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The Lucky One

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'Love means never having to say you're sorry. Love is missing someone whenever you're apart, but somehow feeling warm inside because you're close in heart. When I first saw you I was afraid to talk to you. When I first talked to you I was afraid to like you. When I first liked you I was afraid to love you. Now that I love you I'm afraid to loss you. I don't want anyone else to realize how amazing you are. Every day that goes by it seems like I discover something new about you to love it's incredible to me how one person can make such a big difference in my life, you touch me in a way no one else ever has and gave me so many reasons to love you.

Because of you... I laugh a little harder, cry a little less, and smile a little more. When the angels ask what I loved most about life, I'll say you. Love is not who you can see yourself with. It is who you can't see yourself without. I might not get to see you as often as I'd like, I may not get to hold you in my arms at night, but deep in my heart I know that it's true. No matter what happens... I'll always love you. If you truly love someone, you'll forgive the unforgivable. There are moments in my life that I'll always remember, not because they were important, but because you were there. True love is knowing a person’s faults, and loving them even more for them.

I may forget what you said, but I'll never forget how you made me feel. Sometimes I wonder if life is really worth it, then I look at your smile and I know it is. There's always that one special person that no matter what they do to you, you just can't let them go. You know you’re in love when the hardest thing to say is good-bye. I look at him as a friend, and then I realized I loved him. Meeting you was fate, becoming your friend was a choice, but falling in love with you was beyond my control. Love you always, love you still, always have, always will.

Love is... giving someone the ability to destroy your heart... but trusting them not too. I told myself I would never love again, as much as I didn't want to; you came along and made me. Love is like quicksand, the deeper and deeper you fall in... The harder it is to get out. Don't give up on love, because there is always someone who loves you... even if it's not the person you were hoping for. No matter how ugly you think you are, that special person that loves you believes you are the most beautiful and irresistible thing on earth and nothing can ever change that.

I love you not because you are perfect, but because you are so perfect for me. If you love someone put their name in a circle instead of a heart because hearts can break but circles go on forever. Today, if a smile comes to you, a happy smile the perhaps you can't explain, it's because at that moment, I am thinking of you and smiling too! There are only two times I want to be with you... Now and forever! You know its right when no matter what you're doing or what kind of mood you’re in the thought of him can make you smile.

When you smiled you had my undivided attention. When you laughed I had the urge to laugh with you, but when you said you loved me, you had my heart forever. One time someone asked me, "Do you think it's possible to love a person forever?" At first I didn't know what to say, but then I looked at you, I knew it was true, so I simply replied, "Forever isn't long enough.” I love you... don't ever think that I don't, and don't ever forget that I do.

No matter what you are to the rest of the world, you are everything to me. If you love someone more than anything, then distance only matters to the mind, not to the heart. I believe that just because someone doesn't love you the way you want them to, doesn't mean they don't love you with all they have. Love doesn't make things easier... just worth it. You are everything I never knew I wanted. I don't say I love you to hear it back, I say it so you don't forget.'

At first you didn't mean much to me but now you're all I need. True love cannot be found where it doesn't exist, nor can it be hidden where it does. The truest test of love is if you're willing to keep fighting for it. What’s meant to be will always find a way. Don't push your relationship with a person too hard, if it’s meant to be then it will happen. Sometimes, when you imagine a perfect guy, you realize you've described a person you've known forever.

Have you ever hated someone so much that you they would just leave and never come back... but yet, loved them so much, you knew you'd die if they did? When you held me in your arms, I wanted nothing more than to hold you forever. I do believe that God above, created you for me to love, He picked you out among the rest, because He knows I'd love you best! We are all a little weird, life's a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours; we join up with them and call it love.

It's easier to fake love, then to hide it. You make me smile for no reason what so ever, you make me laugh at the unfunnest things, but most of all you make me love you when I shouldn't be loving you. I hug you and I almost feel like that's where I belong, and honestly, that's the only place I want to be. When you love them they drive you crazy because they know they can. Why I love you is a hard question to answer. I love you because you care for me like no one else I know.

I love the way I feel in your arms, so safe from dangers in the world. I love your eyes, so hypnotic and mesmerizing, beautiful to gaze into, and yet never revealing everything to me. I can explain every way that I love you because that’s in possible. But I can say I love you because I you are you. Why it is that everyone looks at him and doesn't see how wonderful he is? Because I saw it the first time I laid eyes on him. You only think that you’re immune to feelings.

The most unlikely person could reduce you to tears, laughter, or spontaneous declarations of love. To love someone when there is no chance of that love ever thriving, that is romance. I just wonder how many people never get the one they want, but end up with the one they're supposed to have. Don't push it hard, if it's meant to be, it'll happen.

Its weird how sometimes things just have to happen to see how you actually feel about someone. When you thought I was in love with her, you were so wrong, baby, I was loving you. As I laid there on his chest, listening to his heartbeat, I knew at that moment that I loved him. The only guys worth loving are the ones that will take time just to be with you.'

 

"Daddy!" Harry Styles heard his 8 year old daughter calling him from inside. He put his notebook down and marked the page with his pen before closing it. He stood up from the bench his mother had installed in the garden when he was younger and made his way inside. He opened the back door and walked down the small narrow hallway filled with pictures of him and his sister Gemma when they were younger. "What?" He called as he entered the kitchen where Lucia and Anne, his mother were frosting cupcakes.

"Here try this." She said skipping over to him. She handed him a vanilla cupcake with blue frosting. He bended down and took it from her taking a bite out of it. "Mhmm this is good kiddo. You’re going to be a great cook." He said swallowing and ruffling her hair. She giggled and went back to the counter. Harry opened the fridge and pulled out a jug filled with fresh orange juice. He was about to open one of the cabinet doors to pull out a cup when his mother spoke.

"Harry? Caroline called while you were outside. She said she’s coming to pick up Lucia to take her to karate class." Harry flinched as he grabbed a cup filling it with juice. He hated that Caroline was the mother of his child and that she made her do karate. Lucia always came home with bruises or just plain sore. "Alright. Lucia go change. Mum is going to come pick you up." Harry ordered leaning against the counter. Lucia pouted but dropped the pipping bag before running to her room.

She even hated going to karate but she never stood up to her mum because she was scary. Harry took a sip of the orange juice as he watched his mother finish the cupcakes. "You know Harry, you should really go out." His mother suggested already knowing Harry's answer. Harry rolled his eyes knowing his mum wanted him to date and finished the juice before going to wash the cup. "Mum I already told you that I’m not ready for a relationship. Plus I have a daughter and a great mother, what else could I ask for?" He asked shutting down the faucet.

"How about a person you could call mine?" His mother mumbled under her breath believing her son wasn’t listening. But he heard her just chose to ignore it. He heard the annoying sound of Caroline's horn from outside making the dogs in the kennel bark. Even they hated her. "Lucia!!" He called. He could hear the sound of footsteps coming from upstairs as she rushed down. She stopped in front of her dad and handed him a hair tie before turning around.

Harry grabbed as much hair he could in his large hand, which was a lot, before putting it in a neat ponytail. She turned around and smiled before grabbing his hand as he led her outside. He could see Caroline's gray Chevrolet Challenger already parked in their driveway taking up most of the space. Caroline saw them come out and quickly put a fake smile in her face as she stepped out. "Lucy, dear! Harry!" She said opening her arms as Lucia walked over to her giving her a small hug without a word. She pulled away and smiled slightly at her mum before getting inside the car, throwing her bag on the back seat.

"How are you love?" Caroline asked in a sickengly sick voice. "Do you really care Caroline?" Harry asked not answering her. "Of course I do. You know I care about you." She said putting her hands on her hips. Harry rolled his eyes at the old lady's behavior and walked to the car. He sticked his head through the open window and planted a kiss on Lucia's forehead. "Love you sweetheart." He said pulling away. "Love you too dad." Lucia smiled hopping her dad would make up an excuse so she could stay.

But like always he gave her a look that said 'Sorry love, I can’t' which crushed all her hopes of staying home with her grandmother and father. Harry walked past Caroline, towards the house. "Make sure she doesn’t get hurt." He called and waved before entering the house again.

Caroline huffed and turned around stalking to the car. She opened the door and snapped it close, making the car rattle. The action didn’t startle Lucia, she was used to it. "Ready?" She didn’t wait for her daughter's answer before pulling out of the house. Harry watched from the window as the car disappeared and sighed as he took a seat next to his mother in the living room. He grabbed another cupcake and stuffed it in his mouth, laying his head on his mother's lap as she played with his soft brown curls. Once he swallowed he said. "I’m never 'falling' in love again." Which only cause his mother to chuckle because she knew he was wrong.

And so he was...

Chapter Text

'You know the smallest thing can change our life. In the blink of an eye, something happens by chance when you least expect it. Sets you in a course that you never planned into a future you never imagined. Where will it take you? That's the journey of our lives. A search for the light. But sometimes, finding the light means you must pass through the deepest darkness. At least that's how it was for me....'    

 

"We are ready to go" Sargeant Josh Devine whispered in Louis's direction. Louis nodded and looked ahead still holding the riffle in his hand. Josh motioned at the other marines to go ahead and watched as they walked before them. "Wait!" Louis stopped them. They stopped and watched as Louis walked forwards before them and into the building. They started walking through the rooms filled with shattered glass from the broken windows that had already been shot.

They all moved quietly ready for any sign of danger. The stopped outside a door which they knew contained people. "Go." Louis whispered before kicking the door open. They all piled in making the men inside jump as they saw the marines with guns. They all started talking at one with scared looks on their faces. The marines ignored them but still pointed the guns at them as other went past them. They saw other families scared, holding their children close to them.

Louis and Josh left the pack and entered a dark hallway, their guns still raised. The only sound that could be heard was their raged breaths and the small crumbling sound as they stepped on the dirt. They used the little flashlights on top of their guns to light the way. Louis was ready to shoot when he saw a man appear before them but it was only a soldier on his troop. He put the gun down and relaxed a bit but not enough to have his heart slow down.

"We should go before someone shoots someone." The man suggested. Another solider, a girl that was slightly older than Louis, appeared next to him. It was too quite, like the air, calm, before the storm. Louis squinted and looked around the place, and soon enough the shootings started. The male soldier fell to the ground before his feet and Louis knew what he needed to do. He started shooting up, out the roof where he could see the bullets coming from. He managed to avoid getting shot which, to him, was good. He managed to get rid of some of them but not all of them.

"We got a solider down." The girl said into her walkie talkie as she tried to stop her soldier's blood from poring out. "Come on talk to me!" She begged, pressing her hands harder. Louis was about to walk out but he could hear her begging their fellow soldier to get up. "Look we got to get you out of here! Come o-" Louis said as he was about to help her up but it was to late as she already had been shot. Louis's eyes widen as he watched her drop dowm and some brown hair fall out of her helmet as her hair conneced with the ground. Louis saw the man that shot her and quickly killed him with a few blows. Whoever she was, she didn't deserve to die. None of them should but Louis knew she died doing something her family and country would be proud of.

 

**********

 

The next day Louis sat by the rocks in the shade as some of the soldiers walked around with dogs to pick up any scents left behind as others cleaned up last nights mess. He saw as the paramedics carried out the dead bodies including the girl from last night. He still couldn't see her face but he could see the brown hair, not curly yet not straight. He looked around the hot deserted desert filled with sand and rocks, the sun shinning above them giving them a good amount of heat.

He looked around bored but something caught his eyes. It was an object in the shape of a rectangle stuck in between two large pieces of rocks. It shone brightly against the sun's rays. He looked around but no one seemed to notice and if they did, they probably didn't care. He got up and limped tiredly towards the object making it look like he was going to help with cleaning duty. He didn't want to get in trouble if he found something important. He stood still looking down at it.

He bent his head to the side in curiosity. It wasn't his fault that he has always been a curious child and that the object intrigued him. He bended down and picked it up. It was a laminated photo, which would explain why it shone in the light like a crystal. He turned it around and saw the faint outline of a body. He brought it close to his lips, blowing out some of the dust. He used his thumb to wipe up the rest and looked at it more clearly. It was a boy. He had brown curls and green eyes. A rare type of green eyes.

He was smiling, you could see the dimples. Louis was a sucker for dimples but he wondered who was it that it belonged to and who was the boy. He hid it in his pocket where he knew no one would find it and it would be safe. He turned around ready to walk back to where he was sitting before, when all of the sudden there was an explosion right where he was sitting before.

He jumped back with a strong force, falling on his back. He grunted and closed his mouth trying not to get any of the dirt, rocks, and dust inside his mouth. Since he was close to where the explosion happened, some of the effects started creeping on him before everything blacked out.

 

**********

 

Louis felt a massive pounding in his head making him grunt. He slowly opened his eyes until he saw he was staring at the celling of the infirmary tent. He rubbed his forehead trying to get his headache to somehow go away without the need of pain killers. Not that they'd be any here. He sat up and looked around. The tent wasnt full like he epected, only a few people being taken care off by the doctors. "Hey man. If youre wondering, three of the men didn't make it. Oh and I found this in your pouch." Josh said handing him the picture.

Louis looked at it like it was his first time seeing it before he slowly reached up and grabbed it from Josh's hand. He started at it more closely examining it. It was cleaner than when he found it. since he could see the boy better. He was wearing a purple Jack Wills jacket. "I saw you pick it up. It, like, saved your life. You got yourself a guardian angel, mate. If I were you, I would at least send him a thank you note. I wish I was lucky like you. Might wanna keep it in your pocket or pouch in case something like what happened earlier happens again." Josh said.

Louis turned the picture and saw some messy handwriting but he could tell what it said. Come Back Soon Haz X. He stared at the boy again. "I don't know him. And this isn't mine." He mumbled but Josh was already gone. He took the picture and put it inside his boot where he knew was probably the best place to hid it for now. He didn't want to risk anything. He got up and geared up again before making his way out.

 

**********

 

That night, all of the soldiers gathered around to have a party. There were some cheap 'borrowed' colorful lights everywhere giving the room with a club effect. Some rock band was playing on stage playing these weird rock metal songs that most of the people there didn't know but still danced to. If looking like you were being tazered was called dancing, then yeah, they were dancing. Louis walked in carefully, he wasn't one to party especially in a place where a bomb could go off at any minute. He bent down and pulled out the picture again. He eyed it for a second before looking at the mass of people dancing. He could see Josh making an idiot of himself all the way from here.

He was messing around with one of the bands extra electric guitar and it was only a matter of time before he broke it. If Louis didn't know any better he would've thought that he was drunk. He walked up to a man that was way older than him, maybe in his mid 30's. He tapped his shoulder and waited for the man to turn around. When he did he smiled at Louis. "Have you seen this before!?!" Louis shouted over the music as he showed the man the picture.

"No! But he sure is a keeper!" The men yelled back before turning around and resuming his jumping. Louis walked around the mass of people and stopped next to guy that looked around his age just a bit taller. "Hey do you know who this belongs too?!?" He asked. The man grabbed the picture and held it up to the light to get a better view of the picture. He shook his head before handing it back to Louis. Louis sighed and went to a girl who was standing by a corner, swaying to the music with a bored expression.

"Hey do you know who this is?! Or who it belongs to?!?" She looked at the picture before shaking her head making her natural red hair look like it was on fire under the lights. Louis sighed as he ran a hand through his brown feathery hair that has grown a bit since his buzz cut haircut. He looked around but it seemed everyone was busy or they didn't know who the picture belonged too. He sighed before walking out of the mass of people, screaming a few 'excuse me' on his way. It seemed whoever knew this boy was dead or hadn't bothered to retrieve the picture so Louis just hid the picture back on his pocket before heading out.

He might as well keep it.

Chapter Text

~8 Months Later~

 

Louis sat in the passenger seat of the jeep as they drove in the dessert. He cant believe that he's finally getting out and going back home. He missed his sisters and mother to death and knowing he was going to see them soon, it brought a smile to his face. He still has the picture of the mysterious boy he found eight months ago. He always keeps it in his boot for good luck and so far its worked. No one had come to him to proclaim it so he eventually made it his. Josh was standing on the backseat, his head out the sun roof ready to shoot if something went wrong.

He looked down and chuckled when he saw Louis staring at the picture. "Dude, what did I say? He's your good luck charm!" He said over the loud engine. Louis smiled and let out a throaty laugh. He kissed it, and no it wasn't because he was gay and he found the boy attractive. Which he did, but because Josh was right. It was like the picture had this magical power that kept him alive for the past months when in reality he could've been dead by now.

He owes it all to the picture and some may think he's crazy but he knows he found the picture for a reason. He doesn't know what it is but he knows that its not everyday someone finds something in the middle of a war that keeps them alive, otherwise no one would die. "You were right!" He calls back, tucking the picture into his boot.

"You know, the only reason I'm alive is because I follow you and you've been blessed by the Gods so nothing bad ever happens to you!" Josh joked putting on his safety goggles to keep the dirt away. "Nah! You're just lucky you find shelter before anyone else does." Louis tried to convince him but he knew he was wrong. Josh and him were inseparable, not like Zayn and Liam, his best friends back home, but they were still pretty close. Josh is older than Louis by a few months but it always seemed like Louis was older by a few years.

Maybe it was because he was more mature or maybe because he seemed more dedicated in his job. But Josh always follows Louis around so its no wonder why he is alive if Louis is alive. "That's bullshit man, and you know it! Things like this don't just happen to normal people like us. You're special, I repeat special!!" He called as he watched his friend turn his head at an odd angle to look at him. "That ain't no bullshit. Its true!" Josh rolled his eyes because he knew he was right whether Louis admit it or not.

"I say you go find him and thank him! Send him a 'hey' and a 'thank you' from me because if its wasn't for that damn picture we wouldn't be going home!" Josh called in victory but he was serious and Louis can sensed that. He chuckled and closed his eyes just as the ear splitting sound of an explosive went off.

The water bottle that rested by his foot exploded, shooting water all over Louis's face. He could hear Josh's scream but he couldn't do anything. He could feel the truck rumbling as the ground rumbled and he could feel the hotness from fire outside. It felt like time was going on slow motion but it wasn't.
Louis opened his eyes to look for Josh and he felt his eyes brim with tears as he saw his friend covered in blood, his neck bent down at an odd angle but even from here Louis could tell he was dead and that bothered him. He reached his hand out and pulled at Josh's chain. He needed to have something left of what was one of his best friend.

********

Louis sat at the airport staring at the wall in front of him with a blank expression. He still remembers every single detail of every moment that happened from when he found the picture to when Josh died. Those memories still haunt him in his sleep, making him restless once in a while.

He heard some shots behind him making his heart skip a beat as his head finally moved, snapping toward the direction of the sound. He sighed in relieve as he saw it was just a couple of boys around Lottie's, one of his sisters, age playing some shooting game in the game room. That was the other thing. Any sound that reminded him of those times made him jump and it took everything in his power to calm down and remind himself that he's not there anymore.

That's he's safe, well no one is ever safe but he wasn't in danger of dying in war. He heard the sound of what he thought was the bus and once he turned his head to the crystal front doors he saw he was right. He picked up his bags from where they rested next to him and made his way outside. He looked around the place he called home and smiled. He sure did miss Minnesota. Sure living in the states was good but he preferred England much better. He sometimes wishes they could move back.

Louis entered the bus taking two steps at a time. He handed the driver the amount of money necessary and walked to the back where he took a seat. He could see a little boy playing with toy soldiers as the bus took off. He rested his head against the window and watched as the familiar stops came into view. He saw the old closed Walgreen's he remembered sneaking in with Liam and Zayn when they were 14 cause they wanted to see if any of the employees or owner left anything valuable behind, to their disappointment, they didn't. All they found were dust bunnies, old rotten candy, and bugs. It amazes him how it hasn't been demolished yet.

He felt the bus stop but it wasn't the stop close to his house so he didn't bother to grab his belongings. He felt a small tap on his shoulder and saw it was the small boy. His gray eyes full with mischief and his light brown hair into a messy quiff. He shot Louis a small grin and saluted him like they did in the army to show his respect. Louis chuckled and saluted back as he watched the boy run down the bus and jump out, grabbing his mother's hand. He was so adorable. It was people like those who

Louis could relate too.

********

The bus stopped just around the corner of his street and Louis couldn't help the grin that appeared in his face. The sun was just setting so it gave the small place a warm homey feeling. He grabbed his bags and nodded at the driver as he stepped out of the bus. The driver, just like the kid, saluted him as he closed the doors.

Louis started making his way down his street, a smile on his face. He could see the small kids playing outside in their front yards with their pets or toys. He saw Safaa, one of Zayn's sister playing outside with her niece in the porch. She had grown so much, he remembers she was like 12 when he left. She looked up and smiled as she saw Louis looking at her.

Louis waved and brought his finger to his lip as to make a 'quite' sign. Safaa nodded clearly understanding that no one knew he was coming home and he wanted to surprise them. She couldn't wait to see her brother's face when Louis showed up. Louis shot her a smile as he headed to his house. He saw no one outside the Payne's only their dog Brit who loved to play with his black Labrador, Ted.

Brit barked, recognizing Louis, and wiggled his tail in a 'Hi' motion. Louis waved and continued to walk to where his house was located at the end of the street. He could see his mum's car parked in their driveway and the other girls cars parked out front. He could see their garage door open and he could also see Ted resting with his head out soaking in the sun while the rest of his body rested inside in the shade.

The dog immediately ran out when he saw his official owner walking towards him. Louis dropped his bags and quickly grabbed the dog, pulling him into a hug. "How are you buddy?" He asked scratching him behind the ear. The dog, like Brit, barked and wiggled his tail in response, making him chuckle. "Come on, lets go see the girls yeah?" He stood up and grabbed his bags as he and his dog made his way inside the garage where he dropped his bags and walked back out towards the small gate that led to the back where he could smell barbecue food and the laughter of his favorite twins. He opened the gate quietly and motioned for the dog to follow him quietly.

They tip toed across the freshly cut grass trying to be as careful as they could. They didn't want to ruin the surprise. He could hear Liam's voice, along with his family's. He could hear his mother making a joke, the sound of the twins talking amongst themselves. Lottie talking to her boyfriend who was cousin with Fizzie's boyfriend. He could hear Zayn complaining about how hot it was when it was just perfect.

He walked out smiling and yelled. "I'm home!!!" Which cause everyone to gasp. He could see his mother crying along with his sisters as his friends and their families were gob-smacked.
Time seemed to have stopped but only for a minute before he was tackled with hugs, kisses, greeting, and questions from every direction. It was totally overwhelming but Louis didn't care.

********

They all sat around eating and chatting happily. Louis sat quietly, occasionally smiling or answering questions when he was asked but other than that he ate quietly. "So..." Liam started awkwardly as he sat next to Louis on his right side and Zayn sat on his left. Louis chuckled at his friend's behavior. Liam was always awkward when it came to starting up a conversation. "Did you meet any guys while you were there?" Zayn asked. Louis clearly knew what he meant but he still tensed when he asked that question. Zayn felt his friend tense and he looked at his weirdly. "You did?" He asked as he took a bite out of his fried chicken.

Louis shook his head and cleared his throat to get rid of the lump that formed in his throat. "O-Oh yeah. But not that way. I met Josh, he was like my best friend away from home." He said taking a bite out of his own chicken. Liam nodded understandingly knowing it must be a hard topic for Louis.

But Louis didn't want to talk about his dead friend so he changed the subject back to his best friends. "So when's the wedding?" He asked cheekily draping an arm over both the boys who blushed wildly. See the thing was that Liam and Zayn have been dating since their first day in high school.

It was a great way to start freshmen year if the two boys say so themselves. They've had a few arguments here and there and have broken up too but at the end they always crawling back to each other. That's what Louis calls a soul mate. Something he still hasn't found but hopes to find soon.

You can clearly see the love and adoration they have for each other once they're together. Louis is jealous of that but he doesn't say anything. He watches as Liam gets a guilty look on his face. He turns to Zayn who is playing with his hands and also looks guilty. Only one thing comes to his mind. "No!" He gasps as his eyes widen. They wouldn't! He grabbed Liam's and Zayn's left hand and brought them to his face. Those were clearly wedding rings. "You didn't wait for me?!" He scolded half jokingly, half serious. They probably did it because they thought he wasn't going to come back or maybe they didn't know when he was coming back but he still would've liked to be present.

"Well, sorry! but Zayn wanted to get married as fast as we could plus we didn't know when you were gonna come back so we got it in DVD. We have it at home. We can bring it to you if you want." Liam offered. Louis's mouth was opened agape. "You live together?" He asked slowly. He still couldn't get around the fact that a lot has happened while he was gone cause it felt like he was only gone for a few days not 6 years. "Yeah. On the other side of town." Zayn said. He felt bad at how Louis had to find everything out because he too wished that he was there when everything happened.

Suddenly there was this noise from the front that sounded close to an explosion making Louis jump and drop his juice on the floor. "Man are you alright?" Liam asked standing up. Zayn stood up too as most of the juice was flowing in his direction and he didn't want his shoes to get dirty. Louis was still up, his body tense.

Liam walked to the front, Ted following close behind as he went to check what the noise was. He walked out to the front of the house and saw it was one of the neighbors son with his friends setting up a timer that sounded like a bomb inside a metal trashcan. Idiots, Liam thought as he walked back. No wonder why his friend reacted like that.

He walked back and waved his hands dismissively. "It was the kids from around the corner being idiots." Liam said as he took a seat on Zayn's lap. Louis sighed and closed his eyes as he took a seat. This was gonna be harder than he thought. First at the airport and now here. He was really going to learn to be careful or he might just go crazy

Everyone continued eating and chatting happily, sometimes shooting a glance in Louis's direction to see if he was alright. It was before midnight when everyone left and Louis was finally able to take a shower and head to his old bedroom to take another restless sleep filled with explosives and Josh's dead body, and the mystery guy in the picture.

********

It was a little bit afternoon when Daisy and Phoebe pulled out their old video camera that once belonged to Lottie out. "This is so going on Youtube alright. We need some new videos or our popularity will sink. Got it?!" Daisy said as she opened the door to their bedroom. The still shared a room even after 15 years of being alive.

Phoebe nodded and pressed the record button as she followed her sister towards her brother's room. The door was opened ajar like he always left it so they had to be careful walking down the old creaky floorboards.
Daisy made a 'quite' sign before opening the door to her brother's bedroom. Louis was sprawled all across the bed, he clearly had bags under his eyes from not being able to sleep and waking up many times during the night.
The girls could tell he was dreaming cause they could see his pupils moving inside his closed eyes. Phoebe did a count down with her fingers before Daisy attacked her brother. She jumped on his bed and started jumping on him screaming. "Its time to get up!!"

Louis felt the bed move and a weight thrown over his chest. His eyes snapped up and he jumped, taking whoever it was with him. He flipped them over so he was on top and grabbed the person by the neck. Phoebe's eyes widen as she saw her older brother pining her sister to the bed. "Mum...Mum!!" She screamed in the verge of tears as she ran downstairs.

Jay obviously heard her daughter calling her as she rushed upstairs meeting her halfway. "What's wrong?!" She asked as she saw Phoebe in tears. "Quick..Louis..Daisy!" She said. Jay ran past her towards her son's room. Louis looked into the attackers eyes and saw it was Daisy. He has chocking his sister. He quickly let go and moved away from her. "Daisy. Daisy!!" He yelled as she jumped out of his bed and ran past his mother who was standing by the door looking dumbfounded. She couldn't believe her eyes. She could hear Fizzie asking Phoebe what was wrong as they stayed downstairs.

She could also hear the sobs coming from their room. Daisy couldn't believe her brother almost did that. Louis laid back his back against the headboard. "You need help Lou." His mother said in the nicest possible. Louis ran his hands down his face in the verge of tears himself. He cant believe he just did that...to his god damn sister! His mother was right.

He did need help.

Chapter Text

-Later That Day-

"Man, did you seriously do that to her?" Liam asked as he looked over to the Tomlinson's porch where Phoebe and Daisy were talking with their friends. They had avoided Louis all day, afraid that he would do the same thing again. You cant really blame him though.

It was a natural reflex, the girls should have known that it would take time to get used to being back and knowing that he was safe. His mother reassured him that with time it would get better after he refused to get help and that his sister would warm up to him again, eventually. He didn't believe her though.

Zayn and Liam came to visit earlier in the day and they brought the wedding DVD and photos for Louis to see and watch. If he was being honest, it looked really romantic and fun, too bad he missed it. Louis told them about what happened since he was a bit down and sulking all day. Of course Liam and Zayn picked up on the mood and demanded to know what had happened. They were still trying to wrap their heads around it.

"Yes, I did. Its just..." Louis trailed off. He didn't know how to end the sentence without sounding crazy. "Youre not use to it?" Liam added carefully. He didnt want Louis to feel offended or more hurt than he already was. Louis nodded, knowing that didn't sound crazy. "Exactly. I shouldve warned them." Louis sighed, kicking the gravel on the Payne's driveway. He felt his friends giving him a pat on the back in a reassuring way. "You didn't know. And even if you did, you expected to be over it. Right?" Zayn added understandingly and Louis nodded, again.

Liam and Zayn started their own little conversation, leaving him out but it wasnt like he minded. n face, he was used to it. They always seemed to drift away from him, just for a little bit though, into their own little world. For some unknown reason he let his mind wander to the boy in the picture, which took residence inside his wallet. Maybe, just maybe, he was bound to find the picture.

Maybe it was fate or something. But why? Why was he the one to find the picture? Why was he still alive? So many questions yet so little answers.
If it wasn't for the picture, he might actually be with Josh right now. Should he tell his friends about it? They always told each other everything. Always. It didnt matter what it was because they were best friends and thats what best friends do.

Plus Louis couldnt keep it a secret forever. Louis cleared his throat and Zayn and Liam noticed the change of mood from slightly depressing to serious. Louis wasn't really serious, only when he needed to. He preferred to be fun, and out-going, but he hast been that in a while. At first his friends and family were worried, and a little crept out, but it just came with the job so they grew accustomed to it.

"Whats up?" Zayn asked looking at the side of his face. The sun was high on the sky, making his short brown feathery hair lighter and his sun tan skin glow. Now, Zayn would be lying if he didn't think Louis was ugly because he wasn't. Not even with the scars he proudly carried.

But Liam beat him by a long shot on his opinion. He wouldn't change his husband for anything in the world. Louis sighed and pulled his wallet out of his pocket, balancing it on his knees. Liam and Zayn furrowed their eyebrows confused. He opened it and quickly catched the photo as it slipped down and out of the small pocket. He passed it to Zayn, who carefully grabbed it and held it between Liam and him.

"Who's that?" Liam asked studying the dusty photo. The boy looked young, the picture must have been taken either recently or a long time ago. "That's...I don't know." Louis said looking at his lap. Zayn snorted and rolled his eyes. He passed it back to Louis, who quickly put it away. "Come on Lou! If you don't know him, then how and why do you have a picture of him?" Maybe telling them wasnt the best idea.

"I found it one day while I was supposed to be on duty. It just caught my attention. I went to pick it up and it actually saved me because if I hadn't gotten up to pick it up, I might have been part of that dust that covers it. But anyways, it seemed like whenever something bad happened, I would be saved." Zayn was looking down at his thighs, eyebrows furrowed and Liam looked intrigued. As he went to talk, Louis quickly cut him off.

"No it wasn't luck. Josh died and I didn't and we were in the same place. I had the picture on me, he didnt. Here I am and hes seven steps closer to heaven. Or wherever he will go." Louis stopped talking too look at his friends overly shocked faces. They couldn't believe what Louis was saying, of course they wouldnt. That only happened in books and the occasional cliché movie, not to people in real life.

"You're saying...you found this picture and it was like your good luck charm?" Liam asked slowly. Louis nodded playing with his fingers. As weird as it sounded, it was true. "Wow.." Zayn breathed out. He was still trying to process the fact that a picture saved his best friend life. "Can I see the picture again?" Liam asked, holding his hand out. Louis pulled it out again and passed it over. Liam studied it carefully, taking in every little detail. The background seemed so familiar, like he had been in the place before, he just doesn't remember when. He brought it closer to his face and tried to read the blurry signed on the brick wall. Fort Fisher.

And that's when it came back to him. North Carolina! He remembers spending the summer of before 8th grade there. His cousin Ronnie had asked their family to come down and spend the 4th of July there. He remembers the beaches, and the aquarium, and the festivals. That is where the boy must be from.

"This is taken in North Carolina. Meaning hes from there or he was just on vacation or something. But hes probably from there, he gives that southern vibe." Liam said handing the picture back to Louis who looked at him confused yet impressed. "And you know this how?" Zayn asked, jealousy slicing through the question with each word.

Liam chuckled at his jealous husband and grabbed him through the waist, setting him down in between his lap. He started to playing with his hair before turning to face Louis. "The sign. I went to that Aquarium, remember? That summer I went to North Carolina. No need to worry Zee." Liam reassured him.

Zayn sighed relieved and turned to his head at an odd angle to look at Louis who had a small smirk on his face. They could already see the wheels working inside his brain trying to come up with something. Something which they will help him later and probably regret. They could already see the little light bulb above his head shinning bright, flickering with ideas. "What is it?" Liam asked in a hesitant tone. Their eyes locked and fuck.

"If I wanted to, lets say 'Go in an adventure' would you help me?" He asked. Zayn shook his head clearly knowing where this was heading but he just wanted to make sure he was right. "Does this have to do with the boy?" Louis nodded and scratched the back of his neck. "Does this have to do this with you looking for him?" Louis nodded again. He looked at Zayn and pouted, knowing that was his weakness. No one could ever resist Louis' pout. "I'm in." Zayn sighed, looking at his shoes. "What? No!" Liam objected standing up. He was not gonna let Louis go away just when they got him back.

"Come on baby! He wants to go! Don't stop him." Zayn said. "Jeez! Thanks Zayn. I love how much you appreciate me." Zayn snorted and slapped Louis' knee. Liam sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "Fine." Louis was glad he decided to just go along with it.

It wasn't like anything he said was gonna change Louis' mind anyway, so why bother. Plus he was a grown man. He could make his own decisions and del with consequences himself. "Great. Ill call you when I'm ready but for now, think of a plan to keep my mom busy enough so I could leave."

Louis said his goodbyes and planted a sloppy kiss on each of their cheeks before trudging his way back to his house. "Lets just hope this doesn't turn into a disaster." Liam said worriedly. Zayn chuckled and grabbed his hand, "Knowing Louis, something is bound to happen."

********

Louis sat in the kitchen table with all the lights off. The only light lighting up the room was the computer screen giving off its blue radiant glow. His mother and sister decided to go to Tesco and leave him alone for a while. 'To think and relax' is what his mother had said. He didn't know if he should feel offended or glad. But he was gonna go with glad because now he had a chance to do some re-search and see if Liam was right and if this picture was actually taken in North Carolina.

He typed in 'Fort Fisher' on the google bar and waited for it to load. Once it came up, he clicked on the first link that came up which happened to be their home site. He clicked on one of the pictures of the building and held the picture of the boy by the screen, trying to match the features. Yup, it was exactly the same. So that's where he was headed. He quickly canceled the page and brought up the camera.

He got up and turned on the light before taking a seat again and making sure he looked decent enough before he pressed record. He sighed and looked anywhere but at the camera. "I know you were happy to have me back and everything but it just doesn't feel right. I know that its been only a day but look at what I almost caused.
I almost killed my sister! I know you're probably shocked right now but I have to do this. I have to go, far away, and maybe find myself because I clearly don't know who I am anymore. I'm gonna miss you, actually I already do, but this is for everyone's best. I just feel like I have a debt to pay.

I hope to come back soon and be much better than I am now. You're probably wondering where Ted is, well he's tagging along. I need to have someone with me, right? Anyways, don't come looking for me, Ill call you when I ready. Just take care of you and the girls. Don't worry about me, I'm a big boy..." There was a moment of silence as he bit his bottom lip lightly trying to keep his tears inside. "Bye mom. Love you and the girls..." With that he ended the video and made his way upstairs to pack.

********

Jay walked inside the kitchen, bags piling up her forearms. She frowned when she heard the quietness. The house was awfully quite and that was weird. There would always be noise waiting for her when she came home. If it wasnt for Ted barking and trying to go out or from the air conditioners when the girls forgot to shut them off, but today there was only silence. She noticed the computer up and running in the kitchen table with a video waiting. She dropped the bags on the floor not caring about the groceries. She gasped and covered her mouth as she saw her beautiful son talking about leaving.

He just couldn't leave like that, not when he had just gotten back. She opened the door to his room and it was just like he had left it that morning. She walked over to the closet and saw half his clothes gone. She turned towards the bed and flipped the mattress over, his safety stack of money was gone too. She ran to the window and saw the half broken leash that he must have cut. She dropped to her knees as she sobbed into her hands. He was gone.

********

"Thanks guys. I really appreciate this." Louis said as he hugged Zayn and Liam. Zayn and Liam had suggested he took a plane but he insisted on walking all the way over there after they had figured out how much more they had to pay if Ted went. "Are you sure? Louis you hate walking. Just forget it." Liam tried to get him to back out but nothing was gonna stop him.

And Liam knew that because when Louis had his mind set on something, nothing could stop him. "Don't worry. Ill call you as soon as I get there, alright?" Louis said kissing their cheeks for the second time that day.

Liam sighed and nodded as he felt Zayn rub circles on his knuckles. "Be careful yeah?" Zayn said hugging Louis. He trusted him to make the right decisions, if this is what he wanted then he wasn't going to stop him. Who knows, maybe this is a good thing. "Sure. Take care. Ill be back once." Louis pulled his hoddie over his head and began walking with Ted close behind.

Leaving his friends to watch as he disappeared down the street, letting fate guide him.

Chapter Text

Day after day after day he walked and walked only stopping a few times along the way to rest, eat, and maybe take a possible shower in the cheapest motel. It didn't matter to him though. That was a lie because really? who wants to walk for miles not knowing how long its gonna take? No one.

But he wasn't complaining because it was his choice. He could've left Ted behind and taken airplane or asked Zayn and Liam for a ride but he didn't and he was kind of proud of that.

 

He was proud that he wasn't really relaying on anyone to help him do this search. He wanted to do it by himself. Sure, his family and friends back home are probably wondering where the hell he is at this point. Wondering if he was dead or alive. Safe or unprotected, but they just had to wait. He had promised to call as soon as possible and he did. Sort of.

 

*3 months ago.*

 

Louis walked the streets of a town he forgot the name of as soon as he saw the sign when they walked past it. He opened the door to a small convenient store after ordering Ted to stay outside which the dog did, watching Louis through the window. He walked down the aisle before grabbing some dog treats, a bottle of water, and a loaf of bread. He made his way to the cash register and waited for the little boy in front of him to pay for his sour patch kids before it was his turn.

 

He paid for the items and was about to leave when he stopped and turned back to the cashier. "Umm...excuse me, but I was wondering where is the nearest phone booth?" He hadn't seen one so far but he wasn't really paying attention to his surroundings , at this point. "Oh there's one just around the corner but it doesn't work. You can use my cell phone if you want." She said battling her eyelashes, handing him one of those old flip phones. What the hell?

 

He slowly smiled in return and walked outside where he typed the oh too familiar phone number. "Hello?" A gruff deep voice answered making Louis a little nervous. "Hey." He greeted. There was a gasp at the other end, some shuffling around, and another voice could be heard. "Louis, mate is that you?" Liam asked, his worried tone making Louis slightly guilty for not calling them earlier. "Yeah its me." He said as he handed Ted some of the treats.

 

"Louis! God. We miss you so much!" Zayn exclaimed. Louis chuckled and took a seat on the curb next to Ted. "I miss you guys too. Listen, I'm still on the road and I don't know when I'm gonna get there but I hope its soon. I'm really sorry that I hadn't called earlier but I'm trying to save as much money as I can.

Calling everyday isn't probably a good idea." He explained. He heard some hush voices before Liam spoke again. "Its okay, just be careful. Your mom and sisters really miss you but they're doing really well. We visited them yesterday."

 

He felt his mood slowly going down as he felt the familiar rush of sadness take over his body. Sometimes he wonder why he even left in the first place. Sometimes he stops and thinks about going back but the picture in his pocket always keeps him moving, remembering him that he has a duty to attend.

"Oh. Tell them I'll call them soon alright. I don't want them more worried than they already are. I have to give this phone back but I just called to let you know I'm safe and all." He said standing up and dusting his ripped jeans.

 

"Its okay Lou. We will tell them next time we see them, which might be this weekend or the following one. Take care, don't forget to call!" Liam rushed in. "Yes father." He joked, smiling as he heard his friends laugh. "Okay I got to go." The said their goodbyes and I love yous before Zayn hung up, Louis not having the power to do it himself.

 

He walked back inside the store thanked the girl politely before handing her her phone back. He slowly made his way out, taking a sip of the water to get rid of the unbelievable thirst. "Lets go boy!" The dog made a sighing sound as if to say 'again?' but Louis ignored it as they started walking again.

 

*Present*

 

But that was 3 months ago and its been a long time since he's talked to the others but at least they know he's safe, well, knew. He rubbed his eyes sleepily and yawned, running a hand through his hair. It was just a little bit before dawn so it was still a bit dark, fog surrounding him and Ted. He could see the sky turning light blue then orange, red, and finally yellow. It was a beautiful sight but if it wasn't for the fact he was tired then maybe he would've enjoyed it more. He sighed and shook his head trying to stay awake but it was no use.

 

He hadn't slept in two days, sleep was obviously catching up to him. He was tired and needed rest before he passed out on his feet. He walked to the nearest tree behind a huge pile of hay in a deserted barn and settled down. He felt Ted lay beside him and used that to his advantage, laying his head on Ted's back using it as a pillow. He sighed happily enjoying the sound of Ted's heartbeat under him. He closed his eyes before falling into a deep slumber.

 

He was close, he knew it.

 

********

 

A few hours later, all rested up and ready to continue, Louis found himself passing a sign which he stopped to admire. He was in North Carolina. Ted barked as if he knew that they had reached their destination. "Yeah, that's right boy!" He walked past a few houses here and there but no sign of the aquarium.

He kept walking around, trying to fit in but probably not doing a very good job at it. He stopped he ended up in front of a farm. It was huge. He could see cows, ducks, chickens, a dog. Basically almost any type of animal a farm could have. He decided he might as well start doing his search here. He walked inside the barn, the smell of compose filling his nostrils, making him slightly uncomfortable.

 

He saw a middle age man feeding a white horse who looked really old for her age. "Excuse me? Hi, Um... I'm new in town so I'm kind of lost." He said as the man turned his body to face him. "Oh well. Hi! I'm Simon, what can I do for you?" He wiped his hands on his pants before making his way to Louis, his rubber boots squeaking against the ground. "I'm Louis, nice to meet you. Well, I was wondering if you knew this boy." He opened his bag and took the picture out, handing it to Simon. Simon eyed it carefully before shaking his head. "Sorry mate. I don't know him." Well there goes that.

 

"Well do you know the closest Aquarium to here?" He asked putting the photo away. Simon rubbed his chin as he thought. "There's one like 10 minutes from here. Just keep going straight, then at the first stop you see, take a left. It will lead you straight there." The man explained. Louis smiled and shook his hand.

"Thank you so much." Louis turned around, Ted following behind, as they made their way out leaving Simon to stare at him like he was crazy. It was really rare when they got visitors here because it was such a small boring town but he wasn't going to question it.

 

********

 

He finally reached the aquarium and pulled out the picture out again to compare them and see if he was right. Yes it was the same. He made his way towards the doors but then turned to Ted, "Ted, stay!" He ordered and watched as the dog took a seat under one of the umbrellas outside. He entered and got greeted with a happy yet cold atmosphere. A blonde boy sat behind the counter chewing on a piece of gum. He walked to the counter and cleared his throat.

 

The boy looked up and eyed him up and down but not in the judgmental way. "Welcome to Fort Fisher Aquarium. How may I help you?" The blonde greeted/asked, an Irish accent visible. "Yeah. Can you tell me if you know this boy." He handed him the picture and watched as the blonde's blue eyes widen with curiosity and confusement. "Yeah. That's Harry Styles. We've been friends since 3rd grade when I moved here from Ireland. We don't speak much now since I work a lot and stuff, but yeah. He lives on the other side of town and runs the famous Styles Kennel. Well famous here anyway."

 

Louis nodded. Haz, a nickname short for Harry. Now it all made sense. "Oh. Thank you. Do you know if there's a place I could stay, like a motel or something? Maybe even a house? I'm new here and I kind of need a place to stay." The blonde nodded and took out a paper from under the counter, writing down some stuff quickly. "There's a motel just around here. Its very cheap. But I know there's this run down house a few miles from here, basically on the under side of town which I'm pretty sure I could help you get if you wanted."

 

Louis nodded enthusiastically, thankful for the Irish boy's help and hospitality. "That would be great." He said receiving address to the house and the kennel. "If you don't mind me asking, why are you looking for him?" Niall asked as he leaned against the counter. "I have to thank him for something." The boy continued to chew on his gum and decided to leave it there, which Louis was glad for. Exchanging goodbyes and a thank you from his part, Louis walked out and motioned for Ted to follow him.

 

They walked a few blocks away from the aquarium and came face to face with the motel Niall mentioned. He made his way inside and checked if Ted would be aloud in before paying for a room. It was surprisingly cheap. He made sure to check the bed for clean sheets and the bathroom like he was taught to do as a child, before he stripped down from his really dirty clothes and took a shower. After he took a shower and gave Ted a bath, they both went to sleep, all clean and at peace.

 

********

 

A few hours later, they made their way down to the lobby and asked the man in the front desk, Nick, if it was possible for him to give them a ride to the kennel. Nick of course agreed but only if Louis paid him an extra fee, which he did, and is how he found himself seated in the back of an old Honda, Ted with his head hanging out the window and Nick singing really badly along with the radio and complaining about the weather.

 

Louis thanked him when he dropped them off in front of a big white house, the sign 'Styles Kennel' big in cursive green letters. Nick just waved him off, speeding down the road. Louis started to walk down the road path quietly with Ted following close behind trying to take in all the pretty flowers around him.

Louis walked inside a small storage in the shape of a small house which seemed empty. "Hello?" He called but got no response. He turned around and kept walking as he made his way towards a much bigger building which he could hear the dog barks coming from.

 

"Hello." He heard a deep manly yet sweet voice say as he saw the shadow of a person step out from the dark into the light. The boy, no man, was gorgeous and older than how he looked in the picture. Finally, he was face to face with his savior. The man he spent months walking for to meet. They boy with curly hair, green emerald eyes and pale silky skin.

 

Harry Styles.

Chapter Text

Louis started incredulously as the man walked towards them. He had a slight jump to his steps that gave away that he was an overly nice person. "What a beautiful Labrador. What's his name?" He watched as Harry knelled down and took Ted's face in his overly big hands.

Louis bets those hands could do wonders. What the hell? Louis thought before actually answering the question. "Ted." Harry nods approvingly before standing up straight, still analyzing the dog.

"He seems well trained. That's a first around here." Louis shrugs because he can remember when they first got Ted. He was just 16 with dreams about singing his heart out and playing footie with his classmates after school. He came home late, after serving detention for the third time that week, just to see his little sisters playing with a tiny ball of black fur.

He remembers his mother saying something about friendship and protection and Louis thinking that he didn't want a dog because they were annoying little devils who shit on the carpet and had everything handed down to them. Literally. But here they are 8 years later.

Harry's eyes widen comically before his cheeks turn a crimson pink. "Oh God! I probably shouldve introduced myself first. The names Harry." Louis smiles because, yeah he knows.

But he doesn't want to come off as creepy so he just shakes his hand and smiles slightly. "Louis." They stand there smiling goofily at each other before Louis breaks their little eye staring competition he didn't even know they had.

Louis clears his throat and reaches to the back pocket of his jeans, pulling out his wallet where the picture hid safely. "I came here to a-" He doesn't get to finish as Harry's phone starts ringing annoyingly.

Harry looks at him apologetically before excusing himself and walking a few feet away, not far enough that Louis couldn't hear his conversation.

"Oh hello Mrs. Swift. I was just about to call you before something came up. I just wanted to confirm that Ruby was coming today at 2 to stay with us for the weekend." Louis follows Harry as he starts walking to a little room in the back what he guesses its the office.

He watches as Harry pulls out a notebook and grabs the nearest pen, which happens to be a pink sparkly one with a big unicorn on top. He tries not to laugh, he doesn't want to seem rude, but still chuckles silently.

He waits patiently for Harry to finish his call so he can finish the conversation they almost had had before. He looks outside the small window and he sees a very young looking middle age woman working with some poodles.

Even from where hes standing, he can see that those dogs are as stubborn as they get. The lady gets up with sigh and stands in front of the dogs trying to look stern and it seems to actually work because next thing he knows the dogs are actually doing what she wants them to do. Nice.

Harry finishes his call just to take another one. Louis tries not to seem impatient but hes never been good at waiting. He listens as Harry goes on about how they do train animals and about prices and some other stuff Louis did not know they offered or really cared about.

He shrugs when he sees Harry mouth 'I'm sorry' because he shouldn't be. Louis is the intruder. Harry finishes the call and Louis walks slowly to the desk Harry is standing behind. "Well, it seems you've got your dog all taken care off and I'm guessing you re here for another reason..."

Louis fiddles with his hands, to give him something to do. Fuck. He doesn't know what to do.

If he was being honest, he never thought he was actually going to meet the guy. Sure a part of him believed he was but another, the more practical one, knew it was pretty much impossible. Talk about wrong.

He didn't prepare a speech or anything because its not like you can just go up to a stranger and be like 'Hello. I found a picture of you while I was in Afghanistan and it saved my life. I walked halfway across the country just to Thank you. Have I forgotten to mention that you are very attractive?' That's not weird at all.

"Um well its kind of a long story. Heck, I don't know where to begin." He drops his head and rubs his lips with his thumb, a habit he picked up from Zayn many years ago. Thinking about his best friend brings a slight pang to his chest that he chooses to ignore.

Not now. He looks up and takes a deep breath ready to start talking when Harry interrupts him. Louis tries not to scream.

"I'm sorry. That was rude of me, its the heat talking. What can I do for you? " Harry uses the back of his hand to wipe his forehead and yeah, Louis agrees, it is hot. He also agrees that the faster they get this talk finished with, the faster he can go home. So please, he silently prays, no more interruptions. He takes a deep breath before actually starting to talk.

"I actually came here to see you." Louis watches Harry's eyes widen and he notices the small step he takes back away from Louis. He doesn't blame him. "Me?" He manages to get out, trying not to seem to freaked out. Its not everyday a stranger comes down to the Kennel looking for him because everyone in this town knows each other.

"Yes. See, I found this-" He pulls out his wallet from his back pocket and lays it on the counter. Harry watches patiently and curiously as he pulls out license and a piece of paper he didn't know he even had in order to get the picture.

Right when hes about to reach for it, Harry stops him. "Ah! You saw the ad!" And Louis is so confused because what ad? What is he talking about?

Harry doesn't waste anytime gathering forms and papers from all over the desk, trying to get them in a neat pile. Louis just stands there confuse because this is not what he came for. Harry starts to talk as he gathers all the paperwork, "The job doesn't pay much but its alright.

Usually its just my mum and I, sometimes my daughter, but its not that hard. All you have to do is feed, walk, and wash the animals. Sometime groom them but usually I do that. Help with the cleaning and the occasional job that hasn't been done. Not to bad, right?"

Harry drops the ad in front of Louis and okay, now he understands. He tries to stop Harry because no, he cannot stay and no, he isn't here for the ad but he cant find the words to. Harry looks so relieved and fuck, Louis doesn't want to ruin that. So he just stands there like an idiot with Ted silently judging him and his thoughts running wild.

"The job is 6 days a week, Ted is welcome anytime and Lewis, help. Help is all we need." Louis ignores the fact that his name was mispronounced because really, this is inst as easy as he thought it'd be. He looks over the paper work quickly, trying to think.

He had two choices.

One, he could apologize, let Harry down easily, and go back home. No explanations, no nothing.

Or he could stay, help Harry, and in between do what he actually came here for. Plus, something about the man intrigues him. Like moths to a flame. His mind is already made up before he speaks, "Can I borrow your pen?"

Harry smiles shyly before handing him the beautiful unicorn pen. Louis raises his eyebrows in amusement and Harry rubs the back of his neck looking down at his shoes. "So besides Ted, do you have any experiences with dogs?" Louis nods slightly as he starts filling out the paper work.

"I did after we got Ted. Trained a few of the neighborhood dogs and I worked with some 'bomb dogs'." Harry nods, his face showing nothing but curiosity.

"You mean you were a co-" Louis cuts him off before he finishes. "No. I was a marine." Harry's face slowly falls and Louis tries his best to ignore it. "Oh." He mumbles quietly, something in his voice off. Louis stares at him as he looks down and shakes the mess of curls he calls hair. His hands are shaking slightly but Louis doesn't comment on it, he probably knows.

Harry clears his throat and visibly swallows. "You know what? Um, you don't kneed to finish filling that out. Just leave me a number I can reach you and we'll be in touch soon." Louis drops the pen and stands a little straighter, his back muscles cracking into place. "If I'm not mistaken, it seems like you need help around here and no one is willing to volunteer."

Harry picks up Louis' paperwork setting it behind with a bang. He leans against the wall, arms crossed over his chest, his face emotionless.

"What kind of person drives from Minnesota to North Carolina just to work at a kennel? Its not common." He looks confused and angry and Louis tries not to dwell on the fact that this could probably end up bad for not only him but for the both of them. "You wouldn't believe me if I told you. Also, I walked."

Harry's mouth drops open and he looks at Louis incredulously. He tries to talk but all he ends up doing is looking like a fish out of water. "Y-You walked? You walked from Minnesota to here? here..." Louis shrugs, smirking slightly. "I like to walk."

They stand there for a few minutes just staring at each other, Harry confused and Louis slightly impatient. Before he knows whats happening, Harry is storming out of the office with a quite 'excuse me.' Not like Louis was gonna stop him, he was already half way down the steps.

********

Harry is shocked. Very shocked. He knew life was filled with plot twists just like in books but not these kinds of plot twist. His brain is all jumbled up and he cant seem to take control of his thoughts. When he saw the man walk up the driveway with his dog, he thought it was just another customer.

But no! It turns out it was a man from Minnesota, correction, a Marine from Minnesota who walked all the way to North Carolina to apply for a job that barely payed and probably sucked more than being a server at the local diner.

Is shady as fuck and Harry is so confused. He quickly makes his way over to where his mother is probably still trying to get the poodle to walk over the ramp. He can see her struggling with the little creatures and he probably would've laughed if it wasn't for the weird situation.

"Mother!" His mum stops trying to fight back against the dogs and stands up, dusting off her favorite pair of old jeans. He hears her crack a 'bastards' towards the dogs and he smiles, before remembering Louis.

His smiles falls and he walks over to the fence where his mother his already waiting for him. "There's this man who came to apply for the job and I cat get rid of him." Anne's eyebrows shot up because she never expected anyone to actually apply for the job.

Hell the only reason she does it, its because she grew up in the Kennel and always promised her parents to keep it going. They both turn to the office as Louis comes out with Ted hot on his heels. They looks around the place taking in the view and Anne turns back to her son. "He seems harmless." Harry chuckles darkly and shakes his head.

"No mum, he walked from Minnesota to here." Anne's eyes widen in shock because, okay, that's not normal but people are into weird stuff. She remembers being addicted to licking rocks as a child. Disgusting, but true. If he likes to walk then he likes to walk. She doesn't like to dwell on things, well pointless things, for too long.

"Maybe he likes to walk." Harry snorts because that's what he said. He runs a hand down his face, sighing. He looks over at Louis who is sitting down at the steps calmly petting Ted. "Can you just tell him to go?" He turns to his mother.

Anne raises an eyebrow and sets one of her hands on her hips. Crap, Harry knows that look. Hes seen it so many time before like when he broke her precious vase when he was 8 or when when he told her that he was gonna be a father. Its the 'This is your responsibility' look. Harry hates it. "You go, you're the one that doesn't wanna hire him."

Harry groans because that is the last thing he wants to do. Hes never been good at handling situations where it involves telling someone to get lost which is why he avoids it all together.

Not that hes been in a position like that before, but he can just imagine it. He turns to his mother and pouts like the 10 year old boy hes still at heart, "Do you wanna hire a crazy person?"

 

*******

Louis looks up as he hears the crumbling sound of shoes against gravel. He looks up to see the middle age woman, who he guesses its Harry's mother, smiling down at him. "Hello dear. M' name is Anne. Nice to meet you." Louis stands up and gives her hand a firm shake. "Nice to meet you mam. My name is Louis. Louis Tomlinson.

She nods happily and checks him over, starting from the top of his head all the way to the bottom. He tries not to feel uncomfortable but its very hard when someone is clearly checking you out. "You don't look crazy."

Louis takes a step back in shock. "What?" Louis has heard what other thought about him but never had someone thought hes crazy. Anne laughs, a heart warming laugh that tickles the inside of Louis' ribs. How he misses his mom.

"My son over there thinks you're crazy." Louis looks over where Harry is now working with the poodles who, amazingly, cooperate with him more than with Anne. Of course he thought Louis was crazy. Louis is starting t believe that about himself too.

"No I'm not mam. A few un-tight knots here and there but no, not crazy." Anne nods understandingly and turns her head to the side analyzing his looks once again. Luis shifts from foot to foot, looking down at Ted who is wagging his tail happily unaware of whats really happening.

"You seem like a good, healthy, hard working young man." Louis nods. "So...why would a good, healthy, hardworking young man like yourself want a job here?" Louis clears his throat and runs his hand through his slight messy hair.

"I just think its peaceful and easy enough. you know what they same, always try something new." Anne nods and licks her lips and Louis waits for her to continue.

"So where did you work at before Louis? A bar? 'The corner at wall street'?" Anne jokes trying to lighten the serious conversation. That's one thing she hates, too much seriousness. "No mam. I was a marine." She, like Harry, stands there shock but unlike Harry, she doesn't change any emotional expression or starts shaking.

She just stands there smiling, not as genuine as before, but still. She walks over to Ted and leans down to his height. "What a lovely dog he is."

 

********

Harry watches Louis and Ted make their way down the driveway as the sun is setting down. How did Anne manage to get rid of him when he couldn't. Knowing his mother, she probably did something that will probably end up bad for the both of them.

He stands outside for a few more minutes just taking in the beautiful scenery that only North Carolina can provide at this time of the day.

He makes his way to where his mother his slightly picking up the stray leaves around the porch. "How did you get him to leave?" He asks taking a seat on the swinging seat they had in the front of the porch, next to the entrance to the house. He closes his eyes and leans back smiling at the small breeze that caresses his cheeks. "I gave him the job."

Harry, startled, sits up quickly and turns to his mother. "What?!" Had she gone crazy? How can she just give him the job? So easily too? The man wasn't normal for Christ sake. He walked states to get to here! "You don't know anything about him!" He exclaimed running down the steps to where his mother was sitting in the grass finished for the day.

"Neither do you."

Chapter Text

Louis stared at the house in front of him. The guy, Niall, hadn't been kidding when said the house was run down. The whole place was made out of wood and covered with dead leaves and some mold. There were loose piles of wood all around the balcony and on what he supposed was the front yard.

The door was off its hinges and halfway down to falling. The windows were alright, he supposes, they just needed a lot of cleaning. Other than that, the place was fine. Or at least after he got done with it.

"Watcha think?" Louis turned around at the sound of Niall's voice. After getting hired at the kennel, he went back to the motel to rest. After he woke up, he went by the aquarium again where Niall was working the morning shift.

He told Niall about how he was willing to look at the place, who shrugged and asked him if he was available in the afternoon. That's how they got there. He walked over to one of the pillars holding up the roof of the balcony. Solid.

"I think its good. I mean, it does need some touch ups here and there but other than that, its good." Niall smiled and turned to the owner to discuss some of the necessary work done inside the house. Louis turned around and headed inside, carefully to not step into any weak floor boards. Ted silently stayed outside relishing the warm sun.

Louis looked around the place, taking in the old furniture and the dust that cuddled everythng and anything. The living room was big and so was the dining room. The kitchen was fairly small but Louis had never been a fan of cooking so it didn't matter.

The room and bathroom were pretty decent sizes and at least the back door was standing. He made his way back outside, carefully to hold the door up to get through the doorway.

"So?" The owner asks. He was a fairly obese man with a long white beard and an old pick up truck. He had kindly enough offered him the house with no rent or fees as long as he was able to fix it and once in a while help him with his farm.

He wished people were like that back in Minnesota. He looked out and down the driveway and smiled. "Ill take it."

 

********

 

Harry held tightly to the hundreds of leashes he held in his hand as he jogged down the old bridge across the shallow river between his house and the kennel. He wiped his sweaty forehead and slowed down a bit so the dogs could keep up with his long strides.

He took in the scenery around him and smiled. Dawn was probably his favorite time of the day, besides sundown. Something about sunsets and sunrises spoke to him.

He slowed down a bit more until he was walking, the dogs making their way tiredly before him. The walk past the entrance sign and starting to make their way to the cages.

Harry can hear some loud banging coming from the back and he frowns because what the hell? He slowly makes his way to where all the commotion is coming from, careful not to make any unnecessary sounds.

It could be an intruder, and Harry wasn't really in the mood to get hurt. He first sees a dog, Ted, sitting down under a tree just relaxing. And then he sees him.

Louis is standing on a small ladder, being too short to reach the pipe Anne asked him to fix. Harry frowned and tightened his grip on the dogs as they start barking at Ted.

Louis quickly turned around, still holding the broken pipe in one hand and the hammer on the other. He nodded at Harry who stared at him confusedly.

"You know you weren't supposed to be here till like 7:30?" Louis shrugs and gets down the steps, kicking the aside.

This is the first time Harry has properly looked at Louis and okay, he was handsome. He was short, but not too short, with short messy brown hair and the rarest shade of blue eyes he's ever seen.

He was clearly muscled and well defined under his clothes which Harry probably shouldn't find as attractive as he did. He also looked a bit older than Harry which is no surprise.

"I couldn't sleep. Neither could Ted, so we just decided to come over and get an early start." Louis crossed his arms over his chest, which made his muscles look slightly bigger than before and Harry swore the universe was against him.

They both turned to look over at the sleeping figure of the dog and Louis chuckled, "Lazy dog."

 

********

 

Louis followed Anne quietly around the woods as she told him about the latest storm they had. "You shouldve seen poor Lucia, she was so nervous.

She wouldn't leave Harry's side all evening. Even slept with him!" Louis smiled as he stepped over a loose branch and helped Anne over it even though Anne waved him off with a 'I'm not that old boy.' She wasn't, but he was raised to be a gentleman and that's what he was doing. "Who's Lucia?"

Anne turned to him with a confused expression before she broke into a smile. "That's my granddaughter, Harry's daughter. She's 8 years old but ask her and she'll say she's 8 and a half.

She lives with us but occasionally goes to visit her mom." And of course Harry was straight. Straight and a father, just what Louis needed. Not that Louis was there for a relationship but still.

"She's really sweet. You'd like her." Louis nods and continues to follow Anne. He listens as she talks about things that need touch ups or fixing, sometimes pointing them out. The stop where all the cages are and Louis quickly bends down to make silly faces at one of the puppies.

"That's Nani. A pretty little German Sheppard aren't ya girl?" Anne coos. Louis stands up and uncomfortably shifts from side to side, feeling he intense stare from someone behind him.

He turns around slowly and sees a young girl off in the distance. She wearing shorts and an old vintage band shirt that no doubt belonged to Harry. Her eyes widen when she notices him looking back and quickly looks down. Louis chuckles, so that's Lucia.

 

********

 

Harry grabs the bag from the floor and throws it over his shoulder, opening the front door of the house with little trouble. Lucia is sitting by the steps in one of his old Rolling Stones shirt and shorts, her hair messily flowing everywhere. Harry asks if she's ready but she ignores him, "Who's that?"

Harry turns to see who she is talking about and of course, its Louis. Lucia had spent all weekend with Caroline and had just gotten back yesterday evening. Louis had already been long gone and it slipped his mind to tell her.

"That's just someone your grandma hired. Don't worry, he's nice." He was careful not to trip as he went down the steps and made his way to his old pick up truck. Well, he shared it with his mother but he used it more so technically it was his.

Lucia gets up and dusts her pants off, shaking her small hips from side to side making Harry giggle. She was such a dork, but she was his dork.

As she started to make her way down the steps, Harry stopped her with a, "Aren't you forgetting something?" He watched as she ran inside to get her guitar which he left for her in the living room.

"Hurry up will ya! Don't wanna be late now!" He threw the bags in the back and slipped inside the passenger seat. The engine gave a loud rumble that echoed around the place as he turned the ignition on. The passenger side opened and Lucia struggled to put the guitar case on the back.

Harry quickly grabbed it and then gave her a hand up until she was inside and safely buckled. "Are you sure I should take my guitar? Mom says its annoying when I play it."

Harry turned to see the sad expression on his daughters face and sighed because of course Caroline thought that music was annoying. Even if it was her daughters passion. "Your mother just doesn't get the beauty of music. You just keep playing."

Harry doesn't miss the way Lucia keeps her eyes on Louis as they drive away, eyes trained on the young man who surprisingly was staring back.

Chapter Text

Louis rips open the large dog food bag in front of him, careful not to spill anything on the floor. He uses the small shovel Anne handed him, when she asked him to feed the dogs, to put the same amount of food on each food bowl. He sprinkles some in his hand and walks over to Ted who's watching him expectantly.

He holds his hand out in front of Ted who doesn't waste a beat to eat the food being offered. Louis rolls his eyes and pats his head before making his way back to the cages.

He carefully sets down each bowl that belongs to its rightful owner and stands up, watching as the dogs eat happily. He sits with Ted, coming his fur while he waits for the dogs to finish eating.

When he's sure they're all down, one by one he leads them to the 'cleansing area' where he washes each and everyone of them till the smell of strawberries surrounds them. Most of them cooperate but occasionally one will start barking or trying to escape.

Luckily, he knows what to do. Once they're all clean, he makes sure that all the cages are securely locked before going to pick up the mess he left in the back.

He puts away all the liquids and solutions he used before cleaning the area with the hose. He cleans till he thinks its good then puts the hose away. He walks to Anne, where she's sitting down on the porch, reading a magazine and drinking a lemonade.

She smiles when she sees him and offers him some. He declines and asks if there is anything left to do. When she shakes her head, he asks if he can go 'home' and she happily. She thanks him for helping around and gets back to reading.

He walks to where Ted is and unties his leash. Ted gets up hurriedly and jumps on him. He laughs and shakes his head. "You silly boy." Silently, the make their way to the house where a lot of work is waiting for them.

 

********

 

"Jesus!" Louis stands up and sighs. This was harder than he thought it was gonna be. He closes his eyes as he watches the old dresser in the living room fall down, taking the useless chair in front of it with it. He flinches as the booming crash echoes from the walls and runs a hand through his greasy hair. Patience.

He pulls the dusty rug more carefully than before trying not to break anything else. Even if he didn't really need the dresser or the extra chair, they could've been handy for a rainy day.

The rug finally manages to slip out from under the old furniture and he coughs as the dusts surrounds him. Ted barks and Louis ignores him, taking the rug outside where all the dirty curtains and rugs laid.

He stomps his way back inside and starts choosing what he wants to keep and what he doesn't. He grabs everything he doesn't want and throws it outside, creating a pile of useless shit by the front.

He grabs some of the supplies that Niall had left him for cleaning and starts cleaning everything. He cleans from the floor all the way to the roof where he found any little spiders taking residence.

All around the house, he went choosing things he wanted to keep and throwing out what didn't. He cleans and cleans till his fingers feel disgustingly wrinkled and his back is asking for a break.

He takes a seat outside by the shade and leans his head against a tree. As tired as he is, he needs to finish. One of the biggest problems he had to solve was the fact that there was no 'real' bathroom. Sure, there was a small room with a toilet and a sink but no tub or shower, so he was going to have to build one. Outside.

He looks up when he hears a car engine and then a car park up in the driveway. Well he thinks its a driveway. Niall steps out, still wearing his aquarium uniform but carrying two small bags in one hand and some paint rollers in the other.

"What's up mate?" Louis stands up and greets him, taking the bags from his hand. The delicious aroma of Chinese food hits him hard and finally takes notice on how hungry he was.

Niall laughs and continues inside where he drops the painting materials. "Thought you might be hungry." He watches as Niall greets Ted and walks back to him. Louis cant believe his luck. "Thank you. Really, Niall, Thank you." He's grateful. He really is.

Niall shrugs and punches him in the shoulder playfully. "No problem. I already ate, so its only you who has to finish before we get to work."

Louis frowns because what? First, he didn't really thought about asking for help because that wasn't his nature. If he was assigned something or had to do something alone, he did it alone, he never asked for help.

Help is for the weak. And second, Niall doesn't seem like the type to willingly do physical work but he could be wrong. "What?" You didn't think you were gonna do everything alone, did ya?"

Together they clean the house from top to bottom, even if Louis had already cleaned it. They paint each and every room light colors to give the place a homey and alive feeling.

They build a shower in the back with walls around it and everything. 'Wouldn't want anyone getting a full view, would we? Niall had joked. By midnight, Louis was already in bed with clean sheets, Ted by his side, and a new friendship on the works.

 

********

 

Its been a whole week since Louis started working at the Kennel and surprisingly enough, he loves it. Its easy work, nothing he cant handle. Ted is always by his side and Anne is a real sweetheart. Harry comes by from time to time and helps him with whatever it is he's doing but he's usually away doing whatever it is that he does.

He's seen Lucia a few times around, usually playing with the dogs or helping Anne with her flowers. He's tried talking to her but whenever he makes a move, she quickly closes off and runs away. So much for that.

He called his mother the day before who sobbed the whole entire call, begging him to come home. He sadly explained that he couldn't and assured her he was fine before promising to call very soon and hanging up. Getting emotional wouldn't help him, not when things were starting to look up.

 

********

 

Its 4:30 in the afternoon when a horrible loud roar catches every ones attention. Harry watches as Lucia jumps in her seat, almost dropping the pen she was using to write. She turns in her seat and looks at him confused.

He shrugs and grabs his tea, a habitat he's never been able to get over, before walking outside. His mother was sitting on the back porch, a bunch of newspapers and coupon slips around her.

"Can you believe it? He got that old thing working!" Harry turns to where his mother was pointing and he sees Louis driving the old tractor that belonged to his step-father, Robin. He was surprised his mother was even letting him drive it.

Only Robin and his mom use to drive it but after his death, she never drove it again. Its kind of nice, the sense of familiarity that falls into his shoulder but he quickly shakes it away.

Louis disappears into the back and Harry turns to his mother. She had started to cut out coupons again and he takes a deep breath before speaking. "I'm substituting for Lou next week." His mother stops cutting and slowly turns to face him.

One of her perfectly trimmed eyebrows raises and Harry takes a small step back, afraid of that look. He received it all throughout his childhood. He called it the 'tell me anything and everything or else' look. "Oh?"

He nods and takes a sip of the slightly cold coffee. He grimaces and sets it down on the table. "Its only for a couple of days but I'll still get paid." Anne turns back to cutting and Harry crosses his arms, waiting for her response.

One he already knows. "I don't know why you don't go back. Take it as a full time job, I know how much you love kids." Harry rolls his eyes, having already heard it before.

As a kid, all Louis ever wanted to be was a singer or a teacher. He never really thought about singing as a job, more like a hobby, so he never really planned to make anything out of it. But teaching was another subject. He loved children, he liked seeing their happy and accomplished reactions when they did or got something good.

He wanted to teach and help young children. Wanted to be remembered as an awesome teacher. He already had his future planned in order to achieve his goal. But then Lucia came, and plans changed.

"I know." He grabs the full tea cup and is about to head back inside when another loud noise and bang rings through. They all watch as Louis drags a dead tree through the whole kennel and out, ignoring them and the dogs as they barked crazily. Annoyed at the ruckus, Harry turned to his mother, "Does he ever stop?"

Anne just laughed.

 

********

 

Louis is just refilling the dogs water bowls when he hears a car pull up. He settles the bucket of water on the floor and closes the dog's cage so it doesn't get out before cleaning his hands on his pants. He walks inside the office just as the door opens and a woman struts in.

She's fairly tall wearing the heels she was wearing. Her hair is up in a tight bun, not a hair out of place. Her outfit makes her stand out because he's pretty sure no one wears dresses like that for a casual stroll...into a kennel. "Hello? How may I help you?"

That probably wasn't a good idea. She turns to him quickly, startled. He's surprised her neck didn't snap. She glares at him and obviously clutches her purse closer to her.

As if he was gonna steal it, please. "Who the hell are you?" Louis blinks and silently decides he hates her. Who does she think she is talking to him like that? She cocks her head to the side and starts tapping the tip of her heel against the wooden floor, impatiently.

"I work here m 'am." Her eyes slowly squint before she settle back to the original glare. She yes him up and down, slowly taking his frame before crossing her arms. "Aha...and what is your name?" Her voice is overly sweet with a hint of bitterness and Louis thinks that she's probably more dangerous than she lets on. He clears his throat and tries to smile but it doesn't really work.

"How may I help you?" Clearly she wasn't expecting that. She stalks slowly towards him, her heels echoing in the quite place. "I asked, What is your name?" Her breath smells minty, and he tries not to push her away.

She clearly hasn't learned what personal space is. But he can hear the dogs getting impatient in the back. He hadn't finished giving all of the water and it was a fairly hot day. "Louis, m' am."

She nods and takes a few steps back. She giggles, an over exaggerated sound and makes a funny face. At least in his opinion. "So you're Louis. Sergeant Louis Tomlinson?" Louis frowns because how does she know? He's never met her before and its not like he's been around town lately. He nods and she hums in agreement.

He watches her walk towards the desk and stop before turning back to him. "Where's everyone?" She starts picking the nail polish off her nails and Louis really wants to tell her to stop but he doesn't.

He doesn't want to get in her bad side, not that he's doing a good job at not doing it. "They're out. Would you like me to deliver a message?"

She leans against the desk and frowns. "Out? Even Harry?" Louis nods. She eyes him for another minute before standing straight and walking towards the door. She brushes past him, her slight brush raising the hairs on his arm. She smirks and waves, "Just tell Harry Ill see him at 4."

And with that she's gone.

Chapter Text

Lucia groaned and grabbed the two side ribbon straps tighter in her hands. She was trying to create a bow in front of her dress but all she kept making were badly shaped knots. Stupid dress.

 

Harry and Lucia were going to attend a charity event held by Lucia's grandparents at their house. Lucia's grandfather was the mayor and possibly the most richest man in town. That's where Harry and Caroline actually met. Every year they hold an overly priced charity even and everyone is welcomed.

 

Harry usually doesn't like to go because if feels like they just do it to rub the fact that they're rich in front of everyone but that one time, his friends had wanted to go and being a reckless teenager he was, he agreed.

 

They all went and Caroline, still living with her parents at the time, was there. A few drinks and badly attempted jokes led to a few dates, which led to a few things in the bedroom, and ended with a child.

 

If they could stay home, they would, but Anne is always making sure Harry keeps Caroline's family involved in her life as much as they keep theirs in. Lucia loves her grandparents, more than her own mother. They're really kind and they always get her sweets and play with her when she visits, she just wishes she didn't have to go to the stupid event.

 

She sighed and glared at herself in the mirror. She looked like a girl. A girly girl. Her hair was pulled into a high pony tail, her bangs falling slightly over her eyes. Her pink and green flower dress resting perfectly below her knees. Her small feet concealed in a pair of shinny pink flats that she wanted to burn.

 

All she wanted was to change into a pair of shorts, sneakers, and one of her dad's old band t-shirts, but no. She could hear Anne vacuuming the hallway rug as she talked to her father who was also getting ready.

 

He was wearing a white button up dress shirt with black dress pants. His hair was slightly styled into a quiff, as much as his curls let him do it. He looked younger and sharper. He was wearing a pair of old brown boots that both Lucia and Anne hated.

 

"Why don't you come? Who knows, maybe you'll have fun." Harry said as he finished buttoning his shirt. Lucia could hear her grandmother's laugh and she knew it was the sarcastic laugh that only her father seemed to receive.

 

"Oh Please, I'm not going. I hate Mr. Flack's fund raising parties. Instead of wasting all that money on unnecessary parties, he should donate it." Lucia tried making a bow again and failed miserably. Stomping her way to her father's room, Harry turned as she grabbed the straps and shoved them in his direction.

 

He chuckled and she grumbled under her breath. After easily making a big bow in front of her dress, her father stood straight and handed her a simple necklace with a small paper airplane on it. She walked to the small mirror he had behind the closet door and slipped it on.

 

She turned around and smiled at her father. "You look very handsome by the way." Harry laughed and shook his head, holding out his hand for her. Taking his larger hand in hers, they said they goodbyes to Anne who gushed over how gorgeous they both looked before making their way to the truck.

 

*********

 

Louis holds three different leashes as he walks quietly. He watches at the three dogs strut their way down the gravely driveway, soaking in the warm sun and light breeze.

 

He's nearing the kennel when he takes notice of two people walking out of the house. Instantly he notices the small girl and the tall masculine male. If he didn't recognize the slight curl on the guys hair and the slight hurry on the girl's steps, he probably would've never guessed that it was in fact Harry and Lucia.

 

Lucia in her outfit looks like a down right princes who accidentally stepped out of a fairy tale book. Harry on the other hand looked like he belonged on the cover of a Vogue magazine. Louis wonders if they were going to meet up with the lady that had stopped by earlier.

 

He watches Lucia walk in front and around the truck to get inside, opening the passenger door without trouble. Harry notices him and stops, catching his eyes in an unblinking stare. Louis stares as he slowly walks by, not caring if it was rude.

 

Harry smiles slightly, a pink brush of blush tainting his pale cheeks. He looks down and shakes his head, running a hand through his hair; messing it up slightly. He quickly looks up before shuffling to the car, getting in the drivers seat as Louis passes him by.

 

He lets his eyes wander down to the dogs and lets them lead him down to where their designated cages were located. He ignores the way the truck rumbles as they pull out of the drive way and the slight twisting feeling in his stomach.

 

********

 

"Mom!" Lucia exclaimed as she skipped over to where Caroline awaited with open arms. Caroline wrapped her arms around her and smiled down at her. They quickly parted and Caroline looked down at her outfit. Harry silently made his way over to the two ladies.

 

"When will you learn to do a simple bow, you silly girl! They're not hard." Caroline joked. Harry watched as Lucia's smile slightly dropped but not completely. With pat on the head, Caroline dismissed Lucia who happily made her way over to where her grandparents were.

 

Caroline turned to Harry who smiled politely at her. She looked him up and down, taking in his features and Harry coughed awkwardly. She smiled and wrapped her arms around him. "You look very sexy." She whispered seductively into his neck. He grimaced and quickly turned his head as she went to kiss his lips, instead leaving a red lipstick stain on his cheek.

 

"Hello to you too, Caroline." She stepped back and lopped an arm with his, dragging him through the large patio. The place was slightly packed, not entirely since it was early and people were most likely still working.

 

He could see little kids playing by the big fountain, no adults making a move to stop them. People 'happily' mingled around acting like they all liked each other when in fact it was probably the opposite. Caroline tightened her grip on his arm to catch his attention and he looked down at her.

 

"So, want to tell me about your new boyfriend?" Harry frowned and stopped walking, making her stop too. She turned to him and smirked, un hooking her arm from his. "What are you talking about?" She waved him off with a flip of her hair and a wink.

 

"Its okay. I didn't know you were into marines. Actually, I didn't know you were into men. That would explain a lot..." Harry's eyes widen and he crossed his arms over his chest. She thought Louis was his boyfriend, which he was not, but that meant that they met. But when?

 

"How do you know about Louis? Did you meet him?" She raised both her eyebrows before scrunching her face in a not so adorable way.

 

"Its a small town, Harry. Word gets by fast plus. And yes, I did meet him. I stopped by earlier and he was there and he let me know you guys were out. That's it. Hes really nice."

 

Harry let out a breath he didn't know he was holding and nodded. Okay, nothing happened. He didn't know why he felt so relieved but for some reason he did. Caroline held his stare for a few seconds before motioning to where the mayor and his wife were standing. "Shall we?"

 

Together they walked over to Caroline's parents where Harry was quickly showered with kisses from Edna and a good old pat in the back from James. "Harry! My man. How you been?"

 

James was a middle age man with around belly and a love for politics. Edna was a sweet middle age stay-at-home wife who loved to wear very expensive jewelry and attend church on Sundays. Harry got along with them very well. Caroline clearly didn't get her genes from them.

 

They talked about Lucia, and the upcoming elections and how James was confident he was going to win and get re-elected. At some point, Edna asked about Anne's absence and Harry had to come up with a believable excuse as to his mothers absence. In the end he ended up giving Edna Anne's number, who promised to call as soon as she could. Take that mom!

 

Lucia walked over to where they were relaxing and stood next to him. James smiled down at her and pointed at the little basket Harry failed to notice she was holding. "Hows it going young trooper?" Lucia smiled brightly and shrugged. She grabbed a button from the basket and leaned on her tippy toes before attaching it to Harry's shirt.

 

He noticed the VOTE FLACK letters across it and came to the conclusion that Lucia was actually handing out buttons to people so they could vote for her grandfather. She looked up at him and gave him a sad smile. He plastered a smile and took a sip of his champagne, his smile sliding off. Fun.

 

********

 

Harry woke up early the next day, not being able to sleep a wink the night before. After they got home from the charity even, Lucia explained to him how her grandparents basically forced her to go around introducing herself and handing out buttons when she clearly didn't want to.

 

She also told him about how some of the kids that belonged to some rich people from out of town had been teasing her and wouldn't let her play with them when she was finished with the buttons.

 

It took both Anne and Harry to get Lucia to stop crying and to finally settle down in bed. Then Harry had to calm down Anne who was ready to rip a person in half if she could. No one messed with their Lucia.

 

The sad twinkle in his daughters eyes had haunted him all night and he couldn't wait to meet up with both James and Edna. He had a very colorful speech to hand over, plus James had lost the two votes from the Styles.

 

He'd gotten up around as early as 5 and had walked to the cages, grabbed the dogs that were up and ready, then set out on a jog. He did this every morning, usually just a little later.

 

He could feel his asthma start to take over his breathing after he stopped jogging and set out into a full run so he slowed down a bit until he was back a jogging pace and he didn't feel like punching the first person he saw.

 

They get back to the house but instead of stopping at the cages, Harry continues jogging past the house, into the back and following the little trail to the woods. The sun is up and ready, the heat slightly starting to settle all around them. They jog down the bridge his grandfather had built when his mother was a child, and slowly make their down to the little river under.

 

As teenagers, Harry and his older sister spent most of their time back here. They would come home from school, drop off everything at the house and change before coming down to the lake to swim. Its wasn't that big and it was clean which was a plus. It saved you money instead of driving to the beach or getting a pool. The only bad thing was that when it poured, it over flooded easily.

 

He could see Lucia's renovated tree house from here. It once belonged to his mother, then to them. But a few years ago a really bad storm crushed it. Poor Lucia was devastated and Harry got an old friend from school, Niall, to help him re-build it. She spends a lot of her time there, either drawing or practicing the guitar. Its also her go to place when she's mad.

 

He unties the leashes from the dogs and watches as they happily run into the water. He unties his running sneakers and grabs a few loose branches. He jumps into the water, loving the familiar rush of coolness that surrounds him. He closes his eyes and sighs happily.

 

They start playing fetch but its more like a back and forth slashing war. Harry throws a stick out and all three rush to get it, splashing water all over him. He laughs and keeps throwing the sticks as they bring them back to him. He hasn't felt this relaxed in a while.

 

He starts laughing as one of the dogs brushes past the back of his legs. He trips and clumsily falls, his face going underwater smoothly. He quickly stands up and starts cackling and playing with the dogs until he sees a figure standing on the bridge about him. He squints his eyes against the sun and oh.

 

Its Louis.

 

********

 

After waiting out in the sun to dry, he brought back the now tired dogs back to their cages, leaving the other dogs for Louis to walk. Louis. He had stood there watching him like a creep until Ted had pulled him along. It would've been a funny sight if its wasn't for Harry's mood going from relaxed to annoyance in a flash.

 

Harry made his way inside through the back of the door where he could see his mother reading the paper. "That man is so fucking annoying. Every time I turn around hes-" Anne's eyes widen and she clears her throat. The door falls close just as Louis takes a seat next to Anne. "Morning."

 

Harry stands by the door, shocked and trying to his embarrassment. Anne glares at him over Louis' head and Harry rubs the back of his neck. "Continue please." Anne encouraged Louis. Apparently they had been talking before he had gotten back.

 

He slowly walks into the kitchen, annoyed, and grabbed a mug from the top cabinet. He listens as Louis talks about moving from Doncaster, England to Minnesota when he was younger and how hard it was on him and his sisters. He listens as he fills his mug with tap water and drinks, leaning against the counter.

 

His mother asks him about college and Harry isn't surprised when Louis says yes, but only for a year before dropping out. Of course, he doesn't look like a guy to be into academics. Anne asks what he majored or study in and Harry snorts loudly, catching their attention. "Bet he didn't study much as he was only there for a year."

 

Anne's mouth drops open and she glares openly at Harry. "Harry Edward Styles." She snaps. Louis slightly glares at him from where hes sitting before his looks turns into a challenging one. "Actually, I like philosophy," Harry makes a surprise noise, almost chocking on the water he was currently sipping, "I like to read."

 

"Really? Gives us a quote from your favorite philosopher." Harry encourages, setting down his mug down and walking over to where they were sitting down. Anne sets her cup of coffee down, admiring the amusing scene going off right before her. Louis turns to her and sends her a small wink before tuning to Harry.

 

"You’ll miss the best things if you keep your eyes shut." Anne makes a sound of approval and continues to drink her coffee. Harry, astonished admits that hes impressed. Maybe he was wrong. The quote sounds slightly familiar, and he thinks maybe he learned it in his English class.

 

"That's Berkeley, right? Yes." Harry nods and smiles happily. He remembers his teacher reading a book about different famous philosophers and different quotes by them. Louis shakes his head and looks at Harry dead in the eyes before dropping the bomb.

 

"Its Dr. Seuss." Harry's smiles drops and Anne snorts. Louis picks up his empty mug and walked by him, setting them down in the sink. "Thanks for the tea, Anne. I should probably head back to work." Anne waves him off with a 'No problem, love.' as Harry stands there shocked.

 

Louis makes his way out the screen door and Harry quickly follows after him, closing the other door and leaning against it, covering his mouth in embarrassment. Anne starts laughing and Harry cant help sighing, a small smile making its way on his face as he watches Louis through the window.

 

Well played, Louis, well played.

Chapter Text

Children were scattered around the room all doing what their little minds wanted them to do. Some played with the toys from the toy box kept in the corner of the classroom, others managed to take a nap through the whole commotion of laughter and yells, some were coloring the pictures they desired, while others sat in the carpet surrounding Harry as he finished a children book about animals and the sound they make.

 

"What does a cow say?" He asked them trying to see if they had actually learned something and not just completely ignored him. The sound of mooing went around the small circle and harry grinned, congratulating them on their success before asking what sound did a pig do.

 

"Oink, oink" was followed with a snort that ended in laughter. Clapping, Harry leaned back and watched as his little group of attentive listeners made different yet accurately animal sounds, which for a couple of kindergartners was very impressive. r

 

He looked down at his watch and noticed it was almost time for dismissal, meaning he needed to help Ms. Swift or Taylor, round up all the children so they could get ready to go home. He slowly stood up from the rocking chair, his back muscles stretching. He clapped his hands loudly over the children who all stop to look at their temporary teacher.

 

"Alright. Its almost time to go home so lets clean up and then go get ready so you can finally go home and watch tv." A chorus of groans and cheers erupted in the classroom and Harry bent down to help some of the little students get up.

 

As everyone started to clean up, Taylor began singing soon followed by some children till everyone, including Harry, were jamming along to the 'Clean Up Song.' By the end, the room was spotless and ready for the following day.

 

Harry led most of the students to the back wall where a closet full of their belongings stood. One by one he helped most children put away their school materials in their bags and line up at the door in a single file line.

 

Grabbing his bag from the floor where he left it behind Taylor's desk, he followed at then of the line as the bell rang and Taylor led them out to the front yard where a bunch of parents and siblings were for sure waiting.

 

"You know Harry, I don't know why you don't do this full time. You're a natural. Plus the children love you." Taylor said, walking backwards to face him and the children. A chorus of agreement went down the line making him smile. He shrugged and held the strap of his messenger bag tighter than what should be consider casual or normal.

 

"I wish but we know I cant. At least not now." Taylor's smile reflected sadness but understatement. She turned around just as they made it to the foyer and out the main door where as Harry had suspected, was filled with parents and designated guardians.

 

Not waiting for all the children to actually leave, he waved Taylor goodbye as he walked around the building to where the older student classrooms where. Newly turned teenagers hung around the campus waiting for their rides or friends and Harry had to excuse himself more than once just to get to the 3rd grade hallway where Lucia should be.

 

As Harry made it to Lucia's classroom, he stopped when he saw a group of girls surrounding a very familiar girl he recognized as his daughter. She stood silently against the wall as the group of girls not much older than her made mean comments about her.

 

He could her their mean comments about how girls didn't play guitars, and how they didn't wear weird old clothes, and how they didn't hang out with boys because cooties. He stood silently and took each of the comments more personal than the last.

 

Who did those girls think they were to be bullying his little girl? She had every right to hang out with boys if she wanted, especially if every girl in her grade felt the same way as those girls about her. And girls could play guitar, of course they could. Anyone could. And Lucia was allowed to wear whatever she wanted as long as it was appropriate. She was a free person with rights to express herself.

 

His temper was quickly turning from laid back and happy to annoyed and angry. He crossed his arms over his chest and slowly walked to where the girls kept jabbing at Lucia's arms and tried to pull away her guitar case from her hands. Lucia looked up just as he stood behind the girls and the distraction made her loose her hold, a slightly shorter girl taking the case off her grasp.

 

"I don't think that you should be doing that. Its not very nice." Squealing and yelling, the girls turned around in their heels to face him, the short girl dropping the case immediately which Lucia snatched back up. He tried his best not to glare at the, but even he wasn't that good of an actor.

 

"I suggest you leave Lucia alone from now on, unless you want your parents to know about this. Trust me, they wont be happy." The girls, wide eyed and intimidated by him, nodded before running, -literally- running in different directions. Lucia visibly sighed and opened her mouth - mostly likely to explain to him that she had everything under control or some lie like that but Harry held up his hand, silencing her.

 

"We'll talk about this at home." Nodding, she grabbed her bag from where it laid crumpled on the floor and stood next to him. Wrapping his arm around her shoulders, he steered them out of the school and down the road to the house.

 

********

 

Louis held the half eaten apple in one hand and the other in the front pocket of his jeans, Ted walking a few feet in front of him. He bit into the apple happily welcoming the joy that only an apple cold brin on a hot day. Together, they walked down the bridge, the same bridge that he had watch Harry play with the dogs from the kennel in the lake below him a few days ago. Sadly, today it was just only Ted, him the birds who lazily the tune they could only understand.

 

Louis could feel his t-shirt sticking nastily to his back and he grimaced, waving his hand in front of him to try to bring some cool to his sweaty body. It was no use. That was the thing with North Carolina; as summer approached the heat got unbearable to an almost annoying point. I'm Minnesota it got hot but never as hot as it did down here.

 

The peaceful silence was interrupted by the sound of strings, no strums that could no doubt be made by guitar. A guitar that was close by judging by the clear loudness of the instruments. Louis slowed his walking till he stopped walking and listened carefully at the beautiful sound being produced. Ted too stopped..

 

He focused his hearing to see what direction the sound was coming from and turned to his right. Through the endless leaves, trees, and above the water was a decent sized bridge, clearly made out of wood unlike the one he had just crossed which was made of metal. He could see a large tree house resting high off the ground near it and the unmistakable back of a young girl. Lucia.

 

She continued to fill the woods with the beautiful melody only a talented musician could produce not noticing his presence. As the song neared the end, he clapped, startling Lucia who immediately stopped. He was very impressed his her musical skills, she was brilliant. Not many children had the ability to make music like that but she was. Harry must be proud.

 

"Good job!" He called out. She put the guitar down and walked closer to the edge of the small balcony. She called out how she didn't know he was there and he smiled, taking a bite of his apple before calling back,

 

"Great job anyways!"

 

********

 

Anne held the basket full of fresh flowers from the front garden towards Harry who stood above her on the porch. They had spent sometime in the kennel after Lucia and Harry got home from school but didn't do a lot because Louis had already done everything that had needed to be done.

 

For the past half hour, Harry had gladly helped her pick out fresh flowers to set around the house but now as the sun was gong down and the heat subsided, all Harry wanted to do was sit and rest, how she knew her son.

 

Harry walked inside and closed the door behind him before stopping. Anne could see his figure through the pillars and she moved aside so she could see what had happened that caused him to stop so abruptly.

 

A look of happiness reflected on his face but before a look of longing took over his whole posture. His head was turned to the side and his body leaned against the door frame in a way that made it seem like he wasn't in control of his actions. Or the fact that she was there, watching him.

 

She turned around to see what had been that caught her sons attention. She could see the figure of a dog and a person. The person was clearly a male figure. A strong familiar figure. She knew the dog too. It was the same dog who laid lazily by the shade while its owner tended to the dogs on the kennel.

 

Smirking she walked back to the garden and leaned down to pick more flowers. Peeking a glance up, she saw that Harry was no longer by the door but slowly walking away. She chuckled.

 

Oh, Harry.

Chapter Text

Louis holds unto the bright blue leash as they emerge from the cages. The dog in front of him, he cant tell what race it is, walks excitedly towards its owners who wait by the front. A little boy, not much older than Laura, holds his hand out and Louis hands the leash over with a smile. "Here you go."

 

The boy leans down to hug the dog and his mother shakes Louis' hand and thanks him for taking care of their dog. "No problem. Make sure to bring her back soon." Helping the boy, they both get the dog in the trunk and Louis stands in the middle of the driveway, waving, as they drive away.

 

Turning around, Louis sees a figure heading his way and is not surprised to see that its just Anne. She's holding a purse and is dressed in much cleaner and neater clothes than what she wears to work around in the kennel. She calls his name and he starts walking towards where she stands next to the truck he's seen Harry drive many times before.

 

"Yes?" She points at the truck and asks if he can drive. With a nod, he looks at where Ted is resting under his favorite tree before hurrying over and opening the passenger for her. Making his way in to the drivers seat, she hands him the keys and it isn't long before their making their way out.

 

********

 

Its hot and not much air enters through the open windows. Anne unwraps the scarf she had tied around her neck and throws it on the floor, running a hand through her hair afterwards. She can feel sweat starting to form on her forehead and she scrunches her nose.

 

"My son wont let me drive. He worries too much, sometimes. You have one small stroke, and then everything is limited. Silly boy." She remembers that day like it was just yesterday.

 

She had been arguing with Harry all night about how he needed to go out and enjoy life, not stay at home all of the time. She had been going on and on about how sometimes taking a break from his responsibilities was alright when she felt a harsh pain in her chest and suddenly the floor was in laying in the floor.

 

Harry, being himself, didn't even waste time for the ambulance to get to their house. Called 911, ushered Lucia out, and carried Anne out the door and into the truck. By the time they made it to the hospital, the nurses were already ready for them. It had just been a minor stroke, nothing to worry about but something to be cautious of.

 

Now Harry monitored every move she made, even when he thought he was being discreet but really wasn't. It was annoying but Anne appreciated his concern. She turns to Louis and he nods quietly, both hands on the wheel, his body rigid and straight. She frowns sadly and asks his age.

 

"27." She looked down. That would've made him not much younger than her. She laced her fingers together in her lap and looked out the window. They were nearing the middle town where the streets got more crowded and busy. She asked how many tours he had done and he answered three.

 

"My daughter didn't even finish her second one." She could feel his eyes one her for a few seconds before turning back to the road. She reminded her a lot of him. They both stood straight and seriously proud with the many burdens being deployed brought on but underneath they were child at hearts.

 

"You would've liked her. You see Louis, the older you get, the more you appreciate the memories you've created. Especially with those who've come into your life for a long period of time then left. Intentionally and unintentionally, it doesn't matter."

 

She throws her head back against the seat and turns to her head in his direction. "You know he's not that bad, right? Harry. He isn't so bad." Louis looks at her quickly before turning his eyes back to the road. He shrugs one shoulder.

 

"He doesn't seem so bad to me." Anne raises an eyebrow and smiles, letting the conversation drop.

 

********

 

"Hello?" Louis calls as he enters the quite house. Louis had driven Anne to the pharmacy, then to the post office, and to the grocery store to get some of the ingredients on a groceries list that Harry had written and left on the counter earlier that day.

 

No response. Anne hadn't come in yet, having decided to go check on the dogs in the back but had urge him to go inside and drop the keys in the dining room table which he had done. Lucia is no where in sight and apparently Harry still hadn't gotten back. He could see the living room from where he was standing. He shrugged and slowly made his way through the doorway and into the other room.

 

Curiosity killed the cat, his mother would remind him. Louis had always been a curious person and whether that was a good thing or not, he didn't know. He hadn't been inside the house for only a few times and it was only the kitchen. He looked around again the empty house as he took in the many pictures on the living room walls. There was no one here to stop him.

 

He could see pictures of Harry as a baby and an older girl, his sister, holding him, the brightest of smiles in her face. It was like a time line. The longer he walked down the wall, the older Harry and the girl got, and the more people disappeared just to be replaced with new ones. Lucia starts appearing the closer he get to the end of the wall just as his sister disappears.

 

The last picture is of Harry and Lucia, not too long ago. They're drenched wet, Harry holding a hose and Lucia with her arms wrapped around him. They're sitting side by side on the porch, their smiles radiating so much happiness and relaxation, its contagious. Louis finds himself smiling slightly before turning around.

 

There isn't much in the living room besides two couches, a television, and a small bookcase. It cozy and homey, everything his is not. He walks out and into the small hallway that leads to the front door. As he gets near the door, an empty room catches his attention. He frowns and slowly makes his way in, noticing that the only thing present is covered with an old sheet.

 

He knows what it is. Hes known the shape of it since he could remembers. Slowly lifting the cover off, the shinny blacktop is revealed till Louis is standing in front of one of the most beautiful pianos hes ever seen.

It looks new but Louis knows is not. It reminds a lot of the one back home. The one back home had not look as new as the one in front of him but it held more remnants of being played than this one.

 

His fingers twitch and he makes a fist. No. Conceal, don't feel, Josh would say. But Louis couldn't. His fingers, as if they had a mind of their own, opened the lid and pressed on a key. The sweet familiar sound filled the quite space. It was tuned. Louis fingers itched to play. To bring life to the quiet place. To remember what it was like to be young and sneak downstairs when his mother was sleeping to teach Lottie how to play.

 

Temptation was a sin. His fingers moved around down and up, the sound of his favorite composition surrounding him till nothing else mattered except the beautiful master piece his fingers mimicked. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, a small tear escaping his eye but he didn't do anything to stop it. He didn't notice the young girl behind him, standing in awe.

 

********

 

Lucia used her socks to slide down the hallway, pretending to be playing a guitar. She bobbed her head up and down to an imaginary beat and pretended to hold a mic, mouthing the words into it. She spun around and almost slipped with an unfamiliar sound filled her ears.

 

Her mother had dropped her off earlier that afternoon with an apology and an empty promise of hanging out with her next week. She hadn't minded, really. When she had entered the house, she noticed that her dad hadn't gotten back from hanging out with Niall, a family friend of theirs, and Louis and her grandmother were no were to be found.

 

Now, any other kid left with a house to themselves would've probably rummaged the kitchen for anything sweet and made a loud mess but not Lucia. She had changed into more comfortable clothes that her mother would never approve, not that it mattered, and went outside to play with Ted. She'd gotten back inside not long before Louis and her grandmother had gotten back and went to her room to put away some of the clothes she had left on the floor.

 

She thought she had been alone but apparently she was wrong. She slowly walked towards the direction the sound was coming from and recognized it the closer she got. It was the piano. For a second her heart rate picked up and she raced quickly to the room. Her aunt Gem used to play the piano when she got back from overseas. That's how she let everyone know she was back. But that wasn't the song she played.

 

Lucia stopped on her heels and frowned. If it wasn't aunt Gem, it couldn't be her dad. Her dad refused to play the piano, especially after aunt Gem didn't come home the day she was supposed to. She moved to a better place, and she said she was sorry she didn't say goodbye to her.

She told us to tell you she loves you, her grandma had said. Lucia had cried for about an hour and her dad ran out the door quicker than she ever thought was possible leaving them two alone for a long time.

 

She slowly peered around the doorway to see who was actually playing and was surprised to see it was Louis. He was starting at the wall in front of him but his fingers moved on their own creating a beautiful song. Lucia started and listened until the sound of a car engine was heard and she saw Niall's car coming up the driveway. Louis quickly closed the lid and covered the piano once again. When he turned around, Lucia was already gone.

 

********

 

Some pop song was coming out of the stereo speakers as Harry stirred the pasta on the kitchen stove. He laughed as Lucia started dancing, showing her impressive break dancing skills. She started laughing, turning a little bit silly with her moves. Harry shook his head and continued to stir the pasta noodles in the boiling water, throwing a rag over his shoulder.

 

"Go Lucy, Go Lucy." He set the wooden spoon in the counter and started moving along with her. This moments were his favorite. When nothing else mattered but his daughter and their happiness. She laughed she he started to make a wave with his arms and she started spinning around like a ballerina. He clapped along to encourage her and turned back to the pot.

 

Lucia grabbed a handful of raw noodles and snapped them in half, adding them to the pot. Harry smiled and gave an exaggerated bow in her direction. "Thank you my lady." She giggled and he handed her the spoon so she could stir the noodles. He started singing along to a new song, which he knew, when the door opened and he stopped.

 

Louis was eyeing them amusingly and waved. He pointed outside towards when he knew his house, or wherever he stayed was since that's the direction he always comes and goes from before and after work and Harry nods to acknowledge his presence and departure. Just as Louis was about to leave, Lucia spoke up and Harry wished he could dig himself a hole he never had to leave.

 

"Do you like spaghetti and meatballs?" Louis stopped, holding the door open with his forearm. It clearly was an invitation to stay for dinner and Harry shook his head, wrapping his arms around Lucia who was still moving, not as much as before though.

 

"I'm sure Louis already has plans Lucia." Lucia frowned up at her dad, clearly oblivious to the fact that Harry did not want Louis to stay for dinner as much as his mind and a certain organ in his chest yearned for the opposite. Lucia turned to Louis again and set a hand on her hip, reminding him a lot of his sister at that moment.

 

"Do you?" Louis raised an eyebrow and slowly stepped away from the door and into the kitchen. Harry's eyes widened and he shook his head wildly. Louis eyed him for a minute, an eyebrow raised. Harry mouthed a 'no.' not caring how rude it was making him seem. Louis shrugged and smiled at Lucia, clearly accepting her invitation and ignoring Harry's lame attempt at protesting.

 

"I cant remember the last time I had spaghetti and meatballs." and he joined Lucia in dancing around the kitchen while Harry finished cooking, trying not to smile at the laughter behind him.