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i'm still learning to love

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“I think we can settle in here, yeah?” Louis puts on a smile as he faces the small apartment they’d just rented. Much smaller than what they got kicked out from hours ago, but contentment is there. They’re not really in the place to choose right now.


He looks back at his little siblings. They look tired and sleepy. Granted, they got kicked out at like nine in the goddamn evening without any warning whatsoever, and the girls (and boy) should be sleeping right now.


“Alright, alright. You all can unpack tomorrow after school. You look like zombies, reincarnated twice.” Louis says, patting his siblings on the head each before he watches them find their way to the new place. It isn’t that big to explore. It has one bedroom, a kitchen, a couch, a table, a bathroom, and a small telly.


Soon, he’s got his siblings on the bed, squeezing at the very little space they’ve got. From Lottie, to Fizzy, to Daisy, to Ernie, to Doris, and to Phoebe. Louis and his mother would have to sleep on the floor.


Which.. Louis finds a little broom and sweeps the floor silently. Only then, he lays out a comforter which desperately needs all the washing in the world. He lays out the two pillows and deems it comfortable before leaving the room to check the other rooms.


Okay so, the bathroom light keeps flickering that it actually gets annoying. Louis reminds himself to buy a ne light bulb. In the kitchen, almost every hinge of every thing creaks and Louis already hates it. He hates everything. It’s dirty. It’s unhealthy. It’s small. It’s.. It’s not anything Louis had expected his new home to be.


They’ve always lived a poor life ever since his dickhead father walked out on them – found some better body to fuck so he ran, leaving all seven children to his wife who’s spent day and night working for money. She never stops working, and all the money she’s earned all seem to fade at the end of the day because of the obvious reasons.


Louis helps. Of course he does. He’s been working like hell ever since he graduated high school. Though, bad things tend to happen in every aspect of his life. He never got to finish college. It was understandable – they were financially unstable. Louis had to give up his dreams of being an actor to work on various shitty jobs like a waiter in this posh yet fake restaurant, an employee of a car wash where he holds this giant piece of cardboard to point where the actual car wash is, a delivery boy where he may or may not snacked off a piece of ham from a pizza, and like.. more. They’re too stupid to count.


Louis has stayed up until he hears the door creak open. He knew it’s his mother, having called her before finding this shitty apartment. The day ended in a bad way, and it became even worse when his mother shortly bursts into tears, right at the doorway.


“Mum.” Louis goes to her, hugging her and shutting the door behind her and making sure to lock it.

“I’m sorry.” Jay says.


“Not your fault, Mum.” Louis assures her, rubbing her back. He tells her that almost every time, “The girls are sleeping, and uh.. I should be going job hunting tomorrow.”


Jay looks up, looking worried, “You got fired?”


He’s working at this gas station at the moment, and it’s literally a pain in the arse. And legs, because he has to walk miles before he actually gets there. Or maybe he’s just being a little dramatic.


“No, no.” Louis shakes his head, “Something to raise up the earn, y’know? We need it more than ever.”


Jay tears up again. Louis knows how she’s probably feeling –guilty, regretful, because she’s said it before, that they deserve better than everything they’ve been through. No one deserves it, but it can’t really be avoided, either.


“Oh, boo.” She cries all over again, and Louis rubs her back until they sleep on their little bed until the sun rises the next morning.


When Louis wakes up, his mum is replaced with a note that says Goodluck w/ ur job hunting. Send girls to school safely, gotta work late. Love you all xx


Louis does. He watches his sisters walk to their school, and he turns back to his two siblings who are too still too young to be in school. Louis groans inwardly. He can’t possibly bring the twins to his job hunting. It might get him all day searching for a bloody job.


“What am I gonna do with you two?” Louis says, sighing. He’s ready to buckle them in, possibly use a freaking leash tied to his belt all day. He might even land on a job because of their googly eyes.


“LouLou.” Doris coos.


“Yeah, I know.” Louis accepts her hug. He really can’t leave them.


Louis walks with the twins down to the owner’s room, and he knocks, biting his lip as he looks down at the twins. The owner swings the door open, raising an eyebrow and looking back and forth between them three.


Okay, plan B.


“Uh..” Louis clears his throat, “We just moved in yesterday, and I was wondering if.. there’s a um.. like a daycare.. or some place for kids around here where I can leave them?” He looks at her in anticipation.


“Don’t you have financial problems, boy?” She asks, and her face twists into something of pity, “I had a talk to your mother.”


“Uh.. yeah.” Louis says, nervousness evident, “If you can just give me the directions—“


“You can leave them here with me.” She says, shrugging, “I won’t charge you for it.”


Louis practically chokes on his spit, “W-What?”


“You can leave them here.” She repeats, “They’ll be fed and they’ll be safe, I promise.”


“Are you sure?” Louis asks, his hold on the twins tightening a little bit, ‘I-I mean, it wouldn’t be a bother?”


“Oh hush, darling.” She gives him a smile and bats a hand in the air, “Just come by here whenever, okay?”


Louis’ still in shock, jaw practically unhinged but he nods, pulling Doris and Ernest in front of him and kneeling, “You two, be good, alright? I’ll be back before you even know I’m gone.” He kisses their heads before Mrs. Malton guides them inside.


“Thank you so much, Mrs. Malton.” Louis says, “I promise to return any favor. Thank you.”


“It’s nothing.” She smiles, “Go on, then. Don’t want to be gone too long.”


“Right, right.” Louis glances over her shoulder give one last visual on the twins before he walks away, sending a quick text about his mum all about the situation. He frowns as it suddenly powers off in the middle of his typing. He slams it on his palm a couple of times. As he walks, his eyes are searching for any possible posters as his hands do the familiar removing of the battery and putting it back. He really needs a new phone. This one’s at least four years old.


He sends the text as soon as his phone continues to work. Reading a few posters on a huge bulletin board in front of a building, Louis purses his lips.

Cashier. Assistant staff. Video Editor. Janitor. Security Guard. Babysitter. Dri—Jesus Christ 25 pounds for a bloody hour?


Louis steps closer, possibly smothering the paper with his face.


Now Hiring! Babysitter £25/hour


For inquiries, call 020 7946 0463


Must be: Male/ female, Above 20s, great with kids


Huh, well. Louis can be those things. He knew having 6 little siblings will do him good some time. Louis takes his phone out and saves the number in his phone, and he proceeds to read other posters in case something as good as that babysitter offer.


He continues his little job hunting, entering buildings and available job fairs. He actually thought he’d land on a personal assistant job, but the time isn’t agreeing with him. He’s got other people to take care of.


He gets home at around late afternoon, and after fetching Doris and Ernie and practically getting on his knees as he thanks Mrs. Malton, he finds himself on the couch with his phone and an old notebook and pen on his lap.


“Okay, thank you. Have a good afternoon.” Louis sighs, hanging up. It’s his fifth call, and he crosses out the encoder job. He scrolls through his phone again, and he stills at the number labeled ‘babysitter’.


He really hopes he gets this one.


He taps his fingers on his knee as he patiently waits for someone to answer. And someone does, after a third ring, “Hello, how may I help you?”


~○~


“Mr. Styles?”


Harry doesn’t look up from his desk computer as he nods curtly with a, “What is it?”


The person enters the office, shutting the door behind him and standing in front of Harry across the large desk filled with papers and reports and crap. Harry looks up, pausing his typing, “Hm?”


“These are the financial reports for the whole week starting last Sunday.”

Jason says with a tight smile, handing Harry a folder with a thick amount of paper. Harry can see himself burying his face – or his life—in those piece of papers.


Harry looks up at his employee for a good couple of seconds, enough for the said employee to squirm a little in his gaze, before Harry dismisses him. His phone rings, then, and he tries not to scream as he fishes it out of his pocket.


His urge to scream is suddenly toned down as he sees his Mum’s number. It has to do something with Jacob. Harry answers, abandoning his work momentarily, “Yeah, mum? Is Jacob—“


“Jacob’s fine. He’s doing a puzzle.” Anne says, and her voice seems hushed, “What time are you going to get home? Y’know I love Jacob, hunny but Robin’s got a sick back lately and—“


“Yeah, yeah, sorry, Mum.” Harry bites down on his lip. He can’t deny the guilt every time he calls his mother or his mother-in-law to babysit Jacob. Even though it really isn’t something to be sorry for, because he can’t trust his son with strangers.


“How’s that babysitting thing going on?” Anne asks. If all of that babysitting thing comes down to shit, Harry can blame her. But, he can’t either.


“Hectic. I’m having Kate handle all the calls.” Harry leans forward to resume his typing, pinning his phone between his shoulder and cheek, “I’m gonna read the applications later, and possibly do the interview like.. maybe after.”


“You sound like you’re hiring someone for the Marketing Officer.” Anne huffs out a laugh through the line.


“I’m hiring my son’s babysitter, which.. is much more important.” Harry says distractedly, “I really need someone good for this, Mum. If it all goes downhill, it’s your fault.” He voices out his thoughts.


“If it doesn’t?”


“Then, you have my praise.” Harry says, “May I speak to him?”


It’s only seconds of murmurs then his son’s voice is right in his ear, “Daddy!”


Harry leans back in his chair, stretching his arms one by one, “Hi, darling.”


“Are you coming home soon?” Jacob asks, voice small. Harry’s lucky he doesn’t get to see those big green eyes, which pretty much why Jacob gets practically everything he’s ever wanted.


“I’m afraid not, bud.” Harry sighs, “But not too late, okay? I’ll be there before you can even say flabbergasted.”


He hears the pout in Jacob’s voice – all pink and whiney, “Flabbergasted.”


“Alright, you got me there. But only because you had days of practice.” Harry teases, lips curling up at the edges.


It’s a few murmurs once again, and Harry’s best guess is that his mum is probably whispering words of comfort to his son. Harry says – cooes, even, “My little love.”


A little sniffle, “Yes, Daddy?”


“I’ll be home before dinner.” Harry says, already mentally cracking his knuckles at the speed he’s about to muster.


“Promise?”


“Promise.” Harry says, “Alright, well, you better let me go, doll. I’ll see you later.”


When Jacob speaks again, he’s much happier, “Love you, Daddy!”


“Love you too, Jakey.”


Harry spends his next hours trying to finish everything – checking the reports, editing the documents, sending emails and much, much more. After making sure his papers are all organized, he finally stands up and stretches his back with a little groan. He grabs his briefcase and makes sure his wallet, phone and keys are with him before he walks out of the office.


Outside, he stands across from Kate, waiting as she hurriedly finishes a call and writing something real quick on her notebook before scrambling to her feet.

Harry asks, “How’s the applications for a babysitter?”


“Um..” She grabs the notebook and flips it on a random page to show it to Harry, “Many have called and I’ve told them to come by here this Wednesday, as you’ve said.”


Harry nods, eyes scanning the columns of names and basic information like phone numbers and addresses. He nods then, handing the notebook back to Kate, “That will be enough. I’ll handle the interviews at morning until lunch. You should know what to do with the my schedule at that time.”


“Yes, sir.” Kate nods.


“Good. Be careful on your way home.” Harry nods and begins to walk out. As expected, his car is out front and he takes the keys as the valet hands them to him with a short greeting.


“Thank you.” Harry says, patting the valet’s shoulder before he climbs in his car. He can’t wait to be home.


Arriving home has got to be the most welcoming thing he’ll ever experience. All he needs is his son’s hugs and kisses and he’ll be good for the rest of the day.


“I’m home!” He says, voice loud and clear as it circles around the house. It’s seconds before Jacob’s appearing from the den, running towards his father. Harry chuckles and drops his briefcase, lifting his boy up in the air.


“How are you, buddy? Hm?” He asks, squeezing Jacob lightly and resting him against his hip as he bends down to grab his briefcase once again.

Anne’s standing there just watching, and Harry walks over to kiss her cheek as greeting, “Hey, mum.”


They walk to the den with Jacob still nuzzling his daddy’s neck. Harry grunts as he sits down on the couch, “Did you eat, love? Or did you wait for Daddy?”


“Waited.” Jacob answers shortly, “I did a puzzle today. And I finished reading the book.”


“Hm, why don’t you tell me over dinner?” Harry makes a move to stand up when Anne speaks, “Harry, I better get going.”


“What? Just stay for dinner.” Harry frowns, still holding on to Jacob as the five year old patiently waits.


Anne waves a hand, “I’ll eat with Robin back at home. Goodnight to you two.”


Harry walks her out, and he makes sure to secure the door and gates before he’s inside, preparing the plates and silverwares as Jacob babbles on and on about that book. Harry has a smile on his face the entire time.


“And then it fit.” When Harry turns back to serve the pork chops and soup, Jacob’s sat in his chair with a confused frown in his face.


Harry chuckles and settles beside him, “Why the long face?”


“One girl should’ve at least fit the shoe besides Cinderella.” Jacob wonders out loud, watching as Harry put a piece of pork on his plate as well as cut it into smaller pieces with a knife.


“I agree.” Harry says, beginning to eat himself, “It’s not that fair, hm? I personally like The Little Mermaid better. What do you think?”


“Can I read that next?” Jacob asks hopefully.


Harry reaches to stroke his hair, “Of course.” They fall into a peaceful silence after that, and Harry can’t help but think about the whole babysitting thing. His son’s approval is as important as his.


“Hey, bud.” Harry opens up a new conversation, “I’ve been thinking...” How is he supposed to say this?


Jacob turns to him, waiting for his daddy to speak. Harry clears his throat, “Your Nana told me that I should get someone to watch over you.”


Almost instantly, Jacob says, “You said Dada watches over me.”


Harry softens, “He does, baby, he does.” He takes a deep breath, “Okay, okay. Let me rephrase that.” He starts over again, choosing his words carefully this time, “Daddy’s been busy with a lot of things lately, especially Nana Anne .”


“A babysitter, then?” Jacob says, then he continues on, “Nana told me about them sometimes. And my classmates also have babysitters. They said they were nice people who take care of babies when daddies and mommies are busy.”


“They are.” Harry rubs a thumb on Jacob’s chin, feeling a bloom of pride for him, “Would you want a babysitter?”


Jacob takes longer than expected, and it honestly makes Harry a little nervous, but Jacob nods eventually, “If they are nice.”


Harry smiles, nodding, “I’ll make sure they are, love. You’re sure?”


Jacob nods again, and Harry takes it.


~○~


“How was it?” Louis asks a fellow applicant, leaning over his chair eagerly, and quite nervously. He’s in this really famous and really big company and Louis can’t help but be fascinated as they get guided to this little waiting area outside a big office.


The girl doesn’t answer him, and she walks past him with the click of her heels. Louis purses his lips. Well, she looks like she’s not fit for a babysitter. Louis looks down at himself, wondering if he is. Skillfully, hell yes, probably. But physically, he’s not quite sure.


He’s wearing a simple navy blue button down shirt and tight jeans and his worn out converse. He would’ve dressed much better, but he can’t really afford better. But come on, it’s a babysitting job.


“Jack Bailey.” The woman says at the slightly ajar door, holding a clipboard. Louis leans to the right, trying to get a glimpse. He sees a man inside, in a fancy suit and—the door shuts.


Louis sighs and pulls out his phone, sending a quick text to Mrs. Malton to check on the twins. That Jack guy lasts for like thirty minutes before he comes out, a frown on his face, like the other applicants had been whenever they come out. It takes more minutes before the lady comes out again, “Louis Tomlinson.”


Louis springs up to his feet, ignoring the stares as he walks to the room, smiling at the woman, “Hi, good morning.”


She smiles back and gestures towards a seat across this big clean desk. Sat down by it is a --.. a really attractive man – curly, lean, pink-lipped, bright-eyed. Woah. And he’s.. okay he’s staring.


“Hi, sir. Good morning.” Louis smiles, offering a hand.


The man shakes it and Louis tries not to shiver as he speaks, “Please sit.”


Louis does, folding his hands on his lap. He’s empty-handed today, mainly because he was told to only bring himself today. The man speaks again and he opens his ears, “So you’re Louis Tomlinson.” He says, hands clasped and elbows resting on the arm rests of his leather seat, “I’m Harry Styles, and.. well, you should know what you’re here for today.”


“A babysitting job, sir.” Louis nods.


Harry nods. Can’t he like.. smile a little bit? “Tell me about yourself.”


“Oh, well..—“ Louis straightens his back, clearing his throat, “I’m twenty-two years old, and I’ve ..” Louis hesitates a little bit, but he’s practiced this last night, “I studied Communication Arts, Theatre, but.. I didn’t get to graduate.” He almost wants to shrink on himself when he says those words, but he’s told not to be ashamed on these kinds of things.


“Why is that?” Harry asks.


“We’ve always been financially unstable, sir, and my mother is a single mother and she had to take care of seven children—“ Louis doesn’t miss the way the man’s eyebrows slightly quirk up at the mention of his siblings, “—so I needed to get a job.”


“Your siblings range from what ages?”


“From three to eighteen, sir.” Louis answers, “Uh.. I have two sets of twins, and the first one are three year olds, and the second pair are thirteen-year-olds. The other two are sixteen and eighteen.”


“Big family.” Harry nods, rubbing his stubbly chin. He opens his mouth to speak but a ring suddenly sounds through the room.


Louis figures it’s an important call Mr. Styles has to take, so he sits back and patiently waits. But Harry doesn’t move a muscle, just expectantly stares at him. And then—“Oh! I’m really sorry.” Louis stands up and fishes his phone out of his pocket.


He answers the call as he starts to walk towards the door, “Hello, Mrs. Malton? This isn’t really a good time right now—“ He steps out of the open door and begins pacing.


“I’m sorry, but Doris has been crying and she’s been asking for you.”


“Okay, okay. Let me hear her.” Louis sighs. It’s seconds when Doris is on the phone, sniffling, “Hi, love.” Louis bites at his nails. He sends an apologetic look towards the woman waiting by the door, “Listen, Lou’s at work right now, darling. But I promise to get you and Ernie as soon as I’m done here, okay?”


“LouLou.” She sniffles.


“Sweetheart.” Louis cooes, “I promise okay? Be good for Mrs. Malton. I’ll be done soon.”


Thankfully, bless her precious heart, Doris finally agrees with him, “Mmkay.”


“Okay, love you. Tell Ernie I love him too.” He hears Doris mutter the words before he hangs up, hurriedly turning his phone on vibrate before he pockets it again.


“I’m really sorry.” Louis says both to the woman and Mr. Styles, “It was an important call—“


“I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but we could hear you from all the way here.” Harry speaks, “I’m guessing it was one of your siblings?”


“My youngest sister, yes. I uh.. I left her at a friend’s with her twin and.. yeah.” Louis gulps.


It’s a minute of silence and Harry looks to be so deep in thought, as if he’s studying his every little bit of Louis’ movement. Louis droves his eyes away and back to his fidgeting thumbs. When Harry speaks again, Louis can die of happiness.


“Saturday, 10am.” Harry says, standing, “Meet me here and I’ll drive you to the house. Please dress appropriately for you’ll be meeting my son.”


“Doe—“ Louis stands as well but his legs feel like jelly, “Did I get the job?”


Harry nods, “Congratulations.” He offers a hand and Louis grins, shaking it with both of his hands, “Your pay should come in weekly.”


“Thank you so much! I promise I-I’ll do great.”


Harry’s lips quirk up at the edges. Just a tiny bit, “You better, Mr. Tomlinson.” He then turns to the woman, “Tell the others to please leave. The interviews are over.”


The woman nods without objection, and then Louis’ being escorted out of the office as Harry leaves as well, walking with such high chin and straight shoulders. Louis squeals and ignores the glares of the others.


~○~


“Thank you, Mrs. Malton!” Louis gleefully says, holding onto Ernest and Doris as he leads them to the stairs. He feels a little too happy that it’s actually weirding himself out. As he unlocks their door and bounds inside, humming to himself as he let the twins wander off, but before they can go, Louis kneels in front of them.


“You,” He boops Doris’ nose, making her giggle, “Are a little lucky charm, and you,” He tickles Ernest’s tummy, and he bats his hands away with a wide smile, “are just as precious.”


It’s a free day for the rest of the day for him. He basically cleans around the house, because a house of eight is bound to get disgusting if left untreated. There’s not much room around the house but there’s quite a lot to clean, especially the bedroom and kitchen. Speaking of kitchen, he had teared a piece of paper from his notebook and wrote down a list of groceries. It’s not much, just more important things like dishwashing soap and a few canned goods.


He’s wiping down the counter when the door swings open. He’s met with his four other siblings, having came home from school. “Hey, guys!” Louis greets, pinning his note on the refrigerator before he goes to the living room, “I have great news!”


“Finally got a rich, old man to hook up with you?” Lottie mocks, a smirk evident on her face as she puts her bag down on the coffee table.


“Close.” Louis teases back, but then chuckles, “But really, I landed on this babysitting job—“


“Wait, you’re gonna work two jobs, too? Like Mum?” Fizzy asks, and there’s concern evident on her face, “Babysitters don’t even get paid well, Lou.”


Louis walks over and sits on the arm of the couch, pulling her closer by the shoulders, “Twenty-five pounds an hour?” He questions, watches as the two eldest of his little sisters quirk an eyebrow, “I wouldn’t think so. “


“Well,” Lottie grins, clapping her hands, “Looks like I’m getting into college!”


Louis snorts, “Low blow, Lots. You know Mum and I won’t let you stop school like I did.”


“I know.” Lottie smiles and she reaches over to mess with his hair before he’s whining and she’s running to their room.


“So,” Fizzy begins, “The parents are probably rich.”


“Yeah, no doubt in that. The dad owns the company I think.” Louis purses his lips, mind flashbacking to that attractive man. He shakes it out of his head almost immediately. He shouldn’t be thinking about a married man like that.


“Then you better dress appropriately!” Fizzy demands lightly, plucking a his navy shirt, “Go out shopping!”


“Shopping?” Louis laughs, “I have good enough clothes, but not enough money, Fiz. I can compromise.”


“Well, as soon as you get your first pay, treat yourself.” She stands up, carrying her bag and shoes in hand before she follows Lottie to their room.


He spends the next days working at that gas station, but there’s really no denying that he’s still so happy about that babysitting job. If he can earn properly, he might even buy his sister new things for their school. The twins mentioned something about a sketchpad, so that’s probably what Louis would buy first.


On Friday, he’s on his break. His boss would give him these sandwiches just because, and Louis would shove it in his bag until the end of the day. He approaches the said boss, fidgeting slightly, “Uh.. Will.”


Will’s reading the newspaper in his small office. Louis clears his throat and steps forward, sliding a resignation letter.


Will raises his eyes from the paper, “Hey mate.” They land on Louis’ letter, “What’s this?” Will asks, folding his newspaper. He’s sounding too serious for Louis’ liking. He has quite the close friendship with Will and they’d joke around whenever.


“I want to resign.” Louis informs him. He cautiously looks at Will’s face, “I found a new job, so..”


“Well, I can’t really do anything about it.” Will stands, then, leaning on his desk after rounding it, “Does it pay well?”


“Really well.” Louis answers.


Will nods, “Just know that I’ll be here, man. I know you’ve been on a rough road for quite a while now.”


Louis feels his heart swell at that. Will is like a big brother to him and they’re real close. He finds himself nodding, “Thank you, for everything.”


“Keep in touch, yeah? I’ll give you your last pay.”


Louis waits, watches as Will rummage through his desk a little more and eventually handing him an envelope. It’s one of Louis’ favors from his boss—to pay him cash instead of a check. It makes things less hassle, and of course, the kind-hearted man understands.


With one last goodbye, Louis turns, discreetly thumbing his notes inside the envelope. He whips back around just as fast, “Will—“


“Take it, Louis. Honestly, I don’t mind.” Will says almost immediately, already knowing Louis’ attitude, “You need it more than I do.”


Louis wills himself not to at least tear up. He becomes real emotional about these things, “Thank you, so much.”


Will smiles, “Alright, now, don’t faint on me.”


Louis goes home clutching his bag to his front, straps wore backwards. He walks and walks like someone’s going to rob him in every step. He makes it home when the sun had set, having worked all morning and afternoon makes him want to just dive straight in bed.


But one, he doesn’t have a bed, and two, he has six younger siblings to tend to. He leaves his bag in the room, on top of their dresser like always. He feeds his siblings, asks about their day, and when it’s time for them to sleep, he creeps out of the mattress and drags his small box from under their bed. He carries it until he’s on the living room with the holy envelope he’s been clinging to most of the day.


He sits, and gets to work. His boss had given him like two hundred fifty pounds, and that’s like sixty per cent higher than his salary have ever been.


A hundred for his siblings and mum, a hundred for a new apartment, and a fifty for emergencies. Louis considers putting at least another ten for his sisters, but he needs to earn more for a new apartment. He can’t stand seeing themselves practically fight for space in here.


Being financially poor is like.. a big pain in the arse, really. But his mum tells him –in the cheesiest way possible—that they’re not really poor, for their rich in each other’s memories and each other’s love.


Which.. it makes Louis shudder every time, but it’s true. He can’t deny that.
“Lou, you’re up.” A voice says from the doorway.


Louis screws the lid of the jars and covers the box again, “Hey, mum.”


“What’s all that?” Jay asks, stepping in and hanging her coat. She looks awfully tired, like she always is.


“Just junk.” Louis stands with the box in his arms, “There’s dinner in the kitchen. It’s gone cold, though.”


“Hm, I’d love a cold dinner.” She says dryly, but with a smile. Louis returns it before he goes down the hall and to their room to slide the box back under the bed. He goes back to the kitchen where Jay’s eating on a bowl, smiling at him when he enters.


“You’ll start babysitting tomorrow, yeah?” She asks.

Louis leans against the doorway, “Yeah. I just hope I won’t screw up. Seems like a tough job already.”


“You’ll do great.” Jay says, then Louis knows that he will. He should.


~○~


Sitting in a luxurious car is a new experience. Definitely a new one. So it’s really a bother for himself that he can’t seem to move a freaking muscle sitting there in the passenger seat while Mr. Styles drives from his building to his supposedly big mansion.


“You’ll work basically most of the day.” Mr. Styles suddenly speaks up over the hum of the engine, “From seven in the morning and six in the afternoon on Saturdays. On weekdays, you’ll be here at around 12 noon when my son comes home from school. On Sundays, you won’t have to work until I call you because normally that’s my bonding day with Jacob. Sometimes, you’ll extend, depends on my schedule for the day. And I’d have occasional business trips, which would require you to stay overnight or longer. Would that be alright?”


The overnight thing catches Louis off-guard, because then he won’t be able to take care of his siblings a whole day, which.. he doesn’t know how to feel about it.


Mr. Styles continues, after the long stretch of silence, “I take business trips rarely.”


Louis’ sold. Well, he has been since he saw that hiring poster. “A-Alright, then.”


Arriving at the Styles’ residence, it’s.. just,-- woah. Can people really afford a house that big? It’s crazy. The gate automatically opens even when Harry doesn’t do absolutely anything, and it closes right after the car is driven in a very much still luxurious garage.


Louis can’t be distracted, though, he has one questions, “Mr. Styles?”


“Call me Harry.” Harry climbs out of the car. Louis follows immediately, practically stumbling. He straightens himself out as he follows Harry from the garage. Harry speaks, “What is it?”


“How many are your children?”


“Only one.” They exit up from the hall which serves as an entrance from the garage, “His name is Jacob, and he’s five. If you’re good, you can get to know him well.”


“Okay, thank you.” Louis says. He knows he can crack a kid. Well, if the said kid is as serious as this dad, then he’ll probably struggle just a tiny bit.


And woah—the den is... well, it’s big. Unnecessarily big. And clean. Louis roams his eyes everywhere. He honestly expects to find like a two dozen maids, a driver, and a pilot, but.. it’s practically empty with people.


“Jacob’s probably in his room.” Harry says, and then he calls out, “Mum?”


“Right here.” A womanly voice says, and as expected a woman pops up from one of the hallways, wiping her hands with a tissue, “I was in the rest room.” She notices Louis and a smile spreads on her face, “You’re the babysitter, yes?”


“I am. Nice to meet you.” Louis offers a hand which is shortly shaken, “I’m Louis.”


“Anne, darling. Harry’s mother.” Anne introduces, “I’m basically the one who egged him to hire a babysitter.”


“I have to thank you, then.” Louis chuckles. He really does.


“Jacob’s upstairs?” Harry asks for confirmation.


Anne nods, “Yes. I just fed him breakfast and he’s probably reading up there.”


“Okay, Louis, follow me.” Harry turns and Louis only has to say a quick goodbye before he’s following Harry in quick strides upstairs.


Harry abruptly stops in front of a room after a quick walk around the upstairs. Really, how big is this thing? Harry knocks, and he opens the door slowly, standing just under the doorframe. Louis stays behind. He can hear Harry saying things to the famous son before the door fully opens.


Louis almost cooes, “Hello there.” He crouches in front of the small child, brunette with light sleepy eyes. He smiles fondly. He looks a lot like his father, but with a little less laugh lines, and frowns, and grumpiness.


The child continues to rub at his eyes, clutching at his little shark before he asks, “Are you gonna be my new Dada?”


Harry stiffens. Before he can say anything, Louis jumps to it, “I’m your babysitter. I’m sure your father told you?”


The kid—which Louis remembers is called Jacob— looks up at Harry and eventually nods, “Countless times.”


“Your father told me little about yourself.” Louis says, tone soft and gentle, “You’re Jacob, yes? And he told me you’re five.”


“I am. What’s your name?”


“I’m Louis.” Louis smiles, “With an S, though. Something to do about the French.”


“I like French fries.” Jacob says. He looks at his father again, silently asking for permission.


A hand strokes at the kid’s hair, “You’ll get your fries when it’s time for your snacks.” Geez, this child is spoiled.


“Okay, daddy.” Jacob flashes Harry a smile. Louis’ the one who swoons.


A few moments of small talk and Harry eventually talks again, “Jake, why don’t you go back to your room? I need to show Louis around real quick before I can go back to the office. From then, he’ll be taking care of you.”


“Okay.” Jacob says obediently. Surprisingly, he turns to Louis, “Bye, Louis.”
Louis waves his fingers, “Bye!”


The door’s closed, and once again Harry’s walking past him, probably to start the tour of the house. It’ll probably last for the rest of the day, but Harry makes it to fifteen minutes. Louis’ sure he’s ran a marathon from all the sprinting. He’s got shorter legs, alright? It’s not exactly a thing to brag.


“Did you get all that?” Harry asks, not even fazed.


“Yes, sir.” Louis nods.


“Harry.” Harry corrects with pursed lips, “My mum’s gonna stay for the rest of the day. She’s just gonna teach how it goes around the house for Jacob. You know how to cook?”


Louis nods again, “I’ll cook him french fries at uh.. snack time.” Whichever that time is.


“Don’t spoil him too much. Make sure he earns it.” Harry says, fiddling with his wristwatch, “He got the fries because he got an A on his previous quiz in school.”


“Noted.” Okay, so maybe the boy’s not too spoiled.


“And whenever—“ Harry gets cut off by his phone. He checks it for a few seconds, seems to read a text before he distractedly continues, “My mum will tell you the rest. I’ve gotta go.” He doesn’t say anything more, just goes back to the garage and disappears.


“Oh, that boy.” Anne emerges from the den. And oh, Louis’ still standing in that hallway. He looks at Anne and offers her a smile. The lady smiles back, “So, what made Harry hire you?”


On the den, there’s two cups of tea on the coffee table. Louis occasionally has tea, more of a coffee guy because of these late nights, and he doesn’t really need tea, “I guess it’s because I have six siblings. That’s what got him hooked, I guess.”


“And are you good with kids?”


“I like to think so.” Louis smiles, “My siblings tell me I’m a great big brother, so.. I have a right to brag at least about that.” He laughs, blowing lightly on his heated drink.


“Well, six siblings sounds like a hard work. How about your parents?”


Louis gulps a little, “U-Uh.. my mum’s a single mother so she really needs a little boost on the savings and money.”


Anne, thankfully, doesn’t push on it further, “Well, I think you’ll do great. Jacob isn’t a difficult kid.”


“How’s he?”


“Quiet, mostly.” Anne says, and there’s a fond smile sitting on her lips, “Only heard him talk a mile with his father. He’s a wonderful baby, smart, just like Harry.”


Louis can’t help but smile, “He’s been raised wonderfully, I bet.” There’s a question itching on his tongue, but he’s not one to pry. Where’s his mother? Or, in any other cases, a father?


After minutes of chatting, their cuppas have been emptied and Anne stands from the couch, saying her goodbye. Before any of it, though, she gives Louis Harry’s office number, and Louis didn’t have the heart to tell her that he already got it. As he walks her to the door, Anne teaches him how to work the very tech security system around the house. Louis catches on with it quickly. He just hopes he doesn’t screw it up.


“Alright, I’m gonna text Harry to tell him I’m leaving. Please take care of Jacob.” Anne touches her arm before turning, hopping on her car.
Turning around, Louis is once again overwhelmed.


~○~


French fries are good, properly salted, awkwardly plated, and with this basic mix of ketchup and mayonnaise as a dip on the side—because he’s not one to sprinkle the dip around.


He brings the fries with mango juice he found in the fridge. He puts them in a tray, and he turns around and almost has a heart attack, “Oh Go—“ He splutters, stilling and gripping the tray much tighter, “Hi, buddy!”


Jacob’s standing there, accompanied with his shark and a few thin books pinned to his side with his arm. He’s also carrying this rectangular box which looks like puzzles, “What’s that?”


“Oh, it’s your fries, babe. Come on, let’s get settled on the den.” Louis walks past him and remembers when the den is. He puts the snack on the coffee table while Jacob puts down his toys in front of it.


Louis walks over to the telly and sees loads and loads of movies categorized beside it. From horror at the very top, followed by action, followed by romance followed by kid movies. Louis hums, “Do you want to watch a movie?”


Jacob’s attention is caught, and he gets up to follow Louis, eyes trailing up on the rows of movies, “Little Mermaid?”


“Hm, good choice.” Louis crouches to the bottom shelf and searches. Soon, he’s clutching the movie. He crouches back down to work on the DVD player. He’s never owned one, in his life. So that time he worked on an appliance store is paid off.


Or not, because Jacob asks, “May I?”


“Sure.” Louis smiles and hands him the CD. Really, who even uses CD anymore? Louis knows that there’s Netflix and stuff, or every kind of stuff online. He’s not protesting, though. It’s good that this kid’s not too much consumed by technology.


Soon, Louis has joined Jacob on the floor. Has Louis mentioned that there are beanbags, too? Well, it’s the best thing ever. Glancing at the kid, he’s completely abandoned his toys to put his attention on the movie. He seems to really like it.


Louis, himself, didn’t want to disturb the little guy so he sits back as well. He knows this movie like by heart, because he used to watch it as a child before everything went to shit. It’s a bit rusty, but he remembers.


“Do you want fries?” A shy voice asks him, and he looks over and sees Jacob reaching his bowl out with both hands.


“It’s yours, babe.” Louis smiles, “Thank you, though.”


“I can’t finish this all, though.” Jacob says. He looks a little worried, “Daddy says I should never waste food because there are other people who starve and it’s not fair for them.”


Again, Louis’ amazed how kind-hearted this boy is. He can’t help the fond smile that stretches his lips, “Alright, if you insist.”


After the movie, it’s already five. He remembers Harry telling him that his day ends at six, so it’ll only be a little time before Harry’s here. Jacob’s eventually acknowledged his puzzles and Louis’ down with him. He’s not doing much, because this kid can totally do it himself.


Mentally, though, he’s counting his check. Only because he got curious. He’s gonna work for like.. eleven hours a day on weekends, and half of that during weekdays. which is kind of a lot, so yes. By the end of the week, he’ll probably be a rich man.


“Louis?” Jacob asks, sitting back on his bum as he eyes Louis curiously.
“Hm?”


“I like you.” Jacob says, “Because you play with me a lot.”


Louis feels a small tug at his heart, “Well, you’re fun to play with. I rarely get to play with my siblings because they’re always at school. They’re gone for most of the day.”


“Oh. You’re alone, then?”


“Not really, I have little sisters and a brother. The youngest ones.. they’re named Doris and Ernest.” Louis pulls out his phone and begins to scroll through his many pictures. He then scoots over to Jacob’s place and shows him the picture, “See?”


“They’re younger than me?” Jacob asks, quite fascinated.


Louis nods, taking his phone back as Jacob hands it back to him, “They’re only three.”


“Where are they, then?”


“I left them at home with my sisters.” Louis answers, “And during weekdays, I leave them at a friend’s so she can watch them.”


Jacob looks to be deep in though, eyebrows knotted together, “You let other people babysit them while you babysit others?”


Louis lets out a surprised chuckle, “Yeah, pretty much.”

 

“Then why don’t you bring them here?”


“Oh, well, I don’t think your daddy would like that.” Louis tells him gently, “Plus, they can be kind of a ruckus.” He chuckles.


“My daddy doesn’t allow that much visitors.” Jacob tells him, tone low and quiet that Louis almost missed it, “Sometimes I want to stay at school so I can continue playing with my friends.”


“Hm,” Louis purses his lips, “Have you ever asked him if you can, though?”
“He doesn’t want to.”


“Well, I’m here now.” Louis grins, reaching forward to ruffle the kid’s hair, “We can play as much as you want. Maybe I can convince your daddy to take you out, hm?”


A door is heard shutting from the foyer, and Jacob perks up. Louis watches as his face lights up as Harry calls, “I’m home!”


“Daddy!” Jacob stands and runs off.


Louis chuckles to himself and pushes himself to his feet, awaiting for both of them to pop back out. When they do, Harry’s got Jacob in his arms and he’s got a light smile on his face. Smiling suits him.


After the greetings, Harry puts Jacob down, “Did you have fun, bud?”


“I like Louis.” Jacob says decidedly, flashing a smile at Louis’ direction. It made Louis swoon, again.


Harry nods. His smile deflates to something serious when he glances at Louis, “That’s good. Why don’t you clean up your toys and then you can help me cook, hm?”


Jacob nods, and the two older men watch as he puts his puzzles back into box, carrying his shark, his puzzles and books. Soon, he’s waddling as he climbs the stairs, trying to balance everything in his hands.


“Good job today.” Harry says, fiddling with his cuff links.

 

“Thank you, Harry.” Louis smiles, the name rolling off his tongue.


“Monday, noon.” Harry reminds just as Jacob jogs down the stairs. Harry turns to warn his son, “Careful, love.”


Jacob, standing in front of Harry, beams at him, “I have strong legs, Daddy.”


Louis can’t help the chuckle that escapes him. Harry ignores him and cooes at Jacob, “I know you do.” Looking at Louis, he raises an eyebrow, “Louis.”


Louis nods, “I’ll see myself out.” He then bends down until he’s eye level with Jacob, “I’m gonna see you tomorrow, and maybe we can play some footie.” He glances at the curly man for a quiet confirmation.


“Daddy, can I?” Jacob asks, bouncing on his feet.


Harry smiles, “Of course you can, bud.”


Jacob’s still smiling as he looks back at Louis, “See you tomorrow, Louis.”


Louis grins and ruffles his hair, “You too, Jacob.”


He’s walked out by both Harry and Jacob, and before the gates could fully close he gives one last wave.


~○~


“Jake.” Harry lowers the heat and puts the lid on, wiping his hands on his apron before he moves to where his son is grating cheese, “I think that’s enough. Now,” Harry begins, taking the grater from his son and putting it aside, “You take a chunk of cheese,” He demonstrates, smiling at how intent Jacob is listening, “And you put them in here.” Harry says as he carefully pushes some of the cheese inside a cut he made on the side of the chicken.


“Got it?” Harry raises a thumb.


Jacob nods, grinning as he gives one back.


Harry kisses his temple. It takes them an hour to finish cooking, and they leave the kitchen to eat in the dining room. Harry watches as Jacob takes the first bite, “It tastes great, Daddy!”


“Really now? It’s like whenever you cook with me, it always ends up delicious.” Harry chuckles. He leans over and blows a raspberry on Jacob’s cheek, causing him to giggle.


“So, tell me about your day.” Harry says. He’s been itching to ask it. He needs to make sure Jacob’s safe with the babysitter. From the looks of it, there’s a slim chance that Jacob’s harmed. He actually looks happy, but of course, Harry will need to check the camera around later.


“Um.. he cooked me fries.” Jacob begins, “And later he watched The Little Mermaid.”


Harry raises an eyebrow, “I thought you wanted to read it.”


“I didn’t want him to be bored.”


Harry chuckles. It’s true, it does get boring in here sometimes, “Hm, and then?”


“He helped me complete my puzzles!” Jacob says gleefully, “And he has many little siblings.”


“I heard they’re six.” And they’re mainly why he hired Louis.


“He showed me what they look like! They’re named.. Doris and uh..” Jacob racked his mind a little bit, “And Ernest! They’re the youngest. He said that they’re at his friend’s because he couldn’t watch them. And..” Jacob suddenly gets shy, pausing at his eating.


“And?”


“And I asked why he can’t bring them here.” Jacob says, peeking at his daddy at the corner of his eye, “He told me you wouldn’t like it.”


Harry doesn’t know what to say, mostly because he can’t let random people in and out of here. And he can’t risk Louis abusing that. Okay, he doesn’t mean to sound heartless, “Would you want him to bring them here?”


Jacob looks surprised, and he becomes a hundred times timid, “Um.. if you want to.”


“But I asked if you would want to, love.” Harry says.


“I.. I wouldn’t mind playmates...” Jacob fiddles with his little thumbs.


“Let’s see..” Harry begins to ponder, “Louis can bring them here once a week. How’s that sound?” In his every word, he can see how Jacob’s face seem to lit up.


“Really, daddy?!” Jacob asks, eyes so bright and green.


“Of course.” Harry smiles. He’s happy to see his son like this, “Just make sure to tell me when something goes wrong, alright?”


Jacob nods, his fringe bouncing, “Promise.”


“Good.” Harry strokes his hair affectionately, “Now, finish your dinner.”


Hours later, Harry’s in his bed, wide awake and staring at the ceiling and an arm stretched tucked under his head, “You should’ve seen his face when I agreed to him having playmates.” He says, voice low and hushed, “I guess he likes the babysitter idea. I have to give up half of my pride to my mum because of that.” He purses his lips, thinking of what the hell he should say, “Oh, uh.. we’re opening up a new branch somewhere in Manchester, so that’s good, too. I know you’re proud of me.” He whispers the last part, “Always have been.” He sighs, rubbing at his eyes, “I’m really tired.” He pauses, “Goodnight, Carter.” And he could almost hear it back. Almost.


He rolls over then, tucking his head under his pillow and dozing off.

 

“Daddy?”


Harry blinks and pulls the pillow off his head. He looks at where his son standing by the doorway, clutching his little shark, “Hey, buddy.”


“I can’t sleep.” Jacob says, shyly shifting on his feet.


Harry smiles sleepily and lifts an arm, “Come here, love.”


Jacob closes the door and happily climbing up the bed and into his daddy’s arms, “Love you, daddy.”


“Love you, too, baby.” Harry places a kiss on his son’s head and falls back asleep.


~○~


“Jake.” Harry calls distractedly, “Time for fruits, come on.”Jacob looks up at him, holding a cereal box to his chest before he reaches up to drop it in the cart. He then continues to walk in front of Harry, occasionally looking back to see if his daddy is still there following him.


Once in the fruits section, Harry stays at the side, watching as Jacob scans the rows of fruits. The five-year-old stops at the pink fruits – the dragon fruit more specifically. He points a it, seeking his father’s approval. Harry smiles and nods. Soon, Jacob is toddling over, holding the fruit with both hands. He gently dumps it in the cart, and Harry strokes his hair affectionately.


“Vegetable?” Jacob asks before Harry can even mention it.


“You betcha.” Harry says, wheeling the cart over to the nearby vegetable section. He picks out a few, a meal for dinner and the day after already forming in his mind.


“What do I get?” Jacob asks. He’s grasping the edge of the cart and bouncing up and down on his feet, seeming very excited.


Harry chuckles, “Grab me some cabbage and carrots, love. Be careful, alright?”


And he watches as Jacob independently roam around the section to grab the right vegetables. It’s like a daily ritual for these two every time they go grocery shopping. It takes two minutes for Jacob to hug the ordered vegetables to his chest, cradling them carefully and he’s on his way back to the cart when a woman approaches him.


Harry’s immediately walking there, getting there in no time and grabbing the vegetables from Jacob to dump them on the cart, “Brenda, hi.” He steps closer to kiss her cheek as a greeting and she responds with a tight smile.


Harry clears his throat and looks down on Jacob, rubbing a hand over the child’s back, “Love, say hello to your grandma.”


Jacob takes Harry’s large hand and grips it, “H-Hi, grandma.”


“Why, hello, darling.” Brenda says, “What were you doing with those vegetables, hm?”


Jacob doesn’t seem intimidated for a second as he answers, “I was going to bring them to Daddy!”


“Hm.” Brenda says almost dismissively. She stares at Harry with those brown eyes but just as icy as blue ones are, “Ordering your child to do your chores for you?”


“No, Brenda.” Harry says, as politely as he can, “It’s our tradition, and he needs to learn independence from time to time.”


Brenda nods, “I’m sure.” An awkward silence follows, the three of them standing in the middle of the vegetables section with much tension dripping off them. Harry’s still mildly aware of the grip Jacob has on his hand, and he wants to sigh heavily in relief once Brenda smiles and says, “Well, I better get going now.” She doesn’t say anything more, doesn’t even five a glance towards her grandson standing there before she turns and walks away.


Harry then hears a whimper, “Daddy.” He kneels down in front of Jacob, rubbing on his arms as the child brings his little fists up to his face. He absolutely breaks as he hears the sob from Jacob. His son isn’t a crier, rarely cries, but when he does, he does it so quietly.


“I’m sorry, baby. I didn’t know she was going to be here.” Harry says, raising a hand to stroke at Jacob’s hair softly. If there’s one thing that gets Jacob to tears, it’s seeing his grandmother, Brenda. Harry knows what he feels, being constantly reminded that he’s not accepted into this world even though those reminders aren’t verbal.


“I don’t like her.” Jacob sniffles, still covering his eyes with his little fists.


“Oh, love.” Harry hugs him close, a hand on his back and rubbing up and down. They were receiving pitiful stares from the fellow customers, so Harry carries Jacob in one arm, letting his son hug his neck while he pushes the cart to the nearest cashier with one hand.


Arriving at home, Jacob races to his room and shuts it. Harry sighs, deciding to give his son some space before barging in. He busies himself with the groceries instead, putting them away in the right cupboards. Soon, it was all gone and he shoves the plastic bags into the bottom along with the others.


A cheese toast will sure bring his son’s spirits up.


He gets to work, making sure it’s only the right amount of cheese before pouring a glass of orange juice. He carries it all the way to Jacob’s room, coming face to face with the closed door, “Jakey, babe.”


The door creaks open slowly, revealing Jacob with red, puffy eyes and his nose having the resemblance. Harry walks in and places the snack on Jacob’s nightstand. He takes a second to admire the picture of him and Jacob on a frame.


“Jacob.” He begins, frowning slightly in curiosity, “Where did you put your Dada’s picture?” He looks toward his son and he softens immediately, feels his chest constrict painfully.


Jacob’s clutching his father’s frame against his chest. Harry must’ve not noticed it when he came in. Harry sighs and he forces a smile, even though it’s absolutely saddening, “Come here, love.”


Once Jacob is perched on one of his thighs, Harry presses a kiss on his temple, “Tell me what you’re thinking about, Jake.”


Jacob sniffles. He’s calmed down a bit from his sob earlier, but Harry can feel the sadness still radiating off him and that. That simply won’t do.


“Grandma Brenda is always mad at me.” Jacob presses his lips in a tight line. He’s pulled the picture away from him and simply staring down at it, “A-And.. she always says that it’s my fault why.. why Dada’s gone.”


Harry closes his eyes, nuzzling his son’s hair. It takes him his all not to at least tear up, because he’s the father. He’s supposed to be strong for Jacob, “You know it’s not, sweetheart. You were a tiny little thing, did you know that? So tiny and harmless. How could you do such a thing?”


Jacob doesn’t answer.


“You’re the best boy.” Harry promises, and it’s the truth, “And I will protect you from anything in this world.”


Jacob sniffles again and turns a little to hug Harry, “I love you, Daddy.” He then pulls back, hugging the frame close to his chest, “And I love Dada.”


Harry kisses his head again, “Love you, too, doll.”


~○~


“Louis!” is Jacob’s greeting as soon as Louis walks through the front door of the Styles’ home. The little kid is still wearing his uniform from school, neck tie undone and it seems like he raced down the stairs when he heard the front door.


“Why, hello there!” Louis chuckles, ruffling Jacob’s hair, “Did you have lunch yet?”


Jacob nods, “Ate a sandwich and salad in school.”


“Hm..” Louis slides off his bag and walks with Jacob to the den, “How was school, then?” Jacob opens his mouth to speak but Louis cuts him off, “Before that!” He exclaims, “Get dressed first.” He laughs when Jacob pouts and walk back to his room.


Bringing out his phone, he begins to type out a text for Harry, Mr. Styles, I just arrived at your house. I’m gonna see if Jacob has any homework that should be done and we’ll see if we can play some footie after. He’s been instructed to send updates to the man as much as possible.


He pockets his phone and simply waits for Jacob. Soon, the kid climbs down the stairs looking fresh, fringe falling into his eyes before he pushes it back, looking a lot like his father.


“Looking good!” Louis compliments, offering a fist bump to where Jacob accepts happily, “Now, I told your Daddy we should do homework first.”


Jacob pouts, “But I just got home from school! And you promised me footie.” He points at the abandoned football Louis had brought on the corner of the couch.


“I did.” Louis chuckles, “But don’t you want to finish your homework first? So that later, we won’t have to worry any of it when we’re playing footie. You wouldn’t want to cut our play short, no?”


Jacob pouts further but he eventually nods, “Okay.” He plops down beside Louis and tugs his bag on his lap, bringing out a book, a notebook and his fat pencil case.


“Good boy.” Louis praises, “Now, what’s your homework?”


Jacob flips the book into a certain and pats it. Louis leans in to read while Jacob explains, “We write in cursive.”


“Ooh.” Louis smiles, seeing three rows with the dotted lines which are formed to a letter, and another three rows which are blank, “Is this all?”


Jacob nods, bringing out his pencil. Even his pencil looks expensive.


“If you can finish it in under thirty minutes, we can take a nap so we can be energized for footie!” Louis offers, “Don’t wanna be all slouchy slouchy during a play now, can we?”


Jacob giggles at the word, surprisingly agreeing to the man, “No.”


True to his word, Jacob finishes in fifteen minutes, showing Louis his work from where the man is scanning his other books, completely interested.

Louis smiles, “I’m so proud of you! That looks better than my own handwriting.” He says, meaning it. He’s pretty sure his handwriting would look like he was writing on a bloody rollercoaster.


“Thank you.” Jacob giggles, “Nap now?”


Louis glances at the wall clock, seeing it’s only one thirty in the afternoon. It’s too sunny to be out back, “You can do whatever you want, just sneak a nap in. We’re going to head out at around three. Is that alright?”


Jacob nods, “Uh.. I think I’m gonna get my coloring books.” He doesn’t for Louis to say anything, just puts his books back to his bag before carrying it up the stairs to retrieve his things.


They spend the remaining one and a half hour just sitting around the den with the telly on. They have some footie on, and every once in a while, Jacob would raise his head to ask questions about it and Louis, having loved footie all his life, tattles on and on. The clock hits three and Jacob has sprawled on the couch clutching his shark, napping for thirty minutes. That should be enough.


“Buddy.” Louis whispers, rubbing his hand up and down Jacob’s back, “Sport, we have footie to play, remember?”


Jacob stirs, stretching much like a puppy before he sits up with a wide smile. Louis chuckles, “You should have some proper shoes, yeah? And shorts.” Louis pokes at the pajamas the boy is wearing.


To his surprise, Jacob stands and takes Louis’ hand, “Will you come with me? I have a lot of shoes.”


Louis chuckles, “Go on. Lead me to your room.”


The kid’s room is possibly bigger than his livingroom back in his apartment, and he tries not to drop his jaw at all the toys he has. Mostly it was books and puzzles, and that just proves hoe smart Jacob can really be.


“This one?” Jacob pulls some black shorts from his drawer. It’s loose and Louis figures he can move around there. He nods, “Yeah, that’s good.”


Louis stays standing in the middle of the room, hands inside his pockets. The room is of a violet color, an ombre actually. It’s goes from dark on the bottom to a lighter shade as it reaches the ceiling. A bed is pushed to the wall in the middle with like half a dozen pillows. There’s a shelf across from it filled with Jacob’s wonderful collection of books and puzzles and even board games. Beside it is a little toy chest, which Louis figures is filled with actual toys. There’s a single window on the right framed with thick yellow curtains and beside it Jacob’s closet, where he’s standing right now. The whole floor’s carpeted beige and well, it’s downright pretty.


His thought is cut off with Jacob’s giggle, “Louis!”


Louis blinks, “Uh, what?” He says dumbly.


“I was calling you but you were too busy looking at my room.” Jacob giggles again, waving a pair of white shoes in front of him.


“Sorry. Your room looks much nicer than my home, though. I give you that.” Louis chuckles, sitting at the end of the bed, “Yeah, that’s good.”


As Jacob gets dressed, Louis takes a look at his bed, but then he notices the picture frames sitting on Jacob’s nightstand. One is of him and Harry. It looks like a candid moment, and it looks like from a few years back. Harry’s sat on the floor on a colorful kiddie blanket, looking rather casual with his pajamas and gray shirt. A baby Jacob, Louis assumes at one year old, is standing on his own two feet, hands braced against Harry’s shoulders. Harry’s got a wide smile on his face, and it looks foreign to him.


The other one is of a man, sitting on a hospital bed sporting big baby bump. It looks like a candid moment as well, and Louis guesses that Harry took it. The man is sleeping, head lolled to the side slightly and his hands cradling his belly. The man is blond , light skinned and looks absolutely gorgeous. He and Harry make a great couple.


Louis looks back at Jacob, who’s taking his time tying his shoe lace while the other one is already done. When he stands back up, he grins, “Done!”


“Bravo! Come on.” Louis takes Jacob’s hand and leads them out the door. The backdoor is through the kitchen, and while Louis lets Jacob outside with the football, he takes water bottles from the fridge before going out himself.


“Alright.” Louis chuckles, putting the bottles down on the back porch before he steps on the grass. He’s in his jeans and converse, which isn’t at all the appropriate attire but he had somehow managed to forgot to bring some shorts, but these will do.


“How about we do stretches first.” Louis chuckles, clapping a gentle hand behind Jacob before he does a few simple stretches with Jacob following. Once they finish with ten jumping jacks, Louis bends over and asks, “Y’alright?”


“Yes.” Jacob says, smiling up at him.


“Oh, no. I want you to answer like this.” Louis clears his throat, “Yeah!” He loudly exclaims, energy dripping from his voice itself, “Got it?” He raises a knowing eyebrow.


Jacob makes a show of clearing throat before he exclaims, “Yeah!” with a little fist pump.


“Alright!” Louis grabs the ball and kneels in front of Jacob with a reasonable distance between them, “Have you played footie before, Jake?”

The nickname slips out of his mouth.


“No.” Jacob says.


“That’s alright.” Louis reassures, “Now,” He goes down on one knee, placing the ball on the ground, “We’ll do the basics for now. What do we use when playing football?”


“Feet!” Jacob answers, giggling.


“Good! So no hands.” Louis wiggles his fingers, “See if you can catch this with your foot, okay?” He then rolls the ball towards Jacob. He sees the child’s determination.. as well as his clumsy legs as he tried to at least place one of his foot on top of the ball. The ball rolls off from under his foot and Jacob slips a little, landing on a knee.


“Jacob!” Louis jogs over, “Let me—“


“I’m fine.” Jacob laughs, getting up and simply brushing his dirty knee before bouncing again, “Ball!”


“Hm.” Louis looks for it, and sees it a few meters away from them, “Let’s see if you can roll the ball from there to here, yeah?”


Jacob nods eagerly, running to the ball as fast as his little legs can take him. Once behind the ball, he kicks it, making the ball roll forward just a tad. Louis calls out, “Take your time!”


Soon, the ball gets to Louis’ feet as well as a beaming Jacob. Louis reaches a hand to ruffle his hair, “You have great potential in you, sport.”


They spend the rest of the afternoon out in the backyard. Eventually, though, Louis has grown tired from running all around before he collapses on the ground on his bum, leaning back against his hands.


“Tired already?” Jacob asks, pouting. He’s a bit sweaty himself, but boy, this kid can run a marathon like.. six times.


“We’ve been playing for hours.” Louis retaliates, “You do have strong legs, buddy.”


“I know!” Jacob says, confidently. He suddenly looks over behind Louis and exclaims, “Daddy!”


Louis mentally groans, not wanting to stand up yet, but he does. He ignores the strain in his legs as he stands and pats off the grass from his jeans. He sees Harry on the patio, hugging Jacob close. He pulls back with a wrinkled nose, “You’re all smelly, Jake. Why don’t you take a bath, yes? I’ll have to run you a bath.”


“Daddy, I can do it!” Jacob says independently.


“Hm, the last time you had water all over the floor.” Harry says, leaving no room for arguments, “I’m gonna do it fast. By then you should go say to goodbye to Louis for now.” He sends Louis a look and a nod of his head as a greeting. Louis returns it with a small smile.


“But..” Jacob pouts, however, “Can’t he stay for dinner?”


“Jacob.” Louis says, standing behind Jacob and rubbing at his back, “We’ll still see each other tomorrow, yeah? We’ll have plenty of time.”


“And Louis will be busy, still.” Harry adds on, “He has other siblings to take of, right?”


Jacob turns shy, looking down on the ground and nodding, “Yes.”


Harry seems troubled, judging by the frown on his face, but then it softens as he sighs. “Tomorrow, he can join us for dinner.” He looks up at Louis, “Right, Louis?”


“R-Right, yeah.” Louis stammers. He acknowledges Jacob, “See, Jake? I’ll stay for dinner tomorrow, so get your smile back up. Daddy doesn’t want to see you sad.”


Jacob releases a giggle and hugs Harry, “Thank you, Daddy.”


“You’re welcome, love bug. But you have a bath to get to, right? Wait for me in the bathroom.” Harry pats his little bottom before the child is off, darting off inside after giving Louis’ thighs a quick hug.


Louis follows Harry inside and back to the kitchen, shutting the door behind him, “I should go now, sir.”


“Harry.” Harry pockets his hands in his slacks, “Thanks for playing with him today.” He then looks towards the stairs where Jacob ran off, “Someone has yet to play with him like... not just educationally. Haven’t seen him all hyped up like that.”


“It’s nothing.” Louis smiles, mostly remembering how he had so much fun with babysitting Jacob, “He’s a great kid, not at all scared to try new things.”


“Yeah.” Harry nods, “He actually spoke to me.” He looks at Louis, eyebrows etched into a small frown. It’s probably a rarity to see them spread out calmly, “He said he wanted you to bring your little siblings. Doris and...?”


“Doris and Ernest?” Louis asks, head tipping to the side in questioning, “He wants me to bring them here?”


“He said he’d want playmates.” Harry informs, “And I told him you could bring them here once a week, help him socialize more and that.”


“Is.. Is that really alright, sir?”


“Harry.” Harry corrects again, “And yes. It is.”


“O-Okay.” Louis nods, still grasping the idea. He doesn’t know what to feel about it, “I’ll see what I can do. Thank you, though.”


Harry nods, “Just give me a heads up on the day before.” At Louis’ nod, he walks to the door with Louis following behind, “Thank you for today, Louis. Have a nice night.”


Louis slips out the door, “You too, Harry.”


~○~


Dinner with another person in house other than relatives or close friends is quite a rarity. When he walks through the front door, he’s greeted with an aroma of something.. sweet, or something. He puts his briefcase down on the coffee tables and lets his feet take him to the kitchen.


Louis and Jacob is on the kitchen island with Jacob sitting on it and Louis beside him, elbows resting on the marble as he takes a bite, giggling at Jacob. Between them in a tray of what looks like chocolate muffin. It doesn’t even look like it’s cooled completely before the two have dove in.
Catching sight of him standing under the doorframe, Louis straightens up, putting down the muffin and smiling, “Good evening, sir.”


Harry raises an eyebrow, and Louis clears his throat, “Harry.” He’s already been getting that title in the office most of the day, and he doesn’t prefer it to be heard at home, too.


“What were you two up to?” Harry asks, watching as Louis hook his hands under Jacob’s arms to assist him in hopping down the counter. He accepts his son’s hug seconds after.


Instead of answering him, though, Louis says, “Jake, why don’t you tell Daddy why we were celebrating?”


Jacob pulls away from Harry, “I got an A in a quiz!”


“A plus.” Louis supplies, looking really fond and happy as well. He then looks back at Harry, “So I decided to bake him some muffins to celebrate since he requested them. Um.. I hope you don’t mind.”


“Thank you.” Harry says, smile spreading on his lips. He puts his hands on his knees to get at Jacob’s eye level, “I’m proud of you, love.”


“Thank you, Daddy!” He then glances at Louis before stepping towards Harry more, whispering, “Is Louis still staying for dinner?”


In his other ear, Harry hears Louis let out a small laugh before quieting himself with a cough. The curly man answers just as quiet, but not really, “If he wants to.”


“Louis wants to!” Jacob exclaims right in his ear and Harry winces.


“Then..” Harry goes back to his height, “I guess Louis is staying?”


Louis has this wide smile on his face. It’s supposed to be creepy, really, but Harry thinks that it just makes him look prettier. Everyone does, “Louis is staying.”


“Great.” Harry says, “Any ideas? Jake?”


“Chicken?” Jacob asks hopefully.


“Alright. Just let me get dressed.” Walking back to his room with his briefcase, Harry changes into a pair of loose trousers and a shirt, feeling much more comfortable than his suit.


He finds Louis and Jacob in the den. They have a board game between – scrabble, and Harry itches to join. But dinner awaits.


It takes him a bit over an hour to finish cooking. Louis had wandered in right after Harry turns the stove off, the babysitter offering to set the table which Harry gladly accepts.


So, sitting here now with Jacob no longer beside him and chattering loudly to Louis, Harry watches silently, only uttering words whenever he’s acknowledged. One thing he’s noticed, though, is that Jacob always looks so ecstatic with Louis. Which, of course, that’s a good thing. A great thing, and only Harry can ever get to see his son like that.


“Daddy.” Jacob says, “Louis can bring Dorie and Ernie here tomorrow, right?” He’s giving this small smile, but the small dimple appearing on his cheek is all too familiar for Harry to recognize it as a silently-pleading-for-approval smile.


“Once a week.” Harry reminds, glancing knowingly at Louis, “How about your other siblings, Louis?”


“They’re at school for most of the day so I leave the twins at a friend’s.” Louis answers.


Harry frowns, curious, “Your parents?”


He sees Louis’ smile drop for like, half a second before it’s there again. Not meaning anything, just for show, maybe, “My mum’s working two jobs, so she gets home at like either really late or early in the morning. My dad uh.. he left.”


Harry decides not to push further since it’s obviously a personal topic, so he nods, dismissing it, “I remember you saying you studied uh.. Theatre?”


“I did.” Harry sees the beam in Louis’ face. Jesus, he’s like the sun, all vibrant and just... vibrant, “It’s.. it’s a passion of mine.”


“I see that.” Harry nods, “What year did you get to finish?”


“Second year.” Louis says, “I figured if I earned enough money for my sister’s, then I’d like to go back to college.”


Harry’s pretty sure he’s staring at the lad with such genuine interest about his personal life. With the details, Harry almost wants to ask him questions but he’s afraid it might be too far for Louis. One thing Harry can’t deny, is that Louis’ sure has one hell of a bump in his life.


Jacob pipes in, poking Louis’ arm, “What do you do in Theatre?”


“Well,” Louis clears his throat, and after he goes into full hyperdrive of telling all about threatre and acting and stage plays and more. Jacob seems to absorb it all, eyes wide as he processes the new information in his little, but certainly big, brain.


“Daddy!” Jacob says at the end of it all, almost startling Harry in the process.


“Yes, baby?”


“”Can—May I do ballet?” Jacob asks, looking genuinely worried and anxious for Harry’s reply.


Harry doesn’t even know why he got that from, but he suddenly remembers from Louis’ brief introduction to Theatre that he had participated in a small play and he got to be a one of the dancers, specifically for ballet. Harry shrugs, eventually, “Of course you can, love. Whatever makes you happy.”


Satisfied with his father’s answer, Jacob pats at Louis to get his attention, which doesn’t really involve a lot of patting and prodding, “I read a story once and it’s about a ballerina.”


“Ooh, wanna show it to me after dinner?” Louis smiles.


“I’ll show it to you right now!” Jacob says. Harry opens his mouth to speak, to remind his son that leaving your food unfinished is a bit rude, but the little boy is already darting off.


Louis chuckles, fond, “I think it’s great.” He begins, “That you let him do what he knows will make himself happy.”


“Well, of course.” Harry says, “It’s all that really matters, right? He can do things as long as he’s happy and doesn’t hurt any other people.”


Louis nods in agreement, “Some parents tend to just neglect their children’s aspirations for their own wants.” He scoffs lightly, obviously bothered by the fact, “It’s ridiculous.”


Harry may or may have been staring in awe, but it’s none of anyone’s business. He suddenly thinks how proud he of himself for finding a babysitter like Louis. He’s got Jacob’s in a matter of days. He clears his throat, instead, “I agree with you.” Tons.


“Look! Louis!” Jacob comes rushing back, holding his book in his hands.
“Jacob.”


His father’s stern voice makes him freeze, pausing as he looks up at Harry. It gets harder and harder to look into those eyes then scold him. Who even in their right mind would scold a child, an angelic-looking, baby—


Harry clears his throat, “You shouldn’t have left the table without excusing yourself. Table manners, love.”


“Sorry, daddy. I was just excited.”


Harry leans over and kisses his head, “Next time, alright?”


“Yes, daddy.” Jacob giggles, then he’s jumping back into his seat and animatedly telling the story, having Louis’ full attention.


A clap of thunder interrupts them and Jacob jumps, instantly running to Harry and clambering onto his lap. Harry kisses his head, “You’re fine, darling.” He looks back at Louis, and he sees the man looking down on his lap, looking rather frantic. Harry then hears the tapping sounds from what seems to be a phone.


“Alright, Louis?”


“Oh, uh..” Louis offers an unconvincing smile, “Yeah, y-yeah. It’s just... I probably should go now. My siste—“


Another thunder sounds from outside followed by the sound of heavy rain and Jacob whimpers against Harry’s neck. Louis continues, “My sisters are alone in the house. I should really be going now.” He begins to stand.


Surprisingly, Jacob yelps and reaches for Louis, “Don’t go! It’s dangerous out there.” After his words, he tucked himself back in his daddy’s arms.


Louis smiles and walks over, kneeling down beside Harry, “Well, my sisters need saving, Jake. And I’m their hero. I need to be strong for them, yes? Fight against the storm?”


Jacob lets go of Harry, standing up to his own feet to hug Louis around the neck, “Don’t go!”


“I can’t give up!” Louis argue back, his eyes showing worry, “What if your daddy asks for your help? You’ll save him, too, right?”


“But you don’t even know if your sisters need help.” Jacob pouts.


Harry leans forward and pets his hair, “Now, now, love. Be respectful.”


Another thunder rolls through, followed by a louder one. Jacob climbs back in Harry’s lap in fear. If there’s one thing Jacob hates, it’s thunderstorms. He wouldn’t let Harry let go—this is actually the first time.

“But...” Jacob whimpers.


Louis comes closer, raising a hand to rub at Jacob’s back for comfort, “I’ll still see you tomorrow, though! Nothing to worry about.”


Jacob finally looks up at Harry for help, widening his teary eyes and a pout forming on his lips. Harry sighs, “Baby, Louis already said there’s nothing to be worried about.”


It takes a lot of coaxing, and it only gets harder and harder each thunder that claps outside. The rain is heavier, too. To be honest, he’s actually worried for Louis’ sake as well. It’s late, it’s pouring a massive amount of rain, and it’s basically a storm.


After finishing dinner, which is a real task considering Jacob has decided to latch onto his daddy the whole time but thankfully Louis has done most of the cleaning, Harry settles on the den with Jacob, still coddling his child because of the endless thunder. He can barely hear Louis’ voice in the kitchen.


Louis comes out later, pocketing his phone, “My uh.. my sisters.”


“Are they alright being alone?” Harry asks.


“The oldest one uh... Lottie. She said she’s fine and she can handle it until Mum comes home.” Louis answers, looking contented with that, but then he freezes again and fishes out his phone, “Um, excuse me for a sec.”


Harry watches him leave, and he takes the time to comfort Jacob until his boy is blinking sleepily, ignoring the thunder still going on outside.


“Sorry. I had to text my Mum.” Is Louis’ first word when he comes out, “But uh.. I guess I should go now that...” He points knowingly at a sleeping Jacob.


Harry looks over to the window and sees the sheets of rain rolling down on it, “I think it’s best for you to wait for it to calm down.”


Louis’ eyebrows furrow in uncertainty. Before he can argue, though, Harry says, “I can’t have you walking home alone at night when a thunderstorm’s going on. It’s proper rude.”


Louis fishmouths. But then he eventually sees the sense and nods, “Okay, I’ll... I guess I’ll stay until it calms down.”


Harry looks down on his watch, “It’s already nine. When it hits ten-thirty and nothing has changed, you can stay the night, alright?”


Louis splutters in surprise, “W-What? I can’t. I—“


“It’s fine, Louis.” Harry sighs, “But are your sisters gonna be alone the whole night?”


“No.” Louis says, hesitating, “My mum said she’s got an early night out.”


“Well, then my offer stands.” Harry reminds, “It’s gonna be too late for you to be walking around if I send you whenever this rain ends. But if it ends before ten-thirty, then you can go.”


Louis seems to take it... after long seconds of pondering, “O-Okay. Um... thank you, though. It’s already so much that you’re paying me more than average—“


“Louis, don’t sweat it. It’s alright.” Harry assures, “I still have to thank you for making Jacob smile whenever I’m not around.”


Louis smiles at him, practically beaming, “It’s a pleasure.”


~○~


“Mum just arrived.” Lottie says from the other line, yawning in between her words, “Mum, Lou’s gonna spend the night at Mr. Styles’ mansion.”


“I’m not.” Louis sighs, “Just... at least if this rain ends before half ten.” He looks at the clock hovering over him, pinned to the wall. It’s ten, and the rain is not showing any signs of stopping.


“Hm, let’s see.” Lottie giggles, “I hear Harry Edward Styles is real attractive.”


“Hear? Is that what you teenage girls talk about now? CEOs and older men? I thought you went for hipster.” Louis chuckles, and okay he totally dodged that open question, because he can’t deny it. He can’t agree to it, either.


“Oh shut up. Tell me, what are you doing right now?”


“In the kitchen.” Louis says dryly, “Talking to an obnoxious somebody.”


“Boohoo.”


“Louis.” Louis jumps, swiftly turning around to face Harry who’s at the doorway, still carrying Jacob.


Louis clears his throat. It does absolutely nothing, “Y-Yes?” Damnit.


“I’ll go put him to sleep. You can get settled in the guest room.” Harry leaves without another word, silently climbing up the stairs to tuck Jacob in.


Louis sighs heavily. When he puts the phone back in his ear, he pulls it back twice as fast because Lottie squealed in his bloody ear. He groans, “What now?”


“I heard him! He sounds so hot!”


Louis chuckles, “You should be sleeping right now, y’know that? How are you and the others? Still okay?”


“Pssh, don’t worry about us! Just stay the night, yes? Who knows, maybe you can make him fall for you and we can finally get rich!”


Louis’ genuinely mortified by his sister’s words, “That’s horrifying, Lottie.”


“Kidding!” Lottie chirps, “But I’ll get off the phone now. Early tomorrow.”


“Good.” Louis sighs, “Sweet dreams.”


“Bye! Love you!” Lottie says before she hangs up. When he pockets his phone, he turns and jumps again when he sees Harry by the doorway. He clutches his chest, “Jesus. You’ve got to stop doing that.”


He sees the corner of Harry’s lips quirk up, “I cleaned the guest room. It’s upstairs, second door to your left.”


Louis purses his lips, “It’s not ten-thirty yet.”


“It will be.” Harry shrugs.


“But—“


“Louis.” Harry cuts off sternly, “It’s ten minutes and it’s still raining out. I’m not letting you go out because if my son happens to wake up and finds you gone, he’ll probably be in hysterics.”


Louis closes his eyes and nods, “Okay, I-I’ll stay. But uh.. I’ll go home first thing in the morning then I can just come back for Jacob.”


“Whatever you want.” Harry says curtly before he turns, ready to leave.
Louis catches up to him, and Harry faces him again, “Hm?”


“Um.. thank you.” Louis says, “For...” He flails an arm awkwardly, “... yeah.”


Harry doesn’t look stern like he usually is. His face is relaxed and he only nods, “It’s no problem, Louis.”


Louis’ conked out hours later, dressed in some pajamas Harry has lent him. He wonders if it’s his but it’s not that important to know. What’s important is that he wakes himself up at around three am and he can’t go back to sleep no matter how comfortable the bed is.


Louis grabs his phone as he stands, flicking on the lamp. The room illuminates a little. He slips on the slippers Harry also lent him before he finds his way downstairs. He makes his way to the foyer, peeking into the window beside the door. He’s not meaning to go out, hell it’s a death wish to go out in an unfamiliar neighborhood so early in the morning.


He walks around the den and stops at another window, pushing the curtain back a little. It’s a calming view, slightly eerie, but Louis can’t stop looking. There’s not much to look at, just the other houses and the street, and it’s really different Louis’ view whenever he comes home.


“Fucking—“


Louis yelps, turning around, “Bloody—“


“Hell.” Harry finishes, and heavy breathing follows. He’s flicked the light on in the hallway, and surely Louis’ silhouette standing on the window gave him a freaking heart attack.


“God.” Louis sighs heavily then he laughs, “You and me both.”


“What are you even doing out here?” Harry asks, “Standing in front of a window.”


“I uh.. woke up.” Louis says guiltily.


Harry heaves a breath, then surprisingly, he chuckles. It’s light and short, “You weren’t planning on sneaking out, were you?”


“Oh uh... no.” Louis says simply. He twiddles his thumbs, “I just can’t go back to sleep.”


“You and me both.” Harry says, and then he strolls into the kitchen, turning the light on as well.


Louis hesitates, but he follows Harry into the kitchen where the man’s stirring some milk into a glass before he puts the said glass into the microwave. Without looking back, Harry asks, “Want a cup?”


“Um.. no, t-thank you.” Louis says, “I’m more... of a coffee guy, really.”


“Explains why you’re so full of energy all the time.” It’s a minute and half and the microwave beeps. Harry cautiously takes his milk out and eventually faces Louis.


Louis stands there awkwardly, raising a hand to rub at his own arm, “I uh.. I guess.”


Harry drinks his milk and keeps eye contact with Louis until the latter coughs into a fist. Harry smiles, “Jacob really likes you.”


Feeling genuinely pleasant, Louis feels a smile stretch his lips, “It’s really great to hear that.”


Harry nods and drinks some more. When he’s finished, he wipes his lips before he puts the glass on the sink, “Good night, Louis.” He says before he passes by and walks back upstairs.

Chapter Text

 

A month after, and Louis’ finally able to move out of their dingy apartment. His sisters are more than excited and relieved even though they didn’t complain at all in the past. Louis’ proud of himself when he sees the smiles on their faces as they move into the new one. It’s in a nicer environment, too, and it’s not that far from their schools. Although, to be honest, it’s quite a distance from Harry’s house, but Louis’ not complaining.


For the whole month, Louis and Jacob have gotten much closer. They play footy as often as possible and if they’re not playing, they’d be inside watching a movie and Louis teaching Jacob a variety of subjects. It’s delightful, really, and because of this job, he might actually raise his family out of the struggle their facing with money.


Right now, Louis’ at their apartment, doing his daily count on his savings on his own room. It’s a small one with a twin bed and his sisters and mum get the bigger one.


He’s gotten his salary since it’s Saturday, and as usual he puts most of it for his sisters and emergencies before he screw the lids of the jars and slides them back under his bed. He sleeps with a smile that night.


The next Monday, he’s bought some multiplication flashcards for Jacob. It’s the same ones he has used to teach his sisters when they were little. Good thing his Mum never threw them away.


“Um...” Jacob looks to be deep in thought. He’s staring at the card Louis’ holding up in front of him, 5 x 9, “45!”


“Good!” Louis smiles, showing the last one, “Last one, come on.”


Jacob purses his lips, and then he beams, “63!”


“Smart boy, you are!” Louis praises. He cleans up the flashcards and ties the rubber band around them again, “Because of that, you get to pick a movie!”


Jacob actually pouts at that, “I always get to pick the movie.”


“Because you always win at our games!” Louis reminds him.


Jacob ponders a little bit, and then he’s answering, “Peter Pan!” He skips to their movie collection and kneels to scan their many movies.


“Oooh, that’s new.” Louis watches him work the player himself, successfully putting the cd in before he plops down beside Louis on the other bean bag.


“Wendy’s cute.” Jacob blushes, “And Peter looks like you.”


“Hm, do I really?” Louis asks, fixing his fringe to prove a point, “We have the same hair and all that?”


“You should be Peter Pan in Halloween!”


Halloween, right. It’s like a month and a half away but y’know, everybody’s excited for Halloween. Louis nods in agreement, “I definitely can.”


After the movie finishes, it’s half five and Louis’ having Jacob clean up his toys before Harry comes home. He’s waiting for Jacob patiently when his phone starts ringing.


“Hellooo?” Louis asks, only to wince when he hears a shriek.


“Lou!” Louis recognizes the voice as Mrs. White’s. She’s their new neighbor, and she’s much like Mrs. Malton. She’s kind enough to babysit the twins for the day.


“Mrs. White?” Louis asks, “What’s the matter?”


“It’s... it’s Ernest.” Mrs. White answers, and she sounds like she’s really hysterical, “We—We went to the park and he climbed this round monkey bar thing a-a-and he slipped and fell! I’m so sorry, Loui—“


“Where are you?” Louis asks, feeling his hands shake lightly.


“At a hospital, U-um.. London Central. He had like blood on his forehead and they told me he needs stitches—“


“I’m coming, alright? I’ll be there.” He hangs up, then, beginning to pace back and forth as he dials Harry’s number.


“Louis?” Jacob asks, tugging at the hem of Louis’ shirt, “You okay?”


“Hey, bud.” Louis says, feeling his heart swell, “I’m alright.”


“Louis?” Louis turns his attention back to the phone. In the background, he can hear the gentle hum of the car’s engine.


“Uh.. hi. Listen, are you coming back like.. now?” Louis asks.


“Just arrived.” Harry answers shortly, and soon Louis hears the gates. He waits until Harry’s entering the door, looking a little intrigued as to why Louis called him even though Jacob seems to be in perfect condition, “What is it, Louis?”


“My brother had an accident.” Louis says in a hurry, “And well, I just called to tell you I was about to leave because I need to—“


“I can drive you.” Harry offers, fixing his cuff links.


Louis splutters, “O-Oh, that’s alright, I’ll just—“


“Just let me.” Harry says with no room for arguments, “Your brother needs you there as soon as possible. Jake,” Harry says, “Come on.”


Louis can’t argue back, so he finds himself sitting in the passenger seat of Harry’s car, his knee bouncing up and down uncontrollably the rest of the ride. He didn’t even care if Harry would find it annoying, but the man isn’t implying any complaints.


As soon as they arrive, Louis goes to the receptionist while Harry, surprisingly, follows behind, carrying Jacob. Louis assumes it’s because Jacob can be a little worrier about certain things. Louis sees Mrs. White on a hallway in the second floor, and she immediately wails out as he steps towards him, “I’m really sorry! I swear I was keeping an eye on him!”


“It’s fine.” Louis notices how monotoned his voice is, but inside his heart is pounding, “Is he alright?”


“He-He was unconscious but they’re fixing up his wound right now.” Mrs. White says, “I’m really sorry, Louis.”


“I can take care of it from here.” Louis says, “You can go.”


Mrs. White goes without another word, and Louis takes a minute to sit on one of the chairs, rubbing his face in his face. He releases a heavy breath, “He’s only three, for fu—“ He cuts himself off, looking up at the father and son in front of him.


He stands up again, “Thank you for the ride, Harry. You two can—“


“Mrs. White?” A doctor asks confusedly from the door, and Louis’ there in a second.


“I-I’m the brother of Ernest Tomlinson? Uh.. Mrs. White left.” Louis says, stuttering, “Is.. Is he alright?”


“As of now he’s still unconscious because it’s a really hard impact on him. Thankfully, we did a scan and there wasn’t any damage to his skull. Although, a mild concussion is what we’re expecting when he wakes up. We can observe him from there.” The doctor explains, “You can see him now.”


“U-Uh.. when will he get checked out?”


“As soon as he wakes and make sure we do a quick check up on him.” The doctor nods, smiling small, “He’ll be alright. If you want, you can stay the night. It’s best for someone to keep him company.”


“Yeah, okay. Thank you.” Louis nods, already deciding to stay as the doctor walks away. Before he can enter the room, though, he turns to Harry, who looks quite concerned.


“Thank you, Harry, really.” Louis raises a hand to stroke Jacob’s cheek with a finger, “And you, too, Jake. I appreciate your help.”


“You’re going to stay the night?” Harry asks, eyebrows furrowed.


“Yes.” Louis nods, “Don’t worry. I’ll come tomorrow—“


“Take as long as you need.” Harry cuts him off, “I understand, Lou. Take care of your brother.” Louis tries to pay no mind to the nickname as the pair says goodbye before they’re gone.


~○~


“Will Louis’ brother be alright, Daddy?” Jacob asks, looking over Harry’s shoulder as they begin to walk across the parking lot to grab the car.


“I think so.” Harry answers as he unlocks the car and let Jacob climb in, buckling him in, “I bet little Ernest is as strong as Louis, yeah?”


“Yeah.” Jacob says in agreement, finally settling into the seat.


Arriving at home, Harry begins to make dinner of pasta while Jacob runs off to play video games in the den. While chopping the onions, Harry can’t help his mind wander. And it undeniably wanders to Louis. Ever since Jacob is born, he’s become a worrier. It can extend to other people, alright?


He saw how distressed Louis looked, looking torn up at the thought of one of his siblings in danger, especially if it was the youngest one.


Without thinking, the knife slides over Harry’s finger, effectively cutting into the skin. Harry yelps and jumps, clutching his bleeding finger, “Fuck.”


“Daddy?!” Jacob runs over. He looks worried as well.


Harry sighs and flips the tap on, running his finger over the water, “I’m fine, Jake. Get me a towel, yes?”


Jacob nods before he grabs one of the towels sitting on a hook, handing it over to Harry who pats down his finger, applying pressure to stop the bleeding.


“Are you okay, Daddy?” Jacob asks. He looks scared as well. His favorite person in the world got hurt and it’s not funny!


“I’m alright, love.” Suddenly, he isn’t in the mood to cook anymore. Good thing he only got to chop the onions and oil some water, “Let’s just order in?”


“Okay.” Jacob nods and he walks to one of the cabinets to retrieve different restaurant pamphlets. Once Harry cleaned the kitchen, he walks to the den with Jacob who also grabbed the phone before plopping down next to his father on the couch.


In the end, they settled for Chinese, sitting on the couch as Harry tries to teach Jacob properly how to use chopsticks before Jacob grumpily stomps to the kitchen to retrieve a spoon and fork. After eating, they spend half hour watching the telly with Jacob chattering wildly before it’s time for bed time.


“Come on, tomorrow is another day.” Harry kisses Jacob’s forehead and tucks him in. He grabs a little dinosaur light from his drawer, “Light or no?”
“No.” Jacob says, clutching his blanket.


“Hm, are you sure?” Harry asks, “You won’t sneak into Daddy’s room saying you’re too scared?”


“Um..” Jacob looks genuinely torn, “Light, please?”


Harry chuckles, bending down to plug at light, “There you go. Monsters are afraid of lights. And Daddy. They’re always afraid of Daddy.”


“I know.” Jacob giggles, “Love you, Daddy.”


Harry kisses his forehead again, “Love you too, baby.”


He steps out and closes the door gently. It’s only nine thirty, and sometimes Harry would slip into his room to do more work, but tonight he simply removes his trousers and shirt before climbing into bed. He gets himself comfortable, shoving his head under his pillow, but even that can’t lull him to sleep.


Harry sighs heavily and grabs his phone, making sure to turn the brightness to the lowest before he scrolls through his gallery. His photos mostly consist of Jacob, but if scrolls extra generously, it’ll be rows and rows of Carter and himself.


Harry doesn’t scroll up that high. He settles on the most recent ones, which he actually took days ago. It’s a photo of Jacob rolling around a football in their backyard, and Harry hadn’t noticed that he also captured the picture with Louis in the frame. Louis’ oblivious, hands on his hips as he watches Jacob with a large, proud smile.


Now, Harry really can’t sleep.


Harry sighs heavily and clicks his phone off, closing his eyes. All he could see behind his eyelids is Louis’ face and how he looks so torn up with the news, Louis’ love for his own siblings, hell even Louis’ love for Jacob, everything.


“Fuck.” Harry sits up, launching his pillow, which landed with an audible sound. This is driving him crazy.


Harry leans back and grabs something from his drawer. Once his fingertips feel the hard frame, he pulls it out, laying back down again and holding the picture in front of him. Even after years, this is still Harry’s favorite picture.


It’s a poorly taken selfie, but only because Harry’s shaking so hard from the excitement. He and Carter are both wearing hospital gowns, and Carter had a long argument with him saying that he looked horrible, which Harry counteracted by taking the picture anyway. At that moment, Carter is holding Jacob, a very tiny Jacob nuzzled against his other father’s arms. Harry’s smile is so bright, then.


“Harry, I literally just gave birth.” Carter tells him tiredly, a frown etched into his features once he sees Harry pull out his phone.


“Just one.” Harry pouts, leaning forward and angling his once his camera app is opened.


“I look horrible!” Carter shields his face with his hand, careful not to jostle their newborn, “Is this even legal?”


“Oh shut up.” Harry lands a kiss on his cheek and captures the moment.

Thankfully, though, Carter is in the middle of a giggle when it happens, smile so bright.


Harry releases a sigh, resting the frame face down on his chest. It was indeed one of the happiest moments of his life.


“Harry.”


Harry stirs awake, blinking his eyes. He shakes his head to get rid of sleep before he sits up, instantly finding Carter’s hand, “Ba—“


Blood. He sees blood.


It’s all over Carter’s fingers and lower abdomen and it’s everywhere.


“Baby—“ Harry stands, pressing the call button dozen times, “Babe, talk to me.”


Carter’s crying, clutching at Harry’s hand desperately, “I’m sorry—t-tugged too hard.”


“It’s alright, babe. We’re alright.” Harry says, kissing the back of Carter’s hands repeatedly.


“Harry.” Carter whimpers. The doctors barge in quickly, and carter gets wheeled back into the emergency. Fuck, he was only there an hour ago!


“What—“ Harry tries to get out as he jogs beside Carter’s bed. He disregards the question and grabs his boyfriend’s hand, “Babe.” He chokes on the word, tearing up as he sees Carter passed out.


Soon, the doctors are telling him to wait outside, closing the doors before Harry can dodge past them. He waits for two hours and the clock ticks by painfully slow. Harry hasn’t moved himself from his spot, just rubbing his hands all over his face and sobbing in them. It’s bad news.


Harry shakes the thought from his head. He remembers every single moment of that night. Carter’s terrified face, his bloody hands, Harry’s long long wait, and the moment where Carter’s doctor told him that they tried the best they can, but Carter lost too much blood and it was just too late.


“Daddy?”


Harry looks over the doorway and sees Jacob, hugging his favorite shark to his chest. Harry smiles and puts the picture back to his drawer, “Hi, love. C’mere.”


Jacob clambers back into his daddy’s arms, “Sorry, Daddy.”


“It’s fine, baby.” Harry let his son snuggle close, “Couldn’t sleep?”


Jacob nods. Harry hums, “What were you thinking about?”


“Louis.” Jacob answers immediately.


Harry feels himself freeze, but only a moment before he’s back to himself, “What about Louis, love?”


“I hope bad things don’t happen to him anymore.” Jacob sounds incredibly sad.


“Hm.” Harry says, “I agree. I don’t think he deserves it, yeah?” It’s an honest thought. Louis’ a genuinely kind person.


“Yeah.” Jacob says, “I really like Louis.”


Harry doesn’t know why, but he feels an unsettling feeling in his chest, “Let’s go to sleep, buddy.”


Harry can’t. Even if Jacob’s breathing has evened out and certainly sleeping already. Harry’s still wide awake.


The thing is, once in a while, Jacob would ask if someday he’ll have a new father. He’s truly accepting to that fact, said that he won’t mind if he has another daddy other than Harry and Carter. It’s a generous thought, because it’s uncommon for young kids to accept new people in their lives, especially as their parent or someone as significant as that.


When Jacob’s welcoming, Harry finds himself shying away from that idea, the idea of dating someone else other than Carter. It’s always Carter. Harry always knew that Carter was it, knew that they’d get married eventually and grow old together with dozens of kids.


While Harry knew that, he also knows that he can’t live by it. Eventually, he’ll meet someone. He’ll get interested, and hopefully it turns out great. Thing is, he hasn’t found that person yet.


And it’s overwhelming, how Jacob can say that he really likes Louis. What if Jacob gets too attached? What if Harry meets someone else he does like, but Jacob can’t accept them because he’s too close to Louis?


Or maybe he’s just overthinking. Jacob is a good boy – the best boy, and he’s very fond of socializing, despite being quite quiet. He adjusts greatly and it’s one thing Harry can never be worried about.


Sighing heavily, Harry tugs Jacob closers and begins to doze off.


~○~


Louis feels his hair being stroked as little sniffles fill the room. At once Louis thought it’s one of the visitors of the other kids in the room, but he raises his head. He sighs in relief once he sees his Mum, “Hi, Mum.” He glances at the room and sees the clock. It read two forty-two.


“My baby.” Jay says, and surely the sniffles come from her, her tears evident.


“He’s alright, Mum.” Louis assures her, “The doctor told me he’s most likely to have a concussion and that’s it. There aren’t any skull fracture or something like that.”


“Still.” Jay blows her nose in a tissue she got in her hand, “I’m not going to let him off my sight.”


“You mean you’re going to take him to work?” Louis asks, already concerned. It’s already a hassle for his mum to work, and he won’t let her take care of Ernie on top of that.


“If I have to.” Jay sniffles again.


Louis stands and offers her his chair which she gratefully accepts, sitting down and caresses Ernest’s cheek, “Does your sisters know?”


“Yeah. I told Lottie and Fizzy.” Louis scrubs his eyes, “I think they told the others by now.”


Jay nods and stays silent. Louis sits on the edge of the bed, “I can take the day-off roday, Mum.” He’ll have to talk to Harry about it.


“Will Mr. Styles be alright with it?”


“They uh.. I’m gonna call him to let him know.”


“Yes, thank you, Louis.”


Hours later, Ernest finally wakes up and the first thing he does is sob. Jay’s immediately by his side and thankfully he’s shushed as soon as he recognizes Jay. The doctor run a quick observation on him before he says he’s good to go. He just needs to take it easy for a few days.


The hospital bill is paid, with Louis gripping the huge amount of money in hand until he lets go before the money rips to shreds. It’s a huge dent to their savings, but as long as Ernie’s okay.


Jay goes home with Louis, having told her boss that she has an emergency. She’ll need to go to her other job by noon, though.


Louis paces back and forth in his room, his phone pressed into his ear. It’s only eight in the morning, quarter to nine, and he hopes Harry isn’t quite busy.


“Louis.” The man greets, “Are you okay?”


Louis tries not to shiver at his voice, “Y-Yeah, I am. My brother’s been checked out and I was uh.. wondering if I can take the day off?”


A beat doesn’t pass before Harry’s answering, “Of course. It’s alright. I understand.”


Louis sighs in relief, “Thank you. Thank you so much.”


“It’s alright, Lou.”


He spends the morning taking utmost care of Ernie, babying him and making sure he gets his well-needed rest. At one point, Mrs. White makes a brief visit with some homemade brownies as an apology, which Louis gladly accepts, reassuring her that it’s all accident. Ernest is quiet, doesn’t make a fuss but he’s mostly dizzy and confused.


During noon, Louis cooks them lunch while Ernest and Doris watch some kiddie show on the telly. He’s in the middle of plating when a knock sounds from the door. He hears footsteps.


“Doris!” He calls and the footsteps stop. He sighs and puts down the plate. He sees Doris standing up, halted in her steps until Louis pats her head. He unlocks the door and opens it, eyes widening at the sight of Harry and Jacob at the door.


“H-Hi.” Louis stammers, “What are you two doing here?” He doesn’t mean anything by it, but he’s just surprised. Harry’s still in his suit, even, and he looks like he’s fresh from work. Jacob, himself, is carrying his books and two of his toys.


“Jacob wanted to visit.” Harry strokes his hair, “So we bought some food.”


“Thank you.” Louis smiles and he opens the door wider, “Come in.”


Jacob hugs Louis’ legs, “May I play with them?”


Louis smiles, “Of course.” He then watches as Jacob approaches the two who’s watching him with wide eyes. But once Jacob introduces himself, a smile spreads on Doris’ face and she giggles.


Louis looks back at Harry who’s also watching the scene. Harry seems to sense him looking and reaches out the bag holding the food as he steps in, closing the door behind him. Louis smiles and takes it, “Thank you so much. You didn’t have to.”


“Figured it’d be quite rude to come in here without bringing anything.” Harry nods, a little smile on his face. He shifts his gaze to look at the twins above Louis’ shoulder, “It’s only takeout, though, but I assure you it’s good.”


Louis peers inside. There’s the name of the restaurant on top of the box, an it already looks expensive, “Still. Thank you. Um..” He stutters, “It’s not... it’s not a bother for you to come here? With your work and all?” He knows how busy his boss can be, and it’s kind of the reason why he’s hired.


“No, it’s alright.” Harry reassures, “Jacob really wanted to come.”


Louis smiles, “It’s thoughtful of him. And.. you, too.” He mainly whispers the last part. He clears his throat, “We were just getting ready to eat lunch, actually. It’s a bummer if you can’t join us.”


Harry looks past Louis again, taking in the sight of Jacob already playing with Louis’ baby sister and brother. He looks like he doesn’t want to leave yet, “We’d like that, yeah.”


So, it’s moments later when they’re seated at the round table. Louis is between the twins, Doris to his left and Ernest on his right. Beside Doris is Jacob with Harry beside him, directly across from Louis.


“It isn’t much.” Louis mutters, cutting the chicken in Ernest plate while Doris begins to munch on hers, listening to an animated story of Little Mermaid that Jacob is telling. He glances up at Harry to see the man already eating. Thank God he chose to cook some chicken today. At least he can cook that crap good.


“It tastes delicious.” Harry manages to give a closed smile as he chews on a piece.


Louis blushes, “Thank you.”

 

Lunch is quiet, then. A pleasant quiet. Just clinks of silverware and Jacob’s entertaining storytelling and sometimes both the adults would sneak in some comments. And if Louis glances towards Harry’s direction more often, then no one would really know.


Except Harry did. Just quite.


After lunch, the kids gathered in the livingroom with Harry and Louis stayed in the kitchen to wash the dishes. He often gets jealous about the dishwasher in Harry’s house, but there’s only so much he can afford.


“Mind if I join you?” Harrys says, crossing his arms and leaning against the counter a few steps away from where Louis’ scrubbing on the dishes, “The kids are distracted enough.”


Louis chuckles, “If someone screams, you’re the one who’s running there.”

He gestures to his busy, soapy hands. He looks up when he hears Harry laugh. He stammers in his actions a bit. Harry’s got his coat off somewhere, and his sleeves are pulled up to his elbows. Not to mention the way he’s standing his arms crossed and biceps bulging and hip cocked out to lean against the counter. Louis looks away.

“How’s uh.. Ernest, is it?” Harry clears his throat, “How’s he?”


“He’s a bit well.” Louis answers with a nod, “I’m just making sure he gets enough rest. His little head did get shook quite literally.”


“Well, that’s good.” Harry purses his lips. Louis doesn’t look at him as silence engulfs them. He finishes washing the dishes and puts the sponge aside, twisting the faucet on to start rinsing off the suds.


Finishing one plate, he reaches out to put it in their container, but Harry shifts and takes it from him, putting it on the container himself. Louis baffles, “Y-You don’t need to—"

“It’s fine.” Harry chuckles.


Louis takes it, and he continues to wash off the soap completely and hands it to Harry. It’s only a few beats of silence when Harry asks, “How about you?”


“Hm?” Louis asks, handing him a bowl.


Harry takes it and neatly places it with its rim down, “How are you?” He’s not looking at Louis when he says so.


“I’ve been... fine.” Louis shrugs, smiling a little.


“Sure?” Harry does look at him, “You have like... eyebags and dark circles—“


Louis laughs loudly, “Yes, I know. I don’t look like an actual person. Give me a break.” He giggles and looks back at Harry. The curly man’s looking at him, his own smile stretching his lips, “Yeah, I’m sure.”


~○~


If Louis looks back the past month and a half he’s worked for the Styles, he can actually compare how closer he and Jacob got. Jacob would tell him absolutely everything that’s happened to him whenever Louis isn’t there to see. It’s gotten to the point where he’d beg him to stay for another hour or two even after Harry gets home. Harry once joked that Jacob may even leave him for Louis.


Yes, Harry joked. He laughed when he said the words, and usually its a tough task to bring such a pleased sound from him. It had been, but now Louis catches him laughing loud or silent more often than not. Louis has deemed it easier to talk or approach Harry more. Before, a conversation would include him stuttering, but now he can actually make the tough man clutch his belly at how hard he’s laughing.


It’s all going fine. Louis loves his job as well as Jacob. There’s no doubt in that. But it’s one thing when one day, Louis’ telling a story with Jacob snuggled close to him. It’s almost a faint whisper, but Louis’ sure Jacob says, “Can I call you Dada, Louis?”


Louis doesn’t answer, because how can he? He’s never asked about their very personal part of their lives, especially that part. It’s a sensitive topic and Louis’ not the one to be nosy.


A few days later and Jacob’s been calling him it. Not all the time, no. It’s little slip-ups like when he’s telling another story (“And he’s so great, Dada! He flies and he..—“), when he’s being scolded (“B-But Dada...”), and when he’s excited to show Louis something, (“Dada, look!”). It’s those times when he doesn’t notice it.


Louis decides not to call him out on it until he’s talked to Harry. And he does, a few more days later. Harry gets home extra late for some reason and he looks inexplicably happy for someone who’s been working all day.


“Um, Harry.” Louis says, turning right when Harry’s about to close the door.
Harry’s eyes are something when he looks at Louis, “Yeah?”


“I’ve been meaning to talk to you about something.” Louis fidgets, “Uh.. listen. Don’t think that I’m interfering or anything, but Jacob’s been calling me uh..” He takes a cautious glance at Harry’s curious face, “He’s been calling me ‘Dada’.”


He doesn’t see Harry’s face. He only looks up after Harry clears his throat, “Well.” He shrugs, “You’re not... interfering, Louis. It’s..” He shrugs again, “It’s kind of a natural reaction for kids, yeah? I’ll talk to him if it makes you uncomfortable.”


Louis’ eyebrows nearly shoots off his head, “If it makes me uncomfortable?”

He sputters in surprise, “I-I-I.. I mean, it doesn’t. I mean, not in that kind of way.. but like.. it’s not..” Louis blinks, “I’m not his actual Dada, Harry. Shouldn’t it make you uncomfortable?”


Harry doesn’t answer for more moments, but when he does, his face is stoic, “I’ll talk to Jacob about it.” He says, “Be careful on your way, Louis.”


Louis gets a door closed in his face.


~○~


Harry walks through the path, the pebbles crushing underneath the soles of his feet. It’s quite a long walk, but he breathes a sigh of relief when he finds it. It’s a little dusty so Harry takes the time to crouch down in front of it and wipe it down with a clean rag. Once the name is clear, he lights the candle and rests it on top of the gravestone.


“Hey, Carter.” Harry says. The name almost feels foreign in his tongue. But he’ll always remember it.


Harry sighs and looks around, eventually sitting himself down on the grass. It’s still early in the morning and there’s no doubt it’ll be a storm back in the office. But Harry needs this, ‘s all.


It’s yesterday when Louis brought the conversation up, about Jacob calling him the name the latter used to call his deceased father. Thing is, Harry did notice – over dinner when Jacob doesn’t eat his broccoli and Louis’ the one who convince him into it even after whines of ‘But Dada..’ and Louis’ cautious glances towards Harry to see if he heard, or whenever Louis leaves and Jacob tells a pretty much report of what his day has come to.


Harry sighs and rests his elbows on his knees, “I’ve been missing you for like... five years.” He stops. He doesn’t really know what to say. If there’s anything to say anymore.


“So, babe. Tell me,” He releases a shaky breath, “How can I be missing someone else right now?”


He knows it. He’s aware of it. And it’s all Louis. His smile that just lights up the whole room, his eyes that turn creepily but beautifully bright from how blue they are, his vibrant demeanor, his... just.. everything, really. And what’s important is that he’s so attached to Jacob as much as Jacob is attached to him.


That’s all that matters.


He talks to Carter longer, and he only stops when the sun starts to shine down directly at him. He leaves with a much lighter feeling, only looking back once before he climbs into his car and drives away. He spends his afternoon whisking himself away with his documents and emails and reports and meetings until it’s six and Harry’s packing up, cleaning his desk and turning his desktop off and greeting Kate goodbye.


When he opens his front door, all he can hear is the distant laughs from both Louis and Jacob. Harry follows the sounds until he sees the both of them out in the backyard, sat on top of a laid out blanket and papers on either side of them.


After a few moments of watching, Harry realizes they’re playing a guessing game. Because they alternately write into the papers with a marker they’re holding before they put it against the other’s forehead.


It’s Louis’ turn when Harry decides to pop into view. And Jacob seems to disregard the game when he shrieks “Daddy!” so high that Louis actually jumps and giggles himself.


“Hey, buddy.” Harry bends down to pick him up with a grunt, “Such a big boy.”

Harry kisses his cheek, “What have you and Dada been doing, hm?” Harry looks over and sees that Louis has joined them. They both freeze.

 

“Um..” Harry clears his throat, realizing.


“Louis invented a game!” Jacob says, eyes filled with wonder, not at all bothered by what happened


Harry throws a glance towards Louis’ way who innocently avoids his gaze, “Really now, love?”


“Yes! We write random words into..—“ Jacob skyrockets into a another narrative, squirming in Harry’s arms. Harry carries him until they’re in the den, cutting his son off gently and telling him that he can finish his story tonight because it’s time for Louis to go.


As usual, it’s not an easy job for Jacob to agree, especially since it’s Saturday so that means he’s not going to see his second favorite person the whole day tomorrow. But eventually, though, after Louis makes a promise of a new game, he’s let go.


Harry instructs Jacob to clean out his toys before walking Louis to the door, as always, “Louis,”


“Yeah?” Louis asks, pocketing his hands. He offers a smile which looks forced.


“I’m uh..” Harry sighs. He raises a hand to scratch the back of his neck, “I’m really sorry. He ... he uses it a lot often, even when you’re not there.”


“That’s..” Louis nods, “That’s fine. You did talk to him about it, yeah?”


Harry blinks, because no. He doesn’t remember actually doing it. He doesn’t know how to put it into words. At least, not yet. He purses his lips, “Yeah. He just gotten a little bit used to it, that’s all.”


“Okay.” Louis nods again. He takes a step backwards and points a thumb over his own shoulder, “I-I’ll go.”


“Be careful on your way.” Harry says, sighing as he closes and locks the door behind him once he’s back inside. Jacob has just returned from his room and he immediately brightens up when he sees Harry, “Daddy! What’s for dinner?”


“I don’t know. What would you like, love?”


“Um.. pizza!” Jacob claps his hands.


“We can order in?” Harry smiles.


“Yes, please!” Jacob exclaims before he takes off for the kitchen to probably grab the pamphlets for some pizza stores.


They eat in the den an hour later, having ordered a pepperoni and one with all veggies. Finishing his second pizza, Harry grabs some tissues from the box and wipes his greasy fingers with it, “Jake.”


Jacob looks up, cheeks full.


Harry coos, but y’know, mentally, “I hear you calling Louis ‘Dada’ often.” He starts.


“Um..” Jacob swallows and looks downright worried, “Is it bad?”


“Well, not necessarily.” Harry pauses. How does he say this? “But, baby, Louis can only be your Dada if..” Okay, “If Louis and I love each other, yeah? Just like how I loved your Dada Carter.”


“But..” Jacob suddenly gets teary, dropping his little piece of pizza on his lap and moving his hands to scrub his eyes like he always does when he cries. Harry manages to grab those greasy hands, anyway, wiping his son’s tears away himself.


“Baby, don’t cry.” Harry kisses his head softly, “Why are you upset, love?”


Jacob whimpers. “I want Louis.” He sniffles, “Dada.”


“Love, look at me.” Harry sees, pulling back and settling his hands on his son’s shoulders, “I’m glad that you’re so accepting. But..” Harry sighs, “Sweetheart, Daddy’s not ready yet, yeah?”


Jacob’s a smart boy. For this instance, he nods and hugs Harry, understanding. Harry kisses him on the cheek and hugs him back, silently thanking Carter for giving him such a wonderful child, and himself for raising him this way.


That night, Harry calls Anne. She answers with a little yawn, and Harry sheepishly asks, “Hi, Mum. Were you sleeping?”


“Just reading.” She answers, “What is it, sweetie?”


Harry sighs. He’s in the balcony, leaning over it on his elbows and overlooking his neighborhood, “When you and Dad separated..” He could already feel his mother’s knowing look as soon as he begins, “... what’d you tell yourself?” He holds his breath, “About uh.. dating again?”


She totally knows his point, but she doesn’t push it and thankfully just focuses on his question, “Well, for starters, I didn’t get to think about that until years later. I’ve always thought about you and Gemma, y’know? It was all you two.” She pauses, “But, of course. One day, I just woke up and felt.. lonely.”


Harry feels it. All the time.


“I wasn’t ready for anything, even after I met Robin.” She says with a sigh, “But we took things slow. We see each other, I know you know that, but it took a while.”


Harry nods. He thinks of what to answer, if he’s gonna just shift the topic subtly or something. Anne gets there, “So, what’s this all about?”


“Uh..” Harry gulps. There’s no point in hiding from her, “Jacob’s been calling Louis ‘Dada’.”


“Oh.” Anne says. It doesn’t hide anything more than surprise.


Harry sighs and rubs a hand on his face, “I already told him that it was inappropriate.”


Anne doesn’t answer, mainly thinking to herself. After several moments of still not answering, Harry’s thinking she might have fallen asleep on him.


“Well,” She eventually says, “Sweetheart, no one’s stopping you if you want to date again. You’re at your own pace, your own time. You deserve to be happy.”


“I am happy.” Harry argues back weakly.


“Hm.” She hums, but she doesn’t seem convinced enough. “Just remember, it’s your own choice.”


Harry nods. His own choice, “Okay, Mum. You and Robin will be over at Halloween’s, yeah? Jacob wants to try a party. With the costumes and all that.”


“Will Brenda be coming?”


Harry winces at the cold tone of his mother’s voice, “Uh... I’m gonna ask her, yeah.” Because if he doesn’t, she’ll have more things to blame on him, on top of the things she already blame on him, “Sorry, Mum.” Even his own mother doesn’t like Brenda. She hasn’t liked Harry ever since they met, so it’s like a domino effect.


“It’s fine. It’s fine.” Anne sighs, “Have a good night, sweetie. I gotta go.”


“Yeah, you too, mum. Thank you.” Harry hangs up after that, gazing up into the sky and sighing heavily.


~○~


“Louis.”


Louis stops dead in his tracks, slowly turning to see Harry standing under the doorway. The man has long shrugged off his blazer, dressed in only his slacks and a green button up which has its sleeves rolled to his elbows.
Louis forces out a smile, “Yeah?”


“Does Jacob still call you...” Harry gestures awkwardly.


As a matter of fact, no. Sometimes, the kid will slip out, muttering the word before he takes it back, “No, he doesn’t anymore. I figured you talked to him?”


“Yeah, I did.” Harry nods, “I explained it – that we’d have to be... y’know, before he could do that. Like how Carter and I... was.” He looks so subtly vulnerable uttering words, but his posture stays straight.


“I know.” Louis says, “Uh... I should.. get going now.”


“Wait, wait.” Harry steps forward and closes the door behind him, “Has Jacob told you about our Halloween thing?”


“Ah.” Louis giggles. Jacob has talking nonstop about it all afternoon, telling stories his past Halloween, “Yeah. Your party?”


“Yes.” Harry nods in confirmation, “I figured he already invited you, but yeah. It’ll be on—“


Louis cuts him off with another giggle, “Saturday. Jacob’s talked my ear off about it.”

 

Harry doesn’t stop the grin on his face, “Okay, then. Wear a costume.”


“Oh no.” Louis groans, in the midst of laughing, “What will I have to be? A zombie?”


“Up to you.” Harry chuckles, “I’ll be deciding if I want to be...” He scratches his chin dramatically, “Edward Scissorhands... or!” He points a finger up, “Bob from The Incredibles.”


“Oh my God.” Louis laughs, clutching his abdomen. He can just imagine it. The intimidating Harry Styles in red spandex, “I’ll be waiting for that, seriously.”


Harry winks, “You better.” He rethinks his phrase, “Do better, I mean. I think you could be...” Harry narrows his eyes and purses his lips as if deep in thought, “Spiderman.”


Louis giggles, “What’s with you and your obsession about red spandex? It’s becoming creepy.”


“I love Spiderman!” Harry defends, laughing as he flails his arms, “Jacob does, too. He’s the one who forced me into being Bob.”


“And you’ll have to be blond, Jesus.” Louis wheezes from laughter, “Seriously, forget Edward Scissorhands.”


“You’ll just have to wait and see.” Harry grins. His dimples pop out as well as his wrinkles. Louis tries not to swoon to much.


Louis taunts, “Maybe I will.” He laughs then, waving a hand aimlessly, “I’m gonna go.” He smiles, beginning to step backwards, “See you tomorrow, hopefully not in spandex. Yet.”


He hears Harry’s loud, high-pitched laugh. Louis smiles to himself, he wasn’t even being funny.


~○~


“Are you serious?!” Louis exclaims, slapping his hands on his face as Will enters his room with the said costume that he had, a mischievous grin on his face. It’s late afternoon and Harry gave him the day-off to get ready while they ready the house, decorating and such.


“What?!” Will laughs loudly, “I wore this when I was in college, man!”


Louis scowls, narrowing his eyes, “I’m not wearing leggings, Will. Especially the ones that are colored green. And what the hell? You wore this in college!”


“Just the right size, then!” Will winks, snorting as he laughs at Louis’ horrified face, “Come on, kids love Peter Pan.”


“I don’t.” Louis deadpans. It’s a lie.


Will continues to laugh under his breath, shoving the costume into Louis’ chest, “It’s all or nothing, mate.”


Grumbling curses under his breath, Louis snatches the costume and shoves an ecstatic Will out of his own room. Knocking on the door, Will says, “Don’t jack off on my bed!”


“No promises!” Louis calls out, making sure the door is locked before he begins to strip, “There better be no cameras in here!”

 

“No promises!” Says a distant-sounding Will.


Louis looks at himself on Will’s full-body mirror. It doesn’t look... that bad. Just... it’s hideous. He’s hideous being wrapped in these green things.


“You done yet?” Will knocks, “I’m knocking on my own door. This is what you do to me after not contacting for two months?”


“Hey!” Louis exclaims, frowning as pulls the door open, “I did co—“


“Woah.” Will snorts out a laugh. He’s looking at Louis up and down, “That looks great on you, really. Pull it off, go borrow some glitter from your sister and sprinkle them over children’s eyes.”


“God.” Louis rolls his eyes, walking over to the bed to pull on the hat on top of his head, “But, really, thank you for this.”


“Nah, it’s nothing.” Will waves a hand. He stands in front of Louis and adjusts the hat on him, “There. You just need to be a little more flexible. And happy.”


Louis swats at him, “Shut up.”


Will dodges him, “Alright, alright. Do you want me to drive you?” He teases Louis by jiggling his car keys.


“Please.” Louis grins hopefully. It would be a walk of shame taking the bus or walking down the streets in these, “But it won’t be a—“


“Shush.” Will says distractedly as he walks out his door.


Arriving outside the Styles’ house, Louis hesitates about climbing out the car and exposing himself to the outside. He’d already done the walk from Will’s doorstep to his driveway, but now he isn’t so sure if it’s even worth it.


”It’s Halloween, Louis. It’s rather lame if you show up like... you.” Will shrugs, leaning his head against the window, “Go on. Bring some leftovers for me, please?”


“It’s my boss’ house, shut up.” Louis giggles as he climbs out the car and bending down a little, “Thank you for the ride!” He begins to wave and turn around, but is stopped when Will calls him.


Will gasps dramatically, “Can you skip all the way to their door?!”


If it wasn’t for the kids already grabbing candies from Jacob himself, Louis would Will the bird or settle for a ‘fuck-off’ but he’s Peter Pan. He waves his fingers instead, “Toodles!” Did Peter Pan actually do that? Oh well.


Appearing at the door, it seemed like Jacob has joined Harry in distributing the candy, “Hello!” He cheerfully greets, before his mouth went dry.


Now, okay, let’s see. Jacob’s being the cutest little king ever, with a matching crown and a cape and fancy looking attire and shoes. But Harry’s a gladiator. With his large biceps and muscled calves. Fuck. He’s wearing a fake but looks real breastplate and even a gladiator skirt.


“Nice skirt.” Louis blurts out, eyes trailing up Harry’s body once again before he mentally slaps himself.


Harry chuckles, “Nice leggings.”


Louis’ eyes nearly bulges out of his head and he consciously adjusts his clothing before he makes a show of spreading his arms, “Happy Halloween!”

To which the kids happily greet him back before scampering off, having received their candy.


“Hey there, buddy.” Louis says, taking Jacob’s hand to give him a little twirl, “Looking really handsome, my boy.”


“You, too!” Jacob giggles, “Peter Pan!”

 

Louis tips his hat forward, “That I am.”


He gets welcomed inside, and the house if different from its usual modern-looking interior. There are fake cobwebs at the corners and ceiling, some fake spiders are on the windows, fake paper ghosts are also hanging around quite literally, and a few carved out pumpkins were decorating the front yard along with some orange lights. It’s a mess of orange and black all together.
Realizing that Jacob and Harry has followed him inside, he says, “Nice decorating.”


“Thank you!” Jacob exclaims happily, clapping his hands.


Peering into the den, a few guests have apparently arrived. Only one of them is who Louis deems as familiar, and it’s Anne. She’s standing on the side chatting with a woman her age, holding a drink of what looks like red wine. A few kids have also come with their parents, heading straight for the massive backyard.


“They’re Jacob’s closest friends in school.” Harry supplies, noticing Louis’ curious eyes, “And my Mum, and that’s Brenda she’s talking to.” Suddenly, he asks, “Do you want me to put your bag somewhere?” He gestures to the bagpack Louis’ carrying.


“Oh, um.. if that’s alright?”


Harry nods and takes it, swinging it over his shoulder before he walks off to the direction of the hallway. Once he comes back, he informs Louis that it’s in his room.


“Thank you.” Louis nods, smiling, “And thank you for inviting me.”


Harry grins, “No problem, Peter Pan. Want a drink? Red?”


Louis tries to contain his excitement. He hasn’t drank for so long. A few sips can’t hurt, “Please.”


“Be right back.” Harry says before he heads for the kitchen. There’s already the food stable standing in the corner of the room, but Louis figures an alcohol beverage won’t be exposed that much in front of children.


“Louis,” A tug on his tunic and Louis looks down to see Jacob.


He kneels and smiles, “Hi, buddy. Why don’t you go out with your friends in the back?”


“But you’ll be alone.” Jacob pouts, slouching a bit.


“He won’t be, love.” Harry says, having walked over with two filled wine glasses in one hand and keeping them out of Jacob’s vision, “You can go play.”


“Okay.” Jacob’s eyes has a twinkle in them as he grins, “Thank you, Daddy!” before he runs off to play.


Harry hands him one glass and Louis grins and takes it, “Thank you.”


“So, Peter Pan?” Harry asks, quirking an eyebrow as he sips from his glass.


Louis scoffs playfully, in return making Harry smile, “Shut up. This is the only thing I’ve got. It’s even borrowed and all that. How about you, gladiator?”


“Well,” Harry shifts in his toes, looking down on himself, “It’s quite... uncomfortable.”


Louis looks himself, stopping at Harry’s feet, “Those shoes, though.” He makes a sound, “Sandals, perfect. CEO Harry Styles in sandals.”


Harry rolls his eyes, but his smile is evident and wide, “Yes, headline of the year.”


“Harry?”


Despite the voice piping in their conversation, Louis manages to see Harry’s reaction. The older man’s shoulder goes from relaxed to tensed almost immediately, grin and dimples disappearing to a tight smile and eyes showing a bit of uneasiness.


Harry turns to see who it is and relaxed all at once, “Hey, Gem.”


A woman who looks like she could be in her thirties is pulled into the conversation. She’s Maleficent, cheekbones very prominent and eyes sharp. Louis notices their resemblance and the way Harry greets her with a side hug. When he pulls away, he clears his throat and smiles, “Gem, this is Louis. Louis, this is Gemma.”


Louis offers his hand, “Hello, I’m Jacob’s babysitter.”


“Hi!” She replies, shaking his hand and her serious demeanor is shattered, “I’m Gemma, Harry’s big sister. It’s nice to meet you.”


“You, too.” Louis says with a smile, “I like your costume.”


“Right? It’s cute.” She gestures to his, then, “Yours, too. Peter Pan, it’s an interesting choice.”


Louis chuckles and plucks at his tunic, “It’s the only thing I have. Plus, it’s kid-friendly.” He sends a knowing look to Harry.


Harry shields his chest with one arm, “What? My costume is kid-friendly.”


“Not really, H.” Gemma smiles.


“A gladiator kills, fights to the death.” Louis emphasizes, sipping on his wine, “What’d you tell Jacob when he asked you what you were?”


Harry scoffs and waves a hand, “I just liked the costume, alright?”


Louis and Gemma shares a laugh, continuing to tease the man before it’s interrupted again when the doorbell rings. Harry excuses himself but Louis sits his glass down and claps, “Can I?”


Harry confusedly nods before Louis skips to the door, opening it and greeting the kids with a bubbly, “Hi!” He rests his hands on his knees.


“Trick-or-Treat!” The kids say in chorus, holding up their plastic pumpkins for Louis to put the candies into.


Louis grabs the big bowl from beside the door and holds it in one arm. He kneels on one knee and rests the bowl there, “Ooh, you’re a cute little fireman.” He compliments, grabbing a few pieces of chocolate, “Would you want to be a fireman someday? Save people’s lives?”


“Yes! Like my daddy!” The girl says enthusiastically, eyeing the candy as Louis dumps it in her container.


“And you, Spidey!” Louis grins, dumping a few more chocolates to equal the fireman, “He’s my favorite superhero, y’know.”


“He’s mine, too!” The boy says, bouncing excitedly on his feet.


The next one is Tinker Bell, and Louis and her both gasp as they see each other, “My Tinky!” He clutches his chest for effect. He doesn’t know what he’s doing, really.


“Peter!” The girl giggles.


“You look amazing, Tink!” Louis takes the girl’s hand and twirls her around slowly, “We’ve been a part for so long. These your friends?”


“Yes!” The girl giggles.


“Well,” Louis gives her chocolates as well, “Be careful on your way, alright? Run away from mean guys!”


“Yes, Peter!” They says before walking away, waving. Louis smiles and waves back before putting the bowl back and closing the door. He turns and walks back to the den. He sees Harry still talking with Gemma, but his Mum and the woman she was talking to have been added. Louis feels out of place.
But there’s always the food table.


He grabs a saucer and eyes the foods. It’s mainly desserts, and he hesitates for a bit, thinking it’s only for kids. But he scans the room and sees some of the parents holding their own saucer and he feels much lighter. He turns, back to the table and he jumps when he sees Harry beside him.


“Jes—“ Louis jumps, “What the?”


Harry nonchalantly picks out a piece of brownie and puts it on Louis’ plate, “They’re good. Baked them myself.”


“Ooh.” Louis nods, “It does look quite moist. Are those—Is that a chocolate fountain?” His jaw drops at the sight of the beautiful machine.


He hears Harry scoff lightly, “Child.”


“What—“ Louis looks at him, offended, “I haven’t seen a chocolate fountain in my life.”


“I can give you all the chocolate fountains in the world.”


Louis avoids his gaze, blushing under his control. He turns around and heads for the said fountain. There are short sticks of marshmallows and strawberries beside it and he grabs two, biting down on his lip as he neatly puts it under the fountain and trying his hardest to remain neat.


“I gotta say,” He says distractedly, feeling Harry’s presence beside him once again, “I’m impressed you got these ready on time.”


“I helped him.” A woman’s voice says and he freezes. He puts down his saucer and turns to come face-to-face with Anne.


“Hi.” Louis says, offering his hand, “If you um.. remember, I’m Louis.”


Anne gives him a sweet smile, “Of course, love. Strong memory and all.”


Louis laughs softly, “I bet. As I was saying, the food is delicious.”


“You haven’t taken a bite of anything.” Harry murmurs.


Louis glances at him and sends an awkward smile towards Anne’s way. They continue to chat, and thankfully it goes smooth and Louis didn’t have to embarrass himself. They part when Anne asks Harry to accompany her to the kitchen, and they leave Louis to his own.


With a smile, Louis turns back to grab his plate filled with his goods. A throat clears again behind him. He glances and moves aside, still eyeing what food he can add to his overfilled saucer.


“Hello there.” The woman says. She’s clearly not taking any food, and actually came over with the purpose of talking to Louis.


“Hello.” Louis smiles back. He doesn’t know what to say, left hanging as the woman looks at him from head to toe. He does the same. She looks like she’s Anne’s age, but with blond hair and dark eyes. She’s the kind of woman to look all strict and judgmental, but Louis won’t jump into conclusions.


“You are Jacob’s babysitter, yes?” She gives him a smile.


Louis being a babysitter seems to be interesting enough for her to come over and chat him, “Yes, I am.”


“I’m Jacob’s grandmother.” She offers a hand and her smile widens, “Brenda.”


“Louis.” Louis shakes her cold hand. Why this woman’s demeanor so strange and intimidating, Louis has no idea.


“How long have you been working for them?” She sips on her wine, eyes intently trained on Louis.


“For about two months now.” Louis answers, “It’s a really great job and Jacob’s a great kid.”


“I’m sure he’s not the only thing great for you.”


Before Louis can react, Louis feels Harry’s presence beside him, their arms brushing together, “Brenda.” Harry says. The stiff in his tone is evident. It makes Louis confused more than ever.


“Harry.” Brenda greets as well.


An awkward silence fills them, and Louis begins to shift uncomfortably. He glances back and forth between the two before Harry finally clears his throat, “Brenda, if you’ll excuse us.” Harry nods his head once and nudges Louis with his elbow. Louis smiles at the lady before he takes his food with him as Harry leads him out to the backyard where the kids and most of the parents are. They all look so cute wearing costumes.


“I’m sorry.” Harry starts with a sigh, placing his hands on his hips, “She can be quite intimidating.”


“She’s your mother-in-law?” Louis asks, popping a chocolate covered marshmallow in his mouth.


Harry winces, “Something like that.” He shrugs and shakes his head, “Not like... on the papers, but... yeah.”


Louis blinks in confusion, but he nods nonetheless, “Ah. Well, she’s interesting.” He watches the kids running around and playing tag and spots Jacob. He’s sitting with a circle of friends as he tells what could be his stories, from the way he’s gesturing with his arms.


Louis looks at Harry’s who’s looking rather conflicted in his thoughts. Harry suddenly huffs and turns to him, “It’s like I—“


The doorbell rings and both their attention is caught. Harry doesn’t say more as he walks past Louis to answer it.


Louis finds himself a spot and manages to finish his plate, licking his fingers. He stops when he sees Jacob running towards him, an excited grin on the boy’s face, “Louis!”


Louis smiles and puts down his plate, kneeling down, “Greetings, your Majesty.”


Jacob giggles, blushing shyly before he grabs Louis’ hand. He pulls Louis until he’s at the circle of friends who greets him with shrieks of “Peter Pan!”


Louis grins and plops down on the grass, sitting back on his haunches as he accepts the greetings, “Why, hello. You all look really cute.” He cooes, reaching over to the nearest boy to ruffle his blond hair.


“Louis is my bestfriend!” Jacob tells everyone excitedly, “And he takes care of me and he loves me.”


Louis’ cheeks hurt from how hard he’s smiling, yet he can’t wipe it off his face. There’s nothing better than making people happy, and in his case, especially kids.


He plays with the kids. It’s a really physical activity and he’s got sweat at the back of his neck from where he’s running around. He’s the only adult who’s playing around. The parents’ are chatting about in their own adult conversation, but Louis’ Peter Pan right now so he has the right to play.


~○~


The party ends at around eight where the parents dragged their kids home for their early bedtime. Harry greets them goodbye and hope for a next Halloween party. After the last guest is out, he tugs off his uncomfortable breast plate and lays it on the couch, leaving him in his tunic and the ridiculous skirt.


“Sweetheart.” Anne says, tugging him into a hug, “Gemma and I are going to go. Can’t be too late for the road.”


“Of course.” Harry kisses her cheek and rubs her back. Once let go, he hugs Gemma as well, “Be careful you two.”


He watches his Mum and sister go, and his chest fills with dread as he realizes he’s left with Brenda and Martin, but mostly because of Brenda. He’s watched her discreetly through the whole party just in case she stops and talks to Jacob like she never did these past years. His son deserves a perfect night, after all.


He approaches the both of them. Thankfully, they’re gathering their coats, ready to leave. Brenda instructs Martin to warm up the car and Harry says an advanced goodbye to him. The man tells him to say goodbye to Jacob for him. Now, Harry doesn’t mind Jacob having two grandfathers and only one grandmother.


“So, Harry..” Brenda starts, “Who was that man?”


Harry looks cautiously over her shoulder in case an ear or two is peeking, “Who, Brenda?”


She raises a knowing eyebrow, crossing her arms. Harry tenses, “He’s Jacob’s babysitter.”


“Are you sure he’s nothing more?”


Harry’s baffled, eyebrows furrowing, “More?”


“I’m not going to be surprised if you were sleeping with that man, Harry.”

Brenda says, tone as harsh, “But leave some respect for my son. I can’t believe you’re going to replace him for a low life of a—“


Harry’s fist clenches, “My love and respect for Carter is as it is.”


Brenda raises her chin, narrowing her eyes to see if she can find a hint of hesitation in his eyes. Once unsuccessful, she says, “Goodnight, Harry.” She walks past him and shuts the door quite harshly as she made her exit.


“Daddy?!”


Harry breathes in deeply, releasing only when he feels Jacob’s little arms wrap around his thighs. He leans down and presses a kisses to his son’s head. Standing back up, he sees Louis standing, a smile on his face as he looks at Jacob. He then snaps out of it when he sees Harry looking, “Uh.. I cleaned the kitchen, made sure to throw everything out.”


Harry’s eyebrows shoot up in surprise, “You didn’t have to do that, Louis.” This boy can be so generous, sometimes.


“No, it’s fine.” Louis shrugs, “Jacob told me you were going to go trick-or-treating?”


Harry looks down on Jacob, who’s already looking up at him with large puppy eyes. Harry nods, because it’s almost a tradition for them.
Louis takes the answer, “Well, then I shou—“


“Want to come with us?” Harry asks. He adjusts his tone, trying not to sound too hopeful.


Jacob perks up and he gasps. It’s quite surprising that he hasn’t thought of it now that he’s told Louis, “Please?!” He lets go of Harry and stands in front of Louis, probably giving him the torturous treatment of his puppy eyes.


Harry stifles a laugh when Louis jokingly squeezes his eyes closed for a few moments before letting out an exaggerated sigh, “Okay, then.”


“Yay!” Jacob jumps and races to his room, probably to change into another one of his costumes.


“I’m gonna...” Harry begins, picking up the fake breastplate from the couch. He sees Louis still on his own costume, “Did you bring extra clothes?”


“Oh uh.. you said you.. you put it in your room.”


Right. “Right. I’ll fetch it.” Harry turns and strides to his room. Louis’ bag is on his bed, and Harry makes a quick inspection on how old and worn out it looks. He grabs it to bring it back to Louis.


“Thank you.” Louis takes it, “I’ll get dressed in the bathroom.”


Harry gets dressed himself, putting away the costume in a part of his closet and dressing himself in some jeans, and a navy blue polo. He also slips on his black leather boots before he grabs his phone, keys, and wallet.


He meets Louis and Jacob in the den, where Louis is seated on the couch as Jacob stands between his legs. He’s trying his best to style Jacob’s fringe to match Aladdin’s. Once satisfied, he pulls back and grins. They have yet to notice Harry, “You look handsome!” Louis chuckles, pinching Jacob’s cheek lightly.


“Takes after his father.” Harry coughs, smiling proudly. It’s no doubt that Harry’s the dominant gene.


Louis scoffs playfully, “Doubt it.”


They find themselves walking around the neighborhood with Jacob leading the way, carrying his own container shaped as a genie lamp. The two adults left behind are following his footsteps.


“You two do this every year?” Louis asks, pocketing his hands.


Harry shrugs. He’s intently watching Jacob’s steps, “Well, I decided it could be our thing during Halloween, hosting a party and trick-or-treating after. He loves Halloween.”


Louis giggles, “I can tell.” He sighs after. His eyes wander around them, taking in the simplicity of the neighborhood with decorations hung over each house and pumpkins almost everywhere. There were still kids running around outside.


“Uh...” Harry clears his throat, “I uh.. I figured you heard what Brenda said?” He knows Louis did.


“Oh uh..” Louis laughs, but it’s forced and too breathy, “Yeah.”


“I’m sorry.” Harry sighs, “She can be quite difficult... most of the times.”
Louis waves a hand aimlessly, “It’s nothing. If she doesn’t like me, she doesn’t like me.”


Harry chuckles humorlessly, shaking his head, “She doesn’t like everyone, even Jacob and I.” He can’t stop himself. He just wants someone to talk about to it all. His friends are all limited to colleagues and... well, his mum. Right now, Louis’ the closest thing he’s got.


“That..” Louis doesn’t laugh, “Is that true?”


Harry bites his tongue, “Yeah.”


Louis must’ve noticed Harry’s behavior or something, because he says, “You don’t have to tell me. It’s alright.”


“Would it weird if I told you I want to?”


Louis smiles, bumping his elbow against Harry’s lightly, “I don’t mind.”


~○~


For the past few weeks, Harry has been overworking himself. Louis’ noticed it. Whenever six o’ clock ticks by, Louis would watch the door, glancing every so often until the business returned. And the time would pass until two hours later when Harry comes in, looking dead tired and just drained. Every night, he sends Louis off with a murmured goodbye before walking off to the den or wherever Jacob was.


It’s a new thing to Harry, but only because Louis’ never seen him like that before. Before, Harry would come at six sharp and never overpass thirty minutes. Sometimes, he would be home even before six. Louis asked him once what was wrong, when Harry had turned his back to wander off and leave Louis to walk himself out.


“Uh.. Harry.” Louis said, shyly reaching out for Harry’s arm. He’s unsuccessful for it dropped immediately when Harry turned around.


“Yes?” Harry asked, voice rough.


“Are you alright?” Louis asked back, “You look tired and...” He shrugged, “You’ve been working late.”


It was a complete surprise, but Harry rolled his eyes and said, “And it’s your business, because?”


Louis had stuttered out a response before he practically ran out of the house. In the bus home, he slumped against the seat, glaring at the window.
He’s been thinking about it until now, what could’ve changed in Harry so fast. Louis may not know him deeply, but he knew the man enough to know what he’s like usually. And this... this isn’t him.


It all comes down when it’s ten in the evening and Harry still has yet to return. Louis has put Jacob to sleep after a lot of coaxing. He ends up cuddling the boy, but he manages to escape once Jacob is deep asleep. Louis’ pacing back and forth, chewing his nails from worry; it’s both for Harry and his sisters, who are alone in their flat, and his protective older brother mode is acting up.


Another thirty minutes tick by when Harry finally enters the room. He’s drunk. He’s got his blazer swung over his shoulder, and his patterned shirt is actually unbuttoned up until his chest where a butterfly tattoo is visible. He stumbles through the door and barely catches himself as he rests against the wall, kicking the door closed.


“Harry.” Louis walks over. He grabs Harry’s arms and Harry jolts, blinking lazily.


“You’re still here.” Harry slurs. His breath smells of alcohol, and it’s horrible.


“Of-Of course I’m here.” Louis stutters, “I can’t leave Jak—“


Louis cuts himself when Harry stands up fully with his back leaning completely against the wall. He leans forward until he’s at eye level with Louis, “You’re not worth it.”


Louis blinks. He feels a surge of emotion through, yet he doesn’t even know what Harry means, “W-What?”


“You think I don’t..” Harry slurs more, wiping messily at his chin even though there’s nothing to wipe at, “.. don’t notice it? You.. tryin’na ... get in me pants.” He coughs, “And.. y-you use my.. son.. my Jakey.. to get closer to-to me and try to.. replace Carter.”


Louis feels his eyes well up with tears. He backs up and removes all contact with Harry, wiping his tears. Harry notices and scoffs, “D-Don’t cry.” His head lolls to the side before he straightens up, “I don’t p-pity you.”


Louis backs away. He tries not to cry, because there isn’t anything to cry for and that’s just pathetic. He gets home safely, locking himself in his room and muffling his sniffles with his pillow as he curls up.


He feels ... just.. plain sad. After all this time, that’s what Harry thinks of him, thinks that he’s using Jacob to get into the man’s pants when Louis’ first intention was to just earn money for his money. He’s shallow to think that Harry actually cares.


The next morning, he wakes up with Lottie pocking at him gently. He grumbles but sits up nonetheless, scrubbing his eyes, “What is it, Lots? Why aren’t you in school?”


“It’s Saturday.” Lottie answers, “And it’s eight.”


Louis drops his hand, “Oh.” He’s late for work.


“And you’re still in your jeans.” Lottie observes, glancing at Louis’ still dressed state.


“I’m fine, Lots.” Louis swings his legs over the bed and stands up, “You and your sisters had breakfast already?” He checks his phone and finds no messages from Harry, either telling him to fuck off or come to work for Jacob.


“Yeah. Better get ready.” Lottie walks out of the room silently. It’s unusual for her to do that, not to pester him.


Louis showers, at least, after he sends a quick formal text to Harry asking if he should go to work. As he dries his hair, he sees the new message from Harry.


Come to work.


Louis sighs and finishes his drying off. He doesn’t bother eating breakfast. He figures he could make some for Jacob, anyway. After reaching the Styles residence, Louis heaves a breath. He hesitates as he raises his hand to ring the doorbell, but there’s no turning back now.


The door opens and Louis’ eyes widen when he sees Harry still there. Louis checks the time in his phone and he’s sure Harry’s supposed to be at work at this hour. Louis avoids Harry’s look, “You should be at work, right?”


“Yeah.” Harry says, “I wanted to talk to you.”


Louis forces a laugh, “What about? You sound so serious, it’s creepy.”


Harry’s expression only looks even guiltier. He fishmouths, but then he steps aside and opens the door wider, a silent request for Louis to come in. Louis sighs and steps in, wandering into the den and awkwardly sitting himself on the couch.


“Did you have breakfast yet?” Harry asks, and now Louis notices the apron he has on,


Louis blurts out, “Don’t you have hang-over?”


“I have other things to worry about.” Harry says, pursing his lips, “Let’s have tea.”


Louis finds himself in the kitchen as Harry stirs them each a cup of tea. He’s leaning on the counter with a safe distance between him and the man. Louis clears his throat, “Where’s Jacob?”


“Neighbor’s.” Harry answers curtly. He finishes the tea and hands one to Louis, who takes it. Harry leans against the sink, so they’re basically face-to-face.


Harry’s the first one to break the awkward silence, “I remember.”


Louis pretends to be busy sipping his tea, “Hm?”


“I didn’t mean it.”


Louis chuckles, “Harry, what’re you—“


“I’m sorry.”


Louis gulps. His movements are slow as he places down his tea beside him. He crosses his arms, “It’s alright, Harry. You were drunk. It isn’t your intention to say that out loud.”


“I’m not even saying it inside my head.” Harry says., “Because I don’t think it like that at all.”


“Why, then?” Louis’ voice is hushed, almost afraid.


“I-I..” Harry stutters, and Louis knows he’s trying to find more explanation than just I was drunk. When he replies, though, he looks almost helpless, “Brenda never liked me.” He settles.


Louis stays quiet, his ears and heart open for Harry.


“Brenda...” Harry sighs heavily at the name, “I don’t always receive her praise, before and after I got together with Carter. She believed that Carter must marry someone only she chooses, like... we're in the middle ages." Harry shakes his head, "But Carter rebelled against her to be with me.”


Louis softens, tensed shoulders sagging slightly as he takes in Harry’s vulnerability.


“She always blamed Jacob why Carter died when he give birth to him.” Harry informs him, eyebrows deeply furrowed, “She hated me, and she hated her own grandson.”


When he’s done, he looks up. His eyes are slightly teary, starting to turn red at the edges, “She called me yesterday, and she went on and on and on about all the wrong things I did to her son, as if I hadn’t loved him.”


“She told me...” Harry takes a deep breath, “.. told me I’m inconsiderate for having someone else, for even thinking of replacing him, and I threw it all on you.”


Louis meets his eyes, “Carter can never be replaced.” Harry says, “Because you’re you, Louis. And no, I refuse to think that you’re a replacement. You’re bubbly and so vibrant. And just... you’re a sunshine and I can’t stop myself from thinking of you being with me.”


Louis’ breath hitches, and he’s sure his heart rate just went up a notch, “You... you want to be with me?”


“Is it too soon to tell?” Harry asks with a small, sad smile, “Because I’ve waiting for this for five years – to just.. look at someone and not.. not think of him. To not think of Carter, to... think for myself. And, I looked at you like that.”


Louis’ still speechless, but how can he speak?


“Say something?” Harry pleads. He pushes himself to stand fully and he steps forward towards Louis. He stops, though, “I..” He looks away, “This was stupid. You can just.. take the day-off, come back Monday.” He’s back in his professional mind as he shakes his head and turns around, pretending to be busy by dumping his tea on the sink.


Louis raises a hand to rub at his own elbow, shrinking in himself, “I just...” He notices Harry halt in his movements, “You told me I wasn’t worth it.”


“Lou.” Harry says, turning around again to step towards Louis, “I don’t mean it. I-I mean, it’s probably.. crazy because.. but I want to try. I’m willing to try.”


Louis chuckles, a light sound, “And you’re sure you want me? Out of all people?”


“Out of all people.” There’s a hint of certainty in Harry’s voice, “And I know, because I’ve tried before, with a few people. I never wanted them like this, like I do with you.”


Louis racks his mind, for.. for options, whatever. Because he’s still surprised but at the same time there’s warmth settling in his chest.


“You’re sure.” Louis tells mostly to himself, looking down at their shoes as he gnaws on his bottom lip, “I..” He takes a deep breath.


“You don’t have to answer me.” Harry says softly, nodding, “I just wanted to let you know how I feel.”


Louis winces as he says, “Are you really sure? Because I can’t have you like.. doubting and—“


“I want you, Lou.” Harry repeats. His eyes show that he’s really sincere, wants to get his message across.


“And you’re not just saying that to—“


“Louis,” Harry says, a hint of begging, and he strides forward to grab Louis’ arms, “I like you. I’ve spent an awful lot thinking about it, ever since Jacob’s been calling you ‘Dada’.” He then scoffs, and Louis notices how he slides his hands down to Louis’ forearms, “Hell, even before that.”


Louis asks timidly, “So you really want this?”


“Yes.” Harry says, almost breathes out the word. He’s quick to backtrack, though, “Only if you want it, as well.”


Louis chooses his words carefully. He looks up at Harry’s eyes and sees them filled with curiosity and even nervousness, too. Louis’ nervous, too, because he knows hard for one person to move on, knew that from his mother, and especially when that partner is gone forever.


But he likes Harry, as well, probably adored the man for being such a good, considerate person and how different he can be from the outside, and that’s something Louis can see.


When Louis comes to himself, he sees that Harry’s still staring at him, patiently waiting. Louis wriggles his arms to get Harry to let go of them. He doesn’t miss how Harry’s face fell, but a hopeful look sweeps back on his face as Louis grabs his hands. He’s so shy for someone who’s always confident.


“We can take things slow, yeah?”


“I’ll court you properly.” Harry says, determined.


Louis giggles, but he also can’t stop the blushing going mad on his face, “You sound old-fashioned.” He then tacks on, “You are old. You’re 27.”


“Hey.” Harry scowls, “Not that old, plus, you said to take things slow and I’m willing to just take you on dates until you allow me.”


Louis feels his heart flutter at that, “Yeah, I know."

 

Chapter Text


“Hi!” Louis greets, quite surprised that Jacob has opened the door for him. Louis bends down to ruffle his hair. He notices that Jacob’s only in some loose shorts, his fluffy slippers and Spongebob shirt. He frowns in confusion, “You’re not coming with us, Jakey?”


Jacob shakes his head, “I told Daddy I wanted to stay with Grandma Anne.”


“Ah.” Louis lets himself in, closing the door behind him as he carries Jacob to the den where Anne has just stepped in from the kitchen.


“Hello, Louis.” She smiles. Her eyes observes Louis’ clothing, “Looking handsome this evening. Harry’s still upstairs. He’s probably having an aneurism choosing what to wear.”


Louis chuckles and lets Jacob down, who immediately runs upstairs with a call of, “I’m gonna check on Daddy!”


Louis smiles at Anne, “Thank you. It was a little something I dug in the closet.” He says, adjusting his sleeves a little, “Uh.. thank you for watching Jacob. The original plan was for him to come with us bu—“


“Oh shush.” Anne waves a hand, “It’s my son’s first date in ages, and you two need some alone time. Plus, I miss my grandchild.”


It’s been two weeks since their confrontation, and after that, they turned back to normal but with a few adjustments. Louis would stay every other day for dinner after Harry comes home. It’s only a day ago when Harry finally went up to Louis to say that he knows this nice restaurant.


It had been the original plan for Jacob to come with them, but apparently Jacob has phoned his own grandmother to babysit him.


“Louis.” A raspy voice greets, and Louis looks to were it comes from and his heart immediately flutters.


Harry’s wearing a plain black suit, but on the inside he’s wearing a white button up that’s unbuttoned to reveal a part of his chest, and he also has this black tiny scarf-like thing tied loosely around his neck. His hair is styled into a quiff rather than lazily brushing it up like he always does.


“Hi.” Louis says, eyes still intact on Harry. He suddenly feels conscious. He’s wearing this white button up with black collars and this black suit. It’s the same suit he wore to his prom back when he’s in highschool.


Harry’s eyes are trailing down his body, and a smile stretches his lips as he looks up at Louis, “You look amazing.”


His insecurity vanishes, “Thank you.”


“Alright!” Anne claps her hands, “You two better get going, won’t want to waste time.”


Louis beckons Jacob, who’s standing closer to Harry, for a hug, and he kisses his head and rubs his back, “Have a fun night, Jakey.”


Harry does the same, looking extremely fond as he ruffles Jacob’s hair, “Be a good boy, baby.”


As they walk themselves to the garage where Harry’s car is waiting, the man himself slips a hand on Louis’ lower back. He unlocks the car and opens the door for Louis, who giggles and teases him for being such a gentleman before climbing in. Harry follows him after, smiling at Louis as he waits for the garage door to automatically open. Once the gate is completely rolled up, Harry starts up the car, “Ready?”


Louis tugs at the seatbelt, “As I’ll ever bel”


Harry drives to the restaurant with a smile permanently etched on his lips. Pulling over at a drop off, Louis openly gapes. It looks so fancy and it’s never something Louis could afford eating, even after earning a little for his family’s savings.


“Wow.” Louis breathes out, and the door suddenly opens. Harry’s holding it open, chuckling at Louis’ expression. Louis blushes and scampers off the car, standing close to Harry as the man shuts the door and gives the key to the valet.


As they come in, Louis’ still scanning the area, a little too much. He just can’t keep his eyes off the interior. Tables and chairs are organized properly with right amount of space between them. The tables are already set and there are candles for each of them. The dimly lit place gives off a relaxing atmosphere, and it’s quiet except for the silverwares clinking and chatters of the guests. Everything looks so fancy that it’s making Louis nervous. He doesn’t know to behave in these types of places.


“Reservation for Styles.” Louis barely manages to hear Harry say before they’re being led to a table in the corner. Harry, being the gentleman again, sits Louis first before he takes his own seat across from him. They’re given menus to decide what to eat.


Louis looks at the swirls of words. Louis doesn’t know a thing except for the words pork, or salmon, or lamb. Louis looks around and sees the guests eating different types of dishes. Shit.


“Lou, is there something wrong?” Harry asks, sensing Louis’ fidgeting.


“O-Oh uh..” Louis diverts his gaze back to his menu to avoid having to look at Harry, “Uh..” He blushes, “I don’t know how to..” He swallows his words.


“It’s fine, it’s fine.” Harry soothes, grabbing Louis’ hand that’s been gripping the menu, “If this is overwhelming we can just leave. I should’ve thought abou—“


“No, no, it’s fine.” Louis smiles. It really is, “I shouldn’t be complaining when I’m being wined and dined by a nice gentleman.”


Harry chuckles, crinkles showing up, “Alright, then.”


“But can you order for me?” Louis nervously laughs, glancing around as if someone’s hearing their conversation.


“If you want.” Harry says, opening his menu back up, “We can get the same thing. I’m getting steak.”


He’s never had steak before, “Steak’s perfect.”


Harry orders for them and Louis watches as his lips move, pronunciating the words perfectly with his deep voice and British accent. Louis only snaps into reality when those lips turn into a smirk.


“Yes?” Harry says, smug.


Louis huffs and rolls his eyes, “Don’t sound so smug. It’s not my fault you’re so bloody attractive.”


Harry’s smirk grows wider before he grins, “It’s not my fault you’re so bloody attractive, as well.”


Louis makes a show of rolling his eyes again, but he can’t deny the blush he tries to hide with his fist. Their wine comes, and Louis tries not to stare too much in fascination as the waiter fills their glass with the right amount.


“You look fascinated.” Harry smiles fondly, sipping on his own glass.


“I’ve never had wine before.” Louis murmurs. He grabs his glass and hesitates, “It’s just a bunch of cheap beer at a pub.”


“Try it, then.” Harry says, wiggling his eyebrows.


Louis sips then, the bitter taste filling his tongue, “Well, it’s good.” He shrugs.


Harry chuckles suddenly, shaking his head. Louis raises an eyebrow, “What?”


“Only you would comment so dismissively after tasting the best and most expensive wine on this place.”


Louis’ eyes widen, “Most expensive?” Who is he kidding, everything must be so expensive in this—shit.


“Louis?” Harry asks.


Shit. Louis digs through his pocket to fish for his wallet, he did bring a lot of money, but not enough probably.


“Lou...?” Harry asks again, leaning forward to try and catch Louis’ eyes, “Lou.”


“I’m fine, I’m fine.” Louis laughs nervously. He meets Harry’s eyes and he nods, “I really am.”


“You looked like a deer caught in headlights.” Harry frowns worriedly, “Lou, if you really want to leave—“


“It’s not that..” Louis says. He’s fiddling with his fingers underneathe the table, “Everything’s just expensive and I don’t know if I can pay at least half of—“


“Pay?” Harry frowns, then his expression lightens. He places a hand on the table, palm facing up. Louis slowly puts his hand on it and Harry holds it, “Lou, there’s no way in hell I’m letting you pay. This is all me.”


“Well, that makes me feel worse.”


“Don’t be.” Harry says, promise in his tone, “It’s really fine. It won’t dent my savings or anything.”


“I just don’t want you to think that I might like... abuse it in the future.” Louis shrugs. He’s never intended to use Harry for money, or anyone for that matter. Like his mother said, pure richness is in the heart and not on material things.


“You practically going mental like that about thinking of not being able to pay for me is more than enough.” Harry makes a surprising move of kissing the back of Louis’ hand, “It’s really considerate of you.”


Their food arrives shortly after that and Louis practically salivates at the steak in front of him. Louis looks down at the seemingly endless rows of silverwares, and he thanks himself for searching about table etiquette the night before.


“Taste good?” Harry smiles as Louis takes a bite of the meat, moaning appreciatively after.


“The best thing I’ve ever eaten.” It’s not a lie, “If I can, I’m just gonna gather up my savings and spend it all on this very steak.”


Harry chuckles, amused, “I can do that for you.”


“Of course you can.” Louis shakes his head, giggling. He wouldn’t ask that of Harry, though. They continue eating, until Harry says, a hint of humor in his tone, “So, tell me about yourself.”


“God, we sound like we’re in a blind date.” Louis snorts, covering his mouth after as he looks around.


Harry ignores the animalistic sound but just smiles, endeared. He then says, “We’re on a date, still. And even though we’ve known each other for months, there’s still a lot to know. Plus, I haven’t really sat down and had a personal conversation with you.”


“Well.” Louis clears his throat with a sip of his wine, “For starters, born and raised in Doncaster, but after my Mum married my father, we moved in here. She gave birth to me, and my father left.”


“That’s tough.” Harry says with pursed lips, “My father also separated from us, but.. we’re in kind of a good relationship I guess, after a few confrontations. But now I have a stepfather, and his name’s Robin.”


“Well, it’s good if you’ve fixed your relationship.” Louis smiles. He wishes he did with his father, and his stepfathers, as well, “All of my father figures just up and left. My mum had like... three men walk out on her, in a row.”


“She gave birth to beautiful children.” Harry offers with a smile, “And as long as you, your siblings, and your mum are together, then that’s what really matters.”


“Thanks.” Louis says, then bats a hand, “Enough with the dramatics. How about you?”


“Hm..” Harry hums, “Well, I grew up here, in a little brick house with my Mum, Gemma, and Robin. I used to dream of being a businessman, and thankfully it worked out in the end.” He chuckles, “I remember Gem used to tease me because I was too awkward of a teenager that I wouldn’t have the skills, but now I’m richer than her, ha.”


Louis laughs at that, shaking his head fondly.


“And.. yeah, studied and finished business, years later, now I’m here.” Harry says, eyes showing how long his journey was to getting this far, “You?”


“An actor.” Louis admits, “Or a drama teacher, whatever’s more possible. But it’s been years since I did some serious acting and I’m a bit rusty. Plus, employment kind of sucks because.. I never finished college.”


He continues, “It’s a great thing, acting, y’know. And I used to dream of making it on the big screen. It’s not happening yet, but hell, I won’t allow myself to die until I starred in one.”


“It’ll happen. I believe in you.”


They finish their food, and Louis get to pick their dessert. He’s giddy about it, jumped in his seat like a kid. Harry chuckles from across the table as he watches Louis eye the menu given to them with his bright eyes. He settles for a mango souffle, and the waiter nods and walks off.


“Enjoying yourself?” Harry asks. It’s his main goal of the night.


“Very much so.” Louis winks and giggles. When the souffle arrives, all Harry can do is to watch him ogle the delicious dessert being placed in front of them. He watches as Louis grabs his spoon and pokes it, “It’s so soft.”


Harry chuckles, “That it is.” They share the dessert, but Harry purposely lessens his bites to let Louis get more.


As soon as Harry pays for the bill, he leaves a generous tip before leading Louis out. While they wait for the car, Louis rambles, “That is the best meal I’ve ever eaten in my life! I can still taste it.”


Harry laughs, subtly pulling him closer. His hand on Louis’ lower back slips to wrap around his waist. He listens to Louis’ colorful adjectives, and he only stops once they’ve climbed into the car.


“I’m guessing you’d want a repeat of this?” Harry smiles, beginning to drive.


“Only if we get to split the bill.” Louis hums.


“Alright.” Harry replies. He knows when the time has come, he’d fight Louis until the boy gives up. He deserves to spoiled, anyway.


After finishing their dinner, Harry pays and leaves a generous tip at the table before he leads Louis out with his hand on Louis’ lower back. He discreetly slips it so he can hold Louis’ waist. He also doesn’t miss how the younger lad leans into him slightly as they walk.


In the car, Louis rambles, using colorful adjectives to describe their night as if it lasted a lifetime. Harry smiles as he listens, eyes on the road but all ears for Louis.


It’s only when he takes a different turn that Louis questions, “What—are we going somewhere else?”


“The night’s not over.” Harry shrugs nonchalantly.


“Ooh, another surprise.” Louis giggles.


“Figured dinner is too boring.” Harry says, “And you’ll probably love this next, yeah?”


Louis snorts, batting a hand, “You can take me to a warehouse and I’d love it because I was with you.”


It has Harry smiling endlessly, “Oh yeah?” He teases, glancing at Louis.


“Oh shut up.”


They reach a building, and after Louis stares at it for a few seconds he suddenly gasps and grabs Harry’s arm. Harry’s free hand immediately follows to cover his. Louis doesn’t notice, “You brought me to an aquarium!” He’s climbing out of the car himself before Harry can say anything.


Harry laughs and leans over the center console, calling out, “Get back in here, I have to park the car.”


After the task is done, Louis is the one to tug Harry out of the car. They buy the tickets, and thankfully the line isn’t too long. Inside, Louis looks like a kid in a candy store, eyes wide and reflecting the water with the same color as his eyes.


Harry tells him that, “You look like a kid in a candy store.”


“The last time I was in an aquarium, I was like.. seven or something.” He replies, giddy, “I used to want be a mermaid once, like with a fishtail.”


Harry laughs in bewilderment, “That’s new.”


“Hey,” Louis pouts, swatting his arm, “Mermaids are graceful and beautiful, alright? I wanted to be one.”


“You are graceful.” Harry smiles, “Even more beautiful.”


Louis doesn’t reply, but when Harry looks at him, he’s smiling to himself. They roam around the tunnels, gazing and pointing at different creatures. Harry watches Louis all the time, the way he observes each fish and even tapping on the glass softly to try and get their attention. They receive stares, probably recognizing Harry or just wonder why dress so formally in a place as casual as the aquarium. At the end, Harry buys Louis a stuffed stingray because of a certain childhood Louis wanting to buy one because they’re cute.


“You know,” Louis had began, looking up above them where a stingray was roaming around, “Stingrays are adorable.”


Harry raises an eyebrow, “Even after they sting you?”


“Well,” Louis giggled, “Maybe.”


They go home at around late at night. Jacob is undoubtly sleep around this time, or else Anne will receive some light scolding from her own son for letting Jacob sleep late. He does feel guilty for letting his mum stay late.


“Do you want to uh... stay?” Harry asks as he starts the car and begins driving.


Louis sends him a small smile, “Sorry, but my sisters have an early day tomorrow for school.”


Harry nods, “Yeah, that’s fine.” He smiles back, letting Louis know it’s all good, “Give me directions to your apartment. I’ll drive you home.”


“Uh, you don’t have to.” Louis hesitantly says.


“Lou, the first time you planned on going home alone late at night, I was dead set on not letting you.” Harry shoots a knowing look.


Louis sighs, “Alright.” He tells the directions half-heartedly. Harry follows and etches it into his mind. But he grows anxious as they enter quite an... unsafe neighborhood. Well, it’s not necessarily bad, but Harry’s complaining anyway. It’s also quite the distance from his house.


Harry pulls over when Louis tells him, and he leans forward to peer at the apartment building. He purses his lips, “Louis, I happen to know this real estate agent...”


Louis sighs, but it isn’t one of irritation, “I know, it’s not too nice. But it’s better than our last. At least it has two bedrooms this time.”


“And you have eight people in one single apartment.” Harry says. He’s already sketching a plan in his mind. Louis’ hand rests on his arm, “It’s fine, Harry. We’ve managed before.”


Harry only looks at him.


Louis giggles and flicks his nose gently, “I’m fine.”

 

“I can walk you upstairs?” Harry offers, already tugging off his seatbelt.


“No need.” Louis leans over and kisses Harry’s cheek, smiling as he tugs off his seatbelt as well and climbs out of the car, “Thank you again.” Louis blows him a kiss before he’s stepping inside, his stingray clutched into his hand.


Harry smiles.


~○~


“Yes!” Louis cheers, arms in the air as Jacob jogs over, giggling and panting. Louis hoists him up, “You hit a goal! I’m so proud.”


They’ve been playing since Jacob finished his homework and obviously the small boy was learning from their plays, “A proper football player you are.”Louis tells him, a proud grin on his face.

“I’m home!”


Jacob’s squirming out of his arms and running back inside as soon as he hears Harry’s call. Louis chuckles fondly and follows him, found him in a hug from his daddy.


“Daddy, I scored a goal!” Jacob tells his father excitedly, “I can become a footie player!”


“You can become anything.” Harry cooes, ruffling Jacob’s hair, “You’re all icky and sweaty, Jake. Change out of your shirt, love, can’t have you getting sick now.” It has Jacob running up the stairs in no time, with a call of Harry’s usual ‘be careful!’


With Jacob out of sight only Harry acknowledges Louis, “Hi.”


Louis grins, “Why, hello.”


Harry snorts out a laugh, shaking his head. He walks over and well, stands. He’s not really sure how to touch Louis. He did it so casually last night, so what the hell happened.


Louis giggles, then, “You’re so awkward.”


Harry crosses his arms but ignores the truth, “Are you staying for dinner? Please stay for dinner.”


Louis sends him a genuinely guilty smile, “Sorry, Lottie wants me to go home early. She has many schoolwork and she can’t watch the little ones.”


“That’s fine.” Harry nods, “I’ll see you tomorrow?”


Louis steps closer, “Absolutely.” He rises to his toes and Harry instinctively places his hand on Louis’ lower back. Louis pressed a kiss on Harry’s cheek. It’s over before Harry can blink, then Louis’ beaming at him and stepping back just as they hear Jacob’s fast footsteps.


“Jake!” Harry calls out and the footsteps slows down. When Jacob appears, he’s in a new set of clothes.


“Louis, are you gonna stay for dinner?” Jacob asks hopefully.


Louis bends down and strokes his hair, “I can’t today, bud. But tomorrow I’ll try!”


“Yay!” Jacob hugs the man, “You promised!”


“Course I did.” Louis chuckles fondly, “I gotta go, okay?”


“Bye!” Jacob waves, and Harry walks Louis out. Before Louis can go, Harry snags his wrist and pulls him back.


“What?” Louis asks, giggling.


“Just miss you.” Harry mumbles.


“You see me everyday.” Louis points out.


Harry hums, “And?”


“Idiot.” Louis laughs. He wiggles his hand out and skips away from Harry, “I’ll see you tomorrow!” He blows a kiss.


Tomorrow comes, and Harry’s waiting for time to tick faster so he can go home. He’d busied himself with more work loads so he can distract himself, but he’s honestly so happy when his phone rings and Louis’ name is plastered on the contact ID.


“Lou, hey.” It’s rare when Louis calls, but it’s basically for Jacob. Well, when he’s a babysitter, but when he’s at home, they text more than necessary, “Anything you need?” He glances at his watch and sees that it’s only in the middle of the afternoon, damnit.


“Jacob’s upset.” Louis says, and he sounds worried, too.


“Why, what’s wrong?” Harry asks, his father side shining through, “Is he okay?”


“I just put him to a nap, he cried himself to sleep.” Louis informs, “This kid in school apparently pestered him about something and he just couldn’t stop crying.”


Before Harry can reply, Louis’ rushing out, “Jacob’s waking up, gotta go.” And he hangs up. Harry shoves his phone in his pocket and messily sorts out of his papers. Once it’s all piled up in one corner, he grabs his briefcase and stuffs his laptop and things in it.


He walks out of the office and Kate immediately looks at him, questioning, “Mr. Styles, you have one last—“


“Cancel them all. Push them back tomorrow.” Harry instructs, already walking towards the elevator, “Take the rest of the day off!”


During the drive, he goes faster than usual, and his mind is only trained to his son and his son only. How could anyone even upset his poor baby? He’s been raised kind and warm-hearted to everyone, and he deserves to be treated like it.


He parks the car out in the driveway and enters the front door after unlocking it. He drops his things as well as his blazer on the couch before he runs to Jacob’s room. Running up the stairs is probably something he can never do in front of Jacob. He’s already been scolding him constantly about it and he won’t be a bad influence to his son.


The door is cracked open when he gets there, but he peeks from behind the wall when he hears Louis talking softly, “—is such a superhero, isn’t he? He’s both your Dada and daddy at the same time.”


“Lionel said—“ Jacob sniffles and Harry’s heart broke, “—that I only have o-one and he has--has two people to take care of him, a—and I said I do, too!”


“You have more people who loves you, sweetheart.” Louis says, voice still soft as ever, “You have your Grandma Anne, your Grandpa Robin, your Daddy, even Doris and Ernest! You remember them, yeah?”


It’s silent, then Harry’s hearing a wet giggle from his son, “Yes.” Then a sniffle, “How about you, though?”


“Of course I do! I’m your bestfriend!” A loud smack of kiss is heard and then Jacob giggles again.


Harry can’t resist anymore, and he steps in, immediately melting at the sight Louis’ leaning against the headboard in a sitting position, legs stretched out and ankles crossed. One of his arms is around Jacob in a big hug while Jacob himself in leaning against Louis’ side.


“Daddy!” Jacob says, and he’s scampering out of the bed and into Harry, who swiftly picks him up and cuddles him close.


“My poor baby.” Harry kisses his head, “Are we alright, baby? Louis told me you were crying! You know it makes me sad when I know you’re crying.”


“Sorry, Daddy.” Jacob gives one last sniffle before those tiny lips are stretching into a grin.


“Nothing to be sorry for, my love.” Harry kisses his nose and blows a raspberry in Jacob’s cheek, making the boy giggle and squirm, “You can tell me all about it later, yeah? How about we watch a movie? Or anything else you want to do, darling?”


“I’ll pick a movie!” Jacob squirms out of Harry’s arms and runs his way out of the door. Harry sharpens his hearing, and he smiles in pride when he hears the footsteps on the stairs slow down.


When he looks at Louis, the man’s wearing a fond smile. Harry smiles back, “Thank you for that.”


“It’s heartbreaking to see him like that.” Louis sighs, “It’s the first time he’s cried in front of me.”


“Quite a nutshell to break.” Harry says, but he hasn’t experienced that. He’s never had trouble trying to crack his son because Jacob trusted him so much. Harry makes sure never to break that.


When they get downstairs, Jacob’s inserting a CD into the player, plopping down on the couch. Louis practically runs to join him. Harry scoffs a laugh as he shakes his head, walking himself to the kitchen to do the duty of making popcorn.


He only walks back to the den when he’s holding a large bowl of popcorn and packs of juices that Jacob takes to school. Well, Harry can always buy. He’d buy all the packs in the bloody world.


“Shrek, huh.” Harry smiles at the choice before he plops down beside Jacob, telling the boy to lean back so he can place the bowl on top of his criss-crossed legs. The boy makes grabby hands for his juice pack and Harry chuckles as he hands him one.


“Louis?” Harry waves the juice towards Louis.


“Thanks.” Louis takes it with a wink.


They watch the movie, and Harry would glance at the window to see the sun slowly coming to set. They finish the movie at around a quarter to six. Jacob’s surprisingly still awake and he claps at the end of the movie. Harry chuckles before getting up to grab the empty bowl and trash. Louis beats him to it, clutching the bowl tightly to himself as he walks past Harry with his nose high. As he passes, the older man jabs a finger to his side, and Louis yelps before glaring.


“You two are funny.” Jacob giggles, and then he jumps up and stretches, “Louis! Are y—“


“—staying for dinner?” Louis comes back into the kitchen and he’s wearing the brightest smile, “You bet I do! If your Daddy cooks well enough, that is.”


Harry’s eyebrows shoot up; Louis hasn’t really teased him in front of Jacob before. It’s more often when they’re alone, though. Jacob’s grin is still wide, though, “My Daddy always cooks the best!”


“Yeah.” Harry raises an eyebrow and crosses his arms at Louis.


Louis laughs and raises his hands up in surrender, “Okay then!”


So Harry finds himself in the kitchen later, cooking up some meat as he looks over his shoulder now and then while Louis and Jacob color some coloring books in his counter.


Hours later, when Louis eventually had left and the kitchen’s all clean, Harry finds himself squeezing in next to Jacob in the boy’s bed. Jacob has already been tucked in, but Harry wants to know what happened.


After a few more coaxing, Jacob rests against Harry’s arm, “A-A classmate said I don’t have a mummy. But it didn’t bother me ‘cause I have Dada, yes? And I have you, Daddy.”


Harry’s heart swells, “Of course, baby.”


Over his duvet, Jacob plays with Harry’s fingers, something he’d do on his own when he’s feeling shy or nervous, “But then he said that Dada never shows up...”


Harry’s speechless.


“And I-I said it’s because he’s in heaven, and... Lionel laughed.”


Harry feels anger slowly seep through him for this Lionel kid. Sure, he’s never going to lay a hand on any kid, but a few words can’t hurt. Kid or not, no one can ever speak to Jacob like that.


“Love.” Harry sits up, taking Jacob with him as he plops down across from him so they’re face to face. Jacob’s starting to tear up again, and Harry sighs, “No matter what people say, your Dada will always be there for you. He’s watching over us, you know? And he loves you so, so much. And I love you, too.”


“L-Louis said—“ Jacob sniffs, but he cracks a smile through his tears, “—that you’re a hero! Because you’re both my Dada and my Daddy.”


Harry smiles at that. He reaches forward to ruffle Jacob’s hair, “Of course I am, sweetheart. I’m always going to protect you in any way.”


“But I can protect myself, Daddy!” Jacob suddenly sits up on his knees.


Harry tickles Jacob’s belly and the boy giggles, “Of course you can, baby.”


Harry can barely sleep from the small bed, and he might’ve woken up a few times in the middle of the night to change his position and avoid cramping, but it’s all alright.


~○~


A knock sounds from Louis’ door, and he jumps slightly. He folds his money and shoves it back into the jar before he slides the whole mess under his bed, letting the shadow cover it. He stands and dusts out the seat of his trousers as he opens the door.


“Mum.” Louis says in mild surprise, but total relief, “You’re quite early today.” He’s checked his watch earlier. It’s only nine in the evening.


“I got fired from my job. That waitress one.” Jay sighs, her shoulders sagging unbelievably lower.


“Mum.” Louis hugs her, gives him a hug of comfort as he feels exhaustion roll off his mother, “That’s alright. I’ve earned enough, y’know? And if it’s not, then I’ll be the one to find the job. Plus, that means you’ll actually get to be home during evenings.”


“I just want you all to have a better life.” She sobs, digging her nose into Louis’ shoulder.


“We do have a better life, Mum.” Louis rubs her back, “As long as we’re complete, yeah?”


He lets her sob her sorrows away until she pulls away and nods, wiping her tears, “You’re right, darling.” She says.


“Don’t go looking for another job. You need to rest.” Louis scolds lightly.
“I’ve been meaning to talk to you, Louis.” She states, her tone worried.


“What is it, mum?” He pockets his hands, not really sure where he’d put them.


“What’s your relationship what that man?” She doesn’t state a name, but Louis knows who she’s talking about.


“We’re..” Louis clears his throat. He’s feeling that ‘sex-talk’ awkward vibe once again, “We’re taking it slow, Mum. Uh.. we went on a date, remember?”


Jay look at him, as if she’s contemplating something deep in her mind. When she speaks, Louis’ sure he’s gonna faint out of embarrassment, “I want to speak to him.”


“Wha—Mum!” He exclaims, but then he remembers that there are sleeping children around in the next room, “Mum, we’re both consenting adults. He’s 27!”


“27!” Jay says, scandalized, “You’re only 22!”


“23 in a month!” Louis argues back, still whispering, “And Mum, does it matter?”


Jay’s eyes narrow into these tiny slits, and Louis shivers, “Alright, alright. I’ll.. okay, Mum! Stop looking at me like that.”


“I’m just worried for you, Loubear.” Louis would be caught dead hearing that nickname.


“I know, Mum.” Louis scratches the back of his head, “I-I’ll tell him.”


“Good.” Jay says, crossing her arms, “Soon. I want to know what his intentions are.”


Louis can only groan as his mother leaves him, shutting the door closed and melting in embarrassment.


The next morning, Harry’s been noticing Louis’ behavior. He’s gone home an hour earlier than usual, just because he can, and the man’s been quiet. Well, not quiet necessarily; he’d been chattering on and on to Jacob for a while. Well, around Harry, he is. He’s also fidgety. Jacob has ran outside to grab his toys he played with earlier and Harry uses if as a chance.


“Lou.” Harry catches Louis’ forearm which is resting on the counter, “What’s wrong?”


Louis smiles up at him. It looks forced but louis’ eyes are still bright, “What do you mean?”


“You’ve been uh..” Harry coughs into a fish, “You’ve been ignoring me.”


Louis’ smile turns into a confused frown, “I have?”


Harry shrugs helplessly.


“Sorry.” Louis’ shoulders shrink in himself, “Uh... I have something to say to you, I guess.”


Harry immediately panics, his palms turning sweaty and his heart beating faster, “Why? What is it?”


Louis opens his mouth to speak but he snaps it shut when Jacob crosses through the room with his toys. Harry steps back slightly, but he turns back to Louis once Jacob’s out of the room, “So?”


“Later.” Louis says, and he notices Harry’s worried look and chuckles, “It’s not anything bad, I promise.” He then gnaws down on his bottom lip, “Well, it’s... it’s quite bad—“


“Lou.” Harry states, really worried now.


“Later, yeah?” Louis slips his hand off from Harry’s grasp.


“You’re making me worry, y’know.”


“Later!” Louis says and he bounds into the den before Harry can catch him. The older man sighs and starts to prepare dinner, all the while glancing towards the den. Once the dinner is all set and ready, the three plop down on the dining table, and Harry helps Jacob with his asparagus.


“Daddy! Almost forgot!” Harry hums in acknowledgement, “We have um.. Parent-Teacher meeting?”


Harry chuckles, “Are you sure, love?” He’s actually received a call from Jacob’s teacher about that meeting earlier.


“Yes!” Jacob blushed, “Teacher Amanda said it was important. It’s tomorrow.” He then stares at Harry, looking hesitant, “Daddy?”


Harry begins eating, “Yes, baby?”


“What do you do in those meetings?”


“Well, Teacher Amanda tells me how you behave in class, if you’re good or bad.” Harry informs, drinking a gulp of water after.


Louis pipes in, “It’s like your teacher is an elf reporting the little kids if they’re naughty or nice to your parents, who are Santa Claus.”


“Santa Claus?” Jacob’s eyes widen and he looks at Harry, probably comparing.


Harry raises a pointed eyebrow at Louis and shakes his head, laughing quietly to himself.


After dinner, Harry shoves the dishes in the dishwasher before leaving it to do its work. He tells Jacob to say goodbye to Louis before he showers, and Jacob, always the good boy, complies. Harry walks Louis to the door, and once again closes his fist around Louis’ dainty wrist, “Okay, now what is it?”


Louis huffs, jutting his bottom lip out, “It’s embarrassing.”


“Embarrassing?” Harry can’t help but be relieved, “I thought it was something serious.”


“It is serious!” Louis practically whines.


“Please tell me what is it?”


Louis sighs and covers his face with his free hand, facepalming, “My mum wants a talk with you.”


Harry barely hears it, though, “My what?”


“My mum wants to talk to you!” Louis says, cheeks blushing red, “But you can always say no, I can just tell her you’re extremely busy and that’s fine! It’s embarrassing but you know how moth—“


Harry’s eyebrows furrow, “How’s that embarrassing?”


“Because!” Louis huffs, “We’re adults, and my Mum’s treating like a child.”

Harry chuckles, then. A flash of betrayal flashes through Louis’ eyes before he’s dramatically whining, “Don’t tell me you’re actually agreeing?”


Harry laughs some more, and he slips his hand from Louis’ wrist and to his hand, “Not on the child part, no.” He stifles a laugh, “But I don’t think it’s embarrassing. I’d love to meet your mum. Just tell me when.”


“...” Louis has an unimpressed look on his face, “Traitor.”


Harry cackles, pulling Louis closer. Once he’s calmed down, he takes his free hand and cups Louis’ cheek, “Only if you want me to.”


Louis breaks out of his act and sighs, “Well... alright then.”


Harry grins in triumph, “Just tell me when.”


~○~


“Wha—“ Louis quickly steps outside and shuts the door behind him, “What are you doing here?!”


Harry slips off his sunglasses with a shrug, “You told me to come.”


“At around dinner.” Louis clarifies. He lunges forward to take Harry’s wrist where the man’s watch is, “It’s only four o’ clock, H.”


“Why, is your Mum not there?” Harry asks. He’s still holding the tulips, eyebrows slightly furrowed.


“She’s gonna be home in an hour or so, plus she’s gonna cook dinner for us.” Louis lets go of Harry’s wrist. He can only be thankful that his siblings aren’t feeling extra hellish today.


“Then I want to meet your siblings. They’re here, yeah?” Harry asks, and he’s wearing a big smile, genuinely excited.


Louis feels himself smile, “Yeah. They’re excited to see you, too.” He turns and opens the door, letting Harry step out of the hallway and inside.


In the livingroom is the Tomlinson children. And woah, they’re a lot. Harry knows Louis has six little siblings, but actually seeing them and knowing Louis takes care of them sounds a lot. Louis takes the flowers from him which leaves Harry and the little ones.


“Hi!” A blonde girl stops in front of Harry. She’s up until Louis’ shoulders, but they actually look nothing a like, “I’m Lottie.”


“Hello.” Harry smiles, offering a hand, “I’m Harry.”


“We know.” A brunette steps beside Lottie, “Lou can’t stop telling us to straighten ourselves because a Harry’s coming.” Despite the solemn welcome, she cracks a smile and says, “I’m Felicite, but Fizzy is fine.”


“And he may or may have not talked about you a few more times before that.” Lottie laughs, lowering her voice to a whisper, “He likes you too much.”


Harry tries not to blush too hard at that. Before he can reply, two pairs of twins are in front of him. Harry recognizes Doris and Ernest, but they don’t seem to remember him. It’s been months after all.


“Hi!” The twin girls say. One speaks up, “I’m Daisy, and this is my twin Phoebe.”


“Hello, I’m Harry.” Harry strokes their hair, “I like your braids.”


Phoebe giggles, “Louis did them.”


“Oi.” Louis finally comes back into the room, having placed the vase of tulips into the coffee table, “Heard my name.” His phone rings, however, and he goes back to the kitchen to answer it.


Harry bends down to greet the three-year-olds, “Hello, you two.”


“Jacob?” Doris asks, and oh, she remembers.


“He’s at a sleepover.” Harry tells her, “If you want, you two can come with Louis to work, yeah?” Harry would love that.


They settle on the couch, Lottie on a one-seater with Ernest on her lap and Fizzy on another with Doris. Harry’s sitting with the twins. Louis comes back moments after, a piece of paper in hand. He enters a room and comes back later, stuffing a wallet in his back pocket.


“Where are you going?” Harry asks, watching Louis grab his coat from the coat hanger. Harry stands and walks up to him.


Louis waves the paper in his face, “Groceries, I told you you were too early.”


“Can I come with you?” Harry asks. When he doesn’t receive a reply, he supplies for himself, “I’ll come with you.”


Louis snaps his jaw shut before he turns to the girls, “Lots, watch them. I gotta pick up lots of stuff in the store.”


Without looking, Lottie says, “Sure. Don’t be too long.”


In the car, Harry drives to the grocery store as Louis tells him the directions. When they slip out of Harry’s parked car, the man himself sidles close to Louis until Louis’ giggling, “Woah there, cowboy.”


“Can I see the—“ Harry grabs the paper that Louis’ as they enter the store, reading over the quite long list, “Ooh, chicken parmesan.” It’s a classic in everyone’s home.


Louis raises an eyebrow, jerking a cart from the line before beginning to push it, “How’d you know?”


“Hm,” Harry hums teasingly, “Am I wrong? There’s chicken and parmesan on the list.”

Louis snorts, “Shut up.”


They roam around the aisles, letting Louis take the reign while Harry takes over the cart, just watching the younger toss the ingredients on the cart. It’s not a lot since you only need a handful of those ingredients. At one time, the sauce is at the top shelf, and Louis sighs, completely aware of the incoming problem.


Harry grins, standing back and waits for Louis to struggle a bit before he can actually help. It’s not happening, though, because Louis plants his hands on his hips and gives Harry a menacing look. Harry laughs, and he walks over to pinch Louis’ cheek as he easily reaches the wanted sauce.


“Ass.” Louis grabs the ingredient and tosses it on the cart.


Louis pays, even after Harry offers (“You’re the guest! So, no.”), so Harry pays by grabbing all the bags and carrying them all back to the car. He puts them all carefully in the back before driving themselves back to Louis’.


“Y’know..” Harry clears his throat, opening the trunk of his car as they park back outside Louis’ apartment, “My offer still stands about talking to that agent.”


“Haz.” Louis sighs, and Harry’s heart swells at the nickname, “We’re perfectly fine, yeah? Maybe we can move out in a year or two.”


Harry snaps his mouth shut after that, helping Louis with the groceries. He jumps as he hears on of the little girls shriek, “Mum! Harry’s here!” He’s not really used to that much noise since it’s generally quiet in the house, but he’s adjusting pretty well.


A woman emerges from the kitchen just as Louis enters it. And Harry freezes, awkwardly still holding on to the plastic bag he’s holding. He clears his throat and gently puts it down, offering a hand, “Mrs. Tomlinson, hello. I’m Harry.”


She shakes his hand, but Harry’s smile isn’t returned, “I’ve seen your names in magazines a couple of times.”


“Um..” Harry gulps and nods, “Yes. Uh.. I own a company, and it’s quite known.”


“Nice to meet you.” Louis’ mother eventually cracks a smile, “Would you fancy joining us for dinner?”


“I’d love to.” Harry smiles, and he feels more at ease.


“Thank you for the tulips, by the way. They’re lovely.”


“You’re welcome, ma’am.”


Louis comes out eventually and grabs the bag from Harry’s hand, “Mum, stop creeping him out.” He mutters, walking past them once again as he takes the bag to the kitchen


His mother smiles at Harry, “Make yourself at home.”


Harry does, and thankfully when he turns back to the living room, the girls are playing a game of Scrabble. He sits down to an empty space next to Daisy, or Phoebe?, inviting himself.


“Here.” The twin offers him the jar full of letters.


“Why thank you...” Harry trails.


“Daisy.” Daisy giggles, “It gets confusing the first times.”


“It really does.” Harry agrees, chuckling as he picks letters randomly.


The game goes great; a lot of words that they almost fill the whole board and a lot of accusations of cheating, but it’s really great. Harry would occasionally look back to peek at the kitchen, and he’d see Louis helping his mother.


They’re getting ready for a second round when Louis comes out. Harry immediately turns and beams at him. Louis smiles back at him, unable to supress a fond chuckle before calling out, “Children, dinner’s ready.”


The food looks and tastes amazing. Harry tries not to moan out as he takes the first bite. Instead, he compliments Jay, who smiles in return. Louis, however, frowns, “Hey, I helped.”


Harry slides a discreet hand on his knee, “I partially thank you.”


“So, Harry.” Jay begins, and Harry braces himself. He won’t admit it to anyone, but he’s actually practiced himself a few lines in front of the bathroom mirror. This moment is grand, and he won’t fuck up—


“You have a son, yes?”


Oh. “Yes, Ma’am—“


“Jacob!” Ernest supplies with a giggle, and it’s the first time he’s spoke.
Harry smiles, “Yes, Jacob. He’s five.”


“Louis told me you two came over one time.” Jay says, still observant as ever.


“After Ernest got hospitalized.” Harry confirms, drinking down his bite quickly, “We just visited to know how he’s doing, since my son is pretty fond of the twins.”


“I would’ve wanted you to bring him.”


“Oh um.. next time, then?” Harry offers.


“Let’s see.”


Jay goes back to eating, tending to the youngest twins. While she’s distracted, Louis leans over and whispers, “She needs quite the convincing some times.” He partners it with a pat on Harry’s hand which is still on his knee.


Harry grabs it, “I’m alright with it.”


After dinner, Louis’ tasked with the dishes while Jay handles the younger ones. Harry’s bid them early goodnights before he goes to the kitchen to help Louis. Louis, being Louis, tries to shoo off the older man but the latter shoos him back.


Jay finds them like that, and she excuses Harry out of the room. Louis comes with, wiping his hands with a clean dry towel and handing it to Harry, who takes it and dries his hands quickly.


The two of them sit on the couch with Jay on the one seater, facing them. Louis sees the tension immediately, and he sighs, “Mum—“


“Do you like my son, Harry?” Jay asks, completely ignoring Louis.


“Yes, I really do.” Harry answers solemnly, “He’s a great man and I’m really determined to court him, even if that sounds old-fashioned.” He can practically hear Louis rolling his eyes. He suddenly feels a hand on the low part of his back, a thumb rubbing. It calms him a bit.


“Lou, dear.” Jay says, “Fetch us some tea, yes?”


Louis follows wordlessly, only glancing back once before disappearing. They all know it’s a trap, and it is. Jay sighs and says, “I’ve seen the way Louis looks at you, and it’s the same way you look at him.”


Harry can only smile, because he knows he looks at Louis like the man’s the best damn thing on earth. He is.


“Don’t hurt my boy.” Jay says, a gentle warning, “You’re the first man he’s ever taken home.”


“I’m glad.” Harry hopes to also be the last.


He goes home with a warm feeling in his chest, and some cold tea in his stomach.


~○~


It starts snowing sometime later, and the girls are more than ecstatic to just go outside and make snowballs and angels. They’re going to be on their break for two weeks and they’re surely living up that limited time. Louis, however, is content to just drink some hot cocoa and sit outside on the curb, praying to the gods that not one of his sisters would think it’d be fun to throw anything at him.


“Lou!” Lottie waves, giggling as she holds two snowballs in her hands.
“No!” Louis sips at his cocoa.


A snowball lands on the side of his head, and he gasps as his the contents of his mug slips at the sides and on his bare hands, “Shit!” He curses, not even paying attention as his mug falls and he clutches his hands to himself.


“Sorry! Sorry!” He expects Lottie to say, at least, Lottie’s voice. But he hears a deep, rough one and he looks up and sees Harry.


“What?!” He asks as his hands are tugged and Harry brings them to his own large ones, kneeling beside him.


“Sorry.” Harry smiles apologetically.


Jacob’s beside him, looking down worriedly at Louis who’s still sat on the curb, “Louis?”


“I’m fine.” Louis says through gritted teeth, attempting to smile. Thankfully, Doris toddles over and invites Jacob to their little play before Jacob’s off with a giggle. Good, this time Louis can scold this big man who’s the culprit of his burning hands.


Louis glares at Harry who’s still grinning guiltily at him, “I thought you were holding on to your mug.”


“I was.”


Harry juts his bottom lip out but then his act slowly melts as he grins again, “Come on.” He tugs Louis from his position and into their apartment even with quite the walk. Harry leads Louis into the kitchen as if it’s his own. He turns the tap on and puts Louis’ hands under it, “Where’s your Mum?” He asks, looking around.


“Work.” Louis answers curtly.


Harry looks back at him and makes a sound, “Are you angry? I’m really sorry. Thought it’d be quite funny.”


Louis huffs, “As if I can get mad at you.”


Harry grins and nuzzles Louis’ hair. He then pulls back, “Your birthday’s coming up.”


Louis raises an eyebrow, “Christmas is coming up, yeah.”


Harry smiles, pressing a discreet kiss on Louis’ hair, “Advanced happy birthday.”


Louis pushes him away with his hips, giggling, “Shut up.”


Harry slowly turns Louis’ wrist under the running faucet, “Anything in mind?”


“A low water bill, that’s for sure.” Louis laughs, moving his hands so he can turn off the faucet even though he can still feel the sting.


Harry frowns, worried, “It’s still—“


“Hush, come on.” Louis grabs Harry’s hand and the latter happily lets himself get pulled until they’re back outside. Louis plops down on the curb once again and sticks his hands on the small mount of snow he made before.


Harry snorts and sits down beside him. He finds the mug, chuckling under his breath before he places it beside him. He then looks at Louis. He’s skipped work for the day, and Jacob’s also in his Christmas break. They’ve nothing to do all day so what’s a better thing to do than coming over.


Louis’ button nose is pink from the cold as well as his cheek, quite the contrast from his slight tan skin. His eyes are even bluer now, matching the sky. Harry licks his own drying lips, “Seriously.” He says, making Louis look, “What do you want for your birthday?”


“Haz...” Louis sighs, visible air escaping from his mouth already. He looks just as serious, “It’s fine. I just want a simple celebration with my family.” He turns slightly pink at the cheeks, blushing, “And with you and Jacob.”


Harry smiles, feeling his heart swell, “Alright.” He leans back carefully on his gloved hands, feeling the cold immediately seeping through the cloth. He looks back at Louis to see the man inspecting his hand.


Harry leans back forward and takes his wrists. He kisses the back of each hand, “Sorry.”


Louis giggles, “It’s fine.”


“Let me take you out.” Harry tries not to smile as Louis narrows his eyes at him, “What?”


Louis shakes his head and smiles, “Where to?”


“I’ve seen an ice skating rink in the park on the way here.” Harry says. He did see it. He actually stopped by and inspected the place if it’s safe enough and everything. Turned out, it was, because he could see that the skating shoes look new and there were also kids skating.


Harry doesn’t miss the way Louis’ eyes light up, “Skating?”


“Skating.”


Louis grins, “I love skating.”


“Then we can go skating.” Harry confirms, and he looks out to the street where the girls, Ernest and Jacob are playing. Thankfully, there isn’t any passing cars and if there is, Lottie and Fizzy would be the one to shoo off the kids from the road, “We can take your family.”


Louis gasps delightly, eyes twinkling brightly, “We can do it on my birthday!” He says excitedly.


Harry smiles, full of fond for the boy, “Whatever you want."


“Um..” Louis suddenly hesitates, “How about you?”


“What you just said if perfect.” Harry leans closer and presses Harry leans closer and presses a kiss on Louis’ temple, “But your birthday’s like three weeks away.”


Louis leans away and looks at the older man with a raised eyebrow, “Are you trying to get another date out of me literally right after you asked me out on a second one?”

 

“Yes.” Harry answers, not letting a beat pass. He grins cheekily.


Louis only sighs, huffing. But he glances at Harry on the corner of his eyes and Harry knows he’s won him over.


~○~


“Wow.” Louis gasps, jaw dropping open as he takes the sight in front of him. There are lights everywhere. It’s wrapped around tree trunks, swaying off trees, around the light posts, on the bushes, on the fountain and even the water is showing off. Him and Harry are on their second date, and Harry decides to just take a walk around this park. Louis remembers how it looks before Christmas. It’s already pretty as it is, with its natural green. But now it’s


“Wow.” Louis gasps, jaw dropping open as he takes the sight in front of him. There are lights everywhere. It’s wrapped around tree trunks, swaying off trees, around the light posts, on the fountain and even the water is showing off. Him and Harry are on their second date, and Harry decides to just take a walk around this park. Louis remembers how it looks before Christmas. It’s already pretty as it is, with its natural green. But now it’s covered in snow and the pretty lights. They’re walking around, with Louis’ arm linked with Harry’s and Harry’s hand pocketed. It’s chilly out, and they’re wearing layers and layers of clothes.


Louis looks up at Harry, and the man’s already looking at him. Louis smiles, “Thank you.”


Harry smiles, “For what?”


“I don’t know. You just..” Louis shrugs weakly, “You just make me happy, ‘s all. You and Jacob both.”


Harry unlinks their arms and wraps it around Louis’ waist, pulling him closer, “You make me happy, too.”


They walk around, stopping every now and then to gaze at the lights and just standing there. Louis’ quiet this time, but he’s got a content look on his face as he leans towards Harry as they walk.


They cross a bridge halfway, and it, too, is covered in lights, illuminating it beautifully and reflecting the small pond. Louis snags Harry’s wrist to stop him from walking. Harry hums, “Hm?” He leans against the railing.


“I wanna ask about something.” Louis says.


“Go for it.”


Louis takes a deep breath. He’s been thinking about it all day, “Um.. can you tell me about him?” He pauses, and he hates how small his voice has gotten, “Carter?”


Harry’s face in unreadable, and it’s harder to get to his eyes this time because Harry just continues looking over the pond. He doesn’t answer.


“Harry?” Louis asks timidly. He clears his throat, “That’s... that’s fine, then.”


He’s pulled into an embrace immediately after. Louis doesn’t let it bother him much, just simply burrows himself into Harry’s unexplainable warmth. They don’t talk about it for the rest of the night.


~○~


When Louis wakes up in his birthday, it’s with a bed full of his little siblings with his Mum standing over them carrying a homemade cake. Louis groans at their weights but he sits up nonetheless, instantly cradling Ernest and Doris close, “G’morning to you all. Not the best morning greeting but y’know—“


Ernest’s giggle cuts him off, “Happy Birthday, LouLou.”


Louis kisses the top of his head, “Thank you, Ernie.”


He gets a hug from each and every one of his siblings, and he temporarily leaves the bed to hug his mother who’s simply adoring the sight of her young children. “Mum.” Louis says, hugging her close before pulling away to kiss her cheek, “Thank you.”


“My Boobear.” She sniffles.


Louis groans, “Mum, I’m 23.” He gets a flick at his ear, “Ow!”


“Don’t complain to me, young man!”


Louis gives her a hopeful grin, “The cake looks delicious, mummy.”


They have breakfast downstairs, and of course it’s a grand breakfast – with sausages and beans and toast and pancakes and bacon and more more more. They rarely have these kind of breakfast because of the expenses but they always have to make an exception on holidays and their birthdays. It’s all good


They’re sitting around the table, and Louis’ phone is under it against his lap. Lottie sends him a knowing look, fully aware of his violation against Jay’s no phones during meals rule. But screw it, he’s texting Harry.


No work today. Harry had texted. Skating today, yes?


Shit, Louis thinks. He clears his throat and asks the people around the table, “What’d you all think about skating today? Harry invited us to this skating rink he saw.”


“Would it be safe? We have lots to supervise, Louis.” Jay says sternly. Until now, even after almost a month after she met Harry, she’s still having the doubts against the older man.


“Mum, it's alright. The girls will be good." Louis says, raising an eyebrow at his siblings. He shoots a quick text to Harry; I’m excited xx oh and good morning. Louis looks back up, “Please?”


Jay sighs eventually, and Louis grins, and he checks his phone as it buzzes against his hand. Good morning xx gotta prepare breakfast. We can leave at like.. late afternoon? It’s best around that time.


Alright, eat well xx say hi to Jake for me.


Louis pockets his phone back into his pocket with a smile. Lottie notices and she smirks, “Did you get a sweet happy birthday from your boyfie?”


“Boyf—“ Louis rolls his eyes, “He’s not my boyfriend, Lots.” Yet, Louis thinks hopefully. Oh and..—Louis checks his phone again. And.. okay, so probably Harry forgot. No big deal, he’s just preoccupied with work and such.


“Already trouble in paradise?” Fizzy pops a piece of bacon in her mouth as she raises her eyebrow in slight curiosity.


Louis rolls his eyes. His sisters are annoying, sometimes, “Shut up, Fiz.” He convinces himself that it’s really okay.


The Tomlinson household turns kind of busy after breakfast. Lottie and Fizzy are messing their room further as they scavenge their drawers for an appropriate attire later. The twins are playing with the youngest ones and Jay is organizing their plastic tree by putting the gifts under it. Louis can’t help but peer at it in curiosity to see if he has at least one for him.


A hand slaps down on his arm and he yelps, looking at the culprit who’s standing with her hands on her hips, “Gifts later!”


Louis pouts at his mum, but he turns before sauntering back to his task of cleaning up his room. Time clicks by, and soon it’s in the middle of the afternoon. He lays out his outfit on his bed; his tight black jeans, this light brown sweater and his white scarf. He shrugs at it, because this is probably his go-to winter outfit literally every year.


He grabs his towel and walks out of his room. He wins the race against Lottie who’s about to enter the bathroom, and she shrieks as Louis slams the door on her face with a loud cackle.


Two hours later, the Tomlinson family is all set. Harry’s texted them and told them he’d pick them up so they can arrive altogether in that park. They all seem fine by that. By four half, Harry texts them that he and Jacob are already down waiting for them. They scurry down and out of the apartment.
Introductions are quite confusing, really. Basically, the kids go for each other chattering and squealing loudly while Jay goes to Harry and Louis tags along after receiving a hug and a sweet greeting of ‘happy birthday’ from Jacob.
“Mrs. Tomlinson.” Harry greets, shaking Jay’s hand.


“So this skating rink you suggested is.. safe?” Jay asks, and Louis huffs quietly behind her.


“I’m sure.” Harry says. He steps backwards and opens the door of his car. It’s a different one from the usual one he always uses. It seems bigger and could fit ten people. The kids along with Jay climb inside, and the youngest twins end up on the eldest girls’ laps while Jacob sit with Phoebe and Daisy.


Harry closes the door and faces Louis with a smile, “Hey.”


“Hi.” Louis smiles back, and his heart beats as he anticipates what Harry’s going to say next.


Instead, Harry tugs the passenger door open. Louis manages to keep his smile as he climbs in, feeling Harry’s gentle hand on his back before it’s gone as he closes the door.


They arrive at the park in approximately thirty minutes. The car’s filled with loud laughs and babbles from the younger ones while Jay manages to throw some curious questions at Harry.


The park’s practically full, but thankfully Harry’s pulled some strings for them to avoid the line. As they’re guided to put on their skating shoes in the back, Louis helps Jacob with his after the boy waddles over. Louis had kneeled down and tie it on for him before Jacob’s back to the twins’ company. 


Louis stands back to his feet and he feels Harry’s presence behind him. He turns just as Harry catches his hand, “Walk with me for a bit?”


Louis looks back to see that their family has already gone to the rink. Louis comes with Harry, squeezing his hand. As they exit, they get their wrists stamped before they’re off. Louis remembers their previous date. It’s a different park, but just as pretty.


They keep walking, and Louis wants to question what’s happening when Harry gets them to an empty bench before sitting down on it. Louis sits beside him, and his eyes immediately trail down to their hands still holding onto each other.


Harry’s smiling, “Happy Birthday.”


Louis huffs, “I thought you actually forgot.”


Harry looks at him guiltily, “I did, at first, because all I could think of was Christmas.” He sits up and fishes something from his lap, “But then I remembered I had this made like... a few weeks ago.” He opens his palm to reveal a small black box.


Already, Louis feels smitten. He grabs it slowly before opening it, lifting the lid. He melts instantly. It’s a locket. It’s empty still, but Louis already knows what he’s going to put in it, “It’s a locket.” He practically breathes out.


“Yeah.” Harry says. His embarrassment is clear as he scratches the back of his neck, “I didn’t know what you’d like. Plus, you aren’t into jewelry, but it turned out pretty. You can have a picture put in it.”


Louis scoots closer as he can plant a lingering kiss on Harry’s cheek, “Thank you so much.” He pulls back to examine it further. It’s a simple one, and it’s the kind that Louis can wear absolutely anywhere. It’s round-shaped with snowflakes embedded on its front. It’s empty, just like what Harry says.


He giggles then, looking up at Harry, “Only you would forget someone’s birthday and still have a gift ready.”


“Sorry.” Harry takes advantage of their close proximity and presses a kiss on Louis’ beanie-covered hair.


“It’s fine.” A pat on Harry’s knee accompanies Louis’ apology. Harry silently beckons Louis to turn around so his back is facing him. He takes the locket before gently clasping it around Louis’ neck. It falls against his chest, a few inches away from his collarbones.


“On the New Year’s,” Harry begins, “May I take you somewhere?”


Louis’ eyebrows furrow, “To where?”


He feels Harry’s fingers on his arm, gently tracing, “It’s a surprise, babe. Hopefully, you’ll love it.”


Louis’ hand stills on Harry’s knee, “Haz, you’ve given us so much already—“


“I want to.” Harry says with a promise, “I really do.” He’s been planning this ever since his and Louis’ first date, and he’s still dead set on doing it.


Louis leans more against Harry, “As long as you’re sure.”


They return to the skating rink, showing their intact stamps on their wrists to the guards before they’re immediately led to the back so they can find their shoe sizes. Louis scrunches his nose as he removes his shoes and puts them on a rack beside the familiar pairs of shoes of his family, “I do hope that I won’t get stinky feet after this.” He slides the skating shoes on anyway.


The skating rink is a huge circle with trees framing it. A lot of people are filling it, and it was quite a trouble trying to find his family. Also, Louis has been laughing nonstop at Harry who’s trying to maintain his composure by hanging onto the side while Louis skates around him quite graciously.


Harry huffs, “Since when did you learn how to skate?”


“It’s a natural talent.” Louis makes a show of doing a twirl. He skates closer to Harry and grabs the older man’s wrist.


Harry yelps.


Louis laughs, until he receives a glare. He softens it with a kiss to the back of Harry’s hand. Their search for his family members gets pushed aside as Louis tries his best to teach Harry to at least move an inch from the side.


They end up finding them, instead of the other way around. Lottie and Jay has whipped out Doris and Ernest’s child leashes. Louis remembers the first time they got it years ago from an aunt—Jay looked absolutely horrified but eventually warms up to the idea. It’s really helpful. Jacob himself is being watched by Fizzy who stays close until Jacob skates, wobbling slightly, towards Harry.


“Daddy!” Jacob giggles, “What’s wrong?”


“Your Daddy is quite a deer on ice, Jake.” Louis tells the boy with a chuckle.


Harry huffs and stands on his shaking legs, “Would you all fancy something to eat?” He ignores Louis’ snickers and instead smiles at the kids as well as Jay, “I know there’s some food trucks outside or we can drive somewhere to—“


“Food trucks!” The kids say, even Louis squeals with them.


They spend a few more minutes on the ice before they get too chilly and decide to exit the rink. They spot a food truck nearby and they settle on the tables and chairs it’s provided in front of it. The whole time, Louis fidgets with his locket, looking at it once in a while. Lottie notices, of course she does, and she simply wiggles her eyebrows at him.


When Harry drives them home, most of them are tired and the youngest ones are conked out in their seats. Lottie and Fizzy take the duty of carrying Doris and Ernest up into their apartment with Phoebe and Daisy. Jay stays with Louis and Harry.


“Harry.” Jay begins, crossing her arms as the cold begins to really seep through. Louis wraps an arm around her back and rubs it repeatedly, “I really want to thank you for today. The kids had fun.”


Harry smiles, always his charming self, “It’s no problem, Mrs. Tomlinson.”


“Jay, please.” Jay finally cracks a smile.


Harry seems to relax more, and his smile expands to a grin, “Thank you, Mrs.—Jay. Thank you.”


As they part, Jay hugs Harry. Over her shoulder, Louis stifles a laugh as he takes in Harry’s surprised expression. When she’s inside and they’re all alone, Harry immediately takes Louis in his embrace.


Louis giggles and looks up at him, “You look shaken up.”


“Just happy.” Harry murmurs.


Louis smiles, nuzzling his face against Harry’s neck, “Thank you for today. I really appreciate it.”


“Anything for you.” Harry says. His voice is just as hushed. He moves his hands from Louis’ back to his neck, cupping his jaw.


Louis smiles up at him. Harry’s pretty sure his breath just got stolen. Louis’ absolutely beautiful. He tucks an escaped hair behind Louis’ ear and he leans down until he feels Louis’ lips against his. They’re cold, but Harry can’t care less.


Louis kisses back, and he makes himself taller by leaning up to his toes. Harry holds Louis against him, and his heart is beating so hard against his chest.


He wonders if Louis can feel it.


~○~


”Hey, Mum.” Harry greets, dropping his duffel bag which is practically filled of his and Jacob’s clothes. It’s Christmas day, and he’s driven to his parents’ home to spend it there.


“Sweetheart.” Anne hugs him and she pulls away just as quick to pay more attention for her grandson.


“Dad.” Harry smiles, hugging Robin as well and chuckling as the his stepfather pulls back to inspect his face.


“You’ve gotten your own set of wrinkles, Harry.” Robin takes the bag as he laughs, making his way upstairs into Harry’s old room to put the bag there.


“I’m more flawless than you.” Gemma’s obviously amused by the statement as she walks back to the kitchen after she grabs herself a glass of water.
Harry scoffs, flicking her on the cheek. He takes the chance as long as Jacob’s not looking, “You’re like 40, Gem.” He cooes at the baby in her arms, “Isn’t that right, little Kaila?”


Gemma pulls her away, “Don’t talk to my daughter like that.”


Harry cackles, and in return Kaila flinches and begins to wail. Her lungs is obviously fully developed, and Harry winces. It’s been years since he last experienced those horrid cries from Jacob.


Gemma practically growls at Harry, “Look what you’ve done.”


Harry chuckles but takes the baby from her arms, swaying Kaila side to side as he cooes at her. Another baby, Marga, walks up to Harry and tugs at his trousers. Harry looks down and ruffles her brown hair, “Hello there, love. Kaila’s sleeping at the moment.” Gemma walks off with the intention of helping he husband carry their luggage inside.


Jacob, the lifesaver, jogs over and invites his cousin before they’re off running to somewhere. From behind Harry, Anne speaks in an emotional voice, “Oh my. Decades ago, you and Gem are the only babies in the house.”


“Mum.” Harry chuckles, “They’re like little versions of us.”


Anne waves a hand on her face, “Never mind me.”


“Oh Mum.” Harry smiles. He continues to rock the baby in his arms before she settles, sucking on her pacifier as she lolls back to sleep.


Gemma comes back just in time, and she speaks lowly as Harry passes Kaila over to her, “Please don’t laugh again. It’s hurting everyone’s ears.”


“You offend me.”


“Nothing better.”


Harry grins. It’s good to be home.


It’s afternoon and everyone’s taking the time to just rest. Harry himself is inside his old room with Jacob napping on the bed, hugging a pillow close to him. Harry looks around the room. It’s obvious that it hasn’t changed drastically. The band posters are the only things that were removed, it seems. His desk is still on the same place as well as his lamp, his chair, his album collection. He was such a teenager back then. It’s a good thing his mum changed the sheets into something more... acceptable or else anyone could’ve seen his embarrassing ones.


Harry’s phone vibrates in his pocket, and he sees Louis’ text. Did u get there safely?


Harry smiles and he sits himself on the edge of the bed, yeah, sorry forgot to text u. We’re just napping here then we’ll probs go out later for dinner.
Have fun then xx


Harry looks back at his still sleeping son. He makes sure Jacob’s still tucked before he exits the room. The house is quiet this time except for the quiet chatters of the telly where Robin’s watching. Harry passes quietly to get to the kitchen and eventually out in the back.


It’s chilly, and he tugs his sweater over his palms as he sits on the back porch swing. He takes his phone again before he dials Louis’ number, pressing the device to his ear.


“Hi, love.” Harry greets as soon as the ringing stops.


“Hello.” Louis’ giggle greets him, “How can I help you?”


“Just missed you, ‘s all.” Harry murmurs. He tucks his free hand between his thighs to somehow warm it, “What’re you up to today?”


“Just stay at home.” Louis hums, obviously delighted by his plans.


Harry feels the need to remind him, “Don’t forget about New Year’s.”


“I get more intrigued the more I think about it.”


“Don’t worry your mind off.” Harry says. He smiles to himself, “It’s gonna be great.” That is, if Louis accepts it.


“Are we talking New Year’s Eve or January first?” Louis asks. A crunch is heard and Harry guesses he’s munching on something right now.


“January first.” Harry answers.


“Aw.” Louis makes a disappointed noise, “I was hoping you could be my New Year’s kiss.”


“It’d still be New Year.” Harry points out.


“Oh, well.”


The door behind Harry creeks open and Harry finds Gemma standing there. Harry turns back to the phone, “Lou, I’ll be back, yeah? Bye.” He hangs up and pockets his phone immediately.


“Don’t faint on me now.” Gemma chuckles. She sits beside him on the swing and sighs, a puff of visible air escaping her mouth.


“Okay?” Harry asks.


“Mum told me you and Louis..” She leaves the sentence open and she glances at Harry cautiously.


Harry clears his throat, “What about us?”


“You two are dating?” Gemma asks. Harry knows she doesn’t mean anything by it, but the bite on her tone is beginning to grow.


Harry sighs, “We’ve been on dates, Gem.” And we’ve hugged, and kissed, and held hands, and made me feel like I could fall again.


“And Jacob’s alright with this?”


“Jacob’s alright with everything.” Harry scowls. He knows it, has seen it with his own eyes and heard it with his own ears. Louis treats Jacob like his own son and that’s all Harry needs.


“And Carter?”


Harry freezes, and he gulps. He looks away as Gemma continues to look at him. Harry knows her inseparable relationship with Carter. They’ve been practically brother and sister from how close they are. When Carter died, Gemma’s just as crushed.


“He’d want me to be happy.” Is Harry’s answer.


“Well, are you?”


“Why are you doing this?” Harry fires back. He stands to his height and faces his older sister, “You’re my sister, and you should be supportive of my decisions—“


“Carter’s practically my best friend—“


“And he was the love of my life.” Harry cuts her off. He can feels his hands clench tightly into fists until he wills himself to relax. His anger is never nice to come across with. He sighs and shakes his head, “I don’t know what you’re trying to do, Gem.”


Gemma’s frown softens, and she stands up as well, “I’m sorry, Haz.” She doesn’t sound like it at all, especially when she turns an heads back inside. Harry takes a deep breath, slowly releasing it.


His phone rings, and he looks at it to see Louis’ caller ID. Harry doesn’t think twice before he pockets his phone back before heading inside as well.


~○~


Louis wakes up late on New Year’s Day. Granted, they literally stayed up all night with the countdown until it ticks twelve and they had another small feast. For Louis’ birthday, he’s gotten simple cards from both pair of twins, and Lottie and Fizzy somehow got him a new shirt which he absolutely loves, and his Mum got him some new shoes. Louis has them safe somewhere inside his room.


Now, it’s a new year, and Louis’ determined to really keep up with their financial problem. He’s going to get a new flat, and make sure his mum and his baby siblings are going to have a better life than this.


So he gets up with pure determination in his soul, but then his phone buzzes somewhere and he grabs it. He smiles as he sees Harry’s contact before he answers, “Hi, good morning.” He’s susrprised. Harry’s been.. let’s say, not paying attention to his calls for the past few days.


“I’m taking you somewhere.” Harry says as greeting, still formal as ever.


“And where’s that?”


“Not a chance.” Harry chuckles, “But.. after lunch. I’m coming to pick you up.”


“Is there any place open today, though?” Louis asks, furrowing his eyebrows.
“Just.. shh.”


Louis laughs, “Alright, alright. I’ll get ready..” He pulls back to check the clock, “... soon.”


“Okay, bye.”


“Bye.”


He goes to shower quickly, but only because he can take his time to actually pick out some good clothes. His go-to is simply a no-no now. Shit. Eventually, he picks out the same black jeans, his pathetic converse, a plain black shirt, and he manages to pull out this really old gray trench coat and as well as his gray beanie.


When he goes downstairs, a knock on their door sounds. Jay, who’s sitting on the den with the rest of the family, raises an eyebrow. Louis grins at her, “I’m going out.” He sneakily dodges her gaze as he opens the door.


As always, Harry’s looking absolutely good. He’s in his black jeans, hid brown battered boots, a plain gray hoodie and a brown coat folded on his arm. He smiles at Louis when the door opens, “Hi.”


“Harry.” Jay greets, and she’s actually smiling.


“Jay.” Harry leans in to hug her. When he pulls away, he says. “I’m taking Louis out, if that’s alright?”


“Just give him back in one piece.” Jay waves a hand, “And not too dark out.”


Louis huffs, “Mum.” Somehow, he manages to get out of their apartment and into Harry’s car.


Inside, he looks at Harry who’s rather focused on driving, “Harry?”


Harry glances and his hand moves, grabbing Louis’ which was folded in his lap, “Yeah?”


“Where are we going?”


“Don’t worry. It won’t take long.”


It doesn’t. Louis only looks out the window as he strokes Harry’s knuckles with his thumb. When Harry pulls over in front of a house, Louis turns to him, “Are we visiting someone?”


Harry simply climbs out of the car and rounds it. Louis follows him, looking up at the flat before he turns to Harry, “Ha—“ Keys are showed to his face and he pulls back, eyes wide.


“What’s—“


“It’s yours.” Harry speaks with finality. Then he’s correcting himself, “Well.. technically I put it under your Mum’s name, but it’s all paid and—“


“Wha—Harry.” Louis splutters, heart still beating as he glances back and forth between the flat and Harry.


“Hm?” Harry hums as if it’s no big deal.


“You..—“ Louis stammers, unable to get words out of his mouth, “You bought a—“


“For you and your family.” Harry says. He turns to Louis and he receives a slap on the arm, “Ow! What—“


“Don’t you know how expensive it is to—“ Louis runs a hand over his face, “Oh my God...”


”You.. you don’t want it.” Harry says, nodding to himself.


Louis snaps out f his panicked state and he steps forward to cup Harry’s face, “Hey, hey. I’m sorry. I—I just..” He looks back at the flat, “Haz, it’s.. it’s so much. That’s a house, Harry.”


“I know you’re not a fan of receiving like.. expensive gifts—“


“Expensive is an understatement in this situation.”


“But, “ Harry emphasizes, “But I wanted to. I’ve grown attached to your family, really, and seeing you all live in that small apartment just.. it doesn’t feel right.”

 

Louis sighs shakily. He might actually feel emotional, “H, I don’t know how to...”


“I want you to accept it.” Harry says solemnly. His hands grabs Louis’, and he raises it up to his lips.


“I..” Louis looks back at the flat. It looks beautiful, and Louis can already see what his family’s life would be inside that house. They can see them making a home. Before Louis himself knows it, his tears are pouring and he’s throwing himself at Harry.


“Thank you.” He practically sobs, clinging to Harry’s neck as the latter hugs him back tightly as well, “Thank you so much.”


“Anything for you.” Harry murmurs into his hair. He feels warmth spread over his chest, and he smiles, feeling Louis’ happy tears on his jaw and neck. He feels Louis pull back then, and his lips are pushing against Harry’s. Harry only smiles and kisses him back, his hand resting against Louis’ back to support him as the lad stands to his tiptoes. 


Yeah, he’s happy.

Chapter Text


“Oh, Jacob!” Jay greets as she welcomes Louis and the little boy in. Louis huffs in protest as he gently guides the little boy inside the flat, “Wow, hi mother.”


“Oh shush.” Jay waves a hand before she goes to the kitchen with Jacob chattering happily at her and the younger ones following them.


“Hey, Lou.” Lottie greets as well, her attention focused on her phone as she rests very comfortably on their new couch.


It’s only been like a few weeks since they moved in, so Louis’ still adjusting to the new surroundings. Almost everything is new apart from their old stuff.

Now, they have their picture frames on the walls and their coats hooked behind the door. It’s a home now, and it’s all thanks to Harry. Harry who’s currently in his office even on a Saturday and supposedly working late today.


Louis whips out his phone and shoots a text to the man, we just arrived at home, im gonna take him back an hour b4 ur done so make sure 2 txt me xx


He receives a reply a minute later, dont trouble urself, im gonna pick him up xx


Louis moves to the couch, shooing Lottie’s legs off and sitting on the space, okie, gudluck at work! Xx


Harry doesn’t reply after, so Louis just places his phone at their coffee table. As soon as he leans back, Lottie starts a conversation, “Hey, I wanted to ask a question.”


“And that is?”


Lottie finally clicks off her phone and rests it on her stomach, “Are you and Harry like.. officially together?”


Louis clears his throat. He honestly doesn’t know. They still go on dates, and actually Harry’s birthday is coming up and Louis’ planning to ask him out, and this time it’ll be his treat. But.. they’ve never really sat down and talked about it.


“Cause there are so many couples at school.” Lottie snorts, “ And I don’t know. They move too fast, I guess.”


Thankfully, she doesn’t pay any attention to his lack of response. Louis simply purses his lips and scratches his head, “Everybody’s different, y’know if they want to get together as soon as possible, then that’s their thing.”


“How about you and Harry?”


Such a persistent little thing, “Well, I like to think that we will be.” He says, voice slightly hushed. He then turns to her, “Such questions, baby sister. Are you meaning to tell me something?”


“Well, no.“ Lottie sits up now, folding her legs under her as she faces the telly.


“She’s lying.” Fizzy, who’s simply reading a book on the floor, finally speaks, “She met a guy.”

 

Louis raises an eyebrow at his sister. “Ah.”


“Shut up.” Lottie hisses at both of them. She looks behind the couch to see if their mum has been eavesdropping. It’s a risky location and all that.


“And she likes him, but he doesn’t want a relationship yet because he just got out of a bad one.” Fizzy continues to drop the bombs.


“I’m done.” Lottie throws her hands up, getting up. As she leaves the room, she flicks Fizzy’s ear, “Goodluck waking yourself up on Monday.” She shrieks as she stomps to her and Fizzy’s room.


Louis chuckles at his sister’s dramatics, “What a threatening threat?”


“She’s my alarm clock.” Fizzy supplies.


Louis laughs again, and Jacob chooses the time to stroll over with a grin on his face. He’s carrying a little dough on his hands, and when Louis leans closer he sees it’s the shape of a hedgehog. He gives a surprised sound, “That looks great, Jake!”


‘It’s a hedgehog.” Jacob giggles before he’s jogging back to the kitchen.


The doorbell sounds, and Louis gets up from his place to answer it. He unlocks the door and opens it, seeing Harry on the other side having rid of his black blazer and just in his white button up.


Louis greets, “Hi.” He opens the door wider and steps to the side.


“Hey, love.” Harry kisses his cheek on his way in.


“Mum, Harry’s here.” Louis says as he leads Harry to the kitchen by the hand with Harry giving a hurried greeting towards the distracted teenager in the living room.


“Harry!” Jay smiles and walks over, giving Harry a kiss on the cheek while Harry does the same, “Would you want to stay? I’m cooking dinner.”


“Daddy, please!” Jacob pleads from kneeling on a chair so he could work on his dough on the counter.


He didn’t need to beg because Harry’s already agreeing. He thanks Jay before he walks to his son, giving him a kiss on the head and a compliment to the hedgehog dough. After ensuring that Jacob is well-entertained, he leaves the kitchen with Louis. Before settling in the livingroom, though, Harry places a hand on Louis’ back and whispers, “Can we go to your room?”


Louis leads him there, closing the door behind him. He immediately rushes to sloppily fix his unmade bed and shove a pair of shoes under his bed, “Sorry.” He says, flushing.


“It’s fine.” Harry chuckles. He sits on the bed and pats on the space beside him as if it’s his own.


Louis follows him anyway, furrowing his eyebrows at Harry’s odd behavior, “You look like you want to talk about something.”


“I do.” Harry feels the need to clear his throat so he does, “You remember that time I told you I rarely take business trips?”


Louis already knows it before Harry can say it, “You’re going on a business trip.”


“It’s only for three days.” Harry clears his throat, “At least.”


“At least?” Louis squeaks. It’s almost everyday that he sees Harry, and it’ll be hard not to even if it’s only for days.


“But a week is a max.” Harry promises. He gives a small smile and takes Louis’ hand, “I’ll try to make it three days.”


“Obviously, Jacob’s staying with me.” Louis answers for himself, “Unless you already have your mum do it? But I’d really won’t mind—“


Harry smiles wider. Everytime Louis does something related with Jacob, it always makes him so, so happy, knowing that Jacob is a priority for Louis as well, “He can stay with you.”


Louis’ smile is priceless, but then it falls as he asks again, “When are you gonna leave?”


Harry raises a hand to scratch at the back of his neck, “End of the month.”


End of the--?!” Louis cuts himself off, “You’re gone for your birthday! And that’s a week away!”


“I tried moving the date so I can at least spend it with you and Jacob but the clients are a pain in the arse.” Harry sighs. It’s evident that he feels frustrated with it, too.


Louis’ bottom lip juts out in a pout, “But I wanted to take you out.”


Harry gives a surprised chuckle, “Why?”


“It’s your birthday.” Louis rolls his eyes, but he laughs after, clarifying, “I’m only gonna celebrate the fact that you’re gonna be much older than me now.”


Harry’s hands cover his face as he releases an agonized groan, “Ugh, stop. I’m not even in my thirties.”


“You’re in your late twenties.” Louis giggles, and then he shrieks when he gets a finger jab to his side. Then followed by multiples of them as Harry tickles him.


“Stop! Stop!” Louis laughs, squealing as he sends himself to his back on the bed trying to escape. He tries to bat Harry’s hands away but the man only digs them deeper, chuckling as Louis begins to surrender, “Who’s old now, huh?”


He stops his actions momentarily, and Louis pants, giggling, “Still you.” He squeals again as Harry resumes his torture, “Okay! Okay!” Louis gives up, and he lays there panting as his laughter continues.


“Menace.” Harry chuckles, shaking his head at Louis’ ridiculousness, “But... if you wanted to take me out, then we can do it after I get home.”


Louis grins, absolutely delighted by the idea, “Deal.”


“Hm.” Harry hums, and he leans down to attach their lips together. Louis giggles against his mouth and kisses back, cupping Harry’s jaw. Harry squeezes Louis’ waist before he suddenly rolls them over. Louis releases a little squeal but gets cut off with Harry’s insistent lips. He can safely say that he melts on Harry’s chest, really.


But he pulls away when it starts to get a little frisky. Harry only smiles knowingly and pats his hips, so Louis gets off of him and sits beside him instead, “Let’s go. If we stay in here for another five minutes my mum will freak.”


Harry’s laugh bounces through the room before he nods and gets up.


~○~


“Is this a Hawaiian shirt?” Louis asks. He’s carefully siddling through Harry’s suitcase when he spots the bright yellow shirt filled with red flowers.


From the bathroom in Harry’s room, the man himself whines, “Lou, stop messing my stuff. I had a hard time zipping it up.”


“I’m not!” Louis giggles. He sneakily folds the offensive material and puts it back in the suitcase, “It’s like at the very open.” He closes the suitcase and easily zips it off, “There, all good..”


Harry emerges from the room in his dark dress pants and another button shirt, but it’s unbuttoned, and Harry’s hair is still slightly wet. His torso is exposed and he obliviously walks to the mirror and dries his hair.


Through the reflection, he meets Louis’ gaze and a smirk grazes his lips, “Yes?”


Louis huffs and rolls his eyes, averting his gaze, “Tosser.”


Harry laughs and shakes his head fondly, “You can take a picture.”


“Oh my God, shut up!” Louis shrieks before he walks out of the room with his nose up in the air. Before he can really leave, though, Harry follows him and grabs his hand.


“Just wanna give you a proper kiss before a certain baby prohibits us from doing so.” He doesn’t even let Louis speak, he just hooks a hand behind Louis’ neck and swoops down, catching Louis’ lips with his.


Louis kisses back. He squirms a little, wrapping his arms around Harry’s neck. He feels Harry smile before his hand behind his neck is gone, moving around his waist and pulling him much closer.


Harry pulls away, then, giving one last chaste peck before nuzzling his nose against Louis’ cheek, “Gonna miss you both.”


“Don’t trash the house.” Harry chuckles.


“We’ll try not to.” Louis wiggles away from the older man’s arms before leaving the room. He goes downstairs, and he takes the time to actually examine the photos hung on the wall next to it. He’s been able to look at it before, but he’s never took time to really look.


Obviously, it’s all about Harry, Jacob and Carter. Louis looks back at the bedroom door. He steps closer to one of the pictures. It’s a shot of Carter’s hand and Harry’s. They’re holding hands, and one of the fingers are adorned with a beautiful ring.


“Louis?” Harry calls from the bedroom, “Love?”


“Yeah?” Louis calls back and he begins to climb back upstairs.


“Wake Jacob for me? I’m almost done.” Harry speaks as he opens the door, wheeling his suitcase out.


“Yeah, sure.” Louis goes to Jacob’s room, knocking softly. He goes to peek in but a muffled, “Daddy?” comes from the inside. Louis smiles, “It’s Lou, babe.”


The door cracks open and Jacob’s voice is heard, “Lou, come on.” He snags Louis’ wrist and pulls Louis inside, closing the door behind him and locking it.


“Jake, what are you doing?” Louis chuckles softly. He sees heaps of papers on the floor as well as coloring pencils. He kneels by it, and he inspects each one. There’s one in the middle, a drawing and a little note beside it. Surrounding it was crumpled ones.


“What’s this, Jake?” Louis asks as Jacob plops down beside him to start working on his drawing.


“Um.. a gift for Daddy.” Jacob informs, tongue poking out at the side of his mouth as he colors the drawing quickly, “He won’t be here tomorrow for his birthday so I want to give it to him earlier.”


Louis’ heart swells, “That’s so sweet, baby. I’m sure your Daddy will love it.”


“He better do!” Jacob wails, and Louis chuckles at the child’s dramatics, which endearingly resembles to his own. Jacob finishes coloring, and he looks at his masterpiece. He jumps to his feet and excitedly pulls Louis from the room to meet Harry where he’s already in the den checking his stuff.


“Daddy!” Jacob calls out. He carefully climbs down the stairs with Louis watching him intently before he breaks into a sprint to reach his father.
Harry catches him, “What’s this, love?”


Jacob flushes, and he shows the drawing to Harry, “H-Happy Birthday, Daddy.”


Louis can see how fond Harry’s face is, and the older man presses kisses all over Jacob’s face, “Thank you so much, sweetheart.” He points at the stick figures, “Is that you and me?”


“Yes.” Jacob nods, “And Louis.” He points at a certain spot above, “And that’s Dada.”


Harry’s surprised, he really is, but his expression morphs into a smile before he glances at Louis, who’s simply watching them but having his own fond face. Harry says to Jacob, “I love it.” He kisses his son’s cheek, “Love you, Jakey.”


Jacob giggles and hugs Harry’s neck, “Love you, too, Daddy.”

 

Harry puts him down, carefully grabbing the paper, “Can I fold this?”


“Whatever you want.” Jacob says, giving his permission.


Harry folds it before he tucks it in his coat pocket. He kneels down again, “Now, I’m going to call every night, yes? Before you fall asleep.”


“Yes, Daddy.” Jacob nods obediently.


“Good boy.”


Louis watches as Harry presses a kiss to Jacob’s hair before whispering something, his eyes locked with Louis’. Jacob giggles after and he nods, doing a little salute. He stays with Harry’s side until they’re outside and Harry’s ready to climb the cab, having hauled his suitcase in the back.


Harry climbs in, rolling the window open. Louis hoists Jacob up, and the small boy waves, “Bye, Daddy!”


Harry smiles, glancing at Louis before the cab drives away. He waves through the window and blows a kiss.


Louis turns to Jacob, “How about grilled cheese?”


~○~


Harry sits back in his seat, sighing heavily. He’s three hours in, and he’s not really fond of checking and counting the time during these types of situations but here he is. He picks his phone back up. He’s been doing it for the past time. But he decides against it this time as he pockets it. He feels the paper against his fingertips and he pulls it out and unfolds it.


Harry smiles at his son’s drawing. He’s still enamored by it the moment he’s seen it. To be honest, he never noticed Jacob working on it. The day before, it was just a normal day, and Harry made sure Jacob is actually asleep before he went to sleep himself.


Like every kid’s drawing, it’s messy. But it’s definitely unique. Harry is a tall figure on the left with sticks as his hair considering how it’s always pushed back. Jacob stands beside him holding his and Louis’ hand, who is on the right. He’s colored in blue and his hair is down to a fringe.


Harry chuckles at that. He likes Louis’ fringe.


And Carter is on the far right, drawn with white wings.


Harry’s train of thought is cut off when his phone beeps. He immediately fishes it from his pocket, trying not to disturb the other passengers on the plane. It’s an email, and it’s not even from any of Harry’s clients. It’s from Brenda.


Harry’s palms immediately feel sweaty. He doesn’t even know why. He’s a 27-year-old man and he’s scared of his past-supposedly mother-in-law. Harry winces. That sounds wrong just thinking about it.


Harry,


I just remembered that it’s your birthday and wanted to send my regards. In fact, I have organized a party especially for you, but I was informed that you would have a business trip all week long so I was forced to move it. Send the day you’re free and I can settle the arrangement.


I wish you a happy birthday, and a safe trip. I also send my love to my grandson, Jacob.


Sincerely, Brenda.


Harry sags against his seat. Not because of the awkward email. Not because of her lack of memory (that in fact, Harry’s birthday is tomorrow). But because of the party that she said she’s planned, even without Harry’s permission. Damnit. Damnit.


He leaves the email on read, and he shoves his earphones onto his ear to blare out his music to drown out the stress.


Hours and hours later, he finds himself in his hotel room. It’s a large one, and a lonely one at that. He’s used to hearing Jacob’s babbles and Louis’ comments altogether. Harry wanders to his bed and leaves his suitcase by the door, landing face first on the very soft material.


He manages to shrug off his coat so he can fish his phone, wallet, and Jacob’s drawing. He clicks his phone open and dials Louis’ number. Louis answers quite cheerfully, “Hi!”


“Hi, babe.” Harry says. He adjusts himself so he’s on his back and he begins to toe off his shoes, “I’m in my hotel room, and it’s one in the morning.”


“It’s five here, in the afternoon.” Louis laughs, “Jacob’s asking for you, I’m gonna give him the phone.”


Harry only hums in acknowledgement. Seconds later, Jacob’s squealing in his ear, “Daddy!”


“Hi darling.” Harry fights a yawn. God, he’s so tired, “How’s your day sweetheart?”


“I miss you!” Jacob practically cries out.


Harry chuckles, smiling, “I miss you, too, babe.”


There’s silence after that, and he hears Louis’ laugh from the distance before his voice is back up, “Your son abandoned you for Spiderman.”


“Would you abandon me, too?” Harry teases.


“Hm, for Andrew Garfield? Sign me up.”


Harry makes a sound, “Hey.”


Louis laughs, but doesn’t mock Harry any further, “How was your flight?”


“Tiring.” Harry groans. He realizes he’s lying on only the middle part of the bed so he scoots himself up so he’s resting his head against the mountain of pillow. He groans again, “These pillows are insanely soft.”


“I bet they are.” Louis agrees, “Ooh, is LA pretty? I’ve seen postcards before and it’s a beauty.”


“Same old.” Harry can’t help but yawn, scrubbing his eyes, “I’m gonna take you and Jacob here with me sometime.” He yawns again.


When Louis speaks, it’s soft, “Love, go to sleep. You’ve got a long day tomorrow.”


“Hm..” Harry rests on his side and rests the phone on the side of his face by his ear so he doesn’t have to hold it. His head lolls and he blinks repeatedly.


“Goodnight, Harry.” He hears Louis say. He hears more words being muttered but his brain is too tired to process it, and he’s completely swallowed by sleep.


He wakes up five hours later, and he groans as he searches for his phone. He squints at the bright light as soon as he clicks his phone open. It’s five am, and his first meeting is at around lunch. Harry sighs and sits up, scrubbing at his eyes. He’s only been sleeping for four hours but sleep can’t find its way back to him.


He stands up and stretches his arms up, loving the crack on his back as he twists from side to side before he lazily takes himself to the bathroom. It’s luxurious, of course it is, and Harry’s spends an awful lot of time finding the towels before he locks himself in the shower.


Inside, Harry makes sure to wash off the tiredness of hid body. He’s got a day full of meetings today, so he might as well do well. He shaves himself, really taking his time so time can pass by. He gets out of the shower by a quarter to seven and he dresses himself in some sweatpants and a shirt, before he decides against himself and slides on some jeans instead.


He goes downstairs to the hotel restaurant for breakfast. He’s immediately taken to a seat and he orders for a full one. As he waits, he fishes for his phone to send a text to Louis, just a simple good morning for both his boys.


And he frowns when Louis texts back almost immediately, a simply good morning as well. But it’s not even morning there. Harry’s sure it’s got to be like around midnight back in London. He calls Louis’ number and presses the phone to his ear. It rings a couple of times, and Harry’s about to hang up when he hears Louis, “Hi, Haz.”


“What are you doing up?” He hears shuffling from the other line and he asks again, “Are you in bed? Then why aren’t you sleeping?”


“Slow down there, cowboy.” Louis giggles, and his voice is thick with sleep, but he doesn’t sound like he’s gotten sleep at all, “I just left the room, Jacob’s sleeping and I don’t want to wake him up. I’m in the den.”


“And you’re up.” Harry states.


“For some reason, I can’t go to sleep.” Louis says, yawning slightly, “It’s morning there, right?”


“Hence my good morning text to you.” Harry says. He sees his waiter approaching with his food and he leans back in his chair, “I want you to sleep. You’re gonna be too tired later, love. You can take my bed.”


“Can’t wake up Jake, though.”


“He can sleep on his own. Take my bed. Trust me, I know how it feels like to sleep in a tiny bed like that.” He snorts, then, “Well, I guess, it’s not too hard for you since you’re smaller than m—“


“It’s midnight in here, don’t make me come there and whip your ass.”


Harry lets out a loud laugh, almost filling the quiet restaurant until he covers his mouth with his fist, “You just made my morning better. I’ll let you sleep.”


“Hmm.” Louis mutters sleepily.


Harry gently warns, “I won’t hang up until you’re at the bed.”


“Much better in here, then.”


“Louis.”


Louis grumbles, “Alright.” And Harry can hear his almost silent footsteps and quiet shuffles before a door swings open, and more shuffles are heard.


“Alright, I’m here. And it smells like that cologne.”


“Like me?”
“That cologne, Harry.”


Harry hums, and he picks up his tea and takes a sip, “Whatever you say.”


“I’m gonna go to sleep. Your boring voice is boring me to sleep.” Louis tells with no bite, and Harry can only smile fondly as he hears Louis’ yawn. Then Louis’ worriedly stating, “Y’know that’s not true, right? Your voice isn’t boring—“


Harry chuckles in surprise, “You’re fine, babe.”


“Text me when your day is over.” Louis mumbles.


“Always.” Harry says and he picks up his fork to start feeding himself, “Get more sleep, yeah? Kiss Jake for me, tell him to be good. Alright, bye, Lov—“ He cuts himself off, catching himself off guard. His fork even slips from his grasp and onto the table.


He’s pretty sure his heart is gonna beat out of his chest from how hard it’s knocking. From what exactly? He doesn’t know why. Mainly from shock, because he almost told Louis he loved him. Which.. is not true. At least, not entirely. Because Harry’s sure they’re at the baby steps of the start of their relationship and it’s.. simply too soon. It’s just.. a spur of the moment. He was used to telling those to Carter and—


Harry shakes his head, blinking hard. He focuses back on Louis, and he hears his light snores. He practically sighs in relief. He listen a minute more or two before he eventually hangs up.


This is gonna be a long week.


~○~


As soon as he steps into the house, Jacob is already being swarmed with the youngest twins, the other girls not present to add to the trouble. Louis chuckles fondly and kisses his mum in the cheek. He’s staying at Harry’s house at the moment, mostly for Jacob’s sake. And also because the house needs to have someone to at least guard it.


“I’m glad you two finally came over.” Jay says, looking upset. It’s only been two days, really.


“Sorry. I just needed to get something done.” Louis says, and before his mother can question it, he dodges out of the way and jogs to his room. He fishes for his charger and some cash before he shoves them in his pocket.


“Lou.” Jay calls for him, stopping him midway, “Fizzy has this little program in school and you’re gonna go with her because apparently, it takes place on evening.”


Louis nods, “Alright. Well, when is it?”


“Don’t worry. It’ll be around next week, Saturday.”


Louis shrugs, he, Harry and Jacob can go out before that time. “Jake.” He calls, “Are you gonna be alright on your own, love? I’m gonna head out for a bit.”


Jacob stands to his knees from where he’s helping Ernie and Doris with their puzzle, “Where?”


“The library.” Louis answers.


He also doesn’t miss the way the kid’s face light up, “Library?”


“Library, sweets.” Louis smiles.


“C-Can I come with you?” Jacob asks shyly. He glances between the twins, seeming to have an internal battle with himself, “If Doris and Ernest will let me.”


“They’ll be alright, sweetie.” Jay smiles, patting Jacob’s head softly.


The little boy skips towards Louis happily, grasping Louis’ hand as Louis reaches out for him. Louis makes sure to hold firm into that small hand as they walk out of the house and into the street. The street isn’t that busy for it’s only the middle of the afternoon, but Louis’ just making sure. Jacob’s not a child for outdoors, but only because Harry’s a busy person and he can’t always let his son play with strangers.


“You won’t mind if we walk, Jake?” Louis asks.


“I like walking!” Jacob exclaims.


They reach the library soon enough, and Louis leads Jacob to the kids section, “Jake, can you stay here for a few minutes? I’m just gonna over there and pick something up, yeah?”


Jacob looks enamored enough by the books, and he plops himself down on one of the tiny tables and nods up to Louis, “Okay.”


With a kiss to his head, Louis walks up to the counter, occasionally glancing behind his shoulder from where he can still get a view of Jacob. He talks to the librarian, and he manages to print all the pictures he’s saved into his phone. It costs quite a lot for him, but it’s alright. He thanks the lady after it’s done and accepts the little envelope containing the pictures. He carefully puts in inside his pocket before he walks up to Jacob.


“Hi, love.” Louis smiles. Jacob’s holding a book and he’s currently reading it. As soon as he hears Louis, he looks up with wide eyes.


“Are we leaving yet?”


“Well, if you want to, babe. But I have to run to a nearby store.” Louis informs the child.

Jacob’s shoulders slump, and he mutters an “Oh,” before he closes the book
“Do you want to borrow that, love?” Louis asks, gently stopping the boy from returning the book, “We can borrow it, and you’ll have a fee days to read it.”


“We can do that?” Jacob’s smile is back up again, and that’s worth it.


“Of course, sweetheart. Come on.” Louis grabs the book and walks back to the librarian with Jacob. He gets the book stamped and he signs before he’d giving the book back to Jacob who hugs it close to his chest.


“Thank you, Louis.” Jacob says.


“You’re welcome, Jake.” Louis tells him.


They walk to a nearby store to buy a slightly larger than average-sized picture frame. It’s a simple black one and hopefully it can match Harry’s walls or his nightstand. After that, Louis decides to treat Jacob with some ice cream before they walk back home. They simply spend a good hour with the twins and Jay before they’re on their way back to Harry’s house.


When they arrive, Jacob only dashes to the den to start reading his borrowed book. Louis chuckles and pulls out his phone to take a picture before sending it to Harry, took him to the library today xx how’s ur day?


He walks himself to the kitchen and opens the fridge, trying to think of what he can cook for dinner. He hears his phone ring. He grins and fishes it immediately, answering it, “Hi, Haz.”


“Good morning, love.” Harry says groggily, as if he’d just woken up from his sleep, “Or.. afternoon. Good evening, love.”


Louis giggles, “Did you just wake up?”


“It’s..” A pause, “... nine half here. Morning.”


“Well, good morning.” Louis tells him fondly, “I’m about to start dinner. I can call Jake to keep you company.”


“Please, miss him.” Harry yawns heavily, “I miss you, too.”


“Miss you, too, babe.” Louis smiles before he walks to the doorway of the kitchen “Jake, it’s your Daddy!” He gets no response, and he confusedly walks to the den to find Jacob still reading, so invested with his book. Louis giggles quietly, “Your son has abandoned you for a book.”


“Jacob.” Louis calls again, softly, and Jacob turns to him, eyes wide, “Daddy’s on the phone.”


Jacob scrambles to his feet and to get to the phone, squealing with a loud “Daddy?!” into it. Louis only chuckles and goes back to the kitchen. 


Minutes after their phone call, another call causes Louis’ phone to blare out again. He shakes his head and answers it with a, “Miss me already?”


A teenage girl shrieks in his ear, “Lou!” It’s Fizzy.


“Hey, Fiz. How’s school,” Louis says casually, “Oh, hey. I’m supposed to go with you at this school program—“


She whisper-yells then, quite harshly, “There’s no program! I was going to a party and I had to find an excuse.”


Louis shuts the fridge door closed, “Felicite Tomlinson—“


“Lou, I’m seventeen!” Fizzy practically cries out, “It’s one party! Let me complete my highschool!”


Louis sighs heavily, because okay, he understands. He always does, “What am I supposed to tell Mum, then?”


“Well, you can drop me off at that house!”


“I’ll walk you there, alright.”


“Anything! Then you can do whatever you want.”


Louis groans, rubbing a hand through his face. Teenagers are frustrating, “Fiz, if we get in trouble.” They will, Louis knows it.


“Won’t!” She cuts him off, “Just please, please, Lo—“


“Fine, jeez.” Louis huffs, rolling his eyes at his sister’s dramatics, “I’ll come with you to that party of yours, then I’ll come back to you after you kick me out.”


“Love you!”


Louis scoffs, “You better pass your exam for this.”


“Thank you!” she giggles again before hanging up. Louis sighs then, mentally scolding himself for being weak.


~○~


Harry breathes a lot easier when he steps out of the building, sighing deeply as he waits for the car he called to arrive. He’s just finished the most important meeting, the reason why he’s on this business trip, and he’s more than happy to go home tomorrow.

 

As soon as he gets back to the hotel, he simply drapes himself on the couch and toes off his shoes as he turns the telly on. He goes to reach for his phone, but before he can press Louis’ number, it rings in his hands.


He springs up to a sitting position almost immediately as soon as he sees Brenda’s name. He runs a hand through his hair. This is surely gonna be about that party. He closes his eyes and answers the call, “Brenda, hi.”


“Harry.” Brenda greets, “I hope you’ve read my email.”


“Yes, I uh.. I did. I apologize for not replying, I was busy with meetings.” Harry rubs a hand over his face repeatedly. He hasn’t even thought about that party all week.


“Hopefully, you’re not going to be too busy for your party.” Brenda says. She’s not giving Harry any room to answer.


“Brenda, I..” Harry falters easily.


“I organized that party for you, Harry.” Brenda insists, although it sounds more like she’s forcing him, “Don’t waste my effort in trying to bond with you.”


Harry really does falter at that. He can’t speak more words, and it’s like he’s turned into dust. He really doesn’t what to answer. But... it shouldn’t be that bad, right? He’s finally getting Brenda’s approval.


“But if you really don’t want to—"


“I-I’ll go, Brenda.” Harry says. He stuttered, but he’s certain, “Thank you, really. I appreciate it. When’s the party?”


“Next week, darling.”


Harry nods, “Okay, yes. Jacob and I will be there.”


“Alright. See you then, Harry.” Before Harry can hang up, Brenda adds, “And... you can bring that babysitter of my grandson.”


Harry freezes. He forgot about Louis. Shit, he forgot about Louis. When he comes to himself, the call is dead and he tosses his phone to the coffee table. He groans into his hands. Wait, why is he even stressing out about this? This is supposed to be good news.


His phone rings again, and Harry picks it up. He answers it with a breathy, “Lou.”


“Hi.” Louis giggles. Harry immediately feels lighter.


“Hi.” Harry slumps back into the couch.


“You’re going home tomorrow!” Louis squeals into his ear, “And I’m gonna make sure I’ll treat you properly.”


Harry chuckles tiredly, “Whatever you want, baby.” He’s already excited.


When he does get home the next day, it’s the ungodly hour of the day and Harry gets home on his own, having told Louis that it’s too early for both him and Jacob. It’s also still dark out. He sneaks into the house, stepping in and closing the door quietly before locking it.


He leaves his suitcase at the bottom of the stairs. He’d make to much noises lifting it up the staircase, and the house is far too quiet. He goes to Jacob’s room first, and his little boy is tucked perfectly, his night light still on. Harry walks over and kisses his forehead. He plugs out the nightlight since the sun is about to come out at any hour, before he leaves the room.


Louis’ sleeping in his bed when he comes in. Louis’ clad in a shirt and some sweats, swarmed with the sheets. He looks absolutely small in the king-sized bed, and Harry smiles fondly. He puts the contents of his pocket on his nightstand and that’s where he notices it.


There’s a new picture frame on his nightstand. He picks it up and adjusts it slightly where the moonlight is so he can see it better. His heart melts instantly. It’s a collage of him, Jacob and Louis. Harry has no idea how Louis took it, but it all seems... unplanned. Obviously, Harry didn’t know Louis took a picture of him still sleeping.


Harry shifts his gaze from the picture and to Louis, who’s still oblivious to the world. Harry puts the frame back to his nightstand before he walks inside his closet to change into some sweatpants and a tanktop. He siddles behind Louis and leans up to press a kiss on his boy’s temple.


Louis stirs, his face scrunching up as he twists before he realizes he’s in someone’s arms. He hums contentedly as he turns around and welcomes himself more, nuzzling Louis’ neck. Harry chuckles fondly, wrapping an arm around his waist and pulling him closer, “I missed you, love.”


“Hm..” Louis groggily replies, “Time ‘sit?”


Harry cranes his neck reaching for his watch on the nightstand before he returns it once reading the time, “Four am.”


Louis whines, “Sleep.”


But Harry’s been missing something these past week, “I missed your lips.”


A smile spreads his lips when Louis leans up to press his lips against Harry’s. Harry hooks a hand behind Louis’ head and kisses him deeper until Louis swats at his chest and lies back down to make it his pillow. Harry falls asleep easier this time.


~○~


“There is absolutely no way you took me to a carnival.” Harry gapes, eyes wide as he looks out the window. He then turns to Louis as he finally spots the ferris wheel, and the other rides, being illuminated by different colorful lights, “You took me to a carnival.”


“I did.” Louis grins. He parks Harry’s car and he climbs out of it, opening the door for Jacob who’s in the backseat.


“It’s so pretty!” Jacob squeals, hugging Louis around the thighs.


“As pretty as you, sweetheart.” Louis chuckles fondly and leans down to press a kiss on his head.


Jacob lets go, his hand grabbing Louis’ wrist to begin pulling the man towards the entrance, “Let’s go!” Louis looks back at Harry and offers his hand. A smile spreads on Harry’s lips, soft and sweet, before he takes Louis’ hand.


Once they paid for the tickets for unlimited rides, they start off with the small ones like the teacups and the mini rollercoaster. They walked around with Jacob basically leading the way, stopping at every booth to play games. They stop at a snack stand a few times and Harry’s quicker to pull out his wallet, resulting in Louis glaring at him until Harry softens it with his wink. Jacob became especially mesmerized by that fish stuff toy, so he was determined to play as focused as he can.


Behind him, Louis says to Harry, “I remember my stingray.”


“Oh?” Harry smiles, wrapping an arm around Louis’ waist, “It’s the best night so far.”


Louis quirks an eyebrow, “Not this one?”


“The night’s not finished.” Harry presses a lingering kiss to Louis’ forehead. When he speaks again, it’s serious, “Thank you for today. I’m having a lot of fun.”


Louis grins, a mischievous glint in his eyes, “The night’s not over.”


“It isn’t.” Harry chuckles and he bends down to capture Louis’ lips with his. He keeps it chaste, waiting for a few more beats. Before he pulls away, though, they hear a small gasp and they immediately pull away to see Jacob, eyes wide and small hands each holding a yellow ball.


Louis squirms out of Harry’s grasp and steps towards Jacob cautiously, “Love—“


He doesn’t get to finish his sentence because Jacob is already squealing and covering his eyes, the yellow balls dropping to his feet, “Don’t kiss in front of me!”


Louis looks back at Harry, confused but still a little nervous. He wants to ask Jacob but the little boy is already picking the balls back up to resume playing. Louis turns to Harry, then, “He saw us.”


“He did.” Harry reaches forward to grab Louis’ arm, sliding against the length of it before settling on his hand. He watches Louis gnaw on his bottom lip anxiously, “Tell me what you’re thinking.”


Blue eyes flicker to his, “Will Jacob be alright? With us? Well... with—with me?”


Harry stops a chuckle, and it ends with a fond smile on his lips. He kisses Louis’ temple, “You’ve got nothing to worry about.”


After playing, Louis becomes more careful of his actions. He would skip along with Jacob and carry him whenever the boy’s little legs decide not too spend its energy, and he bats away from Harry’s touches in fear of sparking something unpleasant in Jacob.


Okay, he knows he’s probably ruining this thing for Harry, but, still.


After a ride, they sit on a bench, occupying it as Jacob munches on his pretzel and cuddling his duckling on his arms. He isn’t even sitting with them. He’s standing in front of them and turning in every direction possible, still so eager to explore every inch of this place. Harry’s sitting beside Louis, an inch away from him and his arms crossed. He has a small smile on his face.


Louis scoots over subtly, and guiltily, before he places a hand on Harry’s. Harry’s knowing smile just slips wider and he shifts his arms, taking Louis’ hand as well.


They’re back on their feet after Jacob finished his pretzel. Louis proceeds to take pictures of Jacob and Harry both, just for a little memory. They put the ferris wheel in last, of course it’s last. It’s probably the most beautiful ride out there, and surely everyone’s excited to get on it, hence, the pretty long line.
While waiting, Jacob spots a cotton candy and tugs at Harry’s sleeve before pointing at it. Harry points out that Jacob’s had enough sweets for tonight, but the little menace pulls off his pout and big eyes that has Harry sighing. It’s the last straw when Jacob turns to Louis and does the same thing, “Louis, Daddy is being mean.”


Louis cackles, the nerve, before he cooes at Jacob to wait for him. Before Harry can protest, Louis’ ducking through the ropes of the line to get out of it and buy Jacob a cotton candy.


“Daddy.” Jacob says, and his pout is gone as he pats at Harry’s shoulders.
“Jake, that’ll be your last candy for tonight, okay? I don’t want you—“


“Daddy.” Jacob whines.


“What, baby?”


“Do you.. do you like Louis?” Jacob suddenly asks, and Harry realizes that his baby boy has literally pulled off that stunt so he can ask Harry personally.
Harry looks over the crowd to see Louis in a distance, standing by a small cotton candy cart as he waits for the man to be finished with it. He’s looking up at the big ferris wheel, a small smile on his lips as the bright lights perfectly reflects on his eyes. He gets handed the candy and he turns to the man to pay and with a bright smile.


Harry knew, then. He’s reminded all over again, “Yes, sweetheart.” He presses a kiss to Jacob’s temple, “I do. I really do.”


“I knew it!” Jacob giggles in triumph, “A-And.. you were kissing earlier.”


Harry actually blushes at that, “You didn’t have to see that, Jake.”


“Does that mean you’re together?”


“I..” Harry falters slightly. “Not yet, darling. Not yet.”


“But when you are, will you tell me?” Jacob asks.


“You’ll be the first to know, Jake.” Harry promises. That time is when Louis appears, popping from under the ropes that keep the line clean before he hands the candy to Jacob, “Here you go!”


Jacob is up with his act again, smiling brightly and taking the sweet, “Thank you!”


Louis chuckles fondly and ruffles Jacob’s hair. Harry can only stare in awe.
When they finally get into a car, Jacob kneels on the seat and looks over the beautiful view of the rest of the carnival. Harry’s staying on one side and Louis’ staying on the other, keeping the cart balanced even if Jacob’s running a storm between them.


“Careful, Jacob.” Harry scolds lightly, grasping the boy’s shirt at the back.


“Sorry, Daddy.” Jacob says, shy, and he takes a seat nearest to the locked door where the window is bigger.


The ride starts to move, slowly for there are still passengers leaving and filling the carts. Harry scoots over to the center part of the semicircle seat, and the cart tips slightly to where Louis and Jacob are. Louis lets out an unexpected squeal of, “Harry!”


Harry laughs, loud and boisterous, “What?” Jacob giggles in the background.
Louis huffs and scoots as well until the cart is balanced, but he keeps an inch between him and Harry, close but not touching. They stay like that for the entire ride, only a few glances at each other to keep them grounded. Harry would wink and Louis would either blush or swat him on the thigh. After some time, Harry leans in to whisper, “We’re like childish lovers.”


Louis laughs and shakes his head, “Clichè highschool sweethearts?”


“Most likely.” Harry grins. He then turns to Jacob who’s still by the entrance, “Jake.”


Jacob easily snuggles to Harry’s side between him and Louis and Louis giggles and reaches out to stroke the boy’s hair, “Are you having fun, Jacob?”


“Yes!” Jacob answers gleefully. He shifts until his little arms are around Louis this time, and Louis happily hugs back, poking his tongue out at Harry, who only chuckles fondly at the two. He then scoots closer and wraps an arm on the top of Louis’ seat, looking out the window to see the beautiful contrast of lights all over the area. He looks at the darky sky and smiles.


The ride lasts for a fast ten minutes, and before they know it, the door to their cart opens and they’re guided out of it and towards the exit. Only then did Harry carry Jacob, the boy’s legs tired to walk suddenly. Harry rubs his back, “Do you want to go home, Jakey?”


“Yes, please.” Jacob murmurs, and that’s that.


Louis offers to drive but Harry wordlessly walks to the drover’s side once he laid Jacob down on the backseat. He’s asleep already, contented with the leather seats of Harry’s car. The drive to Harry’s house is quiet, but only because Louis’ also conked out against the window.


Harry parks the car inside the garage, and he picks up Jacob and leans him over his shoulder so Harry can wake Louis up, who only stirs before his eyes open wide in surprise. Harry only strokes his arm and grabs his arm, “Come on.”


Harry leads them both inside, leaving Louis in the hallway so he can tuck Jacob in. Harry only dresses him from his clothes and into his pajamas before tucking him in with a kiss goodnight. He leaves after plugging on his son’s nightlight. In the hallway, Harry smiles fondly at the sight of Louis yawning into a fist, scrubbing his eyes, but the image is ruined when Louis straightens up, “I’m gonna go.”


Harry raises an eyebrow. He wasn’t planning on letting Louis walk alone now, “You know how I get about that idea, love.” He walks over and grabs Louis’ hand. Again, he takes the reign to lead them to Harry’s room, where Harry lets go of Louis’ hand after kicking the door closed. He walks to his closet and grabs two of his shirts, and one of his sweatpants. He strips to his boxers and takes one lf the shirts to pull it on.


Back in his room, Louis has kicked his shoes off and is running a hand through his hair as he blinks sleepily. “Here.” Harry hands him the clothes and points a chin towards the closet. Louis stands to his tiptoes and presses a grateful kiss to Harry’s cheek before he walks to the closet with the clothes.


They’re cuddling in bed moments later. Louis’ trying hard not to doze off as he lays on Harry’s chest with Harry’s arm around him. He mumbles sleepily, “Thank you.”


“Hm?” Harry asks, “I should be the one saying that.”


“Just..” Louis pauses, “In general.” He then pushes himself up slightly. Harry looks at him, eyes raking over Louis’ face. Louis pecks his lips before he pulls back, “You mean so much to me. You and Jacob both.”


Harry sits up on one of his elbows, hooking an arm around Louis’ neck to kiss his forehead, “You mean so much to us, too.” He brushes his lips over Louis’ eyelid.


~○~


Louis wipes his hands with a towel in the kitchen and leaves the counter dirty momentarily as he hears Harry’s discarded phone beeping on the den. It blinks continuously before stopping. Louis walks towards Harry’s office before knocking.


“Come in,” is Harry’s reply. He’s working at home today for an unknown reason, but Louis does know that Harry texted him that morning saying that he’s lazy as fuck to be a ceo at the moment. But here he is, doing work.


Louis peeks his head in. Harry’s desk is filled with papers and folders, his eyebrows furrowed as he types at his computer with his laptop sitting right next to it, waiting to be used. The man’s eyebrows are furrowed, not even looking up.


“Your phone’s beeping.” Louis informs, “I think you have emails.”


Harry grabs a folder and begins to scan it with his eyes, a pen rolling between his fingers, “Will you read it for me, love?”


Louis enters the room and tries to unlock Harry’s phone, and he asks, “H, what’s your password?”


Harry stops writing on the said folder momentarily, seemingly freezing before he answers, “0421.” Louis nods, typing in the numbers.


“Okay.” Louis clears his throat, “ ‘Harry, your birthday party... is tomorrow night. Just a little reminder. You can bring anyone you want, and I’d want Jacob and even... Louis to be.. there’—“


The phone is snatched from his hands and he flinches slightly in surprise. Harry’s almost towering over him, eyebrows furrowed once again as he reads the message himself.


“Uh..” Louis turns timid, “W-What was that?”


“Nothing.” Harry pockets his phone before he goes back to his chair, resuming his work without another glance towards Louis, who only fishmouths before leaving the room, masking the slight hurt he felt. It shouldn’t be a big deal, but at these types of things Harry would tell.


“Louis?” Jacob asks as soon as he sees Louis enter the den, “Want to play with me?” He gestures at the scrabble in front of him. He’s just about to assemble it.


“Let me finish with the kitchen, love.” Louis smiles before he’s up to wiping down the counter, quickening his pace so he can with Jacob. He washes his hands after before he plops down across Jacob to begin their game.


An hour later and Jacob’s cheering in victory as he beats Louis, and the latter fakes-cry until Jacob hugs him sweetly. Louis only chuckles and hugs back, kissing the boy’s head when they pull away.


Only then does Harry stroll out of his office. He looks dead tired, and he runs a hand through his hair as he instructs, “Jake, can you go to your room for a bit?”


Jacob stands confusedly, but he does follow his father’s orders. Louis pulls out his phone as he stands up, pretending to read an inexistent text. He smiles up at Harry, “I’m gonna go. Fizzy wants me to help her get ready for that program of hers tomorrow.”


He goes to turn around, but a hand encloses his wrist, “Just wait.”


“Yeah?” Louis asks.


“I’m sorry.” Harry begins, and he takes Louis’ hand to press a kiss at the back of it, “Just.. stressed and all that.”


Louis slides his hand from Harry’s grip, ignoring the flash of hurt through Harry’s eyes, “Mind telling me what’s that all about?”


Harry hesitates, “It’s really nothing.” He answers weakly.


Louis ignores the pang in his chest once again, and he only nods and hopes his smile is sincere enough, “That’s okay. Obviously, if.. you don’t want to tell me, you don’t want me involved.” He laughs, but it comes off as nervous and forced. Fuck, he studied to be an actor, “I’m gonna go, Harry.”


As soon as he turns, he quickens his pace to the door. He’s about to open the door when Harry calls his name again before footsteps follow him. Louis turns back just in time for Harry to enter the foyer.


“I really need to go, Harry.” Louis says, twisting the door knob and cracking it open.


“It was a birthday party.” Harry answers and he strides towards Louis, “Brenda’s.. strangely setting up a party for me.”


Louis nods, “Well, that’s nice.”


“Yeah, uh..” Harry runs a hand through his hair, “And Lou, of course I want you to be there. Just..” He’s trying so hard to find the words, “You have to go with Fizzy, yeah? You told me before.”


Louis raises an eyebrow, “I also told you that it was some party of hers and not a program.”


“It’s still your responsibility to get her there safely.”


“Harry, that’s all I have to do- get her in and out of there. There’s enough time for me to come to that party of yours.” Louis insists. He really wants to come, only because he’s invited and he’d gladly be there.


Harry looks like he’s not open to that idea. He looks like he’s debating inside his head, “Louis..”


Louis gulps down what he wants to say. He nods knowingly, “But I told you, it’s alright.. if you don’t me to be there.” He bites his tongue, “Have fun tomorrow.” He doesn’t let Harry speak, even ignores him as the older man calls him as he quickly walks away.


~○~


Harry has royally fucked up.


He’s staring at his phone longer than necessary and he has not received a single text from Louis, which caused him to worry and be anxious as hell at the same time. It’s already dark out and he doesn’t even know if Louis’ home.
But still, he did fuck up.


Alright, he did want Louis to be there, of course he did. It’s Harry’s birthday party, which... quite unfortunately is organized by the mother of his late boyfriend and.. it puts a barrier into things. But Brenda did say she wants Louis to be there. Yup, Harry’s in the biggest doghouse there is to ever exist.


He presses his phone to his ear again, sighing heavily when not even after three rings, the call is out to voicemail. That simply means that Louis’ there but simply ignoring his calls. Well, at least he’s probably home. But still very mad at Harry.


Harry groans into his hands, dropping himself backwards on his bed. What is he even supposed to do?


“Daddy?” Jacob peeks inside the room, and he’s already in his pajamas and he’s clutching his new stuffed toy.


Harry sits up, “Hey, baby. You already showered?”


“Yes.” Jacob welcomes himself to Harry’s bed, sifting back on his haunches.
“Good.” Harry praises with a smile, “Anything you want to tell me, love?”


And of course, “Are we going to Grandma Brenda’s tomorrow?” Jacob asks, gnawing on his bottom lip.


“Yeah, baby. We’re gonna celebrate Daddy’s birthday there.”


Jacob tilts his head to the side with a frown, unknowingly creating an almost perfect resemblance of his father, “But we already celebrated it with Louis.”


“We can celebrate more than once, Jake.” Harry informs him.


“Oh.” Jacob’s frown softens and he nods. “Is Louis going to be there?”


Harry clears his throat, “Um.. no. I don’t think so.”


The Harry frown is back again, “Why not?”


Kids do ask a lot of questions. It’s not the first time Harry’s feeling pressured by his own son, “Well, do you want him to be there?”


Of course Jacob does, “Yes!” The boy giggles as he nods, his bangs falling over his eyes until Harry brushes it away and reminds himself to get Jacob a haircut.


“I’m gonna ask him tomorrow.” Harry tells with a kiss on Jacob’s head, “But now, let’s take you to bed. It’s a big day tomorrow.”


It is, indeed.


Tomorrow comes and Harry chooses to get off work early so 1) he can get ready, and 2) so he can talk to Louis. He’ll be feeling off all night if he doesn’t compromise with Louis or at least talk it out like adults. Louis’ a bit closed sometimes, not wanting anyone to know he’s hurting, and Harry feels like a dick for letting him feel that way. It was evident on Louis’ face; the fake smile, the forced laugh, his discreet avoidance to Harry’s touch. It’s all there.


He gets home at noon, and Jacob’s more than thrilled to see him, as he always is. Harry’s bought him a new set of clothes for this night for his boy doesn’t really own a variety of formal attire in his closet.


Louis’ avoiding Harry, even upon Harry’s arrival, he only smiles and turns his head to the side when Harry approaches him for a kiss on the cheek. Harry only sighs dejectedly before proceeding to the kitchen to take the task of making lunch.


But Louis’ already had the table set with the turkey sandwiches and salad. They eat silently, except for Jacob, as usual, babbling off to outer space as the two adults listen diligently.


After lunch, Jacob runs off to the den to clean up his mess on the den while Harry puts the dishes in the dishwasher. He tries not to look to relieved and happy when Louis murmurs his name somewhere behind him.


Harry turns and Louis’ standing there looking small as ever. He’s got his shoulders shrunk in and his hands are fiddling with each other and his eyes are trained on Harry’s shoes that the latter’s momentarily questioned about their state before Louis eventually meets his eyes.


“I um..” Louis stutters, “I’m sorry about.. yesterday. I was too demanding, and yeah. I understand. It’d be too awkward.. for..” He pauses, “.. for me to be there.”


Harry’s right in front of him as soon as he utters the first word out, “Lou, hey.” He cups Louis’ cheek, “You don’t have to say sorry, yeah? Nothing to be sorry about, love.” He kisses Louis’ forehead, and he relaxes at the feel of Louis’ skin, “It should be me who’s sorry. I’m sorry.”


“It’s alright.” Louis murmurs, “Really, I understand.”


Harry smiles against Louis’ temple, “Thank you.”


Louis’ quiet for a second, before he hums contentedly and looks up at Harry. He finally locks his arms around the latter’s waist, and Harry swoops down for a kiss he’s been craving since yesterday.


After that, he parts from Louis with another chaste kiss before he goes upstairs to tend to Jacob who’s already got his toys in their right places. He gives Jacob and bath before drying him off, Jacob giggling as Harry wraps his hair with the towel. Harry dresses him in some dress pants and a cute white button up with a vest and a bow tie. When he’s done, Harry pulls back and coos at his boy.


“You look so handsome, sweetheart.” Harry smiles. Jacob really does look like him, if only he got Harry’s hair, then he’s a real carbon copy.


“Just like Daddy!” Jacob giggles.


All of a sudden they hear a shutter and they look towards the doorway Louis’ leaning on, his phone poised and a small smile adorning his face. He notices they’re looking and he keeps his phone, “Let me do your hair, Jakey.” He says, almost cooing as well as he leads Jacob to the bathroom.


Harry himself gets dressed, then. He wears a navy blue velvet suit and he puts his hair up. It’s starting to curl at the ends again, and Harry tells himself to get him and Jacob a haircut. A matching one, probably.


Harry steps out of his room the same time Louis steps out of the bathroom with Jacob. Jacob’s hair is combed and it’s pulled back, neatly revealing his baby face and rosy cheeks. Now, Harry’s heart surely swells. He loves his son so much.


“Let me take a picture.” Louis’ already fishing for his phone as soon as Harry bends down to pick Jacob up. Harry plants a loud kiss to his son’s cheek and it’s the perfect time for Louis to take a picture.


Harry turns to him then, “Come here.” And he joins Louis in the hug, sneaking a kiss to Louis’ temple.


~○~


The party’s held at Brenda’s backyard, and it’s surely a huge, formal one. Brenda’s outdone herself. She’s invited Harry’s colleagues, his business partners, some of his workers, and even his and Carter’s friends back in uni.


“Oh, Harry!” Brenda greets. She hugs him pecks his cheek, “The man of the night. It’s nice to see you again.”


Harry almost scrunches up, because the last time he saw her is that night of Halloween. His relationship with her isn’t that great, it’s tense and awkward, if ever. But, he really does appreciate her doing this for him. It’s his main reason why he’s here.


“Good evening, Brenda.” Harry smiles, “It’s really nice of you to do this for me. I appreciate it.”


“Oh, this is nothing.” Brenda waves a hand.


From beside Harry, Jacob reaches out to tug at Brenda’s dress lightly. She looks down and the boy immediately flushes, “H-Hi, Grandma.”


“Oh, hello, Jacob.” Brenda smiles. Harry watches her warily. But she leads them to the table where the food are, and Harry grabs a plate for him and Jacob to share. Harry carries him with one arm, the plate on the other as the person behind serves him.


Harry walks to a table with the most familiar people he could find, and it’d have to be his business partners. He glances at the friends he had and he prepares himself for the questions they have as soon as they bump into Harry. A man on the targeted table spots Harry and waves him over, grabbing an unoccupied chair, “Styles!”


“Thorne.” Harry greets, sliding into the chair carefully and sitting Jacob on his lap.


“Who’s this little darling?” Tristan smiles warmly and waves his big hand at Jacob.


The child shyly says, “H-Hi. I’m Jacob.”


The men erupt in fond chuckles, but Harry’s worried that Jacob will bore himself out at this table, so he pats Jacob to get him to stand, “Love, you can go play with the other kids, yeah? Make friends.” With one last parting kiss on the boy’s forehead, Jacob’s toddling off to where the kids are playing.


“So,” Chris nudges Harry, sipping his wine, “How’s life, partner?”


“Same old.” Harry answers as he waits for his own glass to be filled by Tristan himself. He glances at Chris, “A bit busy with holidays and all.”


“Oi, stop blabbering!” Gabriel laughs from across the table, “I’ve seen you on papers, Harry. Apparently you have a new one.”


Harry tenses, “A new what?”


“A new branch.” Gabriel clarifies, patting Harry’s shoulder, “Another one up in Asia, truly amazing, what a success.”


He’s greeted with pats in the back, grins on faces and Harry feels lighter, but still as tense. He downs the last of his wine and refuses to ask for more. One is enough. He can’t risk driving drunk with Jacob in the car with him.


Harry doesn’t get to eat his food. Mostly because he’s lost the appetite, and every man on the table is asking him every question possible. Harry only dodges if necessary, and he’s patting himself in the back when he excuses himself to the bathroom. Before leaving, he searches the yard with his eyes to see Jacob still with the rest of the kids, and Harry leaves to go to the bathroom after making sure Jacob’s distracted enough.


Inside the spacious bathroom, Harry washes his hands. He doesn’t know why, but he just feels the need to. It’s an hour into the party and all he can feel is how tense and guarded he is around these people he’s supposed to be at least comfortable with. He’s even tensed around Brenda, Jesus.


Harry stirs himself out of the bathroom and bumps straight into a too-familiar face. “Niall.”


“Harry!” He says brightly, too brightly, and he suddenly forgets to do his business as he grabs Harry’s arm and leads back outside and on the other side of the yard away from Harry’s colleagues.


Harry sighs internally as he comes face-to-face with his old friends. They definitely look older now. It’s been years since he last saw them, only a few weeks after Carter’s death that Harry’s lost time for them for Jacob and for his career. It’s still them, all in a circle in front of him—Niall, Liam, and Nick.


“Hey.. guys.” Harry greets awkwardly, pocketing his hands.


“Oh come on, Styles. After years of you disappearing, that’s all we get?” Nick nudges with a smile, but his greeting falls flat between them. Surely, their friendship spark is long gone.


“Yeah, sorry. Uh..” Harry chuckles nervously, “Plenty busy.”


“We know.” Liam nods, “CEO of Styles Times. Big name. The last time we knew you, we were at uni with—“ He cuts himself off with a smile, “Yeah.”


Harry clears his throat, “Yeah.” Harry remembers. Every single bit of it. And he feels his heart ache.


Silence falls between the four of them, until eventually Niall pipes in again, “Well, how are things been? And.. I saw Jacob a while ago. Proper charming, that boy.”


Harry turns slightly to where the kids are, and he notices Jacob’s anxious face as he slowly stops from his play as he scans the area. As his eyes roam to Harry’s direction, the latter waves his big hand, and Jacob runs over.


“He is, isn’t he?” Harry tells proudly, lifting his son up and telling him to wave.
Jacob, obviously not knowing of who those people are, smiles shyly and waves, “H-Hi. I’m Jacob.”


“We’re your Dad’s.. erm..” Liam glances cautiously towards Harry. Good to know that someone else is on the same page.


“Friends.” Harry answers.


“I’m Nick, buddy. Nice to meet you.” Nick reaches to probably ruffle at Jacob’s hair, but seeing it slicked back, he pulls back with a chuckle, “Your hair’s nicer than mine.”


“Louis did it!” Jacob beams proudly.


Harry bites at his own tongue, but thankfully the trio doesn’t question.

Eventually he lets Jacob down and the boy waves before he’s running back to his playmates. Niall chuckles, then, “Adorable. Takes after you, Harry.”


“Thank you.” Harry lets a smile grace his lips. It really makes him proud when people talk about Jacob like that, it’s like he’s the one getting praised.


“So uh..” Liam hesitates, “How have you been, Harry?”


“Great.” Harry answers, “Everything’s just... balanced, y’know, with my career, my kid.”


“Well, who’s the lucky lad?” Nick nudges at him teasingly, “A Louis, hm?”


“None.” Harry hates the word, but.. technically he and Louis still aren’t.. official, “None at the moment.”


“Ah, that’s too bad. We’re all here all happy in relationships.” Niall says, “Must’ve lost the charm.”


“Oi.” Harry scowls, and they all chuckle. It’s like they’re back in uni, laughing in cafeterias and walking along hallways, but.. more awkward.


A hand lands on Harry’s back and the latter turns to see Brenda. She smiles, “Having fun, fine gentlemen?”


“Thanks for having us Brenda.” Niall smiles back politely.


She then sighs, “If only Carter were here.”


“Yeah.” The others say, but Harry only covers a smile. He doesn’t notice himself silently agreeing.


He goes home to an empty house that night, and he’s slightly bummed at the thought that Louis’ not there to welcome him, or sleep in his bed, like he did when Harry came back from America. He dresses Jacob into his pajamas before taking a shower himself. He keeps thinking about the party, and how Niall, Liam and Nick have invited him for a drink somewhere, in a pub, maybe.


Harry huffs and finishes showering, slipping on a boxers and a shirt after drying off before climbing to bed after the eventful night.


~○~


Louis’ on his phone on the couch while Jacob watches this new cartoon too new for Louis to know. He’s searching for a new job. Sure, he’s never going to find a job which pays as good as Harry, but he doesn’t want his income coming from Harry.


Louis sighs. He hopes it’s gonna be like a stroll in the park when he finds a second job. He puts his phone back to the coffee table, and just in time the front door opens and closes before Harry appears into the den.


“Hi.” Louis greets with a smile.


“Hi.” Harry answers. He drops his briefcase on the coffee table as well as the contents of his pocket and drops down beside Louis, leaning down to press a kiss on Jacob’s head before he leans back and kisses Louis on the cheek, “Is it alright for you to stay here for a while?”


“Of course.” Louis answers, “Why?”


“Gonna head out.” Harry says.


Louis rubs Harry’s knee, “With?”


“Friends.” Harry answers simply, and then Louis just knows he won’t want to elaborate further, “I won’t be too long.”


“Sure.” Louis smiles, and he gets a chaste kiss on his lips before Harry stands up and walks upstairs to his room.


Louis leans forward, acknowledging Jacob, “Jake.” Jacob turns to look at him. Louis smiles, “Looks like I’m staying the night.” Well, if Harry does come home late. Louis knows how ‘he gets to that idea.’


“Really?” Jacob asks excitedly as he if Louis doesn’t stay often, “Can we watch a horror movie?”


“Hm.” Louis rubs a hand on his chin. He opens his mouth to answer but is cut off when Harry calls for him all the way from his room, “Lou, have you seen my wallet?” Louis then turns back to Jacob, “Hold that thought.” After a ruffle to the kid’s hair, Louis stands and grabs Harry’s wallet and phone from his heap of things on the coffee table.


As he walks up the stairs, he stops in his tracks to pick up the paper that fell from the wallet and into the ground. Louis grabs it, and he feels his chest tighten just a little bit. It’s a picture of Carter. Louis blinks. He doesn’t know what to feel, what he can feel.


“Lou?” Harry asks from his room.


Louis quickly stuffs the paper back inside the wallet before he jogs over to where Harry is, “Here.” He says quietly as he hands Harry his things. He turns to leave but he’s snagged back by Harry.


Harry meets his eyes, “What’s wrong?”


“What?” Louis furrows his eyebrows before he forces out a laugh, “Nothing.”


Harry lets him leave, then, after a kiss on the cheek and another confirmation. Louis sits back on the couch, having walked Harry out the door moments later. He does plan to watch a movie with Jacob to keep him company. They cuddle on the couch after Louis makes them popcorn. But when the movie’s on, Louis can’t help but wander back to that picture.


Louis has always known that all of Carter’s pictures scattered around the house is for Jacob’s sake. So Jacob can always be reminded, and Louis completely understands that. But he doesn’t know what to feel about Carter’s picture in Harry’s wallet. Should he be doubtful? Jealous? What? He doesn’t even know if he has the right to feel jealous.


He’s overthinking, yeah. Surely. Maybe Jacob likes to sneak around and play with Harry’s wallet. Yeah, it’s possible.


“Jake, love.” Louis asks, and once he knows Jacob is listening, he asks, “When is your Dada’s birthday?”


He’s met with Jacob’s furrowed eyebrows, “You don’t know your own birthday, Louis?”


Louis’ heart melts, “You think of me as your Dada?”


Jacob purses his lips, “I want to call you Dad more. But Daddy said I can’t yet until you and Daddy love each other.”


Louis smiles, “Thank you, Jakey.”


“And my Dada’s birthday is um..” Jacob counts on his finger, “Um.. April 21st.”


Louis flashes back to that time of their first misunderstanding, where Louis get a hold of Harry’s phone with unknown numbers as its password, “Oh.” Louis says, and he hopes it’s enough to drop the subject.


As predicted, Louis stays the night. Harry comes home a little over eight, which is still quite early, but after tucking Jacob in, Harry pulls Louis into his room wordlessly. He speaks for himself through his actions as he tosses Louis his clothes. Now, they’re in bed in their usual position with Louis laying against Harry’s chest.


“I have something to tell you.” Louis says. He’s tracing Harry’s tattoos over his shirt.


Harry shifts slightly so he can press his lips into Louis’ hair, “Yeah?”


Louis hesitates there for a moment, blinking at himself, before he clears his throat, “Jacob told me something.”


“And that is?”


“That he wants to call me uh.. Dad.” Louis closes his eyes in fear of Harry’s reaction, “But he’s just.. holding back, I guess, until we’re like... really together.”


Harry sighs and gently pushes at Louis until the latter lays on his own side while Harry does the same, propping himself up on one elbow. With his free hand, he cups Louis’ cheek, “I want to be with you, you know that?”


Louis only nods, but he’s grateful it’s dark so Harry can’t see his blush.


“I’m just..” Harry hesitates. Louis takes his own hand to rub at Harry’s, “... making sure of myself. I mean, I am sure, I really am, but like I said I want us to take it slow so—“


“That’s alright with me.” Louis cuts him off. He scoots closer so he can press his lips against Harry’s. He pulls away, “It’s alright."


Harry wordlessly pulls him back with a hand around the back of his neck. He pulls Louis closer until the man is pressed up against him, their lips molding together. Harry’s hand leaves Louis’ neck and past his shoulders, rubbing his arms before directing Louis’ hand on Harry’s chest, right between the birds. Harry’s hand then continues to wander, tracing Louis’ curves until it meets his hips. Louis’ breath hitched, but Harry kisses him again, still so slow and sweet. The man’s hand trails down Louis’ thigh, and he can practically feel the goosebumps over Louis’ (Harry’s, really) sweatpants.


“Harry.” Louis breathes, “W-What.. stop, love.”


Harry pulls away, but his hand stay on Louis’ thigh. He brushes his nose against Louis’, a smile gracing his lips, “I know, baby.” He continues to be menace as he hooks Louis’ leg around his waist before removing his hand. It’s like it burned a handprint on Louis’ skin.


“Sleep, come on.” Harry kisses his head and pulls him closer, lulling them both to a slumber.


“Tease.” Louis mutters, and he hears Harry’s laugh in return.


“You know Jacob’s birthday?” Harry asks after a few beats.


“17th of March.” Louis answers immediately.


“Yeah.” Harry rubs up and down Louis’ arm, tracing the warm skin, “We can do something that day. Watch a film, maybe? Take him somewhere?”


Louis nods, “He’s speaking nonstop about this new Pixar movie.”


“Then we’ll go.” Harry says. His schedule is always, always clear for Jacob’s birthday.


~○~


Harry clicks off his pen as he shoves the last of his files into one folder and pushing it aside. He rubs his temple with his two fingers, leaning back against his chair and turning around to face the large window behind him, giving him the view of London. He lets himself have a peaceful moment before the phone starts to ring loudly.


Already tired, Harry groans as he turns back around and presses the button on the intercom. He braces himself, already expecting more amounts of work.


“Mr. Styles,” Kate’s voice is as calm as ever as she greets, “You have a visitor. Mr and Mrs. Wilson are here.”


Harry practically shoots up from his chair. His heart beats loudly as he stammers out an unintelligible sound before he replies, “Send them up, please.” After that, he makes sure his desk is at least organized. He looks back behind his chair to his short shelf to check if everything’s in place before he freezes.


Louis’ picture frame is sitting on it, right between everything else. Harry gulps, and he hears distant footsteps. Harry quickly grabs the frame and shoves it in his drawer. As soon as it slams shut, the door swings open, revealing Kate with Brenda and Martin.


“Sir.” Kate says before she closes the door behind the two.


“Oh, Harry.” Brenda walks over and kisses Harry’s cheeks, “Nice seeing you, darling.”


“Brenda.” Harry forces a smile, “I didn’t know you were visiting?” He looks at Martin and nods in greeting as well.


She waves a hand aimlessly, her eyes wandering around Harry’s office. It’s the first time she’s been in his office, “We were around the area. Thought we can have a nice dinner, yes?”


“Dinner.” Harry dumbly says, “U-Um, sure, yes. Of course. Let me just grab my things.”


They settle at the mall where Brenda had suggested. Harry’s following the two adults behind, palms sweaty inside his pockets as they walk. He’s beyond nervous. These two people in front of him are his late boyfriend’s parents, but Harry feels like a stranger to them.


They settle at a restaurant called Antonio’s, and after ordering, Brenda’s the first one to crack the ice, “Harry, it’s nice of you to join us, really.”


“It’s my pleasure, Brenda.” Harry never called her ‘mum’.


“So, Harry.” Martin says. He’s now looking older than before, “Carter’s death anniversary is coming up.”


Harry knows, it’s his son’s birthday. Of course he knows, “Yes, it is.” Harry answers almost robotically.


“And we’ve never visited him together.” Brenda says. Her face is unreadable, a cross between sadness and a smile, “As a family.”


Family, “It’s Jacob’s birthday.” And he’s going to celebrate it with his boy and Louis.


“Oh.” Brenda pauses, but then she nods, “We know, yes we know. He can come with us. See his father.”


And before, Harry’s always taking Jacob to visit Carter in his every birthday, and then go out and do something for his birthday. It’s not gonna be so bad visiting first with Brenda, Martin and Jacob and then he and Jacob can go out with Louis.


Harry finds himself nodding, “Yeah, of course. Of course, Brenda.”


“Thank you, Harry.” Brenda smiles.


Harry only nods and smiles back.


“And maybe we can celebrate Jacob’s birthday after, yes?”


Harry falters. He blinks and his hand even stops fidgeting his rings.


“Harry?” Martin asks.


Harry shakes himself out of his trance, stammering, “Yeah, yeah. Of course.”


Fuck. Fuck himself.


That night, Harry goes home feeling... well, guilty. His heavy footsteps accompanied his heavy shoulders as he opens the door and enters, shrugging off his coat with a sigh before walking to the den. His boys are in the kitchen, wrecking havoc and whatnot and Harry leaves his things on the coffee table before going to them.


“Daddy!” comes Jacob’s shriek before Harry’s thighs are being tackled. Harry smiles and bends down to kiss his head, “Hi, baby.”


“Hi, love.” Louis smiles and puts down the spatula he’s holding. He walks over and plants a kiss on Harry’s cheek, but Harry suddenly finds himself shying away, turning his head.


“U-Uh.. hi.” Harry rushes out, eyes darting from Louis’ face. He doesn’t know how to acknowledge the flash of hurt on Louis’ face, so he chooses to ignore it as he directs his attention to Jacob, “Come on, Jakey. You smell like sweat, y’know that? What have you been doing?”


“Footie!” Jacob giggles.


“Of course.” Harry smiles fondly. His son is gonna become a football player, he just knows it, “Let’s take a bath, yeah?” He directs his son from the kitchen and to the bathroom.


After stripping down, Harry guides his son to the tub and kneels on one knee outside out of it. Jacob would know how to bathe himself, but now Harry feels more affectionate towards his baby tonight.


“Daddy.” Jacob says as Harry washes his hair, “You know what’s coming up next week?”


Harry bites back a smile, because of course, “Hm,” He hums, pretending not to know, “I don’t know, sweetie. Can you enlighten me?”


Jacob pouts, glaring at Harry. But he can’t possibly look threatening at this state; with foam on his head and his cheeks red and chubby. Harry chuckles fondly, “What?”

 

“Daddy.” Jacob whines, splashing a little bit of water at the man. He then gnaws at his lip consciously, “You don’t remember?”


And Harry’s heart breaks. Jesus, he’s such a loser for his son, “Baby.” Harry washes off the soap and shampoo carefully, “Of course I remember, little love. It’s your birthday.”


A grin spreads on Jacob’s lips and he giggles, “I know, Daddy. I was just messing with you.” Of course he’d do that.


“Well, any requests, sweetheart?” Harry asks. Once the soap is clear, he turns slightly to grab the towel before he lifts Jacob out of the tub and into the rug, wiping down his baby boy, “Gifts? Any books you like?” Harry will get him every book there is.


“Just want to spend it with you, Daddy.” Jacob tells him with such adoration in his eyes. His Daddy is his hero, really. Harry raised a humble, wonderful boy and he couldn’t be prouder.


“Love you, darling.” Harry kisses his we hair before wrapping him up and carrying him to his room to dress him.


When they went down, Louis is in the process of setting the table, Harry kisses Jacob’s head before sitting him down on his chair before wordlessly helping Louis. He notices a small smile on Louis’ lips before it’s gone when Harry doesn’t return it. Fuck, what is even happening to him?


After dinner, Jacob spends the hour just watching the telly, and he’s so oblivious of the unreasonable tension between the two adults. As Harry makes a move on exiting the kitchen as Louis shuts the dishwasher, the latter makes a sound and quickly catches Harry’s shirt from the back.
“What is it?” Harry asks, shrugging off Louis’ hand.


Louis retracts his hand and fidgets his thumbs, feeling shy under Harry’s gaze, “Is.. Is something wrong?” Harry looks at him. He looks so small, eyes unsure. His eyes stay on Harry, and Harry can see how blue they are. Somehow, they morph into darker ones, eventually melting into chocolate brown.


At that, Harry snaps out of his trance and he rubs his face, “I’m sorry.” He finally lets out. He sighs heavily.


“What’s wrong?” Louis asks. He steps forward and rubs Harry’s arm.


“Nothing, nothing.” Harry can’t stop guilt spreading around in his chest, “You should go, Louis.”


Louis’ eyes widen, and he looks like he wants to question why but even Harry can’t answer that. Louis fishmouths, pulling his hand back before he nods wordlessly. He turns around in his heel and Harry leans on his elbows on the counter, gripping his hair in his hands.


~○~


Louis sleeps on his side, and when his cheek mushes against that wet part in the fabric of his pillow, he turns over. He doesn’t even know why he’s crying. He’s confused and hurt and scared.


Harry obviously isn’t saying shit to him, and Louis’ just so worried. He’s acting weird lately, and it’s so unlike him to reject Louis like that. Fear is slowly creeping up on Louis. He just doesn’t want to lose Harry.


Louis pushes himself up the next morning, scrubbing his eyes free from his dried tears before he checks his phone. There are no texts from Harry, and Louis ignores the twinge in his chest. There’s that text message from that kindergarten school he applied a few days ago, though, so that’s good.


A new job gets him up and off the bed. He takes a quick shower to get himself ready for the day before he dresses himself in some fresh pajamas (he’s planning on staying in since it’s Sunday, shut up). He heads to the kitchen, but on the way there, he stops in his tracks as he hears another voice, much manlier than his mother’s and sisters’. And certainly deeper than Ernie’s.


“Oh, Louis!” Jay stands from her chair and quickly directs Louis to an empty one, right beside Harry, “Harry’s here to visit.”


Louis’ still in shock, but he blinks and says quietly, glancing at the older man, “Y-Yeah.” He sees Harry’s hand twitch on his lap. It makes a move to reach out but stops himself at the last second.


“Good morning, Lou!” Jacob greets from beside Harry.


Louis smiles, “Hi, baby.”


Breakfast is loud, of course it is. The girls are chattering with mouth full of words and Jay questions Harry about practically everything, but there’s not a word said between Louis and him.


There will be, because Harry’s determined. After breakfast, he instructs Jacob to go play with the rest of the Tomlinsons before asking Jay where Louis went. The sneaky little thing has dodged his kitchen duties and now he’s nowhere to be found.


“He’s in his room, Harry.” Jay says, distractedly pulling up Ernest’s pants before patting his bottom causing the toddler waddling away to the older ones.


“I’ll go talk to him.” Harry says as permission before he goes to Louis’ room, knocking on the door.


“Yeah?” Louis asks, voice muffled.


Harry knocks again, “It’s me, love.” The door cracks open and only Louis’ side is seen.


“U-um..” His voice says hesitantly, “Hi, what did you need?”


“Just wanna see you.” Harry grips the door and pushes it open, mindful of the body on the other side of it. Once he’s inside, he closes the door behind him. Louis’ clothes are on his bed, some folded and some laid out on the bed.


“What were you doing?” Harry watches the younger man begin to fold hastily, “Hey, it’s alright. Let me help.” Harry sits across from Louis, “What’s these for?”


“I was uh..” Louis grabs a stack of clothes before he walks to his dresser, shoving them in, “... looking for an outfit.”


Harry’s heart fills with guilt, and he stammers as he asks, “For what?”


“For a job interview.”


Harry’s guilt is filled with confusion, and a slight hint of dread, “Job interview?” When Louis walks back to the bed to fold more, Harry takes his hand before he can do so. He pulls Louis until the man’s in front of him and standing between his knees.


“Yeah.” Louis answers. A slight blush spreads on his cheeks as both of Harry’s hands take his, “I-I’ve been meaning to tell you.”


“Where would it be?” Harry asks. He thought Louis’ happy with his job babysitting Jacob, but Harry’s been noticing how Louis grows hesitant every time Harry pays him.


“It’s nowhere far.” Louis answers, “And it also pays well.”


“You don’t want..” Harry trails off. He actually has no idea how to phrase it.
“I want to. You know I love to.” Louis softly says, “I just thought it’d be uh.. more comfortable for me to get my money from someone else than you.”


Harry’s hands find Louis’ sides, “Would that be alright with you?”


“Of course.” Louis nods. He looks genuine, “Don’t worry. My mum’s more than willing to do the babysitting, though Jacob has to come here...”


Harry’s heart swells, because Louis has such a pure heart for even thinking about Jacob’s sake, “Thank you for that.” Harry pulls him closer so he can nuzzle Louis’ tummy, but he pulls away after, “You don’t need to trouble your mum, yeah? I’ll figure it out.”


“Okay, then.” Louis’ hands find Harry’s hair, and Harry loves that feeling, “How about his birthday? What’re our plans?”


Harry snaps out of his relaxed state, then, freezing. Louis immediately notices and pulls his hand back, “Harry?”


“U-Uh.. we can, go out the day after?” Harry suggests, wincing at himself, “An important meeting’s come up, but I promise. The next day.” He hates himself on so many levels. He knows in himself that if it’s true, if there’s really an important meeting, he’d cancel it in favor of celebrating Jacob’s birthday.


“Oh.” Louis takes it, “Well, if you need me to look after Jacob—“


“I’ll invite my mum over, don’t mind it.”


Louis doesn’t answer for a few moments, looking quite conflicted and unsure about Harry’s words, but he eventually sighs and nods.


Harry decides not to talk about it.


~○~


Louis knows.


He knows Harry’s not telling the truth, keeping something from him. He’s been like this for the past few weeks that Louis’ not even surprised, but that doesn’t mean he’s not hurt. If this keeps up, he’d have to have a talk with Harry.


Now, Louis can’t help but be restless. It’s Jacob’s birthday today but he still hasn’t greeted the boy. He tried calling their house phone earlier but no one was answering, he figures they’re still asleep or something.


He waits for a few hours before he calls again, pacing around in his room as he waits. Just then, someone answers, but it’s not Jacob, or even Anne.


“Styles residence.” It’s a woman’s voice, one that resembles perfectly to Brenda’s.


“H-Hello.” Louis stutters out. He shakes his head and clears his throat, “This is Louis Tomlinson.”


“Oh. The babysitter.” Her tone is unreadable, “Well, Harry is getting dressed. We’re on our way to visit Carter.”


Louis’ heart drops, eyes blinking. Harry lied to him, again, “Ah.” He says, “Well, have a safe trip. May I talk to Jacob?”


Brenda doesn’t say anything, because the next voice he hears is Jacob’s, squeaking out a little, “Hello?”


“Hi Jakey.” Louis more or less breathes out, “Happy Birthday, buddy.”


“Louis!” The boy giggles, “I’m 6 now!”


“I know, you’re getting older.” Louis teases, and he still can’t help the tension in his voice.


“Daddy said I’m still his baby.” Louis can see the little boy beaming, “Lou, make sure you can come with us tomorrow, okay?”


“Okay, bud.” Louis smiles. He loves Jacob so much.


“Goodluck with your work, though! Daddy told me you were busy today so you couldn’t come.”


Louis’ eyebrows frown, confused, but he does his best to play along with it, “Thank you, love. I uh.. I need to go, though—“


“Oh, Daddy’s here! Do you want—“


“No, no, it’s fine, sweetheart—“


“Daddy! Lou’s on the phone!”


Louis can’t. He can’t talk to Harry now. He really tries to keep being on the phone but he pulls back and hangs up before Harry can utter a single word.


He’s... He’s so angry. He’d been real patient about everything that’s happening the past few days but now it’s gradually blowing up. Harry has been keeping things from him and Louis knows he deserves to know, even if it has something related to Carter. Louis knows he’d try his best to understand but it’s all getting worse.


Louis slouches on the couch, head in his hands. He wishes it isn’t this complicated.


~○~


Facing Carter’s stone, Harry feels a rush of emotions runs through him. He doesn’t know why, but he ends up with his tears in his eyes as he looks at each letter embedded on it. He looks back at him and saw Martin and Brenda talking while Jacob’s walking around and looking at other stones.


Harry looks back and crouches down. He grabs the lighter Brenda gave him earlier so he can light up the candle for Carter. He lets out a heavy sigh and scrubs his eyes. He lets out a chuckle, then, “What’s happening to me?” He shakes his head, “It’s your sixth death anniversary.” Harry says, as if he doesn’t know already, “And I’m still here.” He has to close his eyes at his own words, and he sees flashes of his life with Carter run at the back of his eyelids.


The tears flow, and soon he’s sobbing. He can’t take it.


~○~


Jacob opens the door for Louis, and he has a worried look on his face. Louis lets himself in, ruffling Jacob’s hair, “Hey, buddy. I have something for you!” He pulls out the paper bag from behind him and Jacob lights up, clapping his hands and jumping on the couch.


Louis chuckles and walks over, sitting beside him, “Come on. Open it.”


Jacob does the classic inspection of his gift by shaking it, but he shrugs and pulls the bag at the top. He shoves his hand in and when he pulls it out, he squeals, “My book!”


Louis smiles fondly. Jacob was sad about the fact that he had to return the book he read to the library, so Louis made a solemn promise of making it his.Little arms wrap around Louis’ neck, and the man chuckles, “You’re welcome, darling.”


After their little moment, Jacob is left along to reread his precious book as Louis stands to search for Harry. He finds the man in his room, dressed in his most casual clothes of sweatpants and a tanktop, his back faced away from the door as he sits on the edge of the bed.


Louis knocks on the door and Harry jumps, shutting his drawer. Louis feels like he knows what Harry’s looking at. He greets, “Hi, love.”


Harry turns and smiles, “Hi.” He pats the area beside him and Louis’ quick to follow, toeing off his shoes and climbing in next to Harry, back on the headboards.


“You’re here early.” Harry points out. He presses his nose against Louis’ hair, an arm around his waist.


“It’s alright.” Louis shrugs. His mouth is itching to just.. say something. Anything regarding about what he’s thinking right now, “Um... How was.. your day? Yesterday?”


He feels Harry tense beside him, and Louis looks up to meet Harry’s eyes, except that they can’t. They dart around the room, “Quite... quite stressful, y’know.” He then pulls away from Louis, standing up and entering his closet as he rummages through racks and racks of clothing.


Louis’ stomach drops. Harry’s still lying.


“Harry.” Louis says, thumbs nervously fidgeting.


“Yeah?”


“I called yesterday.” Louis says, eyes trained on his lap.


“When?”


“Around noon.” Louis answers, “Brenda answered.” He looks up and sees Harry pause before he puts back a shirt into its place. He’s not saying anything. Louis sighs heavily, “She told me you were off to visit Carter.”


A drawer slams shut, “Are you saying I can’t visit Carter?”


Louis frowns, “No! Harry, but of course you should’ve told me. That’s my only problem.” He stands and slips on his shoes, “It’s been weeks and I’m just waiting for you to tell me what’s going on at least once, but all you do is keep things from me and lie!”


Harry’s hunched over a cabinet, his hands gripping the wood, “I don’t have to say everything to you.”


It’s like Louis stopped breathing altogether. He stands there, face heated in embarrassment. He gulps down the lump in his throat, “Right. You don’t, but if you at least care for me, you’d think about what I’d feel. Obviously, you don’t.”


He turns, then. He almost slams the door but he remembers Jacob would hear, and the boy is holed up in his room preoccupied. He doesn’t need to be involved in a fight.


Louis leaves.


~○~


Harry slams a fist on the wood, bellowing, “Fuck!” as soon as he heard the door shut downstairs. He grabs his phone, quickly dialing Louis’ number. He paces back and forth in the space of his bedroom, and he frustratedly throws his phone on the bed as his call gets ignored.


He’s fucked up again. And he let it get this bad. He can’t even explain why. He feels like a total dickhead, treating Louis like that. It shouldn’t even be like this. He likes Louis. He really, really does, and Louis can’t possibly be with him if he’s acting like this.


“Daddy?” Small fists holds Harry’s wrist, barely wrapping around it and Harry looks down. Jacob looks worried, eyebrows frowned.


Harry gulps down the lump in his throat, “Hey, baby.” He reaches a hand to stroke his son’s hair but Jacob gasps, clutching it.


“Daddy, your hand!” Jacob exclaims and Harry now feels the sting. It isn’t bad at all, just a little redness and a few small cuts across his knuckles from that punch on his cabinet.


“I’m fine, love.” Harry bends down and tries to carry Jacob but the boy wiggles, instead takes Harry’s hand to pull his father to the room. Harry’s told to sit down and he watches as Jacob rushes from the room and comes back with a handful of band-aids.


Harry chuckles fondly, reaching his hand out so Jacob can treat it. His son always makes him feel much better.


After Jacob decides the wounds are covered enough, he leans and hugs Harry. Harry feels his chest well up in emotion and he kisses Jacob’s head, “Thank you, Jake.”


Jacob pulls back. He’s got a frown in his face again, confused, “Daddy, where’s Louis?”


“Love, we can celebrate your birthday with him next time, yes?”


“Okay, b-but..” Wide green eyes look at Harry, “Where is he?”


“He.. he had to leave, Jake.” Harry informs him, silently hoping that Jacob wouldn’t question it further.


Thankfully though, he doesn’t, “O... kay, then.”


“I heard he gave you something?” Harry asks, remembering that he heard Jacob’s squeal from downstairs earlier.


“Yes, he did!” Jacob grins, “Let me show you!” He runs from the room, and Harry can only sigh and put a smile on.


He’d have to talk to Louis soon enough, but now he’s got to pay attention to his son.


~○~


“Hi, Lou!” Daisy greets as Louis enters the room, and the latter smiles and ruffles her hair. It’s quite a long day today. The kids at the school he’s working at are a pain in the ass, but all kids are. Unfortunately, they’re just as endearing.


“Hey, Dais. Mum here?” He asks as he hangs his coat on the rack before putting his bag on the couch, “Where’s Mu—“


“No bags on the couch, Louis.” Someone says from the right and Louis looks, raising an eyebrow as he sees Lottie who has the same expression. She then cracks, grinning, “Mum’s still at work.”


“And you somehow became her?” Louis says, but he does pick up his bag from the couch, “Where’s your other sisters? And the twins?”


She hums in acknowledgement and sits herself, “In their room. They’re playing a board game.”


Louis looks down at the twin on the couch, “And you, Dais?”


“Don’t want to.” She says distractedly, eyes wide as she watches the telly.


“Right.” Louis starts to backtrack, “I’ll be upstairs, yeah? Holler if you need anything.” He turns around, stretching his arms out to remove the day’s stress when it all comes back when Lottie calls after him.


He sighs, “What, Lots?”


“Harry called.” Lottie says. She isn’t aware of how Louis’ face fell, “Wanted you to call him back as soon as you got home.”


“Yeah, okay.” Louis finds himself saying. He clears his throat, “I’ll uh.. be up in my room.”


In his room, Louis sits on his bed and clutches his phone tightly. He’s received Harry’s calls, but after the fourth one, Louis eventually turns off his phone so he can focus better. It didn’t work.


Just as he’s about to just push the idea of calling away, his phone vibrates and Harry’s name pops up. Louis takes a deep breath; it’s now or never.


He answers the call, “Hey, Harry.”


“Lou.” Harry sounds like he’s relieved, “Are.. are you home?”


“Yeah, still in work clothes and all.. that.” Louis awkwardly states.


“Can we talk?” Harry asks, “I’ve been calling all day and I assumed you were busy so I had to ask your sister what time you get off at work.” His words are rushed and almost panicked.


“I..” Louis’ breath hitched.


“Please, Lou?”


Louis closes his eyes, reopening them when he’s got himself checked, “Okay, yeah. Sure. Uh.. where?”


“I’ll come over.” Harry says with finality. It’s only a beat after when he says, hesitant, “Uh.. is that alright? Jacob’s..”


“He can come over.” Louis says, “Then we can talk.. your house?”


“Yeah, sure sure.” There’s a little commotion in the background where Harry silently hisses out a curse, “Sorry, just.. in a hurry.”


“Okay. I’ll see you.” Louis’ voice is so hushed he’s surprised he himself can even hear it, “Be careful on the way.” He hangs up after that. He holds his head in his hands for a few long moments before he stands and informs his sisters about the visitors.


It’s an awkward atmosphere when Harry leaves Jacob in the house, and Louis pushes off the tension as he reminds Lottie to take care of Jacob while there are no other adults present in the house. Harry seemed to trust her enough, but Louis just worries a lot.


In the car, it’s dead silent. Louis wishes he can reach over and switch on the radio for absolutely anything but he can’t move, as if his muscles are tensed shut. Harry keeps glancing his way, and Louis can only look towards the window to avoid him.


“Lou.” Harry sighs.


“I don’t know what you want me to say, Harry.” Louis all but stutters out, his voice trembling, “Do you want me to say it’s alright? Because I’ve been trying my best to wait it out, to see if you’d tell me the truth and not keep anything from me—“ Louis cuts himself off, “Right. You don’t have to say everything to me.”


“Louis.” Harry says more firmly this time. He pulls over, the car jerking a bit roughly as it stops.


Louis screws his eyes shut and takes a deep breath, “Harry.” He meets the man’s eyes. They’re greener and they look angry. Or guilty? He doesn’t know.


“Lou, I know I—“


“Do you still love him?” Louis asks, even he surprises himself. His tears are waiting behind his eyes, and he’s trying hard to keep them there.


“Louis.” Harry falters, “What are you saying, love?”


“Don’t try to lie.” Louis’ voice trembles again, “Because I know, alright?”


Harry pauses, “Know what?”


Louis presses his head against the headrest of his seat and presses the balls of his palms against his eyes. No tears, “The pictures, your password, Brenda, just...” No tears.


“Louis...”


“Stop repeating my name!” Louis snaps. He calms down almost immediately, “Just tell me. Have you moved on from Carter?” Louis sniffles. There are tears, and he didn’t even notice, “You’ve hidden things about him from me. You have his picture on your wallet, his birthday is your password, and you’re trying your hardest to please Brenda.” He swallows the lump in his throat, “Even when you don’t need to.”


He looks over to see Harry sat back in his own seat, staring ahead. He seems so conflicted and sadness is evident in his eyes. It’s still there.


“Maybe everything’s... maybe it’s all just a spur of the moment.” Louis wipes his cheeks and releases a deep breath, “I understand.” He nods to himself. He looks back at Harry to find the man looking back at him, “I understand, Harry.”


“Louis, I’m sorry.” Harry pinches the area between his eyebrows, sighing deeply. He looks back up and he reaches forward to take Louis’ hand, “I’m sorry, Lou.”


Louis gently pats Harry’s hand before pulling away. He sniffles, wiping under his nose, “You don’t apologize for loving someone, Harry.”


Harry only bows his head, nodding. Louis feels his chest tighten, and a new wave of emotion hits him. Fuck, he loves Harry so much.


He chokes back a sob as he unlocks the car door and climbs out. He doesn’t spare a single glance back as he crosses the road and run back home.

Chapter Text


Three Years Later


“Now, both of you, listen carefully.” Louis says, still kneeling in front of the six-year-olds in front of him. They’re giving each other subtle glares, still agitated from their little fight, “Fighting is never a good thing. I told you before that I wanted everyone in this room to get along.”


Kaila gives in, glancing at Louis before her shoulders slump. She silently admits defeat as she nods. Louis smiles before looking at Don, raising an expectant eyebrow.


The boy sighs heavily and turns towards Kaila, “I’m sorry.”


Louis watches the exchange –which isn’t so sincere but decides it’s enough—before he lets the kids go back to their seats. The others are already absorbed in their own artworks, having forgotten the little brawl earlier. Louis loves his job, really. He’s still working in the same kindergarten from three years ago, but now he’s actually one of the teachers because somehow the owner saw some ‘potential’ in him.


He’s forever thankful. This job is basically the thing that completely lifted them out of their financial issues. Lottie’s in her third year of uni and her part time job makes it a bit easier for Louis to earn for her dorm. Fizzy’s on her first but she decided to stay home instead of getting another dorm. The twins are in the end of their middle school and the youngest pair are in their second year of school. His Mum is also working as hard as her son but Louis never allows her to do two jobs again.


So, it’s all good.


When he goes home that afternoon, he goes straight to his bed after greeting his mum and the two pairs of twins. His room is also a bit.. fixed. Well, the whole house had a little makeover back then. Yes, they’ve kept the house. He had talked to Harry once regarding the issue and the man had been really insistent to let them keep it and that it’s not that big of a problem. Louis had hung up with a loud sigh. He still remembers how they got this house.


“Guess what?!” Will shouts in his ear as soon as Louis answers his call.


Louis groans, “What?”


“Opened another branch, baby!” Will says, and he sounds real happy, “I forgot to tell you the opening was like.. a week ago.”


“A true friend.” Louis yawns. He rolls to his back and leans against a stack of his pillows, “Well, congratulations, then.”


“Drinks on you!”


“Wait, tonight?” Louis asks. He already feels so much more exhausted.


“Yes! It’s Friday, Louis. You can relax in the weekend.” Will insists, “Plus, we haven’t seen each other in so long.” Yeah, that’s true, but he and Will can go for years and years without talking and they’d still be friends.


Louis releases a heavy sigh, “Fine. But drinks are on you.” He hears Will blubber some nonsense before saying that he’ll be there to pick Louis up. The latter gets up to his dresser, choosing some jeans and a red maroon shirt. He washes his face just in case he looks too tired for a club.


Except, they didn’t go to a club. Will drives completely past it and pulled over in front of a restaurant. It doesn’t look too fancy, really, and Louis raises an eyebrow.


“Better than getting wasted?” Will offers before he climbs out of the car, leaving Louis on his own.


Louis only shakes his head and follows the man inside. They find their own table near the window and they’re given menus. It’s basically a pizza-pasta place, so that means nothing can go wrong. The waiter soon grabs their orders before making a promise of twenty minutes for the food.


“So...” Will leans forward on his elbows, “How’s your job?”


Louis raises an eyebrow, “How’s yours?”


“Mate!” Will exclaims, obviously excited about the topic before he jumps straight to telling how his opening went. Will’s a successful man, but the way he speaks and just acts makes it look like he’s not formal at all. Their food arrives, and Louis glances at his plate. He’d ordered steak.


“Which part of Trias?” Louis asks.


“Man, like.. a block away from Union.” Will snorts but it looks like he’s proud of himself.


“Petty.” Louis chuckles, “Right in front of your rival, huh.”


“I just had to take it.” Will shakes his head, laughing, “How ‘bout you, though? The kids?”


“Little monsters.” He loves those little monsters, “Can you believe they actually eat glue? I thought that only happens in cartoons or something.”


Will’s nose scrunches up, “Kids are weird. Let’s never have them.”


“I almost had one.” Louis slips out, but he plays it off by laughing nonchalantly and sipping on his drink. Will sends him a knowing look. Louis rolls his eyes, huffing, “No. No, I’m fine.”


“It’s been three ye—“


“I’m fine, Will.” Louis chuckles out. It sounds way too forced but it’ll do. He can’t ruin his friend’s night with his dramatics.


Will only gets to swallow down a few bites before he speaks again, “He’d be eight by now.”


“Will.” Louis drops his fork and knife, slumping back in his chair, “Seriously?”


“Sorry! Sorry!” Will says. He reaches over the table to pat Louis’ hand, “Sorry.”


They finish dinner and Louis forces Will to drive him home only because he suddenly feels sad. Will only gives him a big hug and does as told. When Louis gets home, he checks the girls’ room and does a metal head count before he goes to his own room. He strips down to his boxers and pulls on a shirt before he snuggles in his sheets. He stares the ceiling for a few moments, and he doesn’t even realize it as he grabs his phone.


He has pictures of Jacob in his camera roll somewhere, and Louis can’t find it in himself to delete them. He’s deleted pictures of the boy’s father, but Louis can’t let go of Jacob’s. It’s just... he’s grown attached to that boy. He loves Jacob, admittedly pretty much like his own son, and he misses that little genius. Very, very much. And the fact that he didn’t get to say goodbye three years ago just messes him up a little bit. A lot.


Louis clicks off his phone and tosses it beside him.


~○~


Saturday is grocery day. And that basically means he’d have to endure carrying like thirteen grocery bags through the whole bus ride and risk having one of them snatched. He goes early in the morning so the store wouldn’t be too packed.


“Any more additions, people?” Louis asks, his eyes scanning on the long list of their needs in his hand. Fizzy makes a move to speak, “I won’t get you oreo packs, Fiz. We already have the yogurt in here.”


He hears her grumble under her breath. Louis messes her hair, “How mature, baby sister.”


“Louis.” Jay raises an eyebrow.


Louis holds his hands up, “I’m going, I’m going.” So he does. He has his earphones plugged on his ears as he rides the bus. He keeps them on as he grabs a cart and begins his strolling.


He finishes his list an hour later, and he, against his will, pushes his cart until he’s at the snacks aisle, looking at the stacks of Oreo. Would they want the classic? Or strawberry? Double-stuffed?


“Louis?” Louis jumps, and he looks to his left and down to see a kid beside him. It can’t be.


“Don! Hi, buddy!” Louis ruffles his hair. He really doesn’t fancy meeting his students outside school, only because they get to see the side which isn’t the formal, clean one.


“What’re you doing, Lou?” Don asks in his little voice. Louis doesn’t flinch at the nickname because he’d specifically told them to call him by his first name.


“Shopping.” Louis answers with a chuckle. He bends down a little, “What about you? Where’s your mummy?”


Just then, a woman grasps Don’s hand, “Mr. Tomlinson.”


Louis feels his face heat up. He’s facing his student’s parent and he’s wearing sweatpants. “Mrs. Laws. It’s nice seeing you.”


“Yes, of course.” She shakes Louis’ hand, “Um.. we really have to go. My husbands—“


“Of course, of course, yeah.” Louis nods, smiling. He looks down to Don and ruffles his hair, “Make sure you do your homework, buddy.” He watches them as they walk away, an he finally sighs when they’re out of sight.


Louis pays for his groceries, and he’s got two bags on one hand and one on his free one. He’s gonna have to wait for the next bus, and he groans internally. He’s not really opposed to grocery day, but sometimes it can be such a bummer.


He makes a move to walk out from the store, but suddenly he steps on something and he instinctively gasps and steps back, muttering a few apologies. He looks down and sees a kid. He’s wearing a beanie and he’s equally as surprised as Louis.


“Sorry, bud.” All Louis can offer is smile before he steps around the boy.


“Louis?”


That really can’t be one of his students. Louis looks back. The boy is still staring at him and he’s wide-eyed like he actually knows who Louis is—


“Jacob?” Louis almost drops his bags. Because shit, it’s Jacob. Jacob who’s positively taller now, who’s surely can reach like Louis’ freaking stomach when he can only hug around Louis’ thighs, who’s surely older now—like what 8, 9? Jacob. Jacob Styles.


“Louis!” Jacob exclaims, and he’s running towards Louis and tackling him in a hug, one that’s stronger than before.


Louis’ still all choked up, and he looks around, trying to search for any more familiar faces, particularly Harry Styles’ face. Jacob doesn’t seem to mind, He buries his face in Louis’ stomach, “It’s really you!”


He pulls away, grin so wide as he looks up at Louis, “Louis.”


“Jake.” Louis more or less breathes out, “W-What are you doing here, buddy?”


“I-I’m with Daddy.” Jacob says. He takes a moment to look around, “He went to the loo somewhere.” When his eyes return to Louis, he looks... sad, “You.. you left.”


Louis places down his bags, because he can’t take their weight over the added weight on his chest. He takes a breath and runs a hand through his hair, “I’m sorry, Jake.”


“Why?”


Louis fishmouths, and Jacob continues, “Daddy told me you two uh.. you dated.”


Louis wants to cry. Harry told Jacob, “I’m really sorry, baby.” He makes a move to grab his bags again.


“No!” Jacob reaches for his wrist, and he looks alarmed, green eyes wide, “Um uh...” He fumbles with his pockets, “I have.. I have a phone.” He pulls out this old phone, and the model doesn’t even look new.


“You have a phone.” Louis says, almost in awe. God, Jacob grew up so much.


“I only use it when Daddy and I are going out.” Jacob mutters, the information doesn’t seem necessary but y’know, “Can I have your number? Please?”


Louis looks at the phone being offered to him. He looks back at Jacob and his pleading eyes. Louis releases a deep breath and nods. He types in his number, and before he gives it back to Jacob, he says, “Jake, your Daddy can’t know, okay?”


“I promise.” Jacob nods urgently. He looks to his left, and Louis can’t know what he’s looking at, or who.


He makes a quick move of grabbing his bags, and Jacob doesn’t stop him this time. He turns before speeding up his steps, practically jogging to the door.


“Jake, who was that?” He hears the faint volume of Harry’s voice.


Louis only gets to breathe when he’s in the bus.


~○~


Harry glances at Jacob through the rearview mirror, finding his son typing away in his phone. Harry makes a mental note on buying him a better one. Admittedly, he found that one in the attic. He just doesn’t want Jacob to be all brainwashed in the internet. Now, he’s decided to just trust his son more.


“Who’s that, Jake?” Harry can’t help but ask.


“U-Uh.. no one, daddy.” Jacob shoves the phone in his pocket, sitting up straight and folding his hands on his lap.

 

“You sure, love?” Harry chuckles fondly, “Someone special?”


Louis is! Louis’ special. And he’s also special for Harry. Jacob only clears his throat and smiles dopey. When they get home, Harry grabs the bags from the back, giving two small bags for Jacob before he carries the rest himself. When he enters the kitchen, though, the two bags are left abandoned on the island and Jacob’s simply standing there.


“You alright, sweetie?” Harry asks as he passes his boy, placing down the bags.


“Uh.. can I use my phone for a bit?” Jacob asks.


“Only for an hour.” Harry gives him a warning finger.


“Yes, Daddy.” Jacob steps forward to hug Harry’s thighs before he’s running from the room. Harry only shakes his head fondly before he begins to sort out the groceries. He finishes fifteen minutes later, and he would have enough time to get through some emails and files sent to him before the babysitter gets here.


He checks on Jacob first. The boy looks really into his phone, or whoever he’s texting. He’d never actually use it when he’s home because that phone is only for emergencies. Harry only shrugs before going straight to his office.


He shoots a quick text to Rose asking what time she’ll be here. It’s even more hectic now. His schedules are always packed and he has business offers and trips lining up for his company. He barely accepts business trips, really, and it’s still because he’s so protective of Jacob even with his very sweet and trustworthy babysitter.


Harry stops himself before he gets any further on the babysitter topic. He sighs heavily before getting right to work. Half an hour later, he closes his laptop and gets ready for work. As usual, he wears his suit, brushing his hair up into a quiff until he deems it good.


Before he leaves his room, though, his phone rings from his pocket. He’s surprised when he sees Gemma’s name on his screen. They haven’t really talked that much lately, mostly because of their own jobs.


“Gem?” Harry asks.

She was sniffling on the other line, “C-Can I come over?”


Harry frowns, instantly worrying, “Of course, what’s wrong?”


“Tim.. he’s—“ She sobs, sniffling hard.


“Hey, hey.” Harry shushes her, “I can pick you up, if you want. Are you gonna take the kids?”


She barely manages to whisper out a ‘yes’ before Harry’s saying he’s gonna pick her up. Right after hanging up on Gemma, he makes a quick call to Kate, who answers with a, “Good morning, Mr. Styles.”


“Morning.” Harry says, and he’s already shrugging off his coat and draping it over his bed, “What’s our agenda for today?”


“Well, check-ins at noon sharp, then after that, Mr. Kapeston should be coming over to discuss with you the—“ Harry already feels tired as she answers. She seems like she already has it all planned.


“Yes, of course.” Harry says as she ends, “I want you to maybe.. inform Ms. Faulor to bump our meeting to tomorrow morning, yes? And if she doesn’t approve, then I’d be glad to terminate our contract. Oh and, same goes for Mr. Kapeston.”


Kate doesn’t answer for a few beats, probably still writing but then she hurries out, “All noted, anything else, Mr. Styles?”


“Yes, just make sure my schedule for tomorrow won’t reach—“


“Eight o’clock in the evening, yes, Sir.” She cuts him off.


Harry chuckles, “Yes, okay. Well, that’s about it. Enjoy the rest of the day off.”


Jacob, even after an hour, is still at his phone, looking extremely giddy as he texts that someone. It’s pretty obvious the way he shoves the device under his pillow after Harry knocked and opened the door, “Still texting, Jake?”


The boy blushes, “Sorry.”


“Why don’t you tell me who it is, hm?” Harry says, because he’s subtle, and at the same time worried. Who knows maybe his sons ‘text mate’ is a stalker or something.


“U-Uh, just a classmate.” Jacob stutters out, nodding as if to convince himself.


“Hm, fine then.” Harry can’t push it. Jacob will have to tell it himself, “I have good news for you!”

 

Jacob’s instantly grinning, “You’re not going to work?”


Harry feels his chest swell. Even now, his son is so eager in spending time with him. It’s got to be one of his proudest moments, “Yes, love. And Aunt Gemma is coming over with your cousins.”


Jacob pretty much releases a squeal, “Right now?”


“We’ll pick them up after you’ve showered.”


Jacob’s never ran to the bathroom that fast before. The stability of his legs has always offended Harry’s lack thereof. Harry has his moments, alright?


~○~


A phone keeps vibrating against the coffee table, and the owner itself runs his hands over his face in mild stress. He knew it’d be Jacob, and yes he does miss him, but he just can’t do this. He’s managed to stay away from their lives –three years of torture- why should he barge in now?


“Trouble in paradise?” His mum asks as she stirs herself a cup of tea. The weather’s gone pretty chilly these days, it’s crazy.


Louis offers her a half-hearted smile, “Not really.” Not yet, at least. He finally finds the courage to open the new messages. Jacob has asked him if they can meet or not and Louis should declines but he doesn’t know if he has the heart to break the kid’s heart anymore. Jacob expressed what he’s feeling and all since he got Louis’ number.


Jacob said he’d basically got upset over a matter of days, weeks even, but Harry’s done his best to cheer his boy up, but that doesn’t mean he stops missing Louis. The latter has admittedly shed a single tear.


Lou pleeeeeease??? Cn we meet?? Not now but anytime!!


Lou??


Im gnna take a shower, daddy told me auntie gems is coming over!

Ill text u later Lou!


Louis decides to ignore the first two, have fun with ur Auntie Gemma xx. He then stands up to enter the privacy of his room, dialing Will’s number in the process. The man answers in Louis’ second attempt with a groggy, “Hm?”


“It’s like.. noon.” Louis frowns, “You’re still asleep.”

“I got laid yesterday.”


“Not good to know.” Louis rolls his eyes, “But hey, listen.” Will only hums an incoherent response, “Uh.. I kind of.. did something?” stupid?


“Not the first time.”


Louis agrees that it kind of isn’t, “Yeah uh.. I may have bumped into Jacob.”


“Jacob as in your almost-stepson.”


Louis almost huffs at the nickname, although Jacob really was his almost-stepson, “Yes, him.”


“And, how should I comment about this?”


Will can be kind of dumb sometimes, “I gave him my number.”


Will proceeds to mutter, “Jeez, the kid’s like, what? 8.. 9 and he already has a phone. What father—“


“Will.”


“... go on.”


“I don’t know what to do! Or to feel.” Louis slumps against his bed, running a hand on his face, “He wants us to meet, and I miss that kid.”


“Meet him then!”


“Tell me, how? Without his father absolutely knowing?”


“Why are you still avoiding him?” Will asks as if it’s the easiest question in the world, chuckling lightly, “You told me that it’s all fine, that you’re fine.”


Louis’ nerves fall silent, and gnaws on his bottom lip, “It’s just difficult.”


“You still love him.” Judging by Will’s tone, Louis knew he’d probably get smacked in the head.


“Whatever you say.” Louis tries to avoid it, but when Will gives him more time to think by staying silent, Louis adds, murmuring, “I mean, I haven’t even told him I loved him.” Not even once.


“Lou, you know this isn’t healthy for you, yeah?”


Louis’ mum had told him that in the exact same day three years ago, because while love is something easy to remember, it’s also a pain in the ass to forget, “One can’t exactly stop his feelings.”


“Yeah, but you haven’t made any move to try.” Louis knows where this is going, “Lou, he’s the last man you’ve dated. It’s three years. I know I can’t survive being single for that long.”


That makes Louis laugh, “Obviously.” Will had relationships, shitty ones and well, it’s really about time he should settle down. His laugh dies down eventually, “What do I do?”


“I mean, if you want to, you can meet the kid.” Will suggests. He makes it sound so easy, “Just so you can explain everything to him, I guess? I can tell he deserves it.”


“He really does.” Louis agrees quietly. After all these years, he still let his mind wander off until it somehow lands on Jacob. God, he feels so guilty. He left Jacob just like that and it still eats him away whenever he thinks about it.


“Then go see him. If that’ll help clear your mind.”


Louis sighs heavily, “Thanks for that, mate. I have to go.”


“Lou?”


Louis frowns, “Yeah?”


“I’m always here for you, okay?”


“Thanks, man.” Louis says before he hangs up, breathing in deeply as he turns to his back on the bed.


~○~


“Wait, what?!” Harry seethes, standing up from his chair. It screeches back, and he stops his hand from slamming on the table, reminding himself that their kids are in the den. He sits back down, “That prick. For how long?”


“I didn’t want to know.” Gemma sniffles hard into the tissue, crumpling them in her hand before plucking a few more from the box Harry offered her. She and the kids have only been here for half an hour and she’s already bawling her eyes out.


“God, Gem.” Harry says, “I.. I didn’t really expect him to just...” He really can’t. Tim was a really honest man, and Harry personally liked him for Gemma ever since they were still dating.


Gemma’s eyes are red as well as her cheeks, “Can we stay here for a few days?”


“As long as you need.” Harry reaches over the table and pats her hand, “Have you and the kids eaten yet? I’ll heat up some of our dinner from yesterday.” He stands from the table and rummages through the fridge.


“Daddy?” Harry looks back to see Jacob shyly peeking into the kitchen.

 

“Yes, love?” Harry asks, beckoning him over as he transfers the dish into another container so he can shove it in their microwave. Jacob goes to him, giving a glance at his Auntie Gemma before he gasps.


“Auntie Gem.” He says, face full of concern, “Are you okay? Why are you crying?”


Gemma gives him a genuine smile, “I’m fine, love.”


Jacob hesitantly pulls away, nodding before proceeding to his father, who bends down to place a kiss on his head and rub his back, “What do you need, Jake?”


“Kaila and Marga wants to go outside.”

 

“Sure, sure.” Harry nods, “You can let them play with your toys.”


“Already did.” Jacob says, glancing back towards the door before looking back at Harry, “We’ll go to the back.” He then begins to run off, only to stop midway, “Um.. Can we play footie?”


“Just be careful, okay?” Harry says, raising an eyebrow. Jacob only grins before running off.


From behind Harry, Gemma huffs out a laugh, “How on earth did you teach your son how to play football? You can’t play for shit.”


Harry clears his throat, grabbing a few plates, “I wasn’t the one who taught him.” He looks back and places the plates on the table, beginning to set it.


“Ah.” Gemma nods knowingly, “And.. how is he?”


“I really wouldn’t know.” Harry didn’t hear a single thing from Louis ever since their.. their break-up. And to be honest, Harry doesn’t know what to feel about it.


Harry turns back to grab a few glasses when Gemma asks, “Do you still like him?”


Harry’s hand stops mid-air before he reattaches his mind to his body. He grabs five glasses and sets them down on the table, “Should I?”


Gemma doesn’t answer.


They call the kids back inside after the lunch is finished heating and is already served. The rest of the afternoon, Harry lets Gemma distract herself with the kids as he cleans up the guestroom a little and move their stuff inside. When Harry goes back downstairs, Gemma’s in the hallway away from the den, eyes on her phone.


“Gem?” Harry asks.


“Sorry.” Gemma wipes her eyes and puts her phone away, “What is it?”


“I was just wondering how you’re gonna send Kaila to school.” Harry shrugs, “And how you’re going to work and such. I’m just concerned.”


“It’s alright.” Gemma pats his shoulder, “Your house is actually closer to her school, and I can take care of myself with work and such.”


“Well, that’s alright then.” Harry looks at her, “You’re okay, right?”

 

“I’ll be fine.”


So Harry puts on a movie to distract his sister and the kids for the meantime while he prepares for dinner. As he does so, he glances back towards the den more than necessarily. He frowns, seeing Jacob on his phone once again.


“Jake.” Harry calls out, putting down his spatula for a moment.


When Jacob comes in, he’s hiding the phone behind his back. Harry sighs and bends down on one knee, “Jacob, you know your limits with that phone.”


Jacob looks down, “Sorry, Daddy.” It’s only numbered times that he’s made his father disappointed,


Harry opens his palm, “Come on.”

 

Jacob looks up, eyes almost pleading, “B-But, Daddy...”


Harry eyes the phone. He makes a mental note on buying Jacob a better one, “Okay, I’ll let you use it, but only after you’ve finished your homework and only until your bedtime.”


Jacob nods, his fringe bouncing before he gives Harry a grateful kiss on the cheek and running off from the kitchen. Harry sighs. But he knows Jacob will obey him. His boy has been raised good. Although, Harry can’t help but get curious about this person his son’s texting.


“Kids these days.” Harry mutters under his breath, turning back to the stove.


~○~


Louis looks at the building in front of him, looking back down on his phone to read the name of Jacob’s school before hopping out of the cab. It’s a few days of Jacob’s request of meeting Louis until Louis has cracked and said that he could just visit Jacob in his school.


Thankfully, it looks like the kids are on their breaktime, running around the small campus and some lounging on the tables poised outside. Jacob had been ecstatic when Louis finally agreed to meet, and he told the man he can wait by the guardhouse, so Louis does.


He feels nervous about this, is the thing. He waits outside, hands in his pocket and rolling back and forth on his heels. He had an hour break, and he’d have to go back to work after this.


“Louis!”


Louis whips around just as Jacob hugs around his abdomen, arms wrapping around him and cheek pressed on Louis’ stomach. Louis feels like he can cry, “Jake, hey, buddy.”


“I’m so glad you’re here.” Jacob says before he pulls away. His smile looks so wide and excited. He’s wearing some gray trousers, a white button up with his school’s logo on the collar, and a navy blue vest lined with red. It looks really formal, and it’s not a surprise.


“How are you, hm?” Louis says, reaching down to ruffle the boy’s hair just like what he’d always do.


Jacob only giggles and bats him away, “I’m fine.”


Louis smiles and bends down on one knee. He remembers that Jacob matches his height when he bends down like that. Now that he’s grown a few inches taller, it’s different, “I’ve missed you so much, kiddo.”


“Me too, Lou.” Jacob fidgets with his thumbs, looking shy all of a sudden, “You still haven’t told me why you left.”


And oh, yes. It’s Louis’ plan to just make sure Jacob knows what went wrong, just so he can’t keep asking it to himself. Louis wants to say that this isn’t the place –his school, in front of the guardhouse where the guard’s surely eyeing them--, that somehow this doesn’t matter anymore, but Louis’ afraid to meet Jacob again. Because seeing Jacob again will surely increase his chances of seeing Harry.


Louis rubs Jacob’s arms, “Love, you have to understand that I couldn’t stay, and that I’m really sorry that I left without telling you.”


Jacob nods, taking in the new information, “Is it because of Daddy?” His eyes meet Louis’, “Daddy told me it was because of him.”


Louis gulps, “Darling, it doesn’t matter now, yeah? Just know that I love you and I can still be your best friend?” Louis offers, smiling weakly.


Jacob nods eagerly, and he steps forward to hug Louis again. As he pulls away, he asks, “Why don’t you want to see Daddy again? Are you still upset with him?”


“Oh.” Louis raises a hand to scratch the back of his neck. Of course he’s not upset with Harry, but the reason why he can’t see the man is unexplainable, “No, Jake. Of course not.”


“Then why can’t I tell him?”


Louis’ flooded with guilt. He realizes just now that what he’s doing –asking Jacob to keep things from Harry—isn’t a good move. He sighs, “Love, it’s not that you can’t. I just think it wouldn’t be alright with him.”


“It will be!” Jacob nods, convincing himself. He was always the optimistic one.


“I hope so.” Louis chuckles.


~○~


Harry’s making dinner when he hears that familiar tapping noise once again. He sighs and turns back to see Jacob typing away at his phone once again in the den, ignoring his homework. With his cousins out and about with Gemma, he’s more invested in that phone.


Harry frowns, putting down the knife he’s using before entering the den. He puts his hands on his hips as a warning, “Jacob.”


The boy jumps, looking like a deer in headlights, “Daddy?”


“What did I tell you about using that phone?”


Jacob looks down, “Not to use it until I’m done with my homework.”


“You’re not listening again.” Harry firmly says. He stretches his palm out, “Give it.”


Now, Jacob panics, “But Daddy—“ Harry raises an eyebrow. Jacob pouts but he marches over nonetheless, handing his phone over to his father.


Harry sighs and bends down, “Jake, you have to know that I’m doing this because using this,” He waves the phone, “,can distract you so much and you won’t be able to focus.” He makes a mental note to maybe push back his plan of purchasing a new phone.


“Sorry, Daddy.” Jacob says.


“Come ‘ere.” Harry gives his boy a hug, rocking them for a few moments before placing a kiss on his temple, “Go. Do your homework.” Jacob practically runs back to the couch, and Harry carries the phone with him.


Now, he’s getting curious. Who might be this person that’s probably driving his son nuts to texting. It must be a girl he likes. The phone buzzes in his hand and Harry instinctively looks.


Jake, do ur homework, okay? Your Daddy will be very mad xx


It’s sent by someone named Lou and Harry feels himself freeze up. His palms suddenly sweat. Out of curiosity he scrolls up the past messages. As he does so, he can’t help but lean against the counter. This is surely Louis. There’s not a chance that this isn’t Louis.


“Jacob.” Harry calls his son back.


Jacob returns with confusion all over his face, but then it all drains when he sees the messages open, “Uh—D-Daddy—“


“Is this Louis?” Harry asks. When Jacob doesn’t answer, he presses, “Is this Louis?”


Jacob nods his head before looking down.


“How did this happen?” Harry continues to ask. When his son doesn’t answer again, he sits down so they’re in the same height.


“I saw him at the grocery store.”


Harry wracks his brain for a few moments, but then a memory flashes through his mind. He’d been extra protective of his son after seeing him interacting with a stranger, and maybe even scolded him a bit for even doing so, but now it all makes sense. It’s Louis.


“And.. and.. I’ve been texting him ever since.” Jacob says quietly.

 

“I-I’m sorry, Daddy.” Jacob says, hanging his head. He really feels bad for lying to his father, but he also wants Louis to stay.


Harry caves with a sigh, “Why didn’t you tell me?”


“He didn’t want you to know.” Jacob’s words progressively gets hushed, showing just how nervous he is.


“It’s alright, love.” It really is. He sees no problem with Jacob interacting with Louis again, but he still feels kind of unsettled. He doesn’t really know what to feel, “I just don’t want you to keep things from me.”


“Sorry, Daddy.”


“Enough of that.” Harry tugs his son closer gently, kissing the top of his head and rubbing his back, “Not a repeat of this, okay?”


Jacob nods over his shoulder, and that’s that.


~○~


Louis stares at his baby sister in front of him. She seems mildly unimpressed as she crosses her arms and sighs. Louis’ held her captive in his room, subtly demanding for her suggestions for some fun activities.


“I’m thirteen, Louis.” Daisy says.


“Yes...” Louis says slowly. He’s desperate, and this is a desperate measure.
“You’re teaching five-year-olds.”


“Correction.” Louis holds a finger up, “They’re six.”


Louis gives up on her a moment later, shooing her away without so much as a thank you which makes her complain. He shuts the door on her. Who knew thinking of some activities for younglings can be so stressful.


His phone begins to ring and he huffs, dropping his pen and leaning back against his chair to stretch. He answers the phone with a yawn, “Hello?”


“Is this Louis?” The voice sounds familiar enough, and Louis sits up in his chair, more awake now.


“Yes... who is this?”


“It’s..” The person hesitates, “It’s Harry.”


Louis blinks, and his heart suddenly starts beating too hard, “H-Hello.”


“Yeah uh..” God, this is too awkward, “Jacob told me you two met.”


“We did.” Louis suddenly coughs, his throat itchy, “Yeah.. yeah. We did.” He shakes himself awake, getting his mouth to work with his brain, “You probably scolded him for keeping it from you. I’m sorry. I was the one who told him not to tell you...” Louis clears his throat, “Yet.”


“It’s fine. I already talked to him about it.” Harry’s voice seems a little different now.


Louis gulps, “W-Why did you call?”


“Right uh..” Harry lets a few beats pass between them, “Just... tone down the texting a bit? Jacob’s too distracted lately because of that.”


“Oh.” Louis more or less breathes out, “Sure, sure. I don’t mind.”


“Okay. Bye, Louis.” Harry contradicts his own words, because he cuts himself off and blurts out, “H-How have you been?”


Louis rummages his brain for answers. Shit, he doesn’t know what to say, “I’m fine, yeah. I’ve.. I’ve been good.”


“Good.” Harry says, “I’m good, I mean. Me too.”


Louis feels a slight surge of confidence when he hears Harry stutter, “This is probably the most awkward we’ve been.”


He hears a surprised chuckle from the other line, “Yeah. Yeah, this is too awkward.”


“Bye, Harry.” Louis feels himself smile.

 

Harry sounds much lighter, the tension having left his body, “Bye, Louis.”


Louis’ the first to hang up, and he leans forward on his desk. He groans as he ruffles his hair, messing it up further. He’d planned to keep it a secret from Harry, but secrets can’t be kept forever. He supposes Harry’s alright with it.
Maybe.


~○~


“It’s literally been more than half a decade since we last did this.” Niall says, feeling pleased as he leans back into his chair.


Randomly, Harry had dialed all his friends –just Niall, Liam and Nick—and invited them all in. It’s quite late at night and they’re in the backyard where they laid out chairs and a foldable plastic table where they put their drinks and some snacks. Jacob’s sleeping in with his cousins and Gemma’s looking after them.


“Figured it was time.” Harry chuckles. He raises his glass in a silent cheers before sipping on it.


“You better.” Nick smiles, raising his eyebrows, “Last time we did this was probably back in uni. With red solo cups, and shitty beer.”


“Now, it’s some expensive wine from Harry’s expensive wine rack.” Liam makes the emphasis of raising his glass. It is indeed an expensive wine, “Business did you good, Haz.”


“It really did.” Harry nods in agreement. He’d probably stuck back in Holmes Chapel if he didn’t manage to finish his studies, “All thanks to Carter.”


Niall smiles, “How’s Jacob been?” He’s only met the little guy once back in Harry’s party, but he’s sure Jacob’s been raised hella right.


“Great.” Harry stares at the ice in his drink, “He transferred to a new school, so he’s getting a bit adjusted.”


“He’s a good lad.” Liam nods, a fond smile in his face, “He looks too much like you, though, so I guess that’s the downside.”


Harry frowns, “Oi. I’ll have you know that my son is handsome, yeah? Sod off.”


“Can’t argue with that.” Nick laughs before turning serious, “Don’t let that feed your ego please, you’re as narcissistic as they all say.”


They all burst out laughing at that, and Harry just shakes his head at his friends’ teases. It’s like they’re back in uni, but incomplete.


“Oh, man. I wish Carter was here.” Niall sighs. He looks up at the sky, at the stars. Carter should be at least one of them.


“Yeah.” Harry does the same.


“How about you, Haz?” Nick asks, nudging him on the elbow, “How have you been?”


Harry smiles, “I’m alright. A little busy here and there with work.” It feels like deja vu all of a sudden.


“That’s it?” Niall asks.


“Yeah.” Harry says softly, looking down. His finger is tracing the rim of his glass. He takes a deep breath before asking, “How does a person move on?” He doesn’t look back up at them and all he receives is silence.


“Well,” Liam, always the helper, starts, “For me, I personally think that it’s based on the person, H. You just find it within yourself and you just... do.”


Harry nods, trying to absorb it all in, “I’ve been alone for eight years now. I haven’t had a serious relationship and I didn’t think that I was willing to.”


Niall leans forward then, patting Harry’s knee, “And that’s alright, H. If you aren’t ready.”


Harry looks at them then. They’re all looking at him, faces unreadable, “You guys asked me, three years ago, who that Tomlinson guy was.” Nick nods, “He was the first person I ever wanted to be with since Carter died. Someone who I really see being with us for the rest of our lives.” Harry ignores the blush spreading on his cheeks. Gosh, he probably sounds like a virgin right now, “And well, I’ll have you know that we started going on dates and such. I even met his parents.” Harry smiles at the memory, “But I called it off soon enough. And three years later, I still miss him.”


The trio is silent, glancing at one another before Niall, surprisingly, clears his throat, “If ya don’t mind me asking, mate, why’d you break it off with him?”


Harry puts down his glass and leans back, clasping his hands over his stomach, “I was probably too scared.” He admits, “Of what Carter will think of me. Jacob, Brenda. I didn’t want to go and find someone else because I knew I was happy with Jacob, but then Louis came in and made us happier and that just... it scared me a little bit.”


Liam speaks up, then, his eyes carrying no judgment but only understanding, “Harry, I’m sure out of all people, you’re the one who knows Carter the most, but you don’t seem to realize that he’d want you to be happy. That’s what matters to him.”


“But you should probably introduce that Tomlinson guy to us first.” Nick pipes in, always the protective elder. They all chuckle.


~○~


Harry’s sure he’s about to age ten years because of his very lovable son. It’s a lovely Sunday, and all he’s plans involve just having a nice day in. Jacob isn’t really cooperating. They’re currently in the kitchen, with Gemma, Margo, and Kaila setting the table. Harry’s in kitchen duty, and Jacob’s tugging on his apron insistently. “Daddy, please?”


“Jake, it’s Sunday. You know what we do in Sundays.”


“Yeah but I want to meet Louis on another day.” Jacob retorts, jutting out his bottom lip.


“You already saw him, didn’t you?” Harry’s logic is slowly running out, as well as the cheese he’s currently grating over the soup.


“I want you to see him!” Jacob whines, tugging harder.


“Jacob Styles.” Harry snaps. He drops the knife and faces the kid, “If you’re not gonna help with dinner, then go to your room!”


Being yelled at is rare for Jacob, so it’s no surprise when he tears up before running off, bumping into Gemma on his way. The latter raises an eyebrow, then, ready to interrogate, “What happened?”


“He wants me to see someone.” Harry answers gruffly. He puts the grater on the sink and hands Gemma the bowls of soup.


“Someone that is...?” Gemma asks. She slowly takes the bowls, raising an eyebrow.


Harry watches warily for her reaction. “Louis.” He sees her raise her eyebrows and nod with pursed lips. She sees him watching her and lets out a chuckle, “What’s with the face?”


“Nothing.” Harry answers, “You don’t look... too offended.”


Gemma sighs and puts down the bowls. It’s either it’s getting too hot in her hands or he’s about to get an earful, “H, I know that I didn’t react... as good as you expected me to when you first told me about Louis, but... I think that’s only because I’m still not used to seeing you with anyone else other than..” She gestures randomly, “.. yeah.”


And yes, Harry knows that. He, himself, couldn’t see himself with anyone else other than Carter, but he can’t help but want to try again.


Harry stared at the phone in his hand. It’s vibrating in his palm. He heaved a sigh, putting down his puppet before answering the call, “Brenda, hi.”


Jacob looks at him, patiently waiting and having his own sock puppet shoved into his hand. It’s a Sunday, and Sundays are bonding days.


“Harry, yes, it’s a good day. Are you busy at all?”


Harry looks at Jacob, “Just.. Just having a rest day with Jacob. Do you want to talk to him?”


“Oh. No no, it’s fine.” Harry resists the urge to run his mouth, “I was wondering if you would want to spend the day with us. Just a little dinner in the house.”


Harry’s not sure if he wants to anymore, “Let me ask Jacob—”


“I can hire a babysitter for the night, Harry. It’ll be fine.” Brenda says, insists even. It is as if she doesn’t want a sight of her grandson, “We don’t need kids loitering around in here.”


And see, Harry was convinced she’s changed ever since she organized that birthday party for him. But then it’s becoming evident that her distaste for Jacob is shining through. He forgot that she once despised them, especially ever since Carter died.


“I’ll have to pass. I’m sorry, Brenda.” He hangs up the phone and it should be considered rude but he can’t let her speak that way towards her son, even if she’s Carter’s mother.


She’d been nice, for a while, but he can’t help but think that act isn’t gonna last forever.


While he’s inside his own thoughts, Gemma has picked the bowls back into her hands, “You should talk to Jacob.”

 

“I will.” Harry promises, “How about you, though? Tim?”


“Still an ass.” Gemma shrugs, but Harry can see that it’s still a fresh wound so he doesn’t press further.


“We can have dinner.” Harry offers, mentally wracking his mind to see if his schedule is free for next week, “Us and our kids.”


“We’re so old already, baby brother.”


“Ugh.” Harry makes a face, “Tell me about it.”


Harry talks to Jacob. He takes advantage of Gemma still taking her time setting the table so he can have a minute with Jacob. When Harry cracks the door open, he already hears his son’s gentle sniffles. Harry sighs and walks in, “Jake.”


Jacob jolts up, and then he’s kneeing towards Harry on the bed and making grabby hands, “I’m sorry, Daddy.”


Harry rubs his back and presses kisses on his head, “It’s alright, love. Stop crying, yeah? You know I don’t like seeing you sad.” He literally feels like he’s being cut through with the sight of his baby boy’s tears.


Still, Jacob continues to sniffle, “I-I just really miss Louis.”


And to think, it’s been three years since they last saw each other, when Jacob is still five and now he’s eight and he still wants to see Louis. It shouldn’t be that deep—their connection, but Harry knows it’s gotten that deep when he and Louis started... well, dating. Dating without a label that is.


“I understand, sweetheart.” Harry says.


Jacob squirms to slightly pull away, “D-Do you?”


Do I miss Louis? Harry asks himself. He lets himself be the honest man that he is, “Yeah, love. I do.”


Jacob seems satisfied with that answer. Harry is, too.


~○~


Louis’ busy roaming around the classroom, looking over his students’ shoulders to keep track of their activity. After his stressful night, he finally settles for the classic clay activity. It’s not much, but the kids really do seem to enjoy them.


Except for one, it seems.


“Kaila?” Louis says gently as he spots the little girl crying in her seat. She’s covering her face and only a friend of hers is coddling her.


“Love, what happened?” Louis asks. He kneels in front of her and pushes her hair back, revealing her tear-stained face, “Why the sad face?”


“I-I don’t want to do the clay!” Kaila cries out, and the loud sound makes the other kids turn to her.


“Alright, alright. Let’s talk outside, yes?” So Louis takes her outside, letting the little girl cry for a few moments before she’s finally ready to speak.


“Y-You said to make something that we look like.” Kaila says, still sniffling. Louis clearly remembers that he stated that they think of something they resemble to, something to represent as them.


“And.. A-And then I remember that I look like Daddy.” She bursts into more tears.


Louis’ heart can’t take this, “That’s good, though, yes?”


“I-I hate him. He fights with my mummy.” 


“Oh, darling.” Louis cradles her close, rubbing her back, “We’ll call your mummy, yes? Would you like to speak with her?” He looks down on his watch and sees that it’s almost their dismissal anyway.


“Yes, please.” Kaila sniffles 


Louis has to dig through a small pile of records to finally get Kaila’s paper where her guardian’s is on. He reads the name, “Gemma Anderson” before dialing her number. 


“Hello?” A lady answers from the other line. Louis frowns a bit, her voice seeming familiar.


“Hi, good morning, Mrs. Anderson?” Louis glances back at Kaila who’s waiting patiently by the door, “I’m with your daughter, Kaila, and she’s asking to speak with you.”


“Is there something wrong?” Mrs. Anderson asks, worry evident in her voice.


“Quite. I’m giving her the phone now.” Louis bends in front of Kaila. He gives her enough time to be comforted by her mother before Kaila’s giving him his phone back, muttering a shy thank you.


“You’re welcome, love.” Louis smiles. He walks with her back to the classroom and lets her continue with the activity.


Fifteen minutes later and class for today is officially over. All the kids file out in the single line so Louis can lead them out into the gate where their parents are waiting. He goes back to the classroom right after he made sure that every child is out of trouble. There’s a little cleaning up to do, so he does just that. Cleaning up after little over a dozen little kids is a tough job. There’s papers everywhere, along with the abandoned clay and some of those little rascals even stuck them up under tables and chairs. 


It only startles him when there’s a knock on the door. He looks over to see Kaila and her mother peeking through the small window.


Louis smiles and opens it, but he immediately freezes when he gets a better look at Kaila’s mother. It’s like his suspicions are confirmed, because the one standing in front of him is Gemma Styles. She’s surely married when the last name she’s using is Anderson. 


“Uh...” Louis croaks out, “Small world?”


“Louis.” Gemma says, mostly nodding to herself as she takes in Louis’ appearance. She seems to be in the state Louis’ in—confusion.


“You two know each other?” Kaila asks in an even more confused state.


Gemma looks down at her and strokes her hair, “You can say that.”


“Anyway, Louis is my favorite teacher ever!” Kaila giggles and she’s beaming at Louis, whose heart swells just a tad too much.


“Thank you, love.” Louis chuckles. 


Louis walks them out, and he’s discreetly trying to form goodbyes in his head as he does so. It’s awkward, really, really awkward. Even though the last time they met was also the first time they did, and it went well. Right?


“So..” Gemma says once she has let Kaila climb into their car, “Never thought you’d be a teacher here. Kaila never really spoke about it until now. And during parent-teacher meetings...”


“Ah, a different teacher handles her class.” Louis nods. It all makes sense now. Mrs. Lianson always handled the PTA meetings in the past.


“That makes more sense.” Gemma wonders out loud, “Well, we’ve got to get going.”


“Yeah, sure.” Louis smiles, “It’s.. nice seeing you again.”


Gemma smiles, then, “You, too.”


Louis steps back to let her climb in the car and drive away. He waves, seeing Kaila do so through the car window. It’s a small world, indeed.


~○~


Harry huffs as his phone begins to ring again. He finishes typing the last words needed for his email before sending it, picking up the phone in no time, “Hello?”


“Haz, it’s me.” Harry pulls back to see the caller ID. It’s Gemma.


“Hey, Gem. Everything alright?” Harry says hurriedly. There’s papers everywhere, Jesus. It’s a really stressful day. 


“Um no. Will you come back early?” Gemma asks, “I’ve got something to tell you.”


“I’m not really sure.” Harry drops his pen, he curses, “Listen, Gem. Gotta go, yeah? So I can finish as early as possible.” He hangs up after that. He’s gonna apologize later. But right now he’s got a storm to render here.


When he finally, finally, finishes with work , all he wishes is to be back home in his bed. But then he remembers he’s got an eight-year-old to feed. Which, by the way.


Harry presses the phone to his ear, waiting for the ringing to stop. Gemma answers, “My nephew’s asking for you.”


“Tell him I’m on my way home. But I’m gonna pick up dinner first. I’m not in the mood to cook right now. Anything the girls want?” Harry asks. He waits as Gemma asks her girls and Jacob, as well. 


“They said pizza.” Gemma informs. She sounds highly approving, too.


“Pizza it is.” 


Harry picks a cheese and a garlic shrimp pizza. It’s a new choice, but they’ve always got the cheese as back-up. He also orders some onion rings and fries and yes, they’re up for a greasy evening tonight.


And the kids are even more delighted they don’t get to eat vegetables. They better thank Harry, and the reason why he’s so exhausted. 


“Pizza, pizza!” Jacob almost squeals. He takes the boxes into his small arms and carries them to the den. 


Harry only smiles fondly and follows him. Gemma and the girls are also in the den, and when Gemma catches sight of Harry, she stands and approaches him.


“What now?” Harry groans. He places his briefcase down on the couch right before he gets dragged off to the hallway.


“I don’t know if you’re gonna be ecstatic, but I bet you will be.” Gemma says, crossing her arms.


“About?” Harry rubs his reddening ear.


“I saw Louis.” Gemma informs, “In the flesh.”


Harry forces himself not to be at all affected by it, “Uh.. how? And where?” It kind of doesn’t work.


His sister seems entirely amused by it all, crossing her arms, “He’s a teacher now. Specifically, Kaila’s teacher.”


Harry splutters in surprise, eyes widening, “Are you even sure it’s him? He..” He doesn’t really know now, does he? The moment Louis left, the moment Harry let him, they haven’t heard of each other at all. Except.. well, except for their last phone call a few days ago.


“It is him.” Gemma confirms, “Even I can remember how he’s like.” She sighs, then, “Harry, do you still like him?”


Harry’s given it a thought. Even if that thought is only passing or accidental. Once in his life he’s liked Louis, really really liked him, and he broke it all off because he thought he still loved Carter. Still do, but sadly that wasn’t enough for Harry. 


Harry places the small box in the attic, dusting his hands after closing the door. That’s probably the last of it. Carter’s clothes aren’t that many anymore, as well as the space in Harry’s closet.


“Daddy?” Jacob asks, hands clutching Harry’s phone. He’s tapping on it almost furiously. Harry probably should get him a phone. But.. the boy’s only five. 


“Yeah, love?” He walks over to ruffle the boy’s hair.


“I wanna play that.. that game.” Jacob’s eyebrows are furrowed, showing how frustrated he’s becoming. He follows Harry as the man makes his way back to his room, “What’s the password, Daddy?”


“0317, love.” Harry answers distractedly. He’s arranging his nightstand, throwing away things like unused cables, empty medicine packets, and Harry has to grimace as he sees an empty tube of lube. He moves his lamp a little bit to the left, before deciding against it and moving it to the right again. He sees Carter’s picture. He smiles and presses a kiss on the glass of the frame before placing it on top of his dresser.


He needs someone to be here – with him and Jacob. Someone he can spend the rest of his life with and someone he can genuinely be happy with. He needs someone to be there when he gets home, taking care of Jacob and him. And he needs someone to take care of, to look after, to be proud with. And when Harry thinks of that, he somehow manages to end up thinking of Louis.


When Harry snaps back to Gemma, she only purses her lips and walks away. Right. Pizza.


~○~


“So you’ve never met him?” Will asks. He shoves a large piece of his steak in his mouth, “Like.. saw him?”


“No.” Louis plays with the fork, accidentally scratching it on the surface of his plate, “It was only his sister, and her daughter. Who knew I was teaching his niece all this time.”


Will hums thoughtfully, “Maybe there is a thing called fate.”


“That’s ironic for you to say.” Louis huffs out a laugh, “But really, though, there’s probably at least one time we’re gonna bump into each other.”


“You sound excited.” Will teases, raising an eyebrow.


“I..I’m not.” Louis mutters. He finally gives up on his meal and leans back in his chair instead, “I don’t know what to do. This is messing me up.” He takes his glass to take a sip.


“God, it’s probably why you sound so affected.” Will frowns this time, “You still want him, don’t you?”


Louis splutters in his drink, glaring at Will who only laughs openly, “Fuck you.” He says weakly.


“You do. It’s too obvious.” Will continues to chuckle, shaking his head, “You can’t even deny it. Louis,” He reaches across the table to grab Louis’ hand, “You like him. Probably love him, but right now you want to be with him and his son.”


“That’s not possible right now, is it?” The idea itself sounds so absurd—the thought of Harry wanting him back. The only reason why Louis left is because he knew Harry’s not over Carter, and that’s okay. So maybe this is okay, too, “Don’t worry about it.” Louis smiles sadly, “I survived three years.”


“And that’s why I don’t spend my time going around and getting attached.” Will wipes his mouth, “Let’s get out of here, yeah? Drink it all away.”


“I have work tomorrow.” Louis says, but he’s not completely opposed to that idea, “You do, too.”


“Shh.” Will takes his arm and slaps a bill on the table, “Come on.” He drags Louis with him, keeping their arms linked as they walk to the door, “We’re gonna drink away your problems.”


Louis laughs, “You’re only finding an excuse to drink.” A staff opens the door for them, and they step back out into the street. Will continues to chatter about his nonsense plans when Louis suddenly freezes.


It’s Harry. Harry, with Gemma, Jacob, Kaila and another little girl. And fuck. They’re walking up to the restaurant, with Harry carrying Kaila and holding Jacob’s hand on the other.


“Shit, come on.” Louis tugs at Will’s arm to get him to walk faster. Thankfully, Will cooperates, readying his interrogation for later.


“Louis?!”


“Oh God.” Louis dwells in his own stupidity for a few seconds, closing his eyes before he lets go of Will’s arm, “If you wanna run to save your life, you probably should.”


Will’s looking over his shoulder, “I should be the one saying that to you.”


Louis eventually turns, seeing the Styles just standing there and probably waiting for Louis’ next move. It isn’t until Gemma says something to Harry before the latter passes Kaila to her. The three of the girls enter the restaurant, then, leaving Jacob and Harry. Jacob, who’s looking so excited that he actually runs towards Louis. He’s even wearing this formal suit that Louis wants to cry. And Harry. His hair looks a little bit longer than before, beginning to curl at the top. He’s also got a slight stubble which fits him perfectly. He’s got to be in his late twenties now, probably even in his thirties.


“Lou!” Jacob says, giggles muffled by Louis’ shirt as he presses his face into it, “I’m so glad to see you.”


“Me, too, buddy.” Louis says with a smile, hugging back. When he stands back up, Harry’s still standing there, “Hi.” Louis greets.


“Hey.” Harry greets back. When Jacob steps back towards him, he keeps him close, “It’s.. surprising to see you here.” His eyes flicker over Louis’ shoulder, and when Louis looks back, he sees Will waiting by his car.


“Yeah.” Louis blurts out, “You, too.” He awkwardly gestures to the doors, “I actually saw Gemma, a few days ago.”


Harry nods, “Yeah, she mentioned it to me. And... him?” He points with his chin, subtle and almost not there.


“That’s Will.” Louis informs. He looks back and sees Will still waiting, “I should get going.” He doesn’t wait for an answer. He looks at Jacob and bends down, “And you,” He boops the boy’s noise, making him giggle, “Be a good boy, yeah?”


“Always.” Jacob promises. He leans in to press a kiss on Louis’ cheek and hug him. Louis glances up to see Harry looking at them. He doesn’t look uncomfortable, really. His smile looks... fond.


When Louis stands back up, he meets Harry’s eye, “I’m gonna go.” He doesn’t move. Actually, he can’t. It’s like he’s stuck to the concrete. 


“Bye, Louis.” Harry grabs Jacob’s hand, “See you.”


Now, Louis does make the move. He turns and begins walking, only realizing that he’s been holding his breath. Will only raises a knowing eyebrow, “How’d it go?”


“Good, I think.” Louis risks one look back. Harry’s leading Jacob towards the entrance of the restaurant, and Jacob’s still looking at him. Louis smiles and waves, and Jacob does the same.


~○~


“You okay?” Gemma asks after the little ones rush to their own rooms. She watches Harry closely as they both hang their coats on the hanger.


“Yeah.” Harry murmurs, “’Course I am.” The dinner had been nice, but of course that isn’t what Gemma’s referring to. Seeing Louis tonight, for the first time in three years, was clearly unexpected. As well as his new companion.


“Really?” Gemma continues to insist, “Because for sure it wouldn’t be just seeing Louis.


“It’s really not.” Harry admits, “But I don’t want to talk about it.”


“Understandable.” Gemma nods, “Goodnight. I’ll see you tomorrow.” She pats Harry’s shoulder before she continues on in her way. Harry’s left to check the house’s security, before he makes his way upstairs to take a shower.


He’s pretty sure he’s spent too much time in there, judging by his slightly wrinkly fingertips. He’s gonna be too distracted, he just knows it. Louis’ messed up with his mind once, it’s no surprise he can still do it. And Harry will let him do it.


He dresses in his boxers, immediately slumping under his sheets and placing a hand under his pillow. His bed always feels cold, and that’s lonely enough right there. He tosses and turns, until he eventually gives up. Jacob’s room is not that far, and he’s sure his kid will surely forget when his Daddy is emotional enough to seek help.


“Daddy!” Jacob giggles, sitting up as soon as Harry enters the room.


“Hi, baby.” Harry greets him, “Can you sleep with me?” It’s no doubt that Jacob will, so together they walk back to Harry’s room and his little boy snuggles close to his father.


“Do you miss someone, Daddy?” Jacob asks.


Well, Carter gave birth to an investigator, “How can you say that, love?”


“Because you always hug me when you miss someone.” Jacob supplies. He hugs around Harry’s middle.


“Well, I do miss my little bug.” Harry jabs a gentle finger on Jacob’s side, making the boy giggle and squirm.


“Do you miss Dada?” Jacob asks, eyes wide and curious.


Harry smiles, “Always, Jake.” He’s always gonna miss Carter, that’s one thing that’ll never change. 


“Daddy, I have a question.” Jacob sits up and faces Harry, crossing his legs. He looks invested in his thoughts, needing answers right away. Harry shifts until he’s on his side, propped up on an elbow.


“What is it?”


“I.. I’m only asking because I’m curious.” Jacob informs in his little voice. Harry wonders if someday he’ll develop a deeper voice. Probably much deeper than Harry himself, “Do you think Dada’s mad?”


The question itself drives Harry to confusion, “Mad? Why do you say so?”


‘B-Because.. before,” Jacob continues to fidget, “I kind of wished Louis to be my other Daddy. Do you think Dada will be mad at me because I wished that?”


“Love.” Harry sighs, “First of all, I don’t think Dada can ever be mad at you.” He clarifies, because he knows Carter would have caved eventually. Jacob got them wrapped around his little finger the moment he was born. Even before that, really.


Right, he’s got a situation at hand here, “And I know you’re happy with Louis.” He doesn’t need to ask. Jacob’s already nodding his head, “Dada would be very happy if you are.”


“I want to see Dada.” Jacob requests. He doesn’t need to. They’ve been visiting Carter’s grave almost every month, sometimes just popping un randomly whenever they want. 


Harry kisses the top of his son’s head, “Of course, love.”


~○~


“You alright?” Harry chuckles as Jacob covers his nose. They’d just entered the flower shop near the cemetery and Jacob doesn’t really favor strong smells.


“Yes, Daddy!” Jacob’s giggle is slightly muffled.


When they buy flowers, it’s always at this very shop. The old lady managing it is real friendly and took a fond liking to them, “Oh, the Styles family!”


“Hi, Janet.” Harry smiles. He looks down to see Jacob peeking over the counter, grinning at her. “Hi, Janet!” He greets enthusiastically. 


“It’s been a while since you last visited.” She smiles warmly. She knows a little bit of Carter, since she once caught Harry at a vulnerable state.


“Got caught up in work and such.” Harry chuckles, “The usual, yes?”


“Yes, of course. Just give me a minute. I haven’t gotten it ready yet.” She holds up a finger before she goes to her work station.


The bell goes off behind them, and Harry looks up. Jacob reacts before he can even breathe, launching himself at the person.


“Louis!” 


They’re hugging now, and Harry should really get used to the fact that his son loves Louis more than anything else. He steps closer, “Hey.”


Louis still looks surprised, but he releases Jacob with a pat in the back, “Hi. I didn’t... expect you guys to be here.”


“We’re gonna go see Carter.” Harry says. He watches Louis’ reaction, and the man only smiles and nods, “Want...” Harry clears his throat, “Want to come with?” He looks at Jacob in case his boy miraculously doesn’t want to. But Jacob’s just jumping up and down on his toes, grinning.


Louis seems to hesitate a bit, stuttering a little, “S-Sure, yeah.”


“You’re not busy, are you?” Harry asks carefully. Louis only shakes his head and smiles.


The flowers come soon enough with Janet glancing at Louis with a smile. The bouquet is given to Jacob who takes it happily, but with a wrinkled nose until Harry chuckles and takes it instead.


The cemetery looks mostly empty, especially at a time like this. The sun’s up and the trees perfectly line up with its light and it looks peaceful. Harry perfectly knows the way, can do it with his eyes closed, but this time he looks at Louis more.


The man’s dressed in a simple shirt, jeans, and a coat, his fringe styled down like it always is. It’s gotten shorter, and Louis probably got a haircut before. He looks vibrant and so golden and Harry can’t believe he once almost had this boy. 


And lost him.


“Daddy!” Jacob calls, and Harry whips his head to the direction. Jacob’s already standing at Carter’s grave and Harry sheepishly follows with Louis chuckling behind him.


Carter’s grave is only a little bit dusty, and Jacob already did the job of wiping it with a small towel he carried. Once he’s done with the job, he makes grabby hands for the flowers which Harry gives him. He greets, “Hi Carter.”


“Hi Dada.” Jacob says as well. He bends down to press a light kiss right over Carter’s picture.


“He’s precious.” Louis’ voice is hushed and it matches the wind.


“Carter, this is Louis.” Harry says. He pockets his hands.


Louis smiles, “Hi Carter.” 


Jacob’s smile is everything, but Harry knows he wants to talk to Carter so he lets him. With a silent permission to his son, Harry gently grabs Louis’ upper arm for the latter to come with him. He lets go after a few moments. They stay under a tree at a reasonable distance, watching Jacob chatter and ramble to Carter.


“What’s he like?” Louis asks. He looks at Harry, “Carter.”


“He’s...” Harry purses his lips, “He was everything.” Back then, he didn’t want to talk about Carter to Louis for some odd, unknown reason, but now he’s comfortable with the idea.


“He was always so.. hands-on, y’know? He would’ve been a perfect father.” Harry licks his lips, “He makes the worst things better, always ensures my happiness, my comfort zone, stuff like that. He cares for us so, so deeply.”


“He sounds like a great person.” Louis says, and he sounds like he means it. He does.


Harry sighs. The wind gets even cooler, blowing through the leaves causing them to fall over the graves and causing a pile. He makes a mistake of looking at Louis, who stayed silent, just letting his wander around the area. Harry gets an overwhelming feeling.


“I miss you.” Harry says. He didn’t stop himself.


Louis turns to him, eyes wide. He doesn’t answer for a few moments. He’s probably wondering if Harry’s gonna take it back or not. Harry won’t. He fishmouths, then, blinking rapidly.


Harry chuckles. It’s soft and barely there, “I really wasn’t expecting it to be like this, Louis.” He admits, “I always knew I’d see you again, since we’re in the same area y’know—” Or maybe he just believed too much in fate, “But I didn’t expect myself to... to feel like this when I saw you again.” He shrugs helplessly.


Harry places the flowers down on the grave, proceeding to get dirt and grass on his trousers as he sits down on the ground. It’s nearing sunset, and a few people have also come to visit their own loved ones. Harry looks at his own.


“I wasn’t able to visit you these past few months.” Harry begins. He wipes the dust away from Carter’s picture with his hand, “And.. well, I think you have an idea why.”


“I met someone.” He states without hesitation, “His name is Louis, and well, he’s Jacob’s babysitter.” He corrects himself with a gulp, “Was.”


He sighs heavily, running his hands over his face, “I don’t know what to do, Carter.” His voice is muffled by his hands, but it’s mostly by the lump in his throat, “I really don’t.” He’s sure as hell getting stares, but he doesn’t care at all.


“I’m starting to like him, I think.” Harry blinks, like he’s waking himself up, “Love him, even.” There it is.


“It’s just..” Harry’s shoulders slump, “He makes me so happy. And Jacob likes him so much. It’s just perfect, y’know?”


Harry doesn’t hear anything, but he feels it. He feels so much lighter.


Louis’ staring at him, blue eyes uncertain. And probably worried because the words coming out of Harry’s mouth sound so absurd to him, “What are you talking about?”


Harry purses his lips, “I told you that Carter always ensures my happiness.” He waits for Louis’ nod; it’s small and subtle, “And.. And maybe you were my happiness, Lou. And it’s such an idiotic thing to let that go.”


Louis looks away, then, his blue eyes piercing a hole to the ground from how hard he’s staring at it. Harry knows, “I-I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have.”


“No, it’s..” Louis pauses, “It’s alright.”


Harry suddenly remembers that unknown man, “Shit. I’m really sorry.” He repeats, running a hand over his face, “I’m such an idiot. You’re dating someone and I—"


Louis cuts him off with a laugh, a confused and disbelieving one, “Me? Dating someone?”


Harry stutters, “That guy I saw you with...”


“Will?” Louis asks, raising his eyebrows, “He’s a friend, Harry. A really close one, and we were out for dinner. That’s it.”


Harry’s sure his cheeks are red now, “B-But.. that doesn’t mean feelings aren’t involved.”


Louis chuckles, “But there aren’t.” His giggle dissolves into the wind, turning into silence soon enough, “I was always sure it’s you, anyway, so...”


Harry turns to him in shock, blinking. He can’t believe his ears.


Louis sideglances at him, but he refuses to make eye contact, “But H, it really hurt me back then.”


Harry feels his chest ache, tightening. He leans against the tree and sighs, “I know.”


“It’s not anyone’s fault, though, just..” Louis shrugs but he has a small smile in his face, “I understood what your situation was and it’s not that easy.”


“It’s really not.” Harry agrees. He turns to Louis, then, “But what would you feel if I said that I’m willing to try again? That—That I want you back and I want to try even harder this time.”


Louis does, too. He’d been miserable for the last three years and he misses them so much, probably more than what he should’ve. He loves Harry, and he thinks that’s enough.


Louis smiles. It’s a genuine, wide, smile and Harry can’t stop staring, “I’d like that.” He pauses to nod, “But I think we need another one’s permission.” 


They both look back to where Jacob is and sees the boy looking back at them, waving.

Chapter Text

 

It’s gotten quite easier for both men to adjust after their confrontation in the cemetery. Harry had driven Louis home, and Jay saw him from where she stood on the door and downright glared at him. Harry basically crawled his way to the powerful woman. Louis was laughing the entire time as Jay crossed her arms and began her interrogation. But no answers were sure that morning, since Harry only said that they saw each other on the way and it would be nice to drive Louis. 

They kept their.. progress a bit of a secret, especially to Louis’ family. They decided that it’s best to not tell since they have to do the adjusting themselves as well. They went on dates, be it in Harry’s house or somewhere simple or grand. In most of their dates, they had been with Jacob, who was more than ecstatic with the news of them seeing each other again.


It wasn’t like before, not really. Louis had been curious enough at times, when they’re in bed, asking about Carter. Before it would’ve bothered Harry, but he seems more open with the idea and Louis is, too. The topic didn’t come up often, but only because it wasn’t necessary.


They do have misunderstandings sometimes but less often than before. Harry would sense Louis’ tensed shoulders, not wasting any second before wrapping him up in his arms and placing kisses on his neck over and over until Louis’ yielding and giggling.


“Alright, stop stop.” Louis would giggle, batting Harry’s face away.


Harry would murmur, “I’ll only stop if you tell me you love me.”


“I do.” Louis returned every kiss.


“Save that for the wedding.” Harry chuckled. He placed a loud kiss on Louis’ temple before releasing him.


“You haven’t even proposed yet.” Louis laughed again as he raises his own hand. The lack of ring on his ring finger offended Harry himself.


“But that’s already a given, innit?” Harry asked, a cheeky smile on his face.


At that time, Jacob had walked into the kitchen, scrubbing his sleepy eyes. Louis wiggled away from Harry just as Jacob welcomed himself into his arms, still very much sleepy.


Jacob, as expected, was the first person to know that they were indeed back together. They decided to make it official a year after, and Jacob basically jumped in Louis’ arms in pure excitement, crowing about how he can call Louis ‘Dad’ finally. And he had, for every moment he spoke to and about Louis. It always warmed Harry’s heart, seeing them bond so much.


They got handful support from their friends. Harry soon found out that Will was only actually a very platonic friend of Louis’ and actually enjoys his company, especially with their close age gap (which Louis always finds time to tease Harry). Niall, Liam and Nick was introduced to Louis shortly, and they all got a visual of Louis swaying his hips as he cooked dinner with Jacob following his lead as they entered the house. Niall earned a smack to the head from staring too much. It was all good. Harry whipped out the alcohol after Louis tucked Jacob in bed. They didn’t end up that drunk, and who knew drunk sex could be so good?


They spent Christmas together that year. Both the men’s family came over at Harry’s house, and it wasn’t such a cramp, really, seeing that Harry’s house is large enough for a whole village. It had been a nice evening. They all celebrated Louis’ birthday with the various gifts, and Harry gave Louis a necklace, and a great news involving theatre arts and audition and Louis didn’t get to hear much from it from the way he tackled Harry into the carpet. He’d been spoiling the younger man all day, starting from the breakfast to lunch and to... the rest of the day, really.


“What the hell?” Louis had croaked when he was woken up. The sun was only starting to rise, and the sweet aroma of breakfast was what woke him up.


Harry was sat behind him, and a tray full of food behind him on their nightstand. He smiled at Louis finally waking up, “Good morning.”


Louis sat up, stretching, and he whined a complaint as Harry leaned over and gave him a kiss, “Morning.” He mumbled.


“Happy Birthday, love.” Harry chuckled. He pressed another kiss on Louis’ cheek before pulling back.


“Time s’it?” Louis rubbed at his eyes.


“Early.” Harry smiled, looking absolutely fond, “We have exactly an hour before Jacob wakes up.”


“Six o’clock doesn’t do me justice.” Louis said. He eyed the tray and made grabby hands for it.


Harry gave him it, and together they enjoyed their breakfast (and a birthday blowie). They did it all before Jacob could knock.


New Year’s a different story. 31st of December they held a small party, and the people mostly invited were Harry’s colleagues as well as his friends, and same goes for Louis. Their family was there as well, and saying that it was a big party was an understatement.


Louis was hands-on on all the guests while he also took care of Jacob. He only stopped serving wine when Harry took the tray from him and pulled him until he was standing in front of a small group of people. Harry’s co-workers were nice people.


Although one part of the night, Brenda and Martin decided to come by. Harry was tensed, but only because Brenda quite literally snobbed the life off of Jacob and Harry decided it was enough.


Needless to say, their New Year’s Eve ended earlier than expected. Most importantly, it ended with Jacob holding onto Harry as he cried. Both fathers made it up to him, however, and they both took Jacob to a skating rink. It sparked old memories.


“That’s my son!” Harry had called proudly when Jacob managed to twirl on the ice. Harry clapped loudly and Jacob covered his face in shame. His father could be embarrassing sometimes.


Louis giggled from beside Harry, “I’m pretty he got all that from Carter.”


Harry turned to pout and glare at him.


“What?” Louis laughed, “Five years since we last skated and you’re still just as bad.”


They ended up with a cold from where Harry ‘accidentally’ tackled him to the ice.


They were good together. Harry provided for them and Louis eventually graduated from theatre school and started auditioning. Harry was more than proud of him.


A year later, Harry got home to an empty house. He mildly panicked, until he caught his boys in the backyard.


“What’s happening?” Harry asked as he stepped out, having dropped his suitcase. There is a large blanket laid out on the grass and a few candles surrounding it. There’s also food, and Louis and Jacob is cuddling on it as they watch something on Louis’ laptop. They had yet to notice him.


“Uh, loves?” Harry asked again. Both boys looked at him, and Jacob, as always, squealed and ran to his Daddy while Louis grinned from his place, “Welcome home.”


“What’s all this?” Harry carried Jacob back to the blanket before sitting them back down, placing a kiss on Louis’ lips.


“We were bored.” Louis chuckled. So they spent a few hours there outside. They watched a few movies, and Harry didn’t bother changing out of his suit. It was until they were laying down with Jacob asleep against Harry’s side and Louis grabbed Harry’s hand and placed it on his own stomach.


“Hm?” Harry hummed sleepily.


“Baby.” Louis giggled.


“Hm?” Harry hummed again. He loved when Louis called him that. And loved it much more vice versa.

Louis laughed again, “I’m pregnant.”


Harry jolted awake, eyes wide. He tried not to wake Jacob as he sat up, keeping a gentle hand on Louis’ stomach, “What?”


Louis smiled, “I’m pregnant.”


“Holy—” Harry sat up, “There’s a baby in here.”


“A baby in here.” Louis repeated with a fond laugh. He let Harry look down on his stomach, caressing it with his big hands.


“Oh my God.” Harry breathed out.


Louis sat up and tugged Harry to him, “C’mere.”


After tucking Jacob in his own bed, they made spend the rest of the night together, with Harry pressing kisses on his tummy.


Jona Carmine Styles was born months later, and Jacob adored her, practically smothered her and proudly acting his role of a protective older brother. It was perfect.


When Harry proposed, it was when Jo was a few months old and beginning to babble nonsense. Harry thought long and hard about this, and he wanted to do it with their kids. He decorated their rooftop beautifully. Louis barely went up there because somehow he preferred the backyard more so Harry wasn’t in much trouble keeping the decorations a secret, as long as he locked the door.


But, both Jo and Jacob knew, the surprise at least, not the proposal, but all Jo did was to shove her hand in her mouth and gargle so everything was in Jacob’s hands as well. He was a terrible liar, because yes, he was taught that lying was real bad. Of course, he had to do it at some point but he couldn’t lie to his Dad.


“Just for a few days, love.” Harry assured him in a hushed voice. Louis was in the kitchen, humming to himself as he cooked. He’d gotten much better now that he was finished with his theatre school.


12-year-old Jacob huffed and crossed his arms. He’d grown Louis’ sassy attitude, “Fine!”


Louis’ whistling stopped, “Everything okay?”


Harry jutted out his bottom lip at Jacob. He’d never live this down if Louis saw he pouting at his own child, “Don’t tell him, baby.”


Jacob gave in easily, “But what is this all about, Dad? It’s not his birthday, or your birthday, or..” He raised an eyebrow, “Is it your anniversary?”


“No, no.” Harry chuckled. He looked back over Jacob’s shoulder. Making sure to be quiet, they both sneaked into the hallway, far enough from Louis, “Love, you know what two people do when they love each other?”

 

“Create a baby?” Jacob snorted out a laugh.


God, when did his child grow up? “Marry each other.” Harry confirmed softly, “They marry each other.”


Jacob gasped, hands covering his mouth, “Wait, really?!” He looked absolutely giddy, “You’re going to—” He cut himself off, squealing, “Propose!”


They were nearly caught that night, but thankfully Louis was too addicted to this new musical that he didn’t even bat an eye.


The proposal went off without a hitch. Harry had taken the whole day off without Louis knowing. Unfortunately, he had to go through a too early shower and he even dressed up in his suit to ensure that he really was going to work. He’d driven Louis off to his workshop before he drove himself home where he stripped himself back to his comfy clothes. Louis would be home at around late afternoon, so Harry made himself busy by taking care of the kids and cleaning the house.


Three hours before Louis was supposed to be home, Harry began to cook their dinner. He didn’t make anything new, but Louis’ always loved his casserole, with extra extra cheese so he went with that. He kept them warm in the kitchen and went up to check if everything was alright, and we switched on the fairy lights surrounding the ledge and the table between everything.


“Dad.”


Harry turned to see Jacob carrying Jo in his arms, and Harry smiled and took her, placing a kiss on her hair, “What’s up, babies?”


Jacob rolled his eyes playfully at the nickname (“I’m not a baby anymore, Dad.”), “Papa’s not here yet.”

“I know. He should be here in an hour or so. Why don’t you get dressed, yeah? I’ll take care of this poppet.” He ruffles Jo’s hair, making her giggle.


“Okay, and Dad?” Jacob said, stepping closer. Eventually he wrapped his arms around Harry, pressing his cheek to Harry’s chest, “I’m really happy you two are getting married.”


Harry smiled and hugged his firstborn back, “I haven’t even proposed, Jake.”


“Yeah, but that’s like... a given.” Jacob whined, pulling back, “If he says no I don’t know what I’d do.”


Harry sighed, “Me, too love.” He really was nervous, “But we won’t know until we try.”


Jacob flashed him a grin, “I’m gonna get dressed.”


Harry followed him downstairs and separated to go to Jo’s room. He got a special dress for her which will surely make Louis swoon. It was blue and had a frilly bottom and everything. It even sparkles.


“Such a princess.” Harry smiles as he dressed her. Her face scrunched a little, kicking her legs, “Okay, okay not a princess. A queen, yeah?” Jo giggled.

Oh she definitely got Louis’ confidence. Louis was Harry’s king himself.
Harry dressed up after handing his baby girl back to his baby boy. He dressed in a button up and some dress pants, not wanting it to be too formal, even if it was gonna be the most important night of all. Well, aside from Jacob’s and Jo’s birth, but you get the point.


When Louis finally texted that he’d be home soon, Harry nearly had a heart attack. He practically ran to the room to dig around under the mattress. His heartbeat went up abnormally high when his hands grasped nothing on that particular spot, but he visibly relaxed when they closed around the small box.


The ring was a simple silver wedding band with swirling diamonds engraved onto it lined with gold. Nothing too shiny, but it was perfect for Louis. Harry vaguely remembered the time where he bought Louis a diamond ring and the man was too anxious to wear it because he was still hands-on with newborn Jo and didn’t want to lose it between chores. He didn’t even want to wear it in public because he’s scared the too-big diamond would get scratched. So big diamonds weren’t Louis’ comfort zone.


Louis arrived at an almost empty house, that is until Jacob ran up to him and kissed him on the cheek, “Hi, love.” He said, raising an eyebrow at his boy, “Why are you dressed? Don’t tell me you’re going on a date.” Oh God, he didn’t want Jacob to go on a date.


“Pa, no.” Jacob giggled, “Dinner’s ready upstairs!”


“Alright, then.” Before he could throw his bag on the couch, Jacob was tugging up the stairs.


“Alright alright.” Louis chuckled, but then it died down when he was led to the rooftop and—“Oh my God.” His hands dropped his bag, placing them over his mouth. Everything was so pretty. There are lights everywhere as well as candles and there’s a table for four in the middle with Harry serving the dishes. Jo was on her walker, slapping her hands on the sturdy plastic.


“Love.” Louis smiled fondly. He stepped closer, his eyes still wandering around the aesthetic scenery. He almost never went up the rooftop, but he was glad he did this time.


“Pa!” Jo called with her highpitched voice, and Louis made his way to her. He carried her into his arms and nuzzled her cheek, pressing kisses, “Hi baby. How was your day, hm?”


“Gooooo'.” Jo grinned, “Papa.”


Louis chuckled, “Love you, Jo.”


“Wavyou.” Jo slurred, wrapping her small chubby arms around Louis’ neck as he rubbed her back. He looked over at Harry who’s watching them fondly. Louis reached his other arm out for his boyfriend to take, “Hi.”


Harry pressed a chaste kiss on those lips, “Hope you like dinner.”


“Everything’s so pretty.” Louis voiced out, “Was this a surprise? How did you even have time to prepare this, though?”


“I wanted to go home early.” Harry said, “Since you were always so tired with the workshop so I wanted to make sinner special tonight.”


Louis felt his heart warming up, “Thank you, sweetheart.” He kissed Harry’s cheek, “Love you.”


Harry’s hand snaked at the lower part of his back, “I love you, too.”


Dinner was nice. The two men were sat across each other with Jacob beside Louis and Harry handling their youngest. Louis had been absolutely giddy at the sight of the casserole, squealing a little as he dug into it. Harry watched him fondly.


After dinner, they chatted a bit, Jacob leading most of the conversations. And then he abruptly stopped, almost chewing on his words. Louis watched Harry stand up and walked the short distance towards him. Louis smiled at him, half curious to what he was on about.


And then Harry took Louis’ hand and knelt down. Louis had to quickly glance down to see if anything dropped, or anyone’s shoes was untied.


“Lou.” Harry started, “I’m pretty sure you already had like even the smallest bit of hint of what this is really all about.” Louis’ heart was hammering, “You make me the absolute happiest, Louis. And most importantly you’ve been an amazing father to both these kids right here.” When Louis glanced at those kids, their kids, Jacob was watching them with much anticipation and well, Jo was minding her own business, “And I am incredibly nervous right now, y’know.” Louis saw that Harry’s knee was practically trembling. He places a hand on it for comfort, “You're our home, and I love you so, so much.” Harry opened the lid to the small box. It revealed a ring and Louis gasped, even if he was bawling the second after Harry knelt, “You already gave me the honor of loving you, now will you please let me prove that even more by marrying you?”


Louis couldn’t reply for a few moments, but he eventually balanced his breathing and nodded, croaking out a, “Yes. Yes, Harry, I’ll marry you.”


Harry barely got the ring slid all the way when Louis tackled him in a tight hug.


The news was given to their families the next day, and they were all ecstatic. Anne and Jay surely shed tears, hugging their boys tightly. They decided to get married in a year, with Louis’ request to take control of absolutely everything. Harry let him, of course, trusting his boy to make this wedding perfect.


Louis’ only request is for Harry to choose his suit, and Harry’s more than willing. Out of all the worries concerning their wedding –flowers, venue, food, reception, colors, theme, songs, invitations, cake--, Harry thinks that what stresses him out the most is Louis’ suit.


They settled for a beach wedding, making sure it was set on a day where the weather and tide are perfect. They can’t afford troubles right now, but y’know, wedding disasters have a way of turning into great stories... eventually.


“You alright, baby?” Harry asked one time, slipping into their room where Louis’ at his newly installed desk. Harry offered to get him an office, as well, but Louis refused.


Louis was surrounded with papers and he held a pencil in hand, “Just busy with the invitations.”


Harry smiled fondly. He stepped behind Louis’ chair and bent down, glancing a kiss on his shoulder, “Thought you planned it out with the wedding planner.”


“Janice.” Louis supplied, “Yeah, we did. But we didn’t get to the invitations because we took too much on something else.”


“Something else that is?”

 

“Cake testing.” Louis said with a slight blush.


Harry chuckled, “And you figured out what cake we’re having?”


“Vanilla” Louis answered. He looked up at Harry, “Is that okay? I really liked it, and it’s four tiers with like... gold decorations.” He answered distractedly, “It’s really beautiful, though, and—”


“Everything you decide on is perfect enough for me.” Harry assured him, “Love, our weddings three months away, you can rest for a few hours.”


“But we still got to finish the invitations—our suits, Harry! Oh my God, I didn’t—”


“Love.” Harry rounded the chair and kneeled beside Louis, “We will, yeah? But you need to rest before you pass out from all this stress. Tomorrow, we’ll meet up with our designer, won’t we?”


Louis visibly relaxed at that, “Right...”


Harry smiled, “Right. Come on. It’s late.” He placed a hand on Louis’ knee, rubbing comfortingly.


“Okay.” Louis dropped his pen and slumped in his chair, “Wait, is Jo all settled—”


“She’s fine.” Harry grabbed his hand and tugged him to stand properly, “Jake and I tucked her in.”


“And Jacob?” Louis asked.


“Went to bed as well. Didn’t want me to ‘intrude his privacy’ or whatever he said.” He said. Jacob was now at the age, a teenager, where he was more on his own. It kind of made Harry reminisce the old days where Jacob was five, Jesus. That was so long ago.


When both men are cuddled close, Harry kissed him goodnight and held him tighter.


The wedding took place on a Wednesday, and Harry arrived with Jo, Gemma, Robin, and Anne. Louis went to the beach as early as possible, and Jacob went with him as well as his family. Harry expected that, but he’s just a man, longing for his future husband’s touch.


The beach had been beautiful. Harry couldn’t imagine how even more beautiful it would be when everything was set up. Sue him for being rich as hell, but they rented out the whole beach for both the actual wedding and the reception.


He spent the morning walking Jo around, having breakfast with her and letting her splash herself on the beach while Harry held her. It distracted him a bit, but he kept in touch with Louis by texting. The latter didn’t even allow him to call because it ruins traditions.


Afternoon at two and everything was all set.


Their families and closest friends sat on the rows of white chairs with a soft gold cloth tied around its back. The aisle had a white cloth over it sprinkled with gold specks. It was Jacob who picked the color gold, and it showed how elegant everything was. Harry was the first to walk in, his arm linked with his mum’s as they slowly walked. The song was a slow ballad of Everytime We Touch and Harry could only smile to himself. At the end of the aisle, he hugged his mum and kissed her cheek, “I love you so much, Mum.”


“My boy.” Anne sniffled, cupping his cheeks, “I’m so proud of you.” He hugged her much more before she walked to her seat.


Gemma, Lottie, Fizzy, the twins along with Doris walked in a row, getting their own moments. They wore a white, flowy maxi dresses and a small bouquet of chamomiles. Harry knew what they meant, heard Louis mention it one time – patience.


Liam and Nick walked in, as groomsmen, and a few of Harry’s colleagues followed. Then little Jona held a little pillow, and Jacob held her. Harry teared up, then, watching two of his worlds walking right up at him.


When they reached the end, Harry could only chuckle when Jona gnawed at the pillow. She was still the best ring bearer. Jacob then went behind Harry as his father’s bestman, and Harry kissed him on the forehead.


Will walked in next as Louis’ best man, and he shot Harry a wink and a grin to which Harry returned, even though his heart was hammering against his chest so hard he couldn’t breath. He turned around a little to breathe out more properly, and Jacob laughed at how nervous he was.


The music transitioned to Take My Hand and Harry turned right back around. His short breathing exercise did him no justice, because... just because.


Louis looked absolutely beautiful, Harry just granted a quick thank you to God, glancing up momentarily and closing his eyes. When he looked back at the love of his life, Louis was smiling fondly and sweetly, a blush spread on his cheeks. Harry was in love all over again, maybe even more.


He wore a white button shirt, its fabric delicate and soft just like him, and he had a white coat on. But his show stopper—well, Louis is the showstopper, but you get the point—was the flower crown around his head. His fringe was styled up, and the crown perfectly sat on his head. It had real flowers on, white ones, and there were gold speckles and leaves accompanied it.


“Shit.” Harry let out a breath. He sniffled, and oh god, was he crying?


Louis reached him eventually, and he paid his attention his own mum first, saying their words to each other before he finally turned to Harry. Harry missed him, even though they saw each other literally less than twenty four hours ago.


“Hi.” Louis said, chuckling at the sight of Harry’s tears, “You’re crying.”


Harry wiped his tears and sniffled embarrassingly, “Real funny.” He stepped closer, resisted the urge to just kiss him, “Let’s get married, yeah?"


Louis giggled and nodded, feeling emotional himself.


The ceremony went off without a hitch, and it only got messy with tears when they spoke their vows to each other. Louis pretty much bawled as he read his vows, and he sobbed when he realized that Harry hadn’t written his, but came fright from the heart.


“I hate you.” Louis said after he wiped his eyes, the ring on his finger glistening.


Harry stepped closer and rested his forehead against Louis’ temple, “You’re the love of my life.”


Louis sniffled and pushed him away gently, to which the audience chuckled at.


The ceremony ended with cheers and flowers everywhere. Everyone took pictures, videos, and whatever the hell they can take. Harry had to be separated for a few moments, thanking each and every one of their guests as well as Louis. But in the end, they found their way back to each other, renewing their kiss as much as possible.


Their reception was held at the beach as well, and their playlist was full of love songs, upbeat or not, and Harry chuckled at how sappy they were.
Louis was a nervous wreck when they had their first dance, but Harry held him, letting Louis rest his head on Harry’s shoulder.


“Listen.” Harry pulled away slightly for him to look at those blue blue eyes, “I love you.” He said with pure honesty, “And I’m gonna take care of you with everything that I have, make sure you’re comfortable, full—"


“I’m happy.” Louis told him, smiling, “The happiest person. And I’m giving my whole self to you from now on.”


“I love you.” Harry repeated, his chest filling with so much emotion, “Fuck, Lou. I love you.


Louis stands taller, providing Harry no hassle in leaning down as they kiss softly and sweetly. They must’ve forgotten that a hundred people were watching them, jumping az the hollers and cheers began.


But yes, it was all good.