pushing himself out of bed.

            “Do we need a no kissing rule?”

            “If you want?” Harry asks, frowning at him briefly before turning back to his closet.

            “Just trying to set boundaries.”

 

            “I didn’t say I wanted to have sex with you regularly,” Harry reminds him.
He still isn’t looking at Louis, stepping into skinny jeans without putting any pants on.

            “At least during your ruts,” Louis says.
He discreetly starts scanning the room for his own pants, now that Harry’s best parts are no longer on display.

            “Fine,” Harry agrees shortly.

            “And if it’s more than that,” Louis says, flinging the sheets back, “then it’s just sex.”

He leaves Harry without another word, risking the short walk back to his room starkers.

Nothing much changes between them. They do have sex – then they sleep in their own beds.

Days pass into weeks and Louis isn’t happy. Not exactly. But he supposes he’s content. Louis reminds himself of this fact often. Sometimes several times a day.

His family is safe. They’re taken care of. He’s mostly free to do whatever he wants. It’s a good life. And, sure, there could be more. He could actually be shown some affection. Ever. He could still fantasize about falling in love. Having a family of his own.

But he’s content. It could be worse. He can do this.
It doesn’t seem to matter which mantra he tries. He never quite believes them to be true.

There’s still his sisters though.

And Louis will be the best uncle in the world. He will – and it will be enough. It will be.

Louis comes home from work in the middle of the day to find his mum teary eyed in the kitchen.

            “Mum?” he asks, crossing to her immediately.

Louis lays a hand inside her elbow, squeezing once.

“Are you all right?”

His mum nods quickly, dabbing at her eyes.

            “I’m alright. Just talking to Susan and she said that Darcy is infertile.”

Louis gasps softly. He can’t quite remember who Darcy is – but being infertile is something he wouldn’t wish on anyone.

            “That’s terrible,” he says, “I’m sorry, Mum.”

His mum sniffles, nodding again.

            “It’s just – and it’s terrible. I know… but I couldn’t help but think about you.”

Louis opens his mouth but can’t seem to form any words. He furrows his brow in confusion.

            “Mum, I’m not infertile.”

Not that he knows that, but it seems to be the only thing to say.

 

            “You haven’t been tested,” his mum says, meek. “But that’s not the point anyway.”

She sniffles and crosses to the sink to run some water into a pan.

“I just – well it wouldn’t matter if you were, would it?”

Louis swallows down the comfort he was going to try to give. For nearly thirty seconds he can’t even think what to say to that.

She’s right. He knows.

            “Harry doesn’t want children,” Louis agrees. “Not with me, at least.”

His mum’s lip trembles and Louis doesn’t know what to say. He can’t fix this.

            “This isn’t fair to you,” his mum says, an often repeated sentiment.

            “I know,” Louis says. “I know it’s not.”

 

His mum shuts off the faucet with a bang, pivoting to face him sharply.

            “Will you stop?” she asks. “Stop… taking care of me! Just, I don’t know! Yell! Cry! Do something, Lou! It’s like I’m watching a zombie walk around this house!”

            “What else am I supposed to do?” Louis yells back.

He feels his eyes go wide. Louis has never in his life yelled at his mum.

Still… she’d told him to, hadn’t she? Was this really what she wanted?

“It’s not like it will fix anything,” he says, his turn to be meek. “There’s nothing either of us can do, what’s done is done.”

            “But, Louis, you have to find some way to deal with this.”

            “Mum, there is no way to deal with this.” He sighs, running both hands down his face so he has a moment to breathe. “I can’t – this is permanent. This is the rest of my life kind of thing. Like.” He blows out a sigh. “He’s my mate. That isn’t going to change unless I break the bond.”

            “Do you want to?” his mum asks carefully.

 

            “Is it worth the risk?” Louis asks. “Worth losing all of this?”

            “Maybe,” his mum says. “We managed before,” she reminds him.

            “But the girls-”

Louis’ mum lays a hand on his shoulder, then the other one.

            “Boo,” she hums, “I don’t want you to think about them. I don’t want you to think about me. I don’t even want you to think about tomorrow. I want you to think about you. And I want you to think about what you want, for yourself, right now.”

 

Louis inhales slowly and lets it out even slower. Can he tell her? More importantly, does she already know?

            “I don’t know what I want,” he says.

            “I think you do.”

Louis sighs at her.

            “Fine,” he huffs, “but what I want is impossible.”

            “Tell me,” his mum says, “and we’ll find a way to deal with it.”

            “I want him to like me back,” Louis manages, voice terribly small.

            “That’s why you haven’t been too upset,” she concludes after a long pause. “You like him.”

 

Louis nods miserably.

            “How could I not?” he asks. “He’s lovely, isn’t he? Charming, kind, rich, good looking. He’s never been cruel to me. Even after what he thinks I’ve done to him. He’s…he’s special.”

            “He let Fizzy paint his toenails the other day,” his mum says, smiling at the thought. “You were still asleep.”

            “He’s good to them,” Louis says, choking up for the first time.

            “Good to me as well,” his mum adds softly.

 

Louis takes a moment to compose himself, leaving his mum’s grasp and dropping onto a stool at the island.

            “It’s only me he needs to punish.”

            “Lou,” his mum sighs, hugging him from behind. “Will you let me tell him? Let me tell him this is my fault. Let me give you two this chance.”

            “Mum, he’s never going to love me.”

            “He could. If he knew you never planned this.”

            “It isn’t worth the risk.”

            “It isn’t like he’ll arrest me if I tell him we couldn’t afford your medication.”

            “Mum,” Louis sighs deeply. “It would still be my fault. I still left the house knowing I wasn’t on my suppressants. And if you tell him the truth he could still report you.”

            “Do you think he would?” his mum challenges, moving to sit down next to him.

            “Not worth the risk,” Louis repeats.

            “So I couldn’t afford your medication and switched out your pills with something else. You didn’t know. I thought you wouldn’t go into heat. My foolish mistake. Not your plan.”

            “Even if he believed you,” Louis sniffs, “why wait this long to tell him?”

A tear slips out of each eye, one right after the other and Louis inhales again.

“There’s nothing we can do.”

 

            “So what if you break the bond?”

Louis hasn’t let himself think about it. Not really.

            “How would we afford the doctor? Especially now that you aren’t working?”

            “Harry would help.”

She sounds oddly sure of it, for having known Harry less than six months.

            “He’d probably be glad to have me out of his life,” Louis says after a moment.

            “Not that I want you ill,” his mum sighs. “But if you think you could fall for him… best not to wait too long.”

Louis swallows. The worst part isn’t that he could fall for Harry. The worst part is that he already feels it happening. And Harry will never love him back.

            “Oh god,” he says absently.

His mum reaches over to squeeze his shoulder. Louis can’t say anything else, leaning his elbows on the island and crying silently.

Louis doesn’t leave his room for the rest of the day. He can’t bear to face his sisters with what he’s decided.

On top of that, he especially can’t face Harry.

His mum tells everyone he’s ill and brings him dinner. Louis lets her coddle him. Revels in it a bit even. He messes around on his laptop for a few hours, trying to do some research on breaking bonds.

It’s not anything that will kill him. It’ll be unpleasant for sure. He’ll possibly regret it. But it won’t kill him.

Louis supposes that’s the important bit.

Louis lets himself have a little more time with Harry.

He and Harry have sex twice, three days apart. Then Louis pulls back. He can’t go out to find another alpha reeking of Harry.

Sure, every time he thinks about letting another alpha touch him – Louis feels slightly ill. But that’s alright. This is the right thing to do in the long run. It’s the right thing for Harry.

 

It’ll suck for Louis and his family. But they weren’t really ever meant to be here. Louis will get a job working more hours. He and his mum will make it work. They will be fine. He has to believe that – or he’ll never do it.

He can’t stop his knee from shaking. Dan’s driving him to a club and Louis can’t make himself calm down. All he’d told his mum was not to wait up and even that was probably the most awkward conversation they’ve ever had.

Still, he had to let her know he was doing it tonight. He couldn’t have her worrying again. Not to mention, she could make up something for Harry on the off chance that he actually asked or cared where Louis was. It’s going to be fine.

            “Don’t have too much fun,” Dan says from the front, rolling to a stop.

Louis tries to smile. He’s not sure if it’s more of a wince or not though.

            “Right,” Louis agrees.

            “Call when you’re ready to come home.”

This time Louis does wince, glancing out the window.

 

The club looks nice enough, neon sign lighting up half the street. Not that it matters.

Louis breathes in deeply before laying a hand on the door handle. It takes another moment to work up the nerve to push it open but Louis manages. He’s not really anticipating this taking long.

He pays the cover, flashes his ID, and gets his hand stamped in a blur. Someone offers him a glow stick; which Louis shakes his head at. Just inside the door there’s a few half naked people painting faces, Louis can see blacklights shining on the dance floor.

Louis snorts to himself. This wasn’t exactly what he had in mind. Still, he makes his way to the bar. It takes nearly twenty minutes to order a few shots and Louis is already sweating. His knees feel weak and he wants nothing more than to turn right around and go back to Harry’s house.

 

He can’t though, is the thing. This is something he has to do. He has to try at least. In all honesty, this might not even break the bond between them. It’s hardly an exact science.

Also, it’s impossible for Louis to know how deep his and Harry’s bond is. They’ve been mated for nearly five months. It isn’t like they love each other though. A one off should do the trick.

Louis tries not to think about what’s going to happen if it doesn’t break the bond. Instead he puts the last shot glass to his lip and tips it upside down. Then he heads to the dance floor.

It’s probably another twenty minutes before Louis has found someone to dance with for more than one song. He’s not sure though. Time has definitely started to blur a bit on the edges.

His dance partner is taller than him, hands hot and huge on Louis’ hips and back. It’s nice dancing with him. Feeling wanted.

Louis reminds himself he can’t have what he really wants. He bites his lip before taking a deep breath and turning to face the stranger. For an insane moment, Louis thinks it’s Harry.
But it isn’t – obviously.

It’s just a stranger. One who licks his lips lazily as Louis watches. He leans down to get at Louis’ ear.

            “What you after, little one?”

Louis grips at his shirt to keep him in place.

            “Fuck me,” he yells back.

 

The alpha doesn’t look surprised at this. Part of Louis wishes he did.

            “You sure?” the alpha leans in again to ask.

Louis bites the inside of his cheek. He nods.

“Let’s get out of here.”

 

The alpha guides him out with a hand on the small of his back and Louis pretends there aren’t people watching him.

It’s not like breaking bonds is unheard of. People mate with people they don’t want to spend their lives with all the time. Every day probably. They don’t know him and they don’t have the power to judge him.

            “Gonna have a cig,” the alpha says as they hit the sidewalk.

            “Sure,” Louis agrees.
Like he has a choice.

The alpha digs a pack of cigarettes and a lighter out of his jeans, lighting up before glancing back to Louis.

            “Sure about this?”

            “You already asked that,” Louis points out.

The alpha exhales smoke.

            “You look scared.”

Louis feels his chest puff up at that. He stops himself from crossing his arms.

            “I’m not some dumb kid,” he says.   

            “I didn’t say you were,” the alpha points out idly.
He takes another drag, cigarette flaring red.

            “I don’t need protecting.”

 

The alpha’s eyes cut to the right suddenly and Louis stiffens. He doesn’t know how he knows but he does. Harry’s here.

Shit, shit, shit.

Louis turns slowly.
Just as he thought, Harry’s stalking across the sidewalk towards them.
He’s all long legs in black skinnies and hair flaring out to the side as he scowls at Louis. His range rover is parked crookedly at the kerb and Louis slowly crosses his arms over his chest.

            “Louis,” Harry barks out, “get in the car.”

Louis doesn’t say anything. Nor does he move. He has maybe five seconds before Harry reaches him and he knows – as soon as Harry touches him it will be over.

            “What are you doing here?”

Harry only scowls deeper. He stops barely a foot from Louis, eyes dragging from the top of his head to his toes and back.

Louis doesn’t dare look at the other alpha. He can nearly sense that the alpha’s moved away though. Anybody’d do the same.

 

            “Get. In. The. Car.”

Louis ducks his chin. He doesn’t have too much choice.

            “Fine,” he says, putting in as much venom as he can.

Honestly, what is Harry doing here? Even if someone told him what Louis was going to do – doubtful, why was he trying to stop him?

Harry doesn’t move so Louis starts for the car, assuming Harry will follow. Tempted as he is to get in the backseat and sulk, Louis walks around to climb in the passenger side.

Harry slams his door hard enough to rock the car and glances to Louis before starting the engine. Neither of them say anything.

 

Louis huffs, crossing his arms again.

            “Buckle the fuck up,” Harry tells him.

Louis rolls his eyes but obeys.

“You’re fucking lucky Nick saw you,” Harry all but snarls. “What you think you were doing-”

            “You didn’t need to come protect my honor,” Louis cuts him off.

            “Oh, you have any to protect?” Harry shoots back.

            “Then what are you doing?” Louis demands. “I thought you’d be happy!”

            “Happy that you’re manipulating me again?” Harry questions. He laughs once and shifts gears before pulling into traffic sharply.

            “Jesus Christ-” Louis starts.

            “As if you weren’t waiting for Dan to tell me where you’d gone,” Harry cuts him off this time. “Waiting for me to come out here and get you.”

            “I thought Nick told you where I was.”

            “He did,” Harry agrees, “though I’m not entirely sure what your plan even was. If you want my attention, this is a bit desperate.”

Louis curls forward in his seat, seatbelt cutting into his neck as he bangs his head on the dashboard.

            “Yes,” Louis drawls, sitting up again, “I was definitely leaving the club with that hulking alpha to get your attention.”

 

The air in the car changes suddenly.

Louis shuts his mouth and looks out the window again. He’d thought it had been obvious what he’d been doing. Apparently not.

            “I thought we were getting along,” Harry says lowly.

            “Fuck’s sakes, Harry,” Louis sighs.

            “You’re the one who did this,” Harry says. “You’re the one who bonded us, so why would you want to cheat on me?”

            “It’s not cheating-”

            “Like hell.”

            “I was going to break the bond,” Louis finishes, talking over Harry.

The car jerks to a stop as Harry slams on the breaks.

            “You were going to what?”

            “Break the bond,” Louis repeats, curling his hands into fists. “Free you.”

            “Now that you’ve got what you wanted?”

Louis can’t move. He can’t breathe to respond.

 

“Expect me to just move out and leave you all to live happily ever after?”

            “We obviously weren’t going to stay,” Louis says.

Harry snorts and starts driving again.

            “Do your games ever stop?”

            “I’ve never lied to you,” Louis tells him. He wishes his voice didn’t sound so empty.

            “Obviously,” Harry snorts again.

            “I can’t believe I was going to risk my life just to make you happy.”

A bit dramatic, sure. Louis feels he’s entitled.

            “Like you’d be capable.”

Louis knows Harry probably just wants to hurt him at this point. He succeeds.      

            “Google it, Harry.”

The fight goes out of Louis like the sun going down and he leans against the window again, focusing on breathing.

 

The thing of it is, whether Harry believes it or not, Louis knows what he was going to do. His omega knows. He’s ashamed of himself.

All he wants to do is curl up at Harry’s feet and beg forgiveness. His nerves are buzzing for Harry’s touch.

But Harry won’t touch him. Maybe that’s a good thing.

It’s one thing for Louis to know how desperate he feels. Quite another for Harry to know as well.

 

They don’t speak for the rest of the drive. Once Harry’s safely parked in the drive he looks to Louis again.

            “Break the bond,” he snorts again.

He shakes his head and climbs out of the car.

Louis lets him go first. He hasn’t decided if he’s going straight to his room to hide or if he’ll search out his mum first. He should probably let her know what happened but Louis also doesn’t want to talk about it anymore. That problem can wait until tomorrow.

It looks like Harry’s waiting for him in the doorway anyway.

Louis sighs to himself before climbing out of the car as well.

Harry presses a button, making the alarm chirp, and disappears inside.

Louis scoffs and kicks at a pebble. Then he forces himself to be an adult and goes in the house too. He makes it to his room without seeing anyone, thankfully. He toes out of his shoes before dropping into bed and curling up on his side.
It’ll be alright. Somehow.

 

Louis doesn’t know what time it is when his door opens and claps closed again. He sits up so quickly he’s dizzy with it, one hand fumbling out for the lamp.

Harry’s standing at the foot of his bed, arms firmly crossed over his chest.

            “You didn’t mean it,” he says.

            “Is that a question?”

            “You didn’t mean it,” Harry repeats. “You weren’t going to break our bond.”

            “I was,” Louis denies. “Now please stop making me say it. I already feel shit.”

            “Do you have any idea what it would have done?”

            “I’m an omega,” Louis says, lying back and covering his eyes with his arm. “Kinda comes with the territory.”

            “That doesn’t make any sense.”

            “As you’ve said.”

            “If you’re no longer my mate I’m under no obligation to support you or your family.”

            “I never asked for it.”

 

Harry’s quiet for a few moments.

Louis wonders if he finally pulled him up short.

            “This doesn’t make any sense.”

            “Listen,” Louis says, “I’m tired and I want to sleep. I was going to break the bond. I was doing it for you. And as soon as I get the chance – I’ll try again. End of story.”

            “You won’t,” Harry growls.

            “Gonna babysit me 24/7?”

The bed dips under Harry’s weight.

            “Gonna mark you up so good no one else will touch you.”

Louis tries to sit up too late, Harry’s already in the bed crowding into his space. Louis can hardly breathe, his mind is scrambling against the instincts that are already rioting inside him.

Harry’s his alpha, he needs this.

            “Harry-”

            “You’re my omega.”

            “Jesus,” Louis snaps, “did you actually google it?”

It’s the last coherent thought Louis has, Harry sealing his mouth on the side of Louis’ neck and sucking hard.

 

Louis doesn’t think his brain physically melts. But it’s a near thing. His lips fall open on a sigh and all he can think is yes and more. As much as he knows he should be protesting this – he’s not strong enough for it. He manages to weakly moan Harry’s name, then he’s gripping at Harry’s face and drawing him up for a messy kiss.

            “Tell me who you belong to,” Harry demands, holding the next kiss hostage as Louis strains closer.

Louis whines in protest.         

“Say it.”

            “Yours,” Louis says, the weakling that he is. “Yours - if you want me.”

            “Again,” Harry says, working at his flies quickly.

            “Yours,” Louis obeys.
His hands are shaking as he reaches down to help.

            “Again.”

            “Yours.”

 

Harry strips them both completely, leaving Louis a trembling mess.

            “Need to feel you,” he mumbles, slipping between Louis’ legs.

            “Yeah,” Louis agrees.

Harry goes back to his neck, grazing with his teeth before sucking.

Louis could almost cry with how empty he is. He wraps his legs around Harry, trying to urge him closer.

Harry reaches down blindly, sinking into Louis in two firm thrusts.

Louis’ stomach flips, toes curling.

Harry groans against his neck.

            “Need to feel you too,” Louis whimpers, pulling his legs tighter.

            “Y’can,” Harry mumbles. “Not going anywhere.”

            “Promise?”

Somewhere far off there are alarm bells sounding. Louis ignores them.

Harry kisses him again and it’s as much of a promise as anything.

 

Louis slides his feet down Harry’s calves.

“Please?”

            “I know,” Harry tells him. “I’ll take care of you.”

He rocks his hips back gently, pressing in again.

…       

Louis aches. It’s pleasant, in a way. But he also can’t bear to not have Harry touching him.

            “You’re mine,” Harry breathes against his neck.

            “Yours,” Louis echoes again.

Harry opens his mouth on the side of Louis’ neck and Louis expects another open mouthed kiss on the exposed skin there. Instead, Harry bites down.

Something in Louis clutches tightly and releases. He curls himself closer to Harry.

“Don’t want to leave you,” Louis admits.

The warning bells are going off again, just a bit louder this time. Somehow he feels like if he gives up this last part of himself – he doesn’t know what will be left that Harry doesn’t have a claim on.  

            “Stay,” Harry murmurs.

            “Don’t hate me.”

Harry says nothing in response, climbing out of bed.

            “’M gonna,” he says, “your neck.”

            “Harry,” Louis pleads, even as he’s walking away. “Don’t hate me.”

 

Harry comes back with a damp washcloth. He climbs in bed carefully, one hand steady at Louis’ shoulder as he cleans Louis up even more carefully. Once it’s done he sits back, sighing.

            “I don’t hate you.”

Louis feels it – that last bit of himself giving way.

            “I don’t hate you either,” he whispers.

He can’t bear to say it louder. It’s precious. It’s a secret.

“I never hated you.”

Harry kisses him then – soundly.

            “I never hated you either,” he says, lips curled slightly.

Louis leans forward to kiss him again, fireworks lighting off in his chest.
It’s an impossible dream. He knows it is.
Still.

As soon as Louis wakes up, he can feel it. The ache in his neck. But he can feel Harry too.
It isn’t a strong bond. Not yet. Mostly he can feel that Harry is still there in the bed with him.

Louis is glad. He needs Harry close right now. Last night he’d thought he was going to lose Harry. Now they’d bonded again.

It was too much for Louis to really wrap his head around and all that he knew was that he needed Harry close to him. He wonders if Harry needs him close too. Surely he would have left bed by now if not. Harry’s always up before him.

Louis rolls over, one hand halfheartedly reaching out to touch Harry.

            “How are you feeling?” Harry asks.

Louis blinks awake to see Harry holding a book in his lap, looking down at him.

            “Strange,” Louis admits. “Closer to you.”

            “Yes,” Harry agrees easily. “I feel the same.”

Silence falls between them.

            “Did you mean it?” Louis asks.

Harry hums.

“Last night,” Louis says.

He can only hope Harry figures it out because he couldn’t possibly say it out loud.

 

            “That I didn’t hate you?” Harry asks, eyes moving back to his book.

Louis’ stomach clenches.

            “Yes,” he exhales. “That.”

            “I don’t hate you,” Harry says again.

It doesn’t make Louis feel as good as it did last time.

“According to plan, I expect.”

Louis’ stomach drops totally out of his body then.

            “You – what?”

            “C’mon Lou,” Harry sighs. “You tell me you’re going to go out and fuck another alpha, break our bond, and whatever else you were going to do.”

Louis can hear the air quotes.

“Like that isn’t going to send my instincts into a frenzy to keep you.”

He snaps his book closed and gets out of bed.

“Like I wasn’t going to immediately take you to bed and bite you again.”

            “I didn’t plan this!” Louis yells.

Harry rolls his eyes.

 

Louis reaches out, grasping at the lamp before throwing it as hard as he can. It doesn’t hit Harry. The lamp makes it maybe five inches past Louis’ face before the cord yanks it back and it breaks on the floor.

            “Great,” Harry says, “very theatric.”

Louis exhales.

            “You’re never going to trust me, are you?”

            “When have you given me reason to?”

If their bond was deeper, Harry would know that Louis was telling the truth. As it is, Louis only has his word. Which means exactly nothing to Harry.

            “I told you already,” Louis says. “I’ve never lied to you. Not about anything.”

            “You’re right,” Harry says, pushing his hair out of his face before setting his hands on his hips. “You did tell me that already.”

            “I…”

And Louis can’t finish that sentence out loud. He can’t say it and make it true.

I’ve given you every part of me he thinks and it’s not enough. I will never be enough.

 

Louis gets out of bed, wrapping the sheet around himself the best he can. He doesn’t know where he’s going and he doesn’t know how he’s going to get there. He just knows he can’t be here anymore.

He can hear people moving in the kitchen as he hurries down the hall and it’s all Louis can do not to cry. He slams the door of his room and starts tearing into his dresser, looking for anything he owned before he met Harry. He hasn’t found anything by the time there’s a quiet knock at the door.

            “What?” he calls, worried it’s Harry. Terrified it isn’t.

            “Louis?” his mum calls through the door. “Are you alright?”

            “No,” Louis says. “Where are my clothes?”

Knowing better than to keep up the conversation from the hallway, his mum opens the door and steps inside.

            “Which ones, love?”

            “Anything that he didn’t buy.”

            “I threw most of them out,” his mum admits. “Bought new ones.”

 

Louis shuts the drawer he was pawing through too hard.

            “Why did you do that?” he asks.

            “Made sense at the time.”

Louis inhales shakily.

            “We can’t stay here, Mum.” He exhales and tries again. “I can’t stay here.”           

            “I know,” she says.

She guides him over to the bed and they both sit.

Louis pulls the sheet more tightly around himself.

“Last night,” his mum prompts gently, “it didn’t work?”

            “No,” Louis says simply.

His mum wraps an arm around his shoulders, pressing a kiss to his brow.

            “I’m sorry.”

            “Me too.”

Louis doesn’t have a huge number of friends. He certainly doesn’t have a huge number of friends he can ask to crash with. Luckily enough Zayn doesn’t seem to mind the idea.

His apartment is barely a bedroom but Harry won’t be there. It’s good enough for Louis.

            “Come on,” Zayn says, kicking at Louis’ ankle rather hard.

Louis grunts. He’s been at Zayn’s for nearly a week now and so far it’s been great. Louis is feeling very relaxed. Or he was rather.

“Up,” Zayn repeats.

            “What?” Louis whines.

            “We’re going out,” Zayn tells him. “So, get up.” He pops the ‘p’ of up sharply.

            “I don’t want to,” Louis protests. He still hasn’t moved.

            “I know you don’t want to,” Zayn sighs. “But you need to go do something.”        

            “I hate you,” Louis tells him. “And I hate Harry. But mostly you.”

            “You don’t hate either of us, babe.”

Louis narrows his eyes but otherwise doesn’t reply.

“I will go without you.”

Louis doesn’t doubt him for a moment.

            “Where are we going?”

            “Somewhere fun,” Zayn says, “where we can get completely wasted.”

 

Louis finally perks at that bit. It would be nice to forget things for a while.

            “Fine,” he says. “But I’m not doing my hair.”

            “I’ve got you covered,” Zayn laughs.

If he was within range, Louis would have punched him. As it is, Louis doesn’t punch his best friend.

At first there’s too many things happening for Louis to sort them out in his head. He tries to blink his eyes more but there still isn’t a single thing that makes sense.

He remembers being with Zayn but he can’t see him.

There’s just noise all around him. Pounding music and people yelling. Why are people yelling so loud?

Wait.
Was that Zayn?

Louis frowns as he tries to lift his head to look around. It was easier the second time. Yes, there’s Zayn on his left and then directly across from Zayn is… Liam?

What?

Louis’ eyes close on their own and he groans before leaning back again.

Some of the noise falls off and there’s a hand on his shoulder.

 

            “Louis,” Liam is leaning close to him and yelling to be heard, “we need to get you up, can you stand?”

Louis frowns at him before closing his eyes again. Definitely not.

            “Leave him,” Zayn is yelling then. There’s two more hands on him, Louis assumes Zayn’s, but they’re also trying to pull him up. That isn’t any better.

            “Leave me alone,” Louis says. Or he tries to say it at least. “Both of you get off me.”
Did words actually come out? Is he just talking to himself?

            “Louis,” Liam tries again. He’s yelling even louder, if that’s possible. “You’re bleeding.”

That gets a bit of Louis’ attention. He doesn’t feel like he’s bleeding.

“Come on, let’s get you up. Harry will meet us.” Liam has taken on a softer tone now, as if he’s trying to coax Louis up.

Instead, Louis snorts.

            “Don’t call Harry,” he tells Liam. “I’m fine.” He probably isn’t fine. In fact, he’s got the sinking feeling that he’s very far from fine.
Still, the last thing he wants to do is see Harry. He at least needs to figure out what happened first.

            “Why don’t you want me to call Harry?”

            “Doubt you’d understand,” Zayn snaps. “Being mates with him and all.”

            “What?” Liam draws back to ask.

 

They’re both standing over Louis again, arguing with each other. Louis wonders how long they’ve been doing that.

He shivers, his arm feeling wet for the first time. Oh he manages to think. There’s the blood. Not that Liam had a reason to lie.

Louis’ brain wobbles and spins. He closes his eyes and fights just to breathe.

            “I don’t feel good,” he mumbles.

Neither Zayn nor Liam react to this. Maybe they haven’t heard him?

“Zee,” Louis tries.

Louis tries to sit up. It doesn’t work and it only makes him feel more ill. Louis sags back again before pressing his chin as close to his chest as he can. From this angle he can see Liam’s legs. Louis pictures a football on Liam’s right ankle and kicks at it.

Finally both of them look to him again.

“Just get me back to Zayn’s,” Louis tries. “I’ll be alright in the morning.”
He still can’t remember what happened but that’s what Zayn’s for, isn’t it?

 

Liam crosses his arms over his chest though.

            “Hospital or Harry,” he says.

            “Jesus,” Louis lets out. He lets the concrete cradle the back of his skull again. Okay, he’ll just lie here until he feels good enough to move. He can do that. “I don’t have money for hospital,” he says, mostly to himself.

            “Louis,” Liam says, dragging out each syllable, “Harry has money for that, obviously.”

            “No,” Louis mumbles. It’s easier than saying that he doesn’t want Harry’s money. That he doesn’t want Harry.

            “We have to get him to the hospital,” Liam says then. “He’s clearly delusional.”
Louis assumes he’s speaking to Zayn again. He doesn’t open his eyes.

            “He’s not half as delusional as you,” Zayn tells him.

He still helps Liam pull him into a sitting position though. They crouch on either side of him and when they haul him to his feet Louis can’t hold in a low wail of pain.

 

Definitely not fine. He inhales a short breath and thinks about passing out. Unfortunately, Louis’ body doesn’t give him the option and he stays frustratingly conscious.

The three of them take a few jolting steps, Louis biting down on his lips hard enough that they tingle, before Liam calls them to a stop.

            “This isn’t working,” he says, “I’ll carry him.”

            “Fuck off,” Zayn returns.
Louis loves Zayn. He does, but he also wouldn’t mind being cradled in Liam’s ridiculously big arms.

            “He can carry me,” he acquiesces, “just don’t call Harry.”

            “I’m calling Harry,” Liam says, not missing a beat, “and I don’t know why you don’t want me to call him.”

            “We’re separated,” Louis explains.
He’s bolder with Zayn by his side, even if they are both omegas and Liam’s an alpha.

 

Liam’s quiet for several moments. None of them move.

            “I still need to call him.”

Talk about a rock and a hard place.

Louis sighs heavily. He really can’t stay on his feet much longer.

            “Fine,” he says, “but definitely no hospital.”

Liam stays suspiciously quiet in response to that.

Louis ignores it, allowing Liam to pick him up. As he’d expected he feels safe curled into Liam’s chest and he lets his eyes close again.

            “You good to get yourself home?”

Liam’s chest vibrates pleasantly as he talks to Zayn and even though Zayn is protesting leaving Louis with Liam, Louis ignores it.

They must come to some sort of arrangement because the next thing Louis is aware of is being gently maneuvered into a car, still in Liam’s arms.

“Good thing you have a big backseat,” Liam tells someone.

Louis doesn’t open his eyes. He’s not asleep, not yet. His mind is foggy with confusion and pain and he doesn’t think he can bear anything more.

Louis is in Harry’s bed when he wakes up. He probably should have seen that coming.

At least he hasn’t opened his eyes yet. He doesn’t have to deal with whatever Harry’s thinking of him now. He can just lie here, perfectly still, and breathe in the scent of his alpha. It’s not so bad if he just does that.

But consciousness never offers the same allowances as sleep and soon enough Louis is feeling pressure below his stomach that reminds him he has no idea the last time he visited the bathroom.

He opens his eyes slowly and pulls himself into a sitting position even slower. His entire right forearm is wrapped in a white bandage and he’s wearing pyjamas he certainly didn’t take with him to Zayn’s. That probably makes sense though.

Louis jumps when he sees Harry, his body immediately sending waves of pain up to his brain. He hisses in response, looking away again.

            “Where’s Zayn?”

It’s not the safest topic but Louis needs to map out his escape.

            “Guest room,” Harry says. “How are you feeling?”

Louis ignores him. He draws the covers off his legs and slowly swings them to the floor. He makes his way stiffly to the bathroom, closing the door and Harry out at the same time.

 

Once he leaves the bathroom he continues trying to ignore Harry. It isn’t actually possible but Harry doesn’t need to know that.

He doesn’t move until Louis heads for the bedroom door.

            “Where are you going?”

            “To see Zayn,” Louis says, crossing his arms. “Or at least to my own room.”

Harry visibly hesitates, chewing on his lip as he debates what he wants to say.

            “You have to let me take care of you.”

Louis bristles immediately. He ignores the voice inside him viciously, shoving it down until he can’t even hear it. There’s no time for be a good omega not now, maybe not ever again.

            “Fuck off Harry. I’m not – you’re not my fucking keeper. Get over it.”

            “You clearly can’t take care of yourself,” Harry points out.

            “If it wasn’t for dickheads like you I would have been just fine.”

            “Like me?” Harry sputters. “Those arseholes attacked you Louis! You’re lucky to be conscious right now!”

Louis doesn’t disagree out loud. He would much rather be asleep though.

            “Fuck you!” Louis is yelling now and he doesn’t care. “I’m done making excuses for you about how you could be worse to me. I haven’t done anything to deserve this!”

 

Harry looks incredulous at that, his brow furrowed as his nostrils flare.

            “I’m sorry you feel that way, Louis-”

            “You don’t get to blame me for this anymore. I’ve done my best, I’ve done literally everything that I can to try and get you to like me and you barely put up with me.”

            “You can’t-”

            “I can,” Louis decides. “I’m a shitty omega. Fine. Whatever. I don’t care anymore. We suck together Harry. We suck. And I’m never gonna be that quiet, docile omega that you wanted to fall in love with. I can’t be here anymore. I can’t keep walking into the same wall.”

            “You wanted this.”

Louis rolls his eyes.

            “Let me past, Harry.”

            “Louis, no. You have to let me care for you.”

            “No,” Louis says firmly. “I don’t even want to be here, Liam made me.”

            “He did the right thing.”

            “Whatever,” Louis sighs, fighting not to roll his eyes again. “I’m going back to Zayn’s.”

 

Harry inhales deeply.

            “Please don’t,” he says, changing tactics. “Please don’t leave me. Not like this.”   

            “I’m fine,” Louis tries.

            “You aren’t,” Harry whispers. “Please let me take care of you. At least for a couple days.”

He’s still standing bodily in front of the door and Louis already feels tired again. His arm is burning with pain too.

            “Can Zayn stay?”

            “Whatever you need,” Harry agrees immediately.

 

            “I still don’t want to stay,” Louis clarifies.

            “Fine,” Harry nods.

            “I’m done letting you treat me like shit.”

Harry’s jaw tics. It only makes Louis angrier.

“I don’t know why you keep accusing me of things,” he snaps. “You’re the one that keeps biting me.”

            “Omega bite isn’t required,” Harry responds immediately.

            “No,” Louis agrees. “But I never said I wanted to bond with you at all. You’ve been playing fast and loose with it. How many bites do you think you can get away with before it’s permanent?”

            “How can you come to my home, in heat, and later say you weren’t looking for a bondmate?”

            “You weren’t even supposed to be there!” Louis is yelling again. He doesn’t care. “On top of that I don’t want you to bite me! Having a mate is bad enough ‘be quiet’ this and ‘be good’ that. I never wanted that. And the deeper the bond goes the worse it gets. Or did you think you were the only one affected? God, you probably did. Thick-headed alpha.”

            “Stubborn omega,” Harry says at that, nearly growling.

            “That’s right,” Louis agrees, a fire in his gut. “Stubborn, shitty omega. That’s me.”

            “I didn’t say that.”

            “You didn’t need to.”

            “Lou – I didn’t say that,” Harry repeats, blinking twice rapidly.

 

Louis’ instincts sweeping back up and over him. His chest feels tight and it’s all he can do to open his mouth again.

            “If I’m a shitty omega you’re a pretty shitty alpha too.”

            “It’s instinct to bite, just like it’s instinct to mate,” Harry says.

            “You didn’t have to buy this house. You could have supported us where we already lived.”

Louis has never called Harry on it. Well, he’s never called Harry on anything he’s done.

            “You’re complaining about this house now?” Harry demands, incredulous again.

            “If I’m the mastermind of all of this, shouldn’t I at least be happy?”

 

That seems to draw Harry up short and they stare at each other for a moment. It’s just as well because Louis doesn’t think he can say anything else.

            “Have you felt this way the entire time?”

Louis nods. He crosses his arms over his chest.

“Then why did you-”

            “What? Act guilty? You were sure that I was, not much I can do about that.”

Harry watches him for a few moments that feel entirely too long.

Louis’ face feels hot and he’s itching with the urge to run and hide. Instead he takes a deep breath and lets it back out.

            “So you still-”

            “I never wanted this.”

Harry shifts, setting his hands on his hips.

            “I’d like you to stay.”

            “I’d like a flying pony.”

At that, Harry snorts. His posture relaxes and his smile looks genuine.

            “I’m sorry, we’re fresh out.”

 

            “Don’t try to be cute,” Louis warns him. “I’m still leaving.”

            “You think I’m cute?” Harry asks.

            “Okay.” Louis takes a step forward, like he’s planning on going through Harry.

            “Sorry,” Harry says quickly, putting both hands up. “I’m sorry.”

Louis sighs, rocking back on his heels. He’s already tired again and he honestly wants to turn around and get back in bed.

Harry’s watching him closely and his smile slowly fades.

“I’m not asking as your alpha,” he says quietly. “And I’m sorry I’ve mucked this all up. But, please stay. At least until I can make sure you’re okay.”

            “I mean what I said,” Louis forces the words out, “I’m not gonna be your doormat anymore.”

            “Okay,” Harry says. “Please just get back in bed.”

            “I want my bed,” Louis pouts.  

            “Too bad,” Harry tells him, apparently reaching the end of his patience. He steps forward, arms reaching out to herd Louis back to his bed.

 

            “And I’m not fucking you,” Louis adds.

            “I don’t really want you fucking anyone right now. You probably have cracked ribs.”

Louis rolls his eyes again.

            “I’ve had worse.”

            “I’ll need names later,” Harry informs him.

Louis snorts. Still, he moves back to the bed and carefully climbs in.

Harry draws the covers over him, tucking him in.

“Do you need anything for the pain?”

            “I’m fine,” Louis says again.

Moments later, he’s sleeping again.

 

Quiet voices wake him. Once Louis realizes Phoebe’s speaking he wakes much faster – years of practice.

Harry’s holding Phoebe on his hip. She’s getting too big to justify carrying her around but she seems content enough in his arms.

            “So we have to let Louis sleep,” Harry’s saying.

Louis can barely make out the edge of his smile from the hall light.

“Maybe you can sleep with your mum though? I’m sure she wouldn’t mind.”

            “I wanna sleep with Boo,” Phoebe says.

Louis can picture her pout perfectly. He’s already wilting, getting ready to sit up and offer to take her.

            “I’m sorry dearest,” Harry answers, “no one can sleep with Boo tonight.”

            “Not even you?” Phoebe asks, suspicious.

            “Not even me,” Harry confirms. He even lifts a single fingertip to cross his heart. “How about a snack before I take you back to bed?”

 

Phoebe’s quiet for a moment.

            “A cookie?” she asks.

            “Sounds delicious,” Harry agrees, turning for the doorway.

            “Two cookies?” Phoebe wheedles.

Harry laughs quietly at that.

            “One and a half. And you don’t tell your mum.”

Christ, Louis would have just given her the two cookies. He shifts restlessly before swallowing. His throat is dry and several parts of his body ache with disuse. It makes him wonder how long he’s been sleeping.

 

Louis is debating getting out of bed when Harry returns, closing the door softly behind himself.

            “I’m thirsty,” Louis announces.

Harry jumps in response and Louis can’t keep himself from smiling.

            “You’re awake,” Harry says.

            “Yes,” Louis agrees dryly. “And I’m thirsty.”

Harry brings him a glass of water from the bathroom without any protest.

            “Do you want to sit up?”

            “Not really,” Louis admits. “But choking to death isn’t on my to-do list.”

 

Harry clicks on one of the lamps with his free hand.

            “Getting beaten to death was?”

            “I told you, I’m a shitty omega. I also told you I’m done letting you treat me like this.”

Harry mimes zipping his lips. He offers the glass of water.

Louis manages to lift himself a couple inches, propping himself up with his left arm. It takes two tries to grip the glass and he brings it to his lips very carefully.

            “You fell on some broken glass in the alley,” Harry says quietly. “Do you remember?”

            “Not much,” Louis admits.

It was one of two things if he and Zayn got into it with anyone. Doesn’t really matter which.

            “How’s the pain?”

            “Fine.”

            “I’ll bring you something.”

            “I said I was fine.”

            “It’ll help you sleep,” Harry tells him.

            “I don’t know that I like you being nice to me.”

Harry runs a lazy hand through his hair before shrugging.

            “Get over it.”

It’s far too hot when he wakes, Harry wrapped almost totally around him.

Louis grunts, unable to roll over.

            “I thought no one was allowed to sleep with me.”

            “I didn’t sleep,” Harry mumbles.

            “You could have literally slept anywhere and you chose to not sleep with me,” Louis points out, incredulous.

            “Yes,” Harry agrees. He doesn’t say anything else.

            “I’m getting up today,” Louis says after another moment. “You can’t stop me.”

Harry sighs across the back of his neck before speaking again.

            “I don’t intend to. But we should check for bruises and I’d like to have a doctor see you.”

            “Don’t be stupid. I’m fine.”

            “Louis-”

 

            “When are we going to talk about us?” Louis interrupts.

            “Us?” Harry echoes slowly.

            “Us,” Louis confirms. “Or lack of, rather.”

            “I don’t want to argue.”

            “Neither do I. But I mean it, I can’t do this anymore.”

Harry sighs and sits up.

            “If you want to leave, you can.”

Louis finally rolls onto his back to look up at Harry.

            “I tried to leave and you stopped me.”  

            “I still don’t understand what you want,” Harry says, exasperated. “You’re the one who did this.”

            “We’re going in circles.”

            “Yes,” Harry agrees.

 

That’s something, Louis supposes.

            “I can go with Zayn.”

            “I don’t want you to.”

Louis’ eyes widen at that. He doesn’t know what to say in response. He waits the longest moment he can, licking his lips quickly.

            “What do you want?”

 

Harry smiles down at him, the pad of his thumb tracing along Louis’ lower lip.

            “Suppose it’s oversimplified to say you.”

            “You don’t want me,” Louis tells him. “You never have.”

He sighs and sits up, mostly using his legs to scoot away from Harry.

“You’re just overemotional with all your alpha-y instincts because I’m hurt, that’s all.”

Harry doesn’t answer for another protracted moment.

Louis stands, wobbling from one foot to the other. He exhales and straightens his legs, glad when they bear his weight.

            “Where are you going?”

            “To get Zayn so we can go.”

            “I don’t want you to,” Harry says again.

            “You don’t know what you want,” Louis tells him.

            “Neither do you.”

Louis looks back to see Harry leaning against the headboard, arms crossed over his chest.

            “Glad we had this talk.”

He leaves before Harry says anything else.

 

Zayn is down in the basement, he and Lottie watching a movie.

            “You good?” Zayn asks.

            “Yeah,” Louis agrees. “Ready to get out of here.”

Zayn and Lottie share a look.

            “If you don’t want to stay I will,” Zayn mutters.

He climbs to his feet anyway and Louis sighs in relief.

“We should eat before we go. I’ve got nothing at mine and your mum will want to see you as it is.”

Louis shrugs, pretending to be unaffected.

            “We’ll keep you safe, won’t we Lotts?”

            “Course,” Lottie agrees.

            “You might wanna get dressed,” Zayn smirks.

Louis sighs. Zayn has a point but it seems like an awful lot of work.

            “I have a new idea,” he announces, even as he turns around and starts climbing the stairs. “Harry leaves and we all stay.”

            “Don’t think that will work, Lou.”

            “Definitely not,” Lottie agrees.

            “One of you be his mate then.”

Zayn mutters something Louis can’t hear and Lottie giggles in response.

Louis ignores both of them.

By the time they finish eating Harry hasn’t emerged from his room.

As much as Louis still wants to leave, does it really make sense? He can’t stay with Zayn forever. Harry is still his mate. He will be unless Louis breaks the bond.

But does he really want to do that? Or is Harry right? If Louis doesn’t know what he wants it probably isn’t best to go making permanent decisions.

What Louis really needs is to talk to his mum. And to tell Harry to fuck off again. That had felt pretty good.

Zayn seems to know without Louis saying anything. It’s only one of the reasons he’s Louis’ best friend.

            “Text me, yeah?” Zayn asks, standing and pushing his chair in.

            “Yeah,” Louis agrees.

            “Walk me out?”

            “Dan can drive you back to yours.”

            “I’m alright,” Zayn says.

 

They walk to the front door together, a portion of Louis still wants to follow Zayn right out it.

“Listen,” Zayn says, stopping just inside the door. “This isn’t your fault. It isn’t really anyone’s fault. It happened and it’s shit but you can’t keep carrying it on your shoulders. You hear me?”

Louis shrugs.

            “I didn’t say I was staying forever.”

            “Either way,” Zayn brushes him off. “Give us a hug and give him hell for me.”

            “I thought I was already doing that.”

            “That mouth gets you into trouble,” Zayn laughs. Then he pulls Louis into a hug, gently slapping his back.

            “You’re one to talk.”

They laugh together and Zayn releases him.

            “I’m still here if you need me.”

            “I know,” Louis agrees.

He feels lighter for a moment and it isn’t much but it might be enough.

They finish the lunch dishes without Harry appearing. Louis goes to have a quick shower, more than eager to be able to hide in his room. It’s odd being back. He still doesn’t really think of this house as his home. He’s just staying here for a bit.

Louis is dressing, towel on the floor, when his door opens unexpectedly. He jumps, hauling his pants up and over his hips.

Harry drags him into a hug without saying anything.

Louis feels too many things at once to react. He wants to lean away and sink into Harry all at once. There’s still the shock of his door opening sizzling through his veins, joined by the tension of Harry touching him again.

After a few moments, Harry draws away. He coughs quietly, glancing back to the door. It’s still standing half open and as much as Louis wants to close it he also doesn’t want Harry to be in here with him.

            “You’re still here,” Harry says.

Louis nods. He moves to his dresser and pulls on a t-shirt.

            “I would appreciate it if you didn’t touch me.”

It’s the exact opposite of what Louis wants to say.

Harry laughs at him. Only once, but still.

            “You’re still my mate.”

            “Yes,” Louis agrees. “And I would appreciate if you didn’t touch me.”

 

Harry sets his hands on his hips.

Louis wonders if this is his dealing with Louis stance.         

            “What games are you playing now?”

Honestly? Louis is so done with this.

            “Harry. I’m tired. Please leave.”

Harry frowns at him, opening his mouth to say more.

“I’m not playing with you or planning anything or whatever you’re thinking now. I’m literally doing nothing. Spending time with my sisters. Going to bed.”

            “Fine,” Harry says eventually.

            “Fine,” Louis echoes. “Please leave.”

Harry frowns at him again, but he finally leaves. At least he closes the door behind himself.

Life resumes.

He and Harry don’t speak.

Harry goes back to spending hardly any time at the house.

Louis tells himself he doesn’t miss Harry. He tells himself every day. There’s nothing to miss. They aren’t anything to each other.

Louis needs to find another job, after abandoning his last one without a word, but he’s been putting it off. He gets bored staying at the house all day but there’s also a bitterness in him preventing him from going to find one. If he’s stuck with Harry, he might as well fully reap the benefits.

Whenever they leave he’ll have to go right back to work, won’t he? So, he’ll enjoy the freedom he has now.

If nothing else, Louis is getting quite good at killing time.

Louis is kicking a football lazily in the backyard when the glass door slides open. He only glances up because it’s convenient, the ball flying off his foot when he sees Harry.

Harry’s eyes are sharp on him and Louis swallows reflexively.

Why does he have a feeling he’s not going to like this conversation?

            “I take it you don’t want to spend my rut together.”

Is it time for that already?

Louis blows out a sigh, glad Harry waited to get him alone.

            “No,” he says.

            “Look,” Harry says, eyebrows squeezing together on his forehead, “if the pulling away to get me to beg for your attention plan is finished now-”

            “I pulled away for myself,” Louis tells him. “Not you.”

            “Right,” Harry agrees. “If you’re done now?”

            “I don’t want to spend your rut with you.”

            “Even if I’m asking?”

            “Even if you’re asking.”

            “I won’t ask again,” Harry says next, his nostrils flaring wide.

            “Great,” Louis shoots back, managing a smile.

 

Harry is silent for several moments.

Louis refuses to break it.

            “I don’t understand,” he finally admits. “What’s your plan, Louis?”

            “I don’t have a plan,” Louis says. “I’m doing what I want, since you don’t seem to care if I’m doing what I think you want.”

            “Or you’re just trying to make me want you more.”

Louis pulls a hand through his hair, tempted to scream.

            “What? What, Harry? Will me fucking you make you believe me? Tell me what you want me to do and I’ll do it. I’m tired of this.”

            “You really don’t want to spend my rut with me?” Harry asks.

            “No,” Louis says again.

            “You don’t make sense,” Harry tells him.

            “Maybe if what I’m doing still doesn’t make sense, it’s because you’re still wrong about me,” Louis suggests.

He leaves Harry standing on the porch, leaves the football outside as well, and he doesn’t regret it a bit.

Harry makes it nearly two days before he cracks.

Louis is already in bed for the night when he knocks on the door.

            “Could I… spend the night in here?”

            “To sleep?”

Harry nods sharply.

            “Please, Louis. I can feel you’ve pulled away from me and it’s – it hurts.”

            “Do you think the physical contact will really help?”

            “Don’t know,” Harry admits.

Louis waits a moment.

            “I thought you’d already closed yourself off.”

 

Harry frowns.

            “I don’t know how to do that.”

            “What do you mean?” Louis laughs. “You don’t like me – it wouldn’t have been a conscious choice.”

Again, Harry doesn’t say anything. Suddenly he won’t meet Louis’ eyes.

“You…”

Louis can’t make himself say it though. His cowardly tongue fails him again.

“Yes,” he says, exhaling, “you can sleep in here.”

Harry smiles, the flash of his teeth there and gone.

            “Thank you,” he says quietly.

            “Come on,” Louis says, opening the door wide enough to let Harry in.

 

They approach the bed together, Louis trying to calm his nerves. It’s just physical contact to soothe their bond. It means exactly nothing.

Harry huffs out a laugh before climbing in the bed and curling on his side, away from Louis.

            “Can you?” Harry asks, peeking over his shoulder.

            “Uh. Yeah, yes.”

Louis nearly falls into the bed, managing to catch himself. He shifts closer to Harry carefully, slipping an arm over his waist and curling around him.

Harry exhales deeply, settling into his pillow.

            “Goodnight.”

            “Right,” Louis chokes out, “goodnight.”

Harry’s still in his bed when Louis wakes up. Still asleep even. He looks so peaceful, hair half fanned out across the pillow.

Louis doesn’t want to care for him. He just also can’t seem to help himself.

His heart throbs in his chest. It’s impossible not to think about last night. If Harry still feels the bond between them… Maybe he can’t help what he feels either. Maybe, against all odds – does he dare even think it?

Does Harry like him?

Louis isn’t sure how much of the bond he still feels. He’s been avoiding Harry – avoiding thinking of Harry even – as much as he can. It’s probably still there.

Louis sighs. He’s been staring at Harry’s lips since he woke up.
The bond is still there. He knows it’s still there.

Louis lays back again, staring up at the ceiling.

If Louis were brave he would wake Harry with a kiss. He would offer himself up for Harry’s rut. But Louis isn’t feeling particularly brave right now. He honestly doesn’t know if he’d make it out of Harry’s rut without a permanent bond. As much as he cares for Harry – he can’t take that risk.

 

Louis moves to the side of the bed gently. He stands, stretching out his back before crossing to his dresser.

Harry stirs as he slides open a drawer.

            “Lou?” he asks, blinking cutely.

Who even does that? Blinks cutely? Louis is disgusted with himself.

            “All right?” Louis asks, clearing his throat quickly.

            “Yeah,” Harry says.

He sits up, hair cascading over his shoulder as he rolls his neck.

“Bit restless,” Harry admits then, glancing at Louis from under his eyelashes.

Louis rolls his eyes.

            “I’m not fucking you because you’re restless, Harry.”

            “What if I ask nicely?” Harry asks, pouting.

 

Louis abandons the dresser, rounding the foot of the bed again before sitting.

            “Listen, it’s not that I don’t want to. If you bite me and we bond again…” he hesitates.

            “What?” Harry prompts him. “You don’t want that?”

What a loaded question.

            “I won’t be able to leave you,” Louis admits.

            “Why do you keep saying that?” Harry asks then. “You don’t want to leave me, not after you’ve done all this.”

Louis stifles a wry laugh. It probably wouldn’t make him seem any more honest.

            “Harry, and this is no offense to you, but I’m not spending the rest of my life with an alpha who doesn’t trust or love me. I’m going to find someone who believes in me. Someone that will have pups with me.”

Harry frowns, sitting up against the headboard.

            “I’m not going to keep taking care of your family if we aren’t mated.”

            “Yes,” Louis says, very patiently he thinks. “I’m aware of that.”

            “That doesn’t make any sense.”

            “Maybe not to you.”

 

Harry watches him a long moment, head tilted to the side.

            “You’re… you’re serious,” he says, painfully slow.

            “Very much so,” Louis answers.
He stands again, moving back to the dresser. Valiantly, he pretends Harry isn’t watching him get dressed.

“I’m sorry Harry, but either you believe that I’m telling you the truth and we make a real go of this – or you let me go.”

            “How can I?” Harry mutters.

Louis glances back.

Harry isn’t looking at him anymore though; he’s looking down at his lap.

“You’re smart, Louis. Beautiful. Desirable. How am I supposed to trust that you haven’t been playing the long game? That you aren’t still?”

            “Then you’ll have to let me go,” Louis says simply.

            “I can’t tell if you’re bluffing.”

            “I wish I had a way to convince you I’m not. But I don’t.”

Louis sighs again. He moves back to the bed, Harry’s side this time.

“I know how this looks, I don’t blame you. But at the end of the day – I can’t live my life like this. You have to decide. Either you are willing to let me go or you want me enough that it doesn’t matter. I can’t decide that for you and I don’t want to.”

 

Louis reaches out slowly, threading his fingers through Harry’s hair and shifting it out of his face.

It takes another moment for Harry to look up and Louis lets his hand drop away.

            “I can’t be with you if you took my choice from me.”

            “If I had taken it,” Louis says, “consider this me giving it back to you.”

Harry’s brow puckers and Louis almost smiles.

“When you leave for your rut – you have my number. If you call me I’ll come. But Harry, if you call me you had better mean it.”

            “And if I don’t?”

            “I’ll break the bond,” Louis says. “As soon as me mum and I get back on our feet, you’ll never see us again.”

            “Get back on your feet?”

 

This time Louis does laugh.

            “I’ll be sick a while. Nothing serious. So long as the bond isn’t too deep.”

            “Which is why you can’t spend my rut with me.”

            “It’s all medically sound,” Louis adds, smile turning grim. “Would you like my physician’s number?”

            “I don’t think that will be necessary.”

            “Research it yourself at least,” Louis says. “It would make us both feel better, I’m sure.”

            “All right.”

Louis bites at his bottom lip for a moment.

            “I’m gonna shower.”

He bends down; dropping a quick, nervous kiss on Harry’s brow.

Harry doesn’t say anything else. He lets him walk away.

The next two days pass in agony.

Louis doesn’t know when Harry will actually leave for his rut and he can’t bear to ask. He doesn’t even know what to hope for. Could things really work out between he and Harry? Or is breaking the bond and moving on the best thing he can do? For now, he’s stuck in limbo.

Of course, it only gets worse once Harry’s gone. Louis doesn’t know how long he’ll have to wait for a call that may not be coming. For a couple hours he manages to distract himself with his sisters but not long after Louis is too antsy to sit still.

His omega knows his alpha needs him. Knows his alpha might be calling for him. Louis’ hormones pump into overdrive. He can’t stop producing slick and try as he might – he’s half hard.

Eventually he retreats into his room, snacks piled on the dresser and his laptop for entertainment. He can get through this, whether Harry calls or not.

 

Maybe six hours later Louis is dozing fitfully when there’s a knock at the door. Ridiculously, Louis thinks it’s Harry. He stumbles to the door, yanking it open.

Dan is on the other side, fully dressed and looking mildly apologetic.

            “Harry says he tried to call,” he says.

            “Call for me?” Louis demands.

He hurries back to the nightstand, fumbling over the slick screen of his phone. Sure enough, there’s four missed calls from Harry.

“Right,” Louis says, “okay. I need to get dressed.”

            “Yes, quickly,” Dan agrees.

            “Okay, I’ll be right out.”

As soon as the door closes Louis is moving again. His heart is firmly lodged in his throat but it’s fine. He can do this. Harry wants him. He can definitely do this.

Louis tugs on jeans and a shirt at random, not bothering with socks as he stumbles into his shoes. He all but runs out of his room and to the front door. Hopefully, Harry’s hotel is close.

There’s a room key waiting for him at the front desk. The clerk doesn’t even look scandalized to see him. It’s a nice surprise.

Louis gets into the lift, knees weak with nerves. He keeps reminding himself that Harry called. Harry wants this. It could really work out. It’s going to work out.

Louis takes a few steadying breaths outside the door before letting himself in. Harry doesn’t jump on him as soon as he steps in. A little disappointing.

Instead, Harry’s sitting in a chair by the window. As Louis watches he lifts a glass and downs the rest of the drink waiting in the bottom. He smooths his hands down his thighs and stands.

            “Hey,” he says.

            “All right?”

Harry nods.

            “Not gone yet.”

            “Good,” Louis says. “Kinda wanted to talk first.”

 

Harry stops maybe three inches from him, frowning yet again as he looks down at Louis.

            “About what?”

            “You’re sure about this?” Louis asks. “Really, really sure?”

Then Harry’s face melts into a gentle smile. He lifts a hand to cup Louis’ cheek.

            “Yes,” he says, mouth ghosting over Louis’ before pressing more insistently. “I’m sure.”
He kisses Louis again.
“Are you?”

            “Terrified,” Louis says.
He reaches out, steadying his hands on Harry’s waist.

“Heart’s going like a rabbit.”

            “Mm, mine too,” Harry sighs. “Not scared though. Just with how much I want you.”

Louis shivers, biting down on a moan.

            “One more question,” he whispers.

Harry waits, thumb smoothing over Louis’ cheek.

“Am I dreaming?”

A dimple appears in Harry’s cheek.

            “No,” he says.

For the first time, Louis doesn’t wake up on his own. Harry wakes him with lazy kisses. Then, once he’s sure Louis is awake, he tickles the tops of Louis’ ribs.

Louis shrieks and then giggles, desperately wiggling away.

            “Harry!” he gasps, scandalized. “What are you doing?”

            “Waking my mate for another round,” Harry says, mock serious.
He rolls onto his elbow, watching Louis as his foot glides up Louis’ shin.
“What does it look like?”

Louis nearly goes cross eyed trying to look at all of Harry at once.

            “You’re a maniac.”

Louis sounds too fond by far. He can’t really seem to help it though.

Harry huffs.

            “Don’t need another round,” he says. “Rut’s over. Just would like one.”

            “Oh, well in that case,” Louis manages, giggling again.

Something has changed in Harry. Even as they’re showering and getting ready to head home – he’s looking at Louis differently.

Impossibly, Louis feels himself falling more each time he catches Harry’s eye.

Before there was something rigid in Harry. Something held back. Maybe it was fear. Maybe it was anger. But it’s gone now. For the first time, it feels like they’re really mated.

Louis supposes Harry did what he asked. He chose Louis. There’s something terribly vindicating about it.

He feels like maybe they’ve just started from scratch. Like he never really knew Harry until now. Before there was Louis’ family and their accidental bond or Harry’s friends or his rut.
Now, it’s just them.

 

            “Ready?” Harry asks.

Louis nods, a smile tugging at his lips again.

Harry holds out his hand and Louis takes it, affection surging in his chest.

He can’t help but grin as they leave the hotel room and head toward the lift, so Louis tucks it into Harry’s shoulder. Harry doesn’t seem to mind this. In fact, he presses a kiss to the top of Louis’ head.

They stay like that as the lift drops down, an amalgamated hug that somehow feels just right to Louis.

 

Dan smiles as they approach the car. Not too wide, nothing manic. Still, Louis doesn’t think he’s seen Dan look quite this pleased before. He hides his face in Harry’s back, nearly tripping both of them in his embarrassment.

            “All right?” Harry asks, turning to help Louis into the backseat.

            “Good,” Louis says, even though he’s still halfheartedly trying to hide.

Harry laughs at him. It’s a warm, sweet laugh and Louis doesn’t have it in him to be offended.

“Shut up,” he huffs anyway.

He nudges Harry out of the way with his shoulder and climbs in by himself, squeaking at the swat he gets on the bum for that.

Harry follows him in rather than sitting up front with Dan and Louis’ head might spin right off his shoulders at any moment. He can’t quite align this Harry with the one he’s known these past months.

            “What?” Harry murmurs.

Louis just shakes his head. It isn’t like he wants to say you’re acting strange.

            “Nothing,” he says when Harry only blinks at him. “Glad you called.”

Harry smiles.

            “Me too.”

It’s late when they get home, everyone gone to bed hours ago.

Louis is a bit relieved by it. He still wants to cuddle close to Harry and he doesn’t want his mum looking at him… well any sort of way. If she looked happy he couldn’t bear it. If she looked at him like she pitied him – he especially couldn’t bear that.

So, all in all, it’s nice to let Harry lead him down the hall. Part of Louis even wants to reach out, keep his hand in contact with Harry’s back. But, he’s following Harry to his room anyway. Louis can wait.

Harry waits just inside the open door, kicking it mostly closed once Louis is clear.

            “Hi,” he says, nonsensically.
He steps closer to Louis anyway.

Louis’ lips twitch.

            “Hi,” he answers.

 

Harry leans closer, pressing their lips together.

            “Get in bed,” he says, “I’ll be right back.”

Louis pouts but complies, toeing out of his shoes and leaving them on the floor before unzipping his hoodie and dropping it to the floor as well.

Harry disappears back out the door, footsteps quiet on the hardwood floor.

Louis waits impatiently, finally dropping back onto the pillows to wait.

Harry does come back, a few hangers in one hand and a bundle of clothes in the other.

Louis sits up a bit, sighing at himself for laying back in the first place. Then he frowns in confusion.

            “What are you doing?”

Harry doesn’t answer immediately, crossing to his closet and nudging the door open with the toe of his boot.

            “I grabbed most of your favorites, I think,” Harry says, fully disappearing from sight.
“We can get the rest tomorrow,” he adds, re-emerging.

 

            “Harry,” Louis has to pause to let out a small laugh, “what?”

Harry pauses undressing, shifting some hair over his shoulder as he looks to Louis.

            “What does it look like?”

            “Well, you’re currently getting undressed to join me in bed,” Louis says, adding an eye roll, “but I meant what are you doing with my clothes?”

            “Moving you in,” Harry says, as if it’s obvious.

Louis wants to snort. Only he can’t. It’s just so…sweet. That he just did it. Offered up the last of his private space for Louis to move into as well. Louis glances down, trying to hide his smile.

            “I suppose that’s all right then,” he says.

            “Glad you think so,” Harry laughs.

He takes a bit longer to undress, putting his boots away in his closet and dropping everything else in the hamper.

            “C’mere,” Louis says.

            “Thought I was already doing that,” Harry teases.

 

Louis only huffs, biting down on a laugh as Harry jumps in the bed and wraps both arms around him.

“Have to be up early tomorrow,” Harry mumbles into his neck.

            “Back to work?” Louis questions.

            “Back to work,” Harry confirms. “’S alright though, I love it.”

            “Love what?”

            “Ha ha,” Harry exhales, dryly.

Louis waits a moment.
Then,
            “Harry I genuinely have no idea what you do.”

He wishes one of them had turned the light out already. It’s embarrassing to admit.

“You’ve never told me,” he adds.

            “Oh,” Harry says after an extended beat of silence.

            “Yep,” Louis agrees.

He squirms away to flick the light switch, nearly falling out of the bed in the process.

“We should get a clapper,” he jokes, settling back onto his pillow and pulling the sheets up to his chest.

Harry doesn’t reply.

Louis hadn’t really thought he would.

 

            “I didn’t mean to not tell you,” he says finally. “I work at a record label.”

            “Oh,” Louis allows. “That’s very cool.”

            “I’m part owner,” Harry says. “But I’d like to try my hand at some producing.”

Louis has to swallow down a quick spike of jealousy.

            “Don’t you set your own schedule, then?”

            “Sometimes,” Harry says. “But there’s always lots to do. And I haven’t been in for nearly a week.”

Louis sneaks a glance. Harry’s smirking a bit. Louis’ cheeks heat and he rolls his eyes at himself.

            “Right,” Louis agrees. “How could I forget?”

            “I would certainly hope you hadn’t.”

Louis sighs but he’s still blushing and he can’t quite stop smiling either.

            “Shut up,” he mumbles, “go to sleep.”

            “Okay,” Harry agrees.

He scoots closer, practically sealing his chest to Louis’ side. Then he throws a leg over one of Louis’ as well.

            “Goodnight,” he says, lips curled.

            “Night.”

Harry may have warned him but nothing stops Louis from rolling over, tossing a spare pillow over the back of his head, and groaning into the pillow he was already using. This doesn’t satisfy him so he pulls the second pillow back off, blearily glaring at Harry.

            “It’s too early.”

            “For you, maybe,” Harry laughs.

Louis hates him.

            “I hate you,” he says.

            “You don’t,” Harry smirks.

He walks back to the bed, still half dressed. Louis tosses the pillow at him halfheartedly. Harry bends down to kiss him anyway.

“Go back to sleep,” he says. “I’ll be home for dinner.”

            “Alright,” Louis agrees.

There’s something pleasant wriggling around in his stomach at the thought of Harry returning.
He’s never really been excited for it.

Harry finishes dressing, pausing in the doorway to look back.

            “Have a good day,” he offers.

Louis smiles up at the ceiling, closing his eyes.

            “You too.”

 

Louis is still tired when he wakes up again. Still, he’s aware enough to know he won’t be falling back to sleep any time soon. He sits up and stretches his back slowly before actually climbing out of bed.

A shower sounds like a good, decent thing this morning. Afternoon. Whatever time it is. Not to mention he’s going to have to face his mum soon. A shower is a great idea.

Louis takes his time undressing and showering, leaning against a wall for half of it. He’s not totally exhausted. Just kind of… wiped.

Which is to be expected after helping Harry through his rut. Louis will take it easy for a couple days and then he’ll be right as rain.

 

By the time he makes it out to the kitchen, Louis finds an empty house. There’s only a note from his mum, explaining she went out for lunch, to greet him.

Louis sighs and heads to the fridge. Knowing his mum, there will be plenty of leftovers to choose from.

Two bites into some pasta Louis feels a wave of tiredness sweep over him again. Grunting to himself, Louis takes his food back to Harry’s bed.

 

Sadly, Louis doesn’t nap again. He lies crookedly across the bed and wishes he could, but his brain remains stubbornly conscious.

When Louis hears his mum get back he huffs to himself before forcing himself out of bed again.
Luckily he remembers to avoid stepping in the Tupperware of leftovers on the way.

            “Hey, Boo,” she says, setting her purse down and crossing to hug him.
“How’re you?”

            “Sleepy,” Louis says. “Good, though.”

            “Good?” his mum questions. She draws back enough to frown.
“You’re very warm, love.”

Louis shrugs.

            “I was in bed.”

            “Under the covers?”

            “No,” Louis admits slowly. He chews on his lip for a moment.

            “I think you’ve got a bit of a fever.”

            “I’m probably just tired,” Louis says.

            “Have you eaten?”

            “Yes, mum,” Louis sighs.

            “Go sit down,” she fusses. “I’m taking your temperature.”

Louis sighs but does as he’s told. It’s a bit nice to be nagged, if it’s his mum at least.

 

The thermometer only confirms it. Louis has a fever. It isn’t anything serious. Just enough to account for him not feeling well.

            “I’m calling the doctor,” his mum announces, arms crossed.

            “Mum, I’m fine.”

            “Just want to make sure,” she says.

Her concerned expression says otherwise though.

            “What?” Louis asks.

            “I just worry,” she says, “you know.”

            “Mum,” Louis sighs. “What?”

            “Just… you could be pregnant.”

            “I’m on my suppressants,” Louis says immediately.

            “You could still be pregnant,” she says, quick and quiet. “And if you are, the pills could put the baby at risk.”

Louis doesn’t let himself think about it. It’s like looking at the sun. He can’t… Louis sits back down, exhaling heavily.

            “Call the doctor,” he says.

 

They schedule a home visit for the next day, which blows Louis’ mind a bit. Doctors making home visits is a bit hard to wrap his head around. It really is nice to have money.

But this way they don’t have to ask Dan for a ride and Louis and his mum don’t have to take the bus. Works out nicely for everyone.

Well, it doesn’t work out the best for Louis. He’s quite anxious about the possibility of being pregnant. It isn’t like birth control is foolproof. He knows it’s not.

He’s just worried about how Harry will react. Things have been going really well between them.
Too well?

Harry will only think he planned this too. God, Harry will probably think Louis planned the last few weeks, including his rut. It only makes Louis feel even more ill. As much as he doesn’t want to think about it, he can’t help but worry.

 

It’s better when his sisters are home from school. As usual. They all cuddle up in the living room in front of the telly with some snacks. It’s like an unspoken agreement that they all do their coursework in the living room as well, staying close to Louis.

It makes Louis feel a little weepy, which only concerns him further. Crying isn’t something he likes to do in front of other people. Not that anyone does, he’s sure.

Still, if his emotions and his hormones are spiking like this – it only increases the chances that he’s pregnant.

His mum is worried too, fluttering around the room cleaning or bringing more snacks.

It’s almost enough to make Louis dizzy watching her but he doesn’t want to stress her out even more so he doesn’t ask her to stop.

            “What are we having for dinner?” he asks instead.

            “What do you want, Boo?” she returns. “Anything.”

            “Not really hungry,” he admits after a moment.

That was probably a stupid question to even ask but it’s too late now.

            “You need to eat,” she tuts.

            “I know,” he says. “I will.”

            “At least he isn’t having weird cravings yet,” Fizzy offers.

 

There’s a sharp beat of silence in the room.

            “Fiz!” his mum gasps.

Louis laughs before anyone else can react.

            “Shut up,” he says, nudging her with his toes, “brat.”

            “You love me,” she says, nose firmly in the air.

            “Can’t think why,” Louis teases, nudging her again.

Fizzy scoots away a few inches, returning to her textbook with a quick hair flip.

            “I don’t even know why you would say that,” his mum finally recovers.

Fizzy rolls her eyes and Lottie laughs too.

            “Mum, honestly.”

            “What?” Phoebe questions, glancing away from the telly.

            “Nothing,” his mum says, firm. “I’m going to start dinner.”

She turns to leave and between that and the twins’ confusion, Louis and his older sisters share another quick laugh.

 

By the time Harry should be arriving home Louis is feeling better. He tells himself he is at least. Then he gets dressed in real clothes and makes sure his hair looks decent before settling on the couch again.

            “He’s going to know you’re sick as soon as he touches you.”

            “Maybe not,” Louis protests.

His mum rolls her eyes at him.

            “He’s your bondmate.”

            “Well, he also hasn’t known me twenty-one years either.”

            “He’s going to know,” his mum insists. “But if you’d like to waste your time,” she makes a ‘go ahead’ motion.

            “Too late to tell me that now anyway,” Louis huffs.

            “Oh,” his mum says, “you were leaving your hair that way?”

 

Louis narrows his eyes.

Of course at this, she crosses to him and ruffles his hair before dropping a kiss on the top of his head.

“Whatever makes you feel better, love.”

            “Thanks, I think.”

            “You’re welcome. You okay if I start dinner?”

            “Mmhm,” Louis nods.

His mum presses another kiss to his head before walking to the kitchen.

 

Harry arrives home about half an hour later.

Louis debates getting up to greet him but first, he doesn’t usually do that and secondly, he’s still thinking about his mum telling him Harry will know as soon as they touch. Louis doesn’t really want to tell Harry he feels ill at all. Especially before they’ve talked to the doctor.

It’s probably nothing. Hopefully? Only Louis doesn’t really know what he’s hoping for.

If he is pregnant it’s fate. And it could be his only chance, depending on Harry’s reaction. Then, of course, there’s the issue of how they’ll pay for a baby if Harry kicks Louis out. Louis’ stomach is in knots.

            “Hey,” Harry says.
He’s paused in the hallway to his room, frowning.

Louis forces a smile in response.

            “Hey,” he says. “How was work?”

            “Good. How was your day?”

            “Good,” Louis lies.

No one calls him on it though. Louis loves his family.

            “I’m gonna drop my stuff in the office,” Harry says after another moment.

            “Okay.”

 

Louis chews on his lip, forcing himself not to trail after Harry.

Does he already know something is wrong? Does he just not want to bring it up in front of everyone? More importantly, what’s going to happen when they go to bed? Obviously Louis can’t go back to his own room after ‘moving in’ with Harry.

Even if Harry doesn’t already know something’s wrong he certainly will once they go to bed. Louis closes his eyes briefly, exhaling.

If he goes to try to help his mum with dinner it will distract him but it could also make him feel worse. Plus, there’s always the option that she won’t let him help because he’s not feeling well. In the end, Louis is still sitting on the couch when Harry returns.

Harry wanders into the kitchen and offers to help Louis’ mum with dinner.

Louis can’t help but smile.

She shrugs Harry off though and he slowly makes his way back to the living room.

            “All right?” he asks softly.

            “Yeah.”

Fizzy gets up and makes her way to the couch Lottie and Daisy are already on.

Louis swallows around his protest, forcing another smile as Harry approaches and sits down next to him.

Harry doesn’t say anything else, resting a hand carefully on Louis’ leg. His thumb strokes over Louis’ kneecap. Something in Louis melts against his will.

 

He curls against Harry, the hand not squeezed against the couch searching out Harry’s other hand.

            “Lou?”

Louis doesn’t answer, can’t maybe. He lays his cheek on Harry’s shoulder, tucking his face into Harry’s throat as well.

“What’s wrong?” Harry asks.

Both his hands tighten on Louis.

Louis exhales slowly.

            “Just don’t feel well,” he mumbles.

            “I’m sorry,” Harry says. “Can I help?”

            “You are.”

Harry’s thumb resumes stroking over Louis’ knee.

Louis doesn’t know that everything will be okay. But, in this moment, he feels like it could be.

 

Harry and Louis go to bed not long after dinner, Harry bringing his laptop in with them.

Louis stifles a yawn as Harry opens it.

            “Still not feeling well?” Harry questions.

            “No,” Louis admits. “Doctor’s coming tomorrow.”

            “Good.”

            “It’s probably nothing though,” Louis adds as Harry turns his attention back to his screen.

            “Better safe than sorry.” He clicks something before glancing at Louis again. “Do you want me to stay home with you?”

            “No, it’s alright,” Louis says immediately. “Like I said, it’s probably nothing.”

            “Are you sure?”

            “Yeah.”

If Louis is going to be told he’s pregnant, he’d rather not have Harry be in the room. Louis needs time to deal with it before he even considers how to break the news to Harry. But, Louis reminds himself as he closes his eyes, that’s a problem for tomorrow.

 

Louis sleeps well, considering. He wakes when Harry leaves for work. Though, leaving for work may be too kind considering the way Harry lingers.

            “You sure you don’t want me to stay?” he whispers.

            “I’ll be alright,” Louis says again. “We can talk about it tonight.”

            “If you’re sure.”

            “I’ll call you if I need you,” Louis says, hoping to appease him.

Harry frowns briefly.

“Promise,” Louis adds.

            “I’ll get going then,” Harry says.

            “Okay. Have a good day.”

Harry leans down to kiss his brow.

            “You too. Let me know what the doctor says.”

            “Mmhm,” Louis agrees.

He lets his eyes fall closed again.

 

Louis stays in bed until his mum comes to get him. The doctor will be arriving soon and Louis really should shower first. Louis huffs his way through it, huffing as he gets dressed as well. It’s a terrible ordeal but Louis pushes through anyway.

He tries not to think about what’s going to happen. Louis still doesn’t know what he’s hoping for. If he isn’t pregnant, nothing changes. Everything will be fine.

But as far as he knows, Harry still doesn’t want children with him. So, if Louis isn’t pregnant, he may never be. Beyond the slim to nonexistent chance that he will get pregnant on birth control and suppressants at least.

If Louis is pregnant – well Harry will probably think he did it on purpose. When Harry comes to that conclusion, he’ll probably kick Louis and his family out. Does Louis want a baby he can’t provide for? Does he want to leave Harry?

 

Each question sends him further and further into a bittersweet spiral. Louis does want children, of course he does. But he feels so much for Harry. Their bond is so deep.

Louis doesn’t want to leave. He wants children with Harry. Not that that will ever happen. As well as things have been going between them Harry still hasn’t said anything about children. Wouldn’t he have? If he’d changed his mind?

They’re bonded too deeply for either of them to leave unscathed now. So if Harry had changed his mind there was no reason to hide it.

Louis sighs and sits down on the closed lid of the toilet. He’s dressed in a t-shirt and loose sweats. That means he deserves a break.

Of course, all of this anxiety is pointless. Louis has no control over whether or not he’s pregnant. There’s nothing to do now but wait.  

 

They settle on the sofa with the telly on. The only thing is neither Louis nor his mum is good at pretending they aren’t waiting. He’d like to say he’s better than his mum, but he isn’t.

Louis absolutely can’t stop fidgeting. The worst thing his mum has done is glance to the door on occasion. Though Louis also supposes she doesn’t have quite as much to worry about. Or maybe she does. It’s still her family either way.

Louis can only hope that everything works out for them. Somehow.

 

The doctor that comes to see Louis is surprisingly young and pretty. She has freckles scattered across her face and auburn hair in a loose braid over her right shoulder. She’s also dressed pretty casually for a doctor.
Louis doesn’t mind that though.

            “Hello,” she says, reaching out for Louis’ hand and then his mother’s. “I’m Emily Anderson, it’s lovely to meet you.”

            “Nice to meet you too,” his mum offers.

            “Louis and Jay, right?”

            “Yes,” Louis agrees.

            “Well, you shouldn’t be up,” Emily tuts at Louis. “Please, sit down, let’s chat.”

They all settle in the living room again, Louis and his mum on the couch and Emily on the sofa. She brings her purse down off her shoulder before sifting through it for a notebook and a pale pink glasses case.

“We’re running a temperature? Still, this morning?”

            “Yes,” Louis’ mum agrees. “Nothing dangerous but enough to make me worry.”

            “I don’t feel well either,” Louis adds.

            “And we’ve stayed on suppressants and birth control since taking Mr Styles as your mate?”

            “Yes,” Louis answers.

 

Emily writes something down on her notebook before looking up again.

            “So,” she says, sighing while smiling, “we need a pregnancy test?”

Louis clasps his hands in his lap.

            “Yes,” he agrees again.

            “I’ve got a kit in my car, just one moment.”

Emily takes keys from her bag then, rising smoothly and heading back out the door. She’s back quickly, a black case tucked under her arm.

“I’d like to take a urine test back with me for testing. Sometimes these home tests will pull false positives with a spike in hormone levels.”

Louis struggles to keep breathing. He wonders how long it will take to know for sure.

            “My main concern isn’t the pregnancy,” he says. “I just need my mate to know I’ve been on my medication.”

 

Emily’s expression pinches for a split second before smoothing again.

            “I can take some blood samples as well,” she offers.

            “I’d prefer it.”

Emily nods perfunctorily.

            “Of course, Louis. We can take care of that for you.”

She hands him a slim, plain box. Next there’s a clear bottle with a white lid, it’s still wrapped in plastic but she passes it to him as well.

“Here are these, I’ll go wash my hands.”

She stands again, moving to the kitchen as Louis stares at the pregnancy test in his hand.

 

This tiny box could change his entire life. It seems impossible, looking down at it. But it could.

            “It’s worse the longer you wait,” his mum advises, squeezing his knee.

            “Right,” Louis says. “Yeah.”

He doesn’t move for another few moments. Instead he forces himself to keep breathing. He can do this. More than that – he has to.

 

Rather than using Harry’s bathroom Louis uses the guest bathroom that used to be his.
It’s closer anyway. Not to mention he really doesn’t want to walk through their bedroom right now. His stomach is still in absolute knots.

He can do this. He’s fine.

Louis closes the bathroom door firmly, juggling the bottle and box as he turns.  He takes two deep breaths. He sets the bottle on the counter. Then he tears open the box.

Waiting for the test to process happens in a blur. Louis had brought the sample back out to Emily. She gestured to a small white box on the coffee table.

            “Just place it in there, please,” she says, snapping blue gloves on.

Louis places the bottle in the box before closing it up. He sits down and exhales hard.

            “Okay,” Emily says. “I’ll take two vials, is that acceptable?”

 

Louis nods. Two vials means Harry can have it tested as well.

Emily wraps a thin strip of rubber around his bicep before her cool, latex covered fingers set about finding a vein. She’s quick and Louis barely feels the pinch of the needle slipping in.

For a second that feels a bit upside down he watches his blood start spilling into the first tube.
Then he lets his head rest against the back of the sofa.

            “That wasn’t so bad,” Emily says only a few moments later. She’s smiling again, taking the tubes in one hand and moving back to her case.
“I’ll just pack all this up for the lab,” she tells Louis.

Once the tubes are put away she returns to take the tourniquet off his arm. She collects the box and places it and the tourniquet in the case as well. Then she brings a yellow envelope out of the case and slides the needle and the paper towel the needle was on into it. She strips off each glove before balling them neatly and dropping them in too. Closing the envelope takes a bit of maneuvering and it takes Louis a moment to realize she’s making sure she doesn’t touch the same spots she did before.

 

Emily seals up the case again, setting it on the floor next to her purse.

            “I’ll wash my hands again and check the test, if you’d like?”

            “Please,” Louis nods.

He exhales again.

            “It’ll be fine, Boo,” his mum squeezes his knee again. “I promise you, we’ll make this work.”

            “I don’t know what I’ll do if he thinks I did this on purpose,” Louis admits. “I really don’t know what I’ll do.”

            “He won’t think that,” his mum tuts.

            “You can’t tell him,” Louis says. “You have to promise me you won’t. We’ve come so far all of this can’t come back up-”

            “Louis,” his mum says softly, “we don’t even know what the test says.”

 

            “But if it does,” Louis insists. “You still can’t tell him. He’ll probably just think I put you up to this.”
Louis cuts himself off.
“God,” he sighs. “He’ll think I’ve planned this entire thing from the very start.”

            “He won’t.”

            “He will,” Louis presses on. “He will and he’s going to kick us all out to live on the streets and I’m going to be the worst father ever.”

            “Breathe.” His mum pulls him into a hug, rubbing his back. “I promise you, none of that is going to happen. Even if Harry kicks us out, we won’t be homeless. We have plenty of friends and family to call on.”

Louis can just imagine trying to bounce a baby on his knee with his grandmother glaring at him disapprovingly. He nearly bursts into tears.

            “Mum,” Louis mumbles, diving into her shoulder.

            “It’s all right,” she says again. “I promise, love.”

 

Emily returns, clearing her throat gently.

Louis pulls himself together, sitting up and dabbing at his eyes before looking to her.

            “Okay,” he exhales, “hit me.”

            “It’s a positive test,” she says simply. “As I said, not one hundred percent. But the initial test is showing a pregnancy.”

Louis’ ears are ringing. He would love to say he’s glad to hear this news. That he’s overjoyed to learn about this very unexpected pregnancy. But he can’t. Louis is absolutely bricking it.

He can’t have a baby. He really can’t.

One moment he’s alone on the couch and then his mum is back, nearly drawing him into her lap to hold onto him. Louis is choking out scared little sobs, holding onto her just as tightly.

Once Louis has cried out most of his panic, not all of it – never all of it, he lets his mom guide him back to bed. She goes as far to tuck him in and close the curtains for him.

Louis doesn’t protest. He drags Harry’s pillow to his chest and cuddles with it.

 

The door opens a little while later and Louis expects it’s just his mum checking on him. When he rolls over and sees Harry peeking in he gasps, ducking behind one of the pillows he’s swaddled in. Harry isn’t supposed to be home yet. This can’t be happening.

            “Lou,” Harry says, dropping his bag in the doorway and rushing into the room, “what’s wrong?”

Louis only burrows deeper into his covers and pillows. He can’t do this. He can’t. It’s like he’s trying to hold his heart in his hands and it’s just splintering. Fracturing and crumbling as he tries to hold onto it.

Harry pulls a pillow away from Louis and then pulls the cover down, sitting on the edge of the bed to get closer to him.

“What’s wrong?” he demands again.

            “I didn’t mean to,” Louis chokes out. “I didn’t – you have to know I didn’t do this.”

            “Do what?”

Louis chokes on a fresh sob, trying to jerk out of Harry’s arms.

            “Please, I didn’t mean to.”

            “Louis,” Harry says sharply, “you’re scaring me. What’s going on?”

 

            “I’ve been taking my pills,” Louis sucks in a breath. “The doctor took my blood to test it.”
That’s the important part he remembers. Harry has to know that part for sure.

“I promise I’ve been taking my pills.”

            “Louis?”

            “I promise,” Louis emphasizes. “I promise I’ve been taking my pills, I promise I didn’t try to do this.”

            “Do what?”

Louis takes another deep breath. His cheeks are damp and his chest is aching.

            “I think I’m pregnant.”

Harry goes quiet. He licks his lips but still doesn’t say anything. He also doesn’t release Louis though.

            “Okay,” Harry says quietly. “That’s why you’ve been feeling sick?”

            “It’s not for sure, the doctor said false positives happen a lot. And like it could just be the medication clashing with my hormones, that happens too. But Harry I swear I’ve been taking my pills. I had her take two vials so you can have someone else test it if you want.”

            “Test for what?” Harry asks, frowning again.

Louis frowns too.

            “Um,” he starts and stops. “Well, my suppressants and birth control, so you have proof I’ve been taking them.”

 

            “I don’t need to do that,” Harry says.

Louis inhales shakily.

            “What?”

            “I know you’ve been taking your pills, Louis.”

            “Oh.”

Louis drags in another breath, wiping off his cheeks.

            “Are you all right?”

            “I don’t know,” Louis laughs once. “I was so scared of your reaction I couldn’t even think about being pregnant or if I wanted to be.”

 

Harry brings one of Louis’ hands to his lips, kissing the back.

            “Louis, we’re bonded. And I love babies. I’m going to love all our babies – no matter when they get here.”

Louis blinks at him, once. Then twice.

            “I… what?”

            “I know you said you wanted an alpha you could have children with,” Harry continues. “I hope I can be that alpha, Louis.”

That’s when Louis bursts into tears.

Harry climbs into bed, resting most of his weight on Louis.

“It’s alright.”

            “Why are you even here?” Louis sniffles. “You’re home super early.”

            “Uh, you’re going to think this is weird.”

            “So? Entertain me.”

Harry presses a kiss to Louis’ temple.

            “I just…felt like something was wrong. I felt like I needed to be here with you.”

 

It doesn’t entertain Louis. It sends a frisson of something through him.

            “I didn’t know the bond was that deep.”

            “The bond,” Harry says.

            “What did you think it was?”

            “I didn’t really stop to think about it.”

            “You could be psychic, I suppose.”

Harry rolls his eyes at this.

            “Are you feeling better?”

            “Loads,” Louis laughs. “I was terrified.”

            “If you’re pregnant, we’ll figure it out.”

It’s exactly what Louis needed to hear.

            “Okay,” he says, twining his fingers with Harry’s. “But like… if I’m not pregnant…?”

Harry smiles deeply enough for his dimples to pop.

            “You will be,” he murmurs. “Eventually.”

            “Yeah?”

            “I promise.”

Harry stays home the next day, even though Louis promises he doesn’t have to.

Without being on his medication he’s feeling better. Now there’s only the low level anxiety of finding out whether he’s really pregnant or not. Either way though, he’s not too worried.

Harry isn’t going to be kicking them out. He wants children even. It feels too good to be true but Louis doesn’t really care. He’s had enough things go wrong in his life – he won’t be taking this for granted.  

Louis and Harry stay in bed until late morning, wrapped up in each other.

            “We should get some breakfast.”

            “Not hungry,” Louis lies.

            “Are you about to say something corny about only being hungry for me?” Harry questions, lips tilting up in a stupid grin.

            “No,” Louis sniffs. “That’s your thing, remember?”

            “Could be your thing too,” Harry says. “You could be unbearably sweet to me instead of prickly.”

            “I’m not,” Louis gasps.
Something in the back of his brain starts wriggling around desperately, instincts blaring in the front of his brain. Be a good little omega a voice inside him says be kind to your alpha. Louis tries to curl into himself and Harry at the same time, gripping at Harry’s shirt.

            “Lou, hey, I was only joking. I’m sorry, it was crap.”

            “Wanna be good for you,” Louis mumbles, hoping the skin of Harry’s neck muffles it.

 

            “Lou,” Harry hums, gripping at the back of his head. “You are good for me, you’re so good for me. Been through so much, love.”

            “I’m okay,” Louis insists.

Harry presses a kiss to the top of his head.

            “My good omega,” he says. “Gonna have my babies, aren’t you?”

Louis melts.

            “Yeah,” he says. “Our babies are gonna be so beautiful Hazza.”

Harry presses Louis flat into the mattress, kissing him as his hips roll gently against Louis’.

Louis groans but opens his legs to wrap around Harry’s anyway.

            “Thought,” kiss, “you,” kiss, “were,” kiss with a bit of tongue, oh, “hungry,” Louis manages, laughing shortly before Harry kisses him again.

            “Only hungry for you,” Harry says, dimples popping again.

Louis laughs, squealing when Harry tickles his ribs. Then they’re kissing again and, yeah, there’s loads more tongue.

The doctor calls in the early afternoon, Louis’ mum bringing him the phone.

Louis holds his breath.

            “Hello?”

            “Mr Tomlinson?”

            “Yes,” Louis agrees, swiftly running out of air.

            “I have the results of your test,” Emily says. “I won’t drag it out. At this time you are not pregnant.”

            “Oh,” Louis allows.

His heart falls.

            “I’m sorry to deliver this news to you,” she continues, tone sober.

            “It’s okay,” Louis says.
He swallows down the urge to cry.

            “You can resume your medication if you don’t wish to have a heat. Please contact me with any other questions or concerns Mr. Tomlinson.”

Louis nods, inhaling quickly.

            “Thank you,” he says, as loud as he can manage. It isn’t very loud at all, coincidentally.

 

Harry wraps an arm around his shoulders, his other hand squeezing Louis’ knee as he hangs up.

            “All right?”

Louis nods, exhaling carefully.

            “Not pregnant,” he mumbles.

            “Plenty of time for that,” Harry says, nosing at his cheek.

Louis nearly laughs. Nearly.

            “You mean that?”

            “I do,” Harry says. “If it’s what you want.”

            “It is. Very much.”  

            “Okay,” Harry agrees simply.

Louis waits a beat, then another.

            “If we wanted me to have a heat I can just not take my medication for a few more days,” he hazards. “If we wanted to.”

            “I have no reason to say no to my mate’s heat,” Harry says. “If you want to try that quickly we can. Or we can wait.”

Louis peers up at Harry’s face. He desperately wants to question when Harry started trusting him so implicitly with everything. And if he’s ever going to stop. He can’t bring himself to say the words though.

            “I don’t know,” he says finally.

            “That’s all right too. Whatever you want, love.”

Louis feels as if he’s living in a dream. After everything they’ve been through – it seems too good to be true. Is it?
Louis can’t be sure.

Harry doesn’t go back to work until the day after next, even then he’s quite a bit stroppy about it.

            “You need me more,” he pouts, not moving from bed.

Louis only laughs at that.

            “I do not,” he says. “I’m hardly going into heat today. And in any case, I haven’t decided.”

            “You’re ill,” Harry says next.

            “Am not. And you do want to go to work, you’re just stressing over nothing. I’m absolutely fine.”

Louis stares at Harry expectantly.
Harry stares back, mostly unwavering.

“You’re the one that set the alarm for this early,” Louis points out.

Harry’s lips twist down.

            “Don’t use logic. You’re ill and I’m staying home.”

            “You came home early then stayed home for two days. All of this after your rut.”

Harry groans, turning to muffle it in the pillow.

            “But Lou-”

            “You have lots to catch up on that you can’t do here and I swear to you I am fine. I’ll call if anything goes wrong, okay?”

 

Harry’s silent then, still watching him. He lets out a sigh.

            “Promise?”

            “Yes,” Louis says, not bothering to ask which part he’s promising.

Harry sighs again.

            “I’ll go to work,” he says.

            “And when you get home we’ll both he so happy to see each other.”

            “I suppose you’re right.”

            “I know I am,” Louis smiles serenely.

Harry only groans again before finally forcing himself up and out of bed.

“Go to work,” Louis says, softer. “You’ll feel better tonight and you and my mum won’t have driven me bonkers all day.”

            “I suppose I can’t argue with that logic,” Harry concedes, crossing to their shared closet to dress.

Louis lets his eyes close, sleepily accepting four kisses from Harry some time later. It’s quiet after the door closes and Louis drifts slowly and gently back down into sleep.

No one wakes Louis later that morning. He gently wakes on his own, tired but still mostly content. It still hasn’t fully sunk in yet, that he’s apparently on the brink of his own fairy tale ending.

He doesn’t think it’s possible. Is it? Do things like this really happen? Maybe they do, he muses. They’ve bonded and had a pregnancy scare and through it all – Harry seems okay with it all. If not that he at least cares for Louis.
That’s enough to build on, Louis thinks.

He absently lays a hand over his stomach, imagining a time when he will be pregnant. When there will be a baby growing inside him. He’ll have to ask his mum what it’s like.

All things considered he and Harry could be trying to have a baby by the beginning of next week. If Louis stops his medication completely that is. It wouldn’t be any more real than it is now, Louis doesn’t think.

Their bond is only growing more and more and for the first time, Louis isn’t scared of it. Harry makes him feel safe. Complete. Fuck Louis thinks faintly I’m really gone for him. Totally gone.

 

Louis doesn’t find his mum on the main level of the house so he wanders on down to the basement. There’s music coming from the room they’d sort of turned into a gym and Louis laughs to himself as he enters. She’s halfheartedly using one of the pieces of equipment, legs moving lazily.

            “All right?”

            “Hello, love,” she grins softly at him. “I’m wonderful, of course. And you?”

Heat rises to Louis’ cheeks and he ducks his chin briefly,

            “Pretty good,” he says. Then, “Really good.”

            “You look it,” his mum tells him, legs stopping totally. “Harry’s all right then?”

            “Yeah,” Louis says. “Had to force him to go to work this morning,” he pauses to laugh. “And y’know we’re like… talking about having kids. On purpose.”

            “What?” his mother cries happily.

She shoves herself off the piece of equipment and pulls Louis into a tight hug.

“Louis,” she says, still holding tight to him. “That’s wonderful. That’s what you want, right?”

            “Think so,” Louis says, “yeah.”

 

She doesn’t say anything for long moments. Just holding him and swaying gently.

            “You’re in love with him,” she says softly.

            “Yeah,” Louis agrees. “I think even without the bond…”

His mum draws away from him slightly, pink cheeks straining with her smile.

            “I’m so glad things have worked out, my love. I’ll be grateful the rest of my days.”

Louis tries to swallow down his unease but something must show on his face, if only for a moment, because his mum frowns at him.

“What is it?” she asks immediately. “What’s wrong?”

Louis shakes his head.

            “Nothing,” he says. “I mean, I don’t think? It’s just… Well, it feels too good to be true.”

He shrugs, glancing away from his mum’s penetrating gaze.

She sighs softly, crossing to the stereo to shut it off.

            “Let’s have a cuppa and talk, how does that sound?”

Louis shrugs again, a small smile finding its way to his lips.

 

His mum is humming softly as she makes both of them tea and Louis can’t help but relax into the couch, feeling like maybe things will be okay after all.

            “Now,” she says, settling on the other end. “Why are you worried about Harry loving you?”

            “No,” Louis says. “I feel it. I feel him through the bond like – I know he has feelings for me.”

At this his mum nods, balancing her cup on her knee.

“But it’s also… having kids is such a big step and we haven’t even known each other a year. Sure we’re bonded and it’s pretty deep at this point but it isn’t forever. Not that having kids is either,” he flushes a big guiltily at the sentiment but it isn’t as if it’s his mum’s fault or his. “I’m just scared,” he admits. “I don’t know why he decided to start trusting me and I don’t know if it could change again without me… really doing anything?”

At this Louis’ mum sighs again. She takes a sip of tea.

            “Love,” she says, quite seriously. “I’m afraid I have something else to tell you.”

Louis’ stomach plummets to his toes.

            “What? What is it?”

            “I told him.”

            “Told him what,” Louis says blankly.

His mum’s smile trembles.

            “Love,” she says carefully, “I told him the truth.”

 

Oh Louis thinks. And then, rapidly, oh no.

            “When?”

Not that it matters. It doesn’t really. If Harry doesn’t – god.

Harry feels bad for him. The realization is swift as it is paralyzing.

Oh no he thinks again.

“You didn’t.”

            “Babe,” she says. “I had to. I had to give you two your chance.”

            “This didn’t give us a chance either,” Louis protests. “Now he just feels bad for me.”

            “No,” his mum says. “Louis, no.”

            “I feel ill.”

            “I told him before his last rut. It was still his decision to call you.”

            “That’s even worse,” Louis says. “He wasn’t even thinking clearly.”

            “He cares for you and it’s only grown since. There’s nothing for you to worry about. All you need to do is be with him.”

            “I thought he fell in love with me,” Louis says, miserable.

He can’t even begin to wrap his head around what his mum has said. Not the last part at least.

How would he ever believe that Harry just happened to fall for him? The timing wasn’t that convenient. Life wasn’t that convenient.

 

So his mum told Harry the truth. And then Louis and Harry spent his rut together. No wonder everything changed after that. Louis wants to laugh but can’t quite make himself do it.

            “Why did you tell him?” Louis asks.

            “I already told you,” she tells him.

            “I told you not to and I thought you didn’t and I thought it was real. I thought I was good enough for him. This makes so much more sense though.”

            “Louis,” his mum chides, scandalized. “Don’t say that.”

Louis’ eyes burn and he stands quickly, nearly spilling his tea. He turns to drop it on the kitchen island, rushing to his old room.

Slamming the door doesn’t make him feel any better. Neither does being away from his mum. He can’t believe she did this.

Ten minutes ago he was thinking about having children with Harry – he was thinking about forever. Now he’s already accepted he’ll be going back on his medication.

He can’t think about being pregnant right now. He can’t even think about sharing a bed with Harry.

 

Not that this is Harry’s fault. God, poor Harry. Saddled with Louis as a mate and then this shitstorm brought down on his head. He’s been trying his best to deal with all of this and Louis thought –

Louis doesn’t want to think about it anymore. He really thought Harry fell for him.
Louis doesn’t know what to do. He stumbles to the bed. He can’t remember the last time he slept in this bed.

Louis wishes Harry was here but at the same time all he wants to do is run away again. He’d thought not having his dream when it was within his reach was the most painful thing that could happen. Turns out it’s getting his dream and then having it torn away from him. Louis tugs one pillow into his arms and curls around it. He buries his face in the other one, tilting his face so he can still breathe.

 

By the time there’s a soft knock on his door, Louis is calm. Maybe calm isn’t the right word though. He’s more numb.

He feels vaguely safe in being alone. Everything comes from far away. He doesn’t move other than to blink, doesn’t bother to answer. It’s probably too early for the girls to be home and he doesn’t want to speak to his mum right now. Louis knows he’s terrible for it, and he’ll feel guilty later, but he’s not making himself speak to her right now.

Sure, he doesn’t know what would have happened if she hadn’t told Harry but this still feels like a betrayal on such a massive scale. He needs time. His door creaks open anyway.

            “Lou?”

Louis closes his eyes again. Of course Harry came home early again. The bond Louis thinks, mentally rolling his eyes.

Now Harry’s missing even more work because Louis finally realized how pathetic he is.

“Okay, I’m coming in.”

Louis hears the door close and assumes Harry has come in, he doesn’t look though.

 

Harry crosses to the bed before sitting gently.

            “Want to tell me what’s going on?”

            “Didn’t my mum tell you?”
Louis can’t quite achieve the bite he wants, it only sounds mildly irritated.

            “Right,” Harry agrees. “We’re just not entirely sure why you’re upset.”

            “I don’t want to talk about it,” Louis mumbles.
He draws the covers more firmly over his shoulders.

            “Babe,” Harry says slowly, “why are all of your clothes on the floor in the corner?”

 

Louis doesn’t answer for a long moment.

            “’S my room.”

            “You’re moving out?”

Harry sounds too amused for the situation.

Louis debates throwing one of the pillows at him. He’d have to move to do that though. Louis doesn’t move or answer him. He doesn’t need Harry making him feel like even more of an idiot.

“I don’t know what’s going on if you don’t talk to me, Lou.”

Louis still doesn’t say anything. How is he supposed to say I fell in real love with you and you fell in fake love with me?

 

It’s probably not fair to call what Harry thinks he feels for Louis fake love. In a sense, it’s real. But without everything that’s happened between them, without the bond – neither of them would be here.

Maybe what Louis feels for Harry isn’t real either.

Harry doesn’t say anything else, he pushes off the bed and leaves quietly.

Louis pushes his face further into the pillow. He wasn’t worth much effort apparently. Louis is only getting started on his one man pity party when the door opens again.

            “Here’s some soup,” Harry offers, setting a tray on his nightstand.

Louis still doesn’t speak, nearly squeaking instead when Harry dips to kiss his brow.

Harry doesn’t leave, instead he walks to the corner and begins picking up Louis’ clothes.
He hums to himself as he sorts them out, folding some and laying others down carefully on the bed.

Louis can only stand the curiosity for about ten minutes.

            “What are you doing?”

            “If this is what you want,” Harry says with a bit of a shrug.

Louis was eyeing the soup speculatively but now he drops his gaze back to the sheets. He thought he couldn’t feel worse. He was wrong.

“I didn’t say it was what I wanted,” Harry adds. He still doesn’t turn to look at him, focusing on his task. “But you’re my mate. It’s my job to take care of you.”

At that Louis only feels like crying again. He closes his eyes and inhales against the burn of it, willing it away.

Harry works for a few more minutes before speaking again.

“Get some rest,” he says softly.

Louis doesn’t know if he’s glad or not when Harry doesn’t approach again.

 

The rest of the evening passes dragging, painful seconds.

Louis has his phone but no charger for it and he’s already dreading when he’ll have to venture from the safety of his room. Though he supposes he could just stay here and die of boredom instead.

When his door opens he’s expecting it to be his mum to apologize or maybe even Lottie to tell him he’s being an idiot. Of course, it’s neither.
Instead it’s Harry yet again.

Louis frowns, wishing he could pretend he was already asleep.

Harry doesn’t say anything to him though, rather he crosses to the bed and climbs in.

            “What are you doing?” Louis demands.

            “If you’re sleeping in here so am I,” Harry says simply.

He shifts hair out of his face before looking up to Louis.

“Unless you don’t want me to…?”

Louis opens his mouth immediately, somewhat alarmed when nothing comes out. He closes his mouth after another moment, cheeks heating.

Harry seems pleased enough with this, settling against the pillow and closing his eyes.

Louis still doesn’t say anything. He can’t say what he’s thinking out loud. Mostly because it’s something along the lines of I can’t be in love with you anymore. Nothing is fair and Louis wants to run away from it all. There’s only the slight problem that he has no idea where he would run to.

 

Harry isn’t there when he wakes.

Louis misses him immediately, taking a deep breath against the pain in his chest. He can’t do this. He has to start distancing himself from Harry if he has any chance at freedom ever again. That was the whole point of him moving back into this room.

Next time Harry comes in here Louis is going to tell him that he is not wanted here. He will be firm and he will mean it. Louis closes his eyes again. All he wants to do is go back to sleep. Or go back in time a few days so he doesn’t have to deal with any of this. His ignorance was blissful and beautiful and it’s all he wants.

Eventually Louis sits up. He should at least go get his phone charger while Harry’s not here. There’s also the small matter of food. Louis sighs again.

The more he thinks about everything he can or should be doing the more exhausted he is. One thing at a time he reminds himself. It’s never a bad time for that advice.

Louis stretches his back before climbing out of bed, taking each step carefully.

 

Stupid as it feels he walks quickly and quietly down the hall to Harry’s room, peeking inside before actually stepping in. His charger is plugged in on his old side of the bed and Louis crosses to it.

            “Louis?”

Louis jumps at Harry’s voice, whirling to see him exiting the bathroom.

“All right?” Harry asks then. His hair is still drenched from the shower, darkening the shoulders of his green t-shirt.

            “I just need my charger,” Louis mumbles, turning back to the task at hand.

It takes another moment for Harry to sigh.

            “Thought maybe you wanted to talk to me.”

Louis crosses his arms, even facing away from Harry he feels too vulnerable.

            “What is there to talk about?” he asks.
It’s against his better judgement, admittedly.

 

Harry doesn’t answer, apparently waiting him out.

Louis nearly groans.

“Listen it’s like – none of it is real, is it? We bonded without meaning to and honestly neither of us should even be here. And I thought things were actually going pretty well, really well,” he corrects, biting his lip quickly. “But they weren’t, were they? You didn’t start to trust me. You didn’t fall for me or whatever. You just felt bad for me. Guilty. Whatever.”
He cuts off then. His throat is getting too tight with the pain of what he’s saying and he can’t keep going.

Louis doesn’t want to cry, especially not like this.

            “Louis,” Harry sighs.

It’s sort of beautiful the way he says it, even if it’s also heartbreaking.

 

Harry moves to him then, bare feet soft against the carpet. He wraps his arms around Louis from behind. Then he tucks his chin over Louis’ shoulder.

            “Don’t,” Louis tries.
They both know he doesn’t mean it.

            “I love you,” Harry tells him. “But I know saying the words doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t do much of anything. But I’m going to do the same thing you did. I’m going to be here day in and day out until you trust what I’m telling you.”

Louis scoffs.

            “Who’s going to tell me that you were never lying then? Your mum?”

Harry sighs at him again.

            “I can arrange that if you’d like.”

Louis can almost picture the hopeful little smirk on his face as he waits to see if Louis will laugh.

“Can we talk?” Harry asks then. “I mean, can we really talk?”

            “Haven’t you seen me cry enough?”
It’s not much of a joke but it’s the best he can do at the moment.

            “You could see me cry too.”

 

Louis turns then, one hand reaching up to hold Harry’s cheek. Just the idea of Harry crying makes his stomach twist.

            “Don’t.”

Harry smiles against his hand, eyes flicking closed briefly.

            “I tried not to love you,” he says. “I picked fights purposely and I tried to push you away. But you still got in somehow.” He prods at his chest briefly, as if his meaning wasn’t already clear. “When Jay spoke to me about what happened, I don’t know. It was like a dam breaking inside me.”  

Louis breathes in carefully. He doesn’t dare say anything though.

“I do love you, Louis,” Harry tells him again. “And I’ll prove it to you. However you want me to.”

            “You can’t though,” Louis forces the words out, looking down to his feet. “The bond-”

            “Wouldn’t be there if we didn’t both want it to be.”

Louis closes his eyes again. His hand slowly drops from Harry’s face, Harry catching it before it falls too far. Louis squeezes his eyes closed even tighter. He can’t deal with any part of this. It’s all too big and too bright for him to take in.

 

            “How do we know that for sure?” he whispers finally.

            “I’m not sure how to prove it to you other than by spending every day with you and telling you as often as you need me to.”

            “But how do you know it’s real?”

            “I don’t know how to explain it to you,” Harry says apologetically. “I know that I feel your heart inside of mine,” he huffs out a soft laugh.

            “Yeah, that was a bit much,” Louis agrees softly.

Harry knocks his forehead against Louis’ gently.

            “Shut up,” he says, even more gently. “I love you and I don’t want you to leave me.”

            “I won’t leave,” Louis says.
He takes another breath to continue but Harry rushes to speak again.
            “Can’t you feel me too?”

 

Louis feels pinned down by him then. His chest is cracked open and it’s all he can do to keep breathing.

            “Yes but I – I don’t know,” Louis finishes lamely.

            “You do,” Harry prods.

            “I love you,” Louis admits. “But I want to be the mate you deserve.”

            “Why aren’t you?”

            “I don’t know,” Louis huffs. “Because everything is a mess.”

            “It’s not your fault,” Harry reminds him. “I love you,” he says again.

Louis closes his eyes again. He shakes, just once.
Is it enough? Could it be?

            “I love you too,” Louis whispers.

Because maybe it could be. Maybe.

Harry kisses his forehead before pulling him close again.

Maybe it isn’t the answer. Louis isn’t sure that there is an answer.

 

            “Maybe don’t think so much,” Harry whispers, smiling down at him.

Louis feels incredibly safe in his arms. He feels warm and whole.

            “One of us has to,” Louis teases weakly.

            “But maybe if you think about the fact that we’re here – bonded, mated – rather than how we got here… well, maybe things would be simpler.”

            “Forever?” Louis questions.
He knows it’s foolish but something in his chest pushes him forward.

            “Forever,” Harry agrees. “Every single way that you want.”

            “I want you every way,” Louis says.

Harry touches Louis’ jaw gently, tilting his face up. His free hand drifts down to Louis’ hip, pulling him closer still. Harry kisses him gently.

Louis loves him unbearably.

            “I love you,” Harry says.

Is it the fifth time? The sixth?

Louis doesn’t know that he’ll ever get tired of hearing it though.

“And I’ll prove it to you,” Harry adds boldly, “someday.”

At that, Louis takes a careful breath.

            “Okay.”

 

Harry sighs. It’s a gentle, relieved sigh and Louis feels himself relaxing. His shoulders drop and his jaw unclenches.

The fingers of Harry’s free hand trail gently down Louis’ shoulder and past his elbow. They skate over the outside of his forearm, tickling his wrist before Harry finally captures his hand.

They stand there, mostly facing each other with their hands clasped together. Louis can hear them breathing. He thinks he can almost hear the droplets of water plopping onto the shoulders of Harry’s shirt. But then he thinks that he can almost hear their hearts beating in the same rhythm.

It probably isn’t possible. But Louis supposes a lot of things weren’t supposed to be possible.

            “I love you,” Harry tells him again; his tone has changed a bit, enough to make the hairs on the back of Louis’ neck stand up. Harry sounds reverent. He sounds like he really means it. He brushes the gentlest kiss of Louis’ life over his brow.

“I love you,” he whispers it this time.

Louis’ lips curve – he still feels fragile but there’s also something warm and hopeful moving through his chest. He lets his cheek rest against Harry’s shoulder.

Okay he thinks again.