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Such Good Luck

Chapter Text

Wiltshire, England. August 1910.

The milk bottles clack rhythmically against one another as Louis Tomlinson walks up the path towards Rosehill Manor.

The sun is only just beginning to rise behind the manor, the sky painted with faint pinks and oranges. Rosehill Manor sleeps on, no candles flickering in the windows or servants bustling around the back entrance. Louis smiles in relief, knowing that he will be able to deliver the manor’s daily supply of milk long before any of its inhabitants require it.

Louis, on the other hand, has already been awake for hours. Waking up before the sun has been his routine ever since he was a young lad just beginning his work on the dairy farm.

This morning had started like any other. Louis had woken up while it was still dark, dressing and eating a bowl of lukewarm porridge before heading out of his modest one room house on the edge of Hazelwood Farm.

When he arrived at the farmhouse, he collected his tools to begin his work, but Farmer Richards intercepted him before he could start.

“Louis, m’lad,” Richards began in his thick country accent. “Liam has been ill all night long and isn’t able to do his runs today. I need you to take the milk up to Rosehill Manor. They’d be expecting it by now.”

Louis hasn’t had to deliver milk in years, not since he first started at the farm. But even then, his primary responsibility had been bottling the milk, not delivering it. Usually, servants from middle class families would come pick up the milk themselves from Hazelwood Farm, but with the aristocratic Rosehill Manor, the milk had to be delivered specially.

Regardless, Louis had agreed easily, collecting the milk from the barn and hurrying off to Rosehill. The farmers at Hazelwood are a family, always working together to keep the farm running. When someone is ill, everyone steps up to make sure the daily work is still completed. Running the milk to Rosehill Manor may be outside of Louis’ normal realm of duties, but it’s not beneath him. Not when he knows any of the other farm hands – Liam, Zayn, and Stan, any of them – would willingly take over his work if he needed them to for the day.

As he approaches the manor, Louis takes a moment to admire its magnificence. He remembers when he was a boy and would sneak through the forest separating the manor and Hazelwood Farm so that he could marvel at it. The manor always captured Louis’ imagination, its beauty and grandeur contrasting profoundly with the three bedroom brick house he grew up in with his mother and four sisters.

Louis has never seen a castle, but he doesn’t imagine one could be finer than Rosehill. The manor sits proudly atop a green hill, gothic in style, spires and turrets pointing towards the sky. It’s an enchanting golden color, Farmer Richards having told Louis many years ago that the finest Bath stone was used to build such a regal looking home. With the slowly rising sun shining off the stone, Rosehill Manor glistens, sparkling in the light.

It’s impossible not to feel small looking up at Rosehill, but Louis didn’t come here to gawk. Remembering himself, he follows the path away from the grand main entrance to the back of the manor to the servants’ entrance.

When Louis pushes the door open, any hint of a sleeping Rosehill Manor immediately evaporates.

The kitchen is alive with noise and movement, maids and footmen darting up and down stairs as the servants’ bells ring frantically. Louis can hear the cook shouting from the kitchen, and he knows that breakfast preparations must be well underway. With a sigh of relief, Louis seems to have arrived right on time.

He is about to begin his search for the housekeeper, Mrs. Pierce, when he hears a familiar voice cry out, “Louis!”

Turning, Louis is nearly knocked off his feet as he is wrapped into a tight hug. Using his free hand, Louis wraps his arm around his friend’s back, relieved to see him after so long.

“Niall, how good to see you!” Louis exclaims, leaning back. Niall is the valet to the young lord of the manor and Louis’ longtime friend. Like Louis, Niall had grown up in the village, but he worked in a clockmaker’s shop. When he was old enough, his parents managed to secure him a position at Rosehill Manor as a footman. With his charm and good work ethic, Niall had managed to move up at the manor, now working the coveted position of valet.

“How have you been?” Louis asks, giving Niall’s arm a friendly squeeze. “I thought you were in London for the season?”

“Oh, I’m doing well, but I came back from London a week ago since I was feeling a bit poorly,” Niall replies. “I’m fine now, so don’t worry about me.”

“I’m glad to hear it,” Louis replied earnestly. “Have you seen your family?”

Niall nods. “Managed to make it home last week and stayed with the family for a couple of days. Got to see my brother and his baby. He’s getting so big, Lou, I can’t even really call him a baby anymore. I can barely believe it!”

“I’ve seen them around,” Louis recalls, remembering how surprised he was when he saw several weeks ago how baby Theo certainly wasn’t a baby anymore. “He’s turning into a handsome thing.”

“Taking after his uncle,” Niall brags proudly. “But how are you, mate? How’s the family?”

“I’m good,” Louis replies. “Family is doing so well. Charlotte has her first suitor, which has mother absolutely thrilled and Félicité absolutely miffed.” Niall chuckles with Louis at that, well aware of the competitive nature between the Tomlinson sisters.

“Glad to hear it,” Niall says with a smile. But then he takes a step forward, eyes quickly darting around to see if anyone around is listening. When Niall is satisfied they’re alone, he says in a whisper, “Look, Lou, you need to know that –”

“Mr. Tomlinson,” a clear, controlled voice cuts off whatever Niall was going to say. Niall looks away, appearing almost guilty at being caught while Louis’ brows stitch together in confusion. But then he turns to the voice, seeing Mrs. Pierce standing in the hallway, eyebrows raised expectantly.

“Will Rosehill Manor have to wait all day for its milk?” she asks. Her voice isn’t harsh, but undeniably authoritative. After all, Mrs. Pierce essentially runs Rosehill Manor. She has no time for joking around.

“Apologies, ma’am,” Louis says in an attempt to placate her. “We’re short a farmhand today, but I came here as quickly as I could.”

She nods, seeming to accept his reasoning. “Please drop off the milk in the kitchen and then come to my office. I have a list for Farmer Richards I would like you to deliver.”

Louis nods, stepping away from Niall and hastily going into the kitchen to deliver the milk to the red faced cook. When he makes his way into the hall, Niall has disappeared. Louis can’t help the small inkling of worry forming in his chest at what Niall had been about to tell him, but he pushes aside those thoughts.

Mrs. Pierce has left open the door to her office, so Louis raps his knuckles against the doorframe to announce his entrance.

“Come in, Mr. Tomlinson. Take a seat and shut the door behind you,” Mrs. Pierce says, hardly looking up from her writing. “I’m just finishing up the list of things we’ll need for the dinner we’re hosting here next week. I want to make sure Farmer Richards has ample notice so that everything will be available.”

“I’m sure we’ll be able to have everything to you when it’s needed, ma’am,” Louis replies. He knows he isn’t being assumptive – providing the dairy for parties hosted at Rosehill Manor is one of Hazelwood’s most steady sources of income. With even slight notice, Hazelwood is always able to provide everything needed for their lavish parties.

They sit in silence for a moment, the only noise Mrs. Pierce’s pen scratching at the paper and the scurrying of feet in the hall. But then their silence is broken by a rapt knock on the door and Mrs. Pierce calling, “Come in.”

The door swings open and a deep voice begins, “Mrs. Pierce, do you happen –?”

Louis practically jumps out of his chair at the sound of the voice. His head jerks up, eyes flying to the newcomer.

Lord Harry Styles stands at the door, frozen on the spot as he returns Louis’ stare. Louis’ breath catches at the sight of the handsome young lord. Lord Styles cuts an imposing figure, tall and refined, even in his loose shirt and vest, no jacket in sight. He’s not wearing a top hat, freeing his long, chocolate brown curls to hang loosely around his face. Louis fights down a shudder as the lord’s emerald green eyes gaze into his, and Louis can’t hold the gaze, has to look away.

“Mr. Tomlinson,” the lord says, voice sounding deeper than when he spoke only a moment ago.

“Lord Styles,” Louis returns breathlessly. Bravely, he glances back up, seeing that Lord Styles’ gaze is still steadily fixed on him. “I thought you were in London for the season.”

Louis hardly registers Mrs. Pierce’s huff at his tactlessness.

“I decided to come home early,” Lord Styles explains, voice slow and mesmerizing. “I found myself missing certain…things…while I was in London.”

Louis nods, glancing back down at his hands. He wrings them together, and resists the urge to squirm under the intensity of Lord Styles’ gaze.

“Lord Styles,” Mrs. Pierce cuts in. “What was it you were looking for?”

Louis glances up in time to see the lord tear his eyes away from him. No longer under the imposing stare, Louis allows a shiver to course through his body.

“Um,” Lord Styles begins, seeming to have forgotten his purpose in seeking out Mrs. Pierce. “Mother sent me to ask if you still have the menus for tomorrow evening. She has received news that an old friend is dropping by rather unexpectedly and wants to make adjustments.”

Mrs. Pierce replies that she has them, shuffling through some papers on her desk until she finds them. While Mrs. Pierce looks, Louis keeps his eyes fixed on Lord Styles. The lord watches Mrs. Pierce, his profile in view. Louis admires the set of his jaw, sharp and prominent. He notices Lord Styles clenching and unclenching his hands at his side, and Louis recklessly wants to reach out and place his hand over the lord’s. Wants to see what would happen if he did.

“Here it is,” Mrs. Pierce announces, and Louis drops his gaze.

Lord Styles steps forward, taking the lists from Mrs. Pierce. “Thank you, Mrs. Pierce,” Lord Styles says, stepping towards the door. “Have a good morning, Mr. Tomlinson.”

Louis looks up, but the lord isn’t looking at him. “You as well, m’lord,” Louis answers so quietly he doubts Lord Styles heard him.

He sits in silence for a moment, unable to move. He feels his heart hammering in his chest, hands shaking slightly. He isn’t sure how long he sits there until he hears Mrs. Pierce say, “Alright, this should be it.” Unsteadily, Louis turns towards Mrs. Pierce and sees her holding out the list to him. He takes it, hoping she doesn’t notice his slight tremor. “That has everything we need, so please deliver it to Farmer Richards accordingly.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Louis replies, tucking the list into his pocket and standing up.

“Thank you, Mr. Tomlinson.” She gives him a cursory glance as he makes his way to the door. “And you may want to have some water before you leave. You look quite pale.”

Louis nods in lieu of a response, and then flees her office.

 

Instead of following the path towards the village, Louis cuts into the forest. The route is familiar to him, trodden many a time in his youth.

He makes his way blindly through the trees, still a vibrant green despite the rapidly approaching autumn. It’s as if they’re clinging to the final remnants of summer, protesting the slightly cooler temperatures and the crisper breezes.

Louis has been waiting all summer for the leaves to turn red and brown and for the temperatures to drop. While summer usually brings warmth and sunshine, it also takes away other things. Things that Louis desperately wants to keep year round.

But he pushes those thoughts from his mind, finally sighing with relief when he sees the gazebo come into view.

Buried deep in the forest, the white gazebo has always been his favorite place to hide away. When he was younger and first learning to read, he would bring his books to the gazebo. It’s a part of the Rosehill Manor property, but Louis first stumbled upon it when he was traipsing through the forest as a young boy. Unknowledgeable about property borders, he thought the gazebo was a part of the farm and had believed that this gazebo was built especially for him, hidden away in the trees for his sole use.

Of course, he quickly learned that wasn’t the case when he told his mother about his discovery. She scolded him for going onto the Rosehill Manor property without permission, but even his mother’s lecture didn’t stop him from returning time and time again to the gazebo.

Surrounded by pillars and covered with a small roof, the gazebo provides a private respite. Louis steps towards the gazebo, sitting down on the bench in between the pillars. He sags against the wall, breathing deeply and shutting his eyes. He knows he needs to get back to the farm, but he just needs a moment. Just a moment to breathe, and then he’ll return to work.

He’s only barely caught his breath when he hears a rustling in the forest, footsteps crunching against fallen branches.

Louis barely has time to stand up and turn around before the newcomer stands before him at the base of the gazebo.

For the first time in months, Louis breathes easily.

“Harry.”

His name has barely left Louis’ lips when Lord Harry Styles has closed the distance between them, bounding up the steps of the gazebo, catching Louis’ face in his hands, and pressing their mouths desperately together.

Louis sags into Harry’s embrace, hands grappling to touch him everywhere. It’s been months without his touch, without Harry firm and solid against him, and Louis doesn’t want to let him go. He runs his hands along Harry’s broad back, feeling the muscles through the thin material of his shirt. Louis’ hands wind their way into Harry’s hair, twisting into the curls and savoring the soft feeling of them against his fingers.

While Louis touches Harry everywhere, Harry holds Louis’ face firmly in place, cupping his jaw as he kisses him hungrily, as if he is trying to make up for every day they have spent apart. His mouth is relentless, sucking on Louis’ tongue, claiming it and making him moan. Louis pushes his body even more against Harry’s, unable to get close enough. Harry seems to sense what he wants, taking the two steps required to press Louis up against a pillar. Then he presses his body fully against Louis so that he can feel every curve and every nuance of Harry’s body against his.

“God, I missed you,” Harry murmurs against Louis’ lips. But he doesn’t give Louis time to respond, immediately reclaiming Louis’ mouth with a hot kiss.

Louis feels like he can barely breathe, too overwhelmed with Harry filling every one of his senses. But he doesn’t want to move, doesn’t want to break this perfect moment. He would be content to stay here and be kissed like this for the rest of his life.

Eventually, they do break apart, but Harry presses their foreheads together as they both breathe heavily. They keep a firm grip on one another, unwilling to let the other go after so many months apart.

“I wasn’t expecting you for another week,” Louis manages eventually, voice raspy.

“I must have arrived before my letter,” Harry explains, voice deep and melodious. “Needed to come home. I missed you too much. Couldn’t wait another week.”

“Thank God,” Louis breathes, closing his eyes for a moment.

Harry takes that opportunity to kiss him again, slow and gentle this time, a lover’s kiss. Louis sighs contentedly, loving the feel of Harry’s full lips against his.

“I was so surprised to see you,” Harry chuckles. “Since I hadn’t heard from you, I was going to send you a message or come by later tonight. Forgot how to function like a normal human the second I saw you.”

“Me too,” Louis agrees, smiling. Then he remembers: “I think Niall was trying to tell me you’d arrived. I think he could tell I didn’t know, and wanted to give me a head’s up. But Mrs. Pierce interrupted us before he could.”

Harry laughs. “Good ole Niall, always looking out for us.”

Louis smiles. “Don’t think any warning would have done me any good anyways. Couldn’t believe you were real. Just wanted to kiss you then and there.”

Harry laughs, breath washing over Louis’ lips. “Can you imagine how shocked Mrs. Pierce would have been? I wouldn’t have been able to control myself. Would have laid you out on her desk if we’d been alone.”

Louis shudders, aware of how his and Harry’s hips are aligned, aware of the hardness pressing against him.

“Would have let you,” Louis murmurs. “So happy to see you again, Harry, you don’t even know.”

He tips his head up, catching Harry’s mouth in another sweet kiss. His hands still locked in Harry’s hair, he scratches lightly at his scalp, loving the way Harry shivers against him.

“Will you come to me tonight?” Harry breathes against his lips. His voice holds so much hope, as if there was any chance Louis could possibly say no.

“Of course, my love,” Louis agrees easily. Cheekily, he presses his hips firmly against Harry’s, receiving a deep, delicious moan in return. “Have missed you so much. Want to feel you everywhere.”

“Will touch you wherever you wish,” Harry promises, sealing it with a kiss.

Louis knows he needs to get back to the farm and Harry to the manor, but he allows himself to savor their stolen moment for a minute or so longer.

“Until tonight,” Harry whispers against Louis’ mouth, releasing him reluctantly.

Louis looks up at Harry with wide eyes, nodding.

“Tonight.”

 

The rest of the day passes in a confusing blur of work and anticipation. Louis goes about his work mechanically, barely conscious of his actions, merely following the routine instilled so deeply inside of him.

He wishes the day would fly by, but the opposite is the case. The hours drag. Louis finds himself irrationally angry at the sun as it climbs higher and higher in the sky. It mocks him, brightening the world and flooding it with warmth, when Louis craves the darkness. He wants the sun to disappear on the horizon, coating the world in a thick layer of night so that he can retire.

So that he can be with his love.

Growing up, he had always known who Lord Harry Styles was. He was the young lord only a couple years younger than Louis who would someday inherit Rosehill Manor. The future of their village depended on Harry and his leadership abilities. The village’s economy functions primarily on dairy farming, creating close alliances between Rosehill Manor and the local farms, such as Hazelwood.

Louis was twenty-three and had been working on the farm for several years when Harry’s father, Lord Desmond Styles, Earl of Rosehill, sent him to Hazelwood to gain experience. Since the Earl knew that his son would one day be taking over the estate, he wanted Harry to understand what life was like for those his decisions would one day affect.

Louis had been indignant when Farmer Richards had told the farmhands that the young lord would be coming to the farm to work for a month. Louis and the farmhands had a good camaraderie; they didn’t need some stuffy lord to come in and try to tell them how to do their jobs.

But right from the start, Harry had proven to be the opposite of everything Louis expected. He had been all smiles and clumsy feet, diligently performing any task asked of him. Louis had been shocked to see that Harry had worked the hardest of all them, arriving before sunrise and staying long after sunset. He didn’t even go back to the opulence and comfort of Rosehill Manor each night, instead staying in the spare bedroom in the Richards’ farmhouse.

The other farmhands had taken to Harry immediately, loving his hard work ethic and positive personality. Harry had shown genuine interest in their lives and their stories, but Louis wasn’t convinced.

It wasn’t until one evening when Louis had arrived at the barn after a tiresome day in the fields that his mind was changed in regards to the new farmhand.

It was a hot, unforgiving day, and Louis was burnt and exhausted, desperately wanting something cold to drink. He suspected everyone had headed home that day, and Louis would be on his way as soon as he returned his equipment, but then he heard a soft voice coming from the barn.

Instead of making his presence known, Louis had peered in through the open door and was shocked to see Harry hunched over, milking the cows, and singing as he worked.

If Louis had thought his talking voice was deep – which he hadn’t thought that, of course, because he’d refused to spend any time at all thinking about the aristocrat playing farm, no matter how beautiful he was – then it was nothing compared to how deep his singing voice was. Rich and pure, like honey poured in a cup of tea. Louis had been unable to move, wrapped up in the beautiful sound of Harry’s voice as he serenaded the cows.

When Harry finished singing, Louis had barely even registered that he’d lingered too long to be acceptable, but Harry saw him before he could turn away.

Even in the day’s dying light, Louis could see a flush rising to Harry’s cheeks.

“You sing to the cows?” Louis had asked, shocked.

Impossibly, Harry’s cheeks turned a darker shade of red. “Um, yes?” he admits, looking like he’d been caught trying to steal the cows rather than serenade them. “They seem to like it, so I just sing to them, to calm them down. I feel so invasive sometimes, trying to milk them, so I just want to reassure them. Let them know that I, uh, am their friend and don’t want to hurt them. I know it’s odd, but –”

“It’s lovely,” Louis cut off Harry’s rambling. Now it was Louis’ turn to blush as he realized his confession. Well, in for a penny, in for a pound. “You have a beautiful voice.”

Harry smiled shyly, shuffling his feet against the straw. “Not as beautiful as I am sure yours would be. If you ever decided to sing to the cows, I mean.”

Louis grinned, delighted at seeing the regal lord so flushed and embarrassed. It was undeniably charming. “Maybe we could sing to them together sometime?” Louis had suggested.

Harry’s smile had been breathtaking, and Louis knew that every thought he’d ever had about the young lord had been completely false. He wasn’t arrogant and classist at all. He was bright and kind, singing to the cows because he wanted to be their friend, for God’s sake.

After Louis discovered how wrong his misconceptions were, it took him no time at all to fall into Harry. They became inseparable, always working together around the farm, milking the cows side by side so that they could sing duets. Harry was always telling long, rambling stories, but they always made Louis laugh, and he delighted in trying to make Harry’s cheeks turn different shades of pink whenever he teased him.

But as quickly as they fell into each other, Harry’s time at the farm passed even more quickly. They only had a few days left when Louis had realized he didn’t want Harry to leave, and not just because he would be picking up a bit of extra work when he did. He didn’t want Harry to leave because he would miss having him around every day. He’d miss Harry’s laugh and his stories and his clumsy feet and his deep singing voice. He’d miss the way Harry would casually touch his hand sometimes, warm fingertips lingering on his skin. He’d miss the way he’d catch Harry staring sometimes, dark and intense, and how his belly would always fill with a mixture of butterflies and heat when he did.

He’d miss Harry because he knew he was falling in love with him.

And Louis knew he was being ridiculous. At Harry’s farewell dinner, he felt his eyes welling up with tears every time he even so much looked at the young lord. Louis knew Harry wasn’t going far, that he was only returning to his home which was only on the other side of the forest, barely a ten minute walk.

But Harry and Louis had lived in the same village for every one of Harry’s twenty-one years, and their paths had never crossed before. Louis had seen him occasionally, sometimes at church or walking down the village high street, but he’d always been distant, untouchable. He never dreamed of having Harry like this, close and real. Not some aristocratic lord, but Harry. Just Harry. Louis was so afraid that he’d lose that the second Harry left Hazelwood. He was so afraid they would become lord and farmer once again. That they would lose what made them Harry and Louis.

At the end of the dinner, Harry collected his belongings and began making his way back to Rosehill. Since Louis’ house was on the way, the two had walked together.

They had walked in silence, standing far enough apart that their shoulders hadn’t even brushed. The whole walk, Louis had been biting his lip sharply, trying to keep the tears from spilling over. He dragged his feet through the dirt, hoping to prolong their journey for as long as possible.

No matter how hard Louis had tried though, he and Harry eventually made it to the edge of the property.

Louis had stood at his front door, knowing he needed to go inside but not able to make the movements. Harry stood awkwardly by him, satchel dropped to the ground as soon as they’d stopped.

Louis didn’t know what to say, but he knew he needed to say something. Wetly, he began, “Harry, I –”

But Harry never let him finish his thought. Before the words were even out of Louis’ mouth, Harry had swallowed them. He backed Louis up against the door, pressing their bodies together and kissing him tenderly.

For a moment, Louis was frozen, unable to reciprocate. All he could feel were Harry’s lips moving against his slack mouth, Harry’s hands fisted tightly in his hair.

But when Harry bit down gently on Louis’ bottom lip, it was like all life surged back through his body. Louis had kissed back just as desperately as Harry, arms wrapped tight around him and lips sharing every feeling Louis has kept locked up for the past month.

“I’m in love with you,” Harry had whispered against Louis’ mouth. “I love you, and I just can’t leave you.”

“Don’t,” Louis whispered back, pulling Harry closer. “Stay, Harry. I love you, too. I love you so much –”

That night, Harry stayed with Louis. They collapsed into bed together, kissing and touching and making love like they had both been dreaming about. And when the sun rose, Harry stayed. And he told Louis how much he loved him. How it only took him a month to fall in love, and how that should scare him, but it didn’t, because he knew. He just knew Louis was it for him.

And Louis shared the same feelings. He ran his fingers through Harry’s hair like he had been imagining, feeling the curls that were even silkier and softer than he imagined. He told Harry that he loved him and that the thought of him leaving had hurt him so much. That he didn’t want to go back to being strangers, divided by class and privilege. He wanted to love and be loved, but only with Harry.

Harry had promised him his love, but when he left the next morning, Louis was still afraid. Afraid that they were hollow words to get into his bed, even though he was confident that Harry would never do that to him.

It was only when Harry came back, telling him that he told his parents he was staying at a friend’s in the adjacent village so that he could stay with Louis for a couple of nights, that Louis fully believed him. Harry had stayed, and Louis never wanted him to leave.

Despite falling in love quickly, the true test of their relationship has been the endurance of time.

Ever since that first night together, their relationship has been a secret. Neither one has ever told a soul, outside of each other, who their heart belongs to.

For both of them, their relationship is outside of the bounds of what is acceptable for their social standings. While their relationship is advantageous for Louis, it is socially disastrous for Harry. And even though the Earl had desired Harry to experience life as a farmer, he would never want his son to become one. The Earl expected his son to marry someone of his own class, a lord or lady from a neighboring estate, who would add to the family’s wealth and security.

It was early in their relationship when Harry told Louis this, breaking his heart with the secrecy, but understanding nonetheless.

“I come into my inheritance when I am twenty-five,” a then twenty-two-year-old Harry had confided. “Then I will have enough money to provide for you. To love for you and care for you.” He’d closed his eyes, squeezing Louis’ hand tightly. “To marry you. I want to give you that, and I know it’s a few years away, but I will wait for you. Will you wait for me?”

With Harry warm and solid in his arms and promises of love on his lips, Louis’ answer was never anything but yes.

And now Louis is twenty-six and Harry is twenty-four, and they have loved each other and kept their secret every day since.

But just as the sun fades on the warm day in August, so the sun fades on their time as a secret. Harry turns twenty-five in just a manner of months, and then they will be married. It’s something Louis has dreamed of since he was twenty-three years old.

Finally, the day’s work is done.

Louis calls his farewell to the other farmhands after dinner at the farmhouse, amazed that none of them remarked on his inability to focus all day long.

He hurries off to his home, the sky rapidly darkening. He moved into the one room house at the edge of Hazelwood Farm when he was nineteen years old. The house he grew up in was becoming smaller and smaller as he and his siblings grew up, and Louis knew that everyone would have more space if he moved out. His decision proved to be forward thinking when his mother remarried two years later and two more babies arrived.

Since his mother, stepfather, and siblings live just up the road in the village, Louis still spends the majority of his free time with them, especially in the past few months while Harry has been in London. He adores his siblings and his mother is his best friend. Even though he likes having his own house, the house with his family is home.

When he makes his way inside, he struggles for a moment to decide what to do. He knows he needs to wait a couple of more hours before going to Harry, but he’s at a loss as to how to pass the time. He could read like he usually does in the evenings, but Louis knows he couldn’t focus right now.

As he changes out of his work clothes, wiping mud off his trousers, he has an idea.

Despite the late summer heat, Louis lights a fire in the fireplace and then makes several trips to the well to fill up a massive pot to boil. Once the water is heated, Louis pours it into his bathing basin, the water steaming pleasurably.

Louis discards his clothes on the floor, sinking into the hot water with a satisfied sigh. Immediately, he feels the tension from the day seep out of his body. He’s felt jumpy all day with anticipation, but now he just relaxes. He’ll see Harry very soon, and he’s going to make himself feel nice in the meantime.

He washes his body thoroughly, using his best smelling soaps to freshen up his skin. When he finishes bathing, he trims his beard carefully. He hates shaving it off – Harry hates when he shaves it off – so he just cleans it up a bit, rinsing it thoroughly.

He dresses in a clean set of clothes. He doesn’t own much outside of work clothes, but he picks a soft plaid shirt he hasn’t worn in a while so it doesn’t smell like sweat and cows.

When he finishes dressing, Louis knows the sun has set enough to go see Harry. Louis’ heart leaps at the thought. For the first time since Harry left for London in April, he’s going to get to spend the night with the love of his life.

Louis can hardly keep the spring out of his step as he makes his way through the forest to Rosehill Manor. It’s dark, but he knows the paths so well that he doesn’t need the light. It’s as if he can see Harry’s light shining from the manor, and he follows that.

When Rosehill Manor comes into view, Louis doesn’t head for either the main or the servants’ entrance. Instead, he goes along to the door connected to Harry’s study. Sneaking Louis into Rosehill is something they have done so many times that they have it down to an art. Louis knocks three times against the doorframe and waits.

It’s only a few moments later that the door opens and Louis sees a familiar face poking out.

“Glad you came, mate,” Niall chuckles. “Harry was starting to get worried.”

“As if I wouldn’t come,” Louis mutters in disbelief as he slips inside. The study is dark except for a small candle lit by the sofa. Louis knows that Niall was using it to read while he waited for Louis’ arrival. He’s such a faithful friend, acting as a liaison between Harry and Louis when they’re apart. Louis knows that he would see Harry half as much as he does if they didn’t have Niall’s help.

“This is what I was trying to tell you this morning,” Niall says quietly, leading Louis through the study. A spiral staircase sits in the corner of the room, leading to the library on the second floor. They wind their way up the stairs as Niall continues. “Harry just got back last night, and the moment he was back he asked me if I had any word from you. He was so anxious to see you; I was surprised he didn’t go straight to your house as soon as he returned home.”

Louis smiles to hear how much Harry has missed him. “Thanks for taking care of him while you were away,” Louis says as they walk through the library, arriving at the door on the other side of the room.

“Of course, mate,” Niall laughs, giving Louis a quick hug. “Now come on, let’s get you back to your boy.”

Louis smiles, heart skipping at the thought.

Then, Niall pokes his head through the door into the corridor, checking that the coast is clear. Louis stays hidden behind the door until Niall gives him the all clear. They step out into the corridor together and walk to the very next door: Harry’s room.

As Louis pauses in front of Harry’s door, Niall keeps walking, throwing Louis a cheeky smile over his shoulder. When Niall rounds the corner, Louis raises his fist and knocks.

Almost immediately, the door flies open.

Harry stands before him, looking absolutely breathtaking. His entire face lights up as he gazes at Louis, and Louis knows his face mirrors a similar expression.

“Hi,” Harry breathes.

“Hi,” Louis returns, feeling almost shy.

They stand for just another moment, gazing at each other in awe before Harry finally says, “Come here.”

And that’s all Louis needs.

He quickly steps into the room, Harry kicking the door shut and immediately taking Louis into his arms. Unlike this morning where they crashed together, now they just hold one another, kissing slowly, gently, reacquainting themselves with the other. Each kiss is familiar, but nonetheless fraught with intensity and passion. Harry takes his time licking into Louis’ mouth, tracing every wet corner and making Louis’ knees weak. He slumps into Harry’s firm chest, letting Harry’s strong arms hold them both up. Harry keeps one hand on Louis’ jaw, cradling his face delicately, holding him just right so that Harry can kiss him the way they both love.

“I love you,” Harry whispers. “I missed you so much.”

“I love you, too,” Louis slurs, finding it difficult to speak when Harry keeps pressing scorching kisses to his lips. “So happy you’re back.”

“Me too,” Harry agrees before reaching down and picking Louis up. Louis breaks the kiss to giggle delightedly, hooking his legs around Harry’s waist. Harry attaches his lips to Louis’ neck, biting and sucking at the skin, making it sting. Laughter dies on Louis’ lips and is replaced with a gentle moan as Harry begins walking them towards the bed.

When he’s finished sucking a bruise into the skin, Harry carefully lays Louis down on the bed, hands running down his thighs.

Louis blinks up at his lover, breathless. Harry has always been so beautiful to him, but in this moment, Louis thinks he has never been so breathtaking. Each day that they have been apart, Louis has thought about Harry’s beauty and how it feels to touch him. No fantasy Louis could ever dream comes close to actually seeing Harry in person. He is so beautiful – his skin a milky white, his hair a tangle of curls, and his eyes dark with desire and want.

Harry leans down to place a kiss to his mouth, Louis’ back arching off the bed as he tries to close the distance between their bodies.

“So beautiful,” Harry murmurs. “Been dreaming about touching you again since the moment I left.”

Louis whines, hands fisting in Harry’s shirt. “Touched myself every night and came with your name on my lips.”

Harry moans at that, crashing their lips back together. The sweetness of only a moment ago is gone; now Harry kisses him with unadulterated desire, licking into Louis’ mouth possessively.

They kiss for a long, heated moment before Louis starts clawing at Harry’s shirt, uncaring if it rips in his desperation to undress him.

Harry chuckles at his eagerness, removing his hands from Louis’ thighs to start undoing his own buttons. He continues to kiss Louis as he works, Louis’ hands trailing after his to touch the newly exposed, warm skin. Louis presses his palm firmly against Harry’s chest to feel the steady beat of his heart. Each beat is a reassurance that this isn’t just another one of Louis’ dreams; that Harry is here and real above him.

Harry breaks the kiss as he shrugs off his shirt and begins undoing his trousers. Louis licks his lips instinctively as his trousers fall to the floor, cock exposed, hard and leaking against his belly.

“Missed you,” Louis murmurs, fingers twitching to reach out and touch.

Harry laughs quietly as he leans down to begin working on Louis’ clothes. “We missed you too.”

Louis smiles, sighing happily as Harry helps Louis out of his shirt and trousers. When his clothes are discarded on the floor, any laughter dies on his lips. Harry places his knees on either side of Louis’ body, palms planted firmly next to Louis’ head. He’s so close, but Harry keeps his body elevated so that they aren’t touching.

Both of them finally together and naked, and it’s been four months.

“Harry,” Louis whispers, hands reaching up to spread across Harry’s back. “Touch me.”

Louis’ words cut the strings holding Harry back, and he presses his body against Louis’ while capturing his mouth in a hot, heady kiss.

Louis opens up immediately to Harry, tongues clashing together, all wet heat and need. Harry’s taste overwhelms his senses, sweet like strawberries dipped in honey. His lips are plush and full, dominant yet affectionate as each kiss tells how they’ve missed each other, how they’ve longed for this moment of glorious reunion.

Louis lightly scrapes his nails up and down Harry’s back, feeling him shiver above him. He touches every inch of skin he can reach, solid and warm and smooth. His hands drift from Harry’s lower back to his groin, pausing only a moment before running his knuckles down the length of Harry’s cock.

Harry pulls away from Louis’ mouth with a sharp gasp, hips thrusting down against Louis’ groin. Both men moan as their cocks rub together with delicious friction. Louis takes Harry firmly in his hand, stroking lightly as Harry breathes heavily against his neck.

“Feels indescribable, my love,” Harry murmurs, placing open mouthed kisses to Louis’ neck and collarbones. “I’ve been thinking so much about your hands and how they feel around my cock. So perfect.”

Louis moans as Harry begins to suck a series of bruises across his chest. He flicks his wrist steadily, thumbing the tip of his cock to spread the budding moisture, making the slide easier.

On one harsh tug, Harry bites Louis’ chest roughly, moaning into the skin. “If you keep this up, I’m going to come. And I want to come inside you.”

Louis gives Harry’s cock one more tug before his hand falls away, panting, “Yes, Harry, want that. Want it so much.”

“Want to give you everything,” Harry whispers against Louis’ skin, a promise just between them.

With one last kiss to Louis’ lips, Harry leans over to the bedside table, fumbling only for a moment before returning with a pot of oil. Louis runs his hands up and down Harry’s chest, loving the way his hands, darkened from hours spent in the sun, contrast against the paleness of Harry’s skin. Skin that the sun never kisses. Only Louis has that privilege.

Harry dips down to kiss Louis again, mouth trailing down his neck to his chest, from his chest to his belly. Harry bites at the soft skin there, scraping his teeth so that Louis’ stomach muscles flutter. He mouths wetly down to Louis’ cock, flushed and dripping.

Harry noses at the base, causing Louis’ cock to twitch against his cheek. When Harry glances up, green eyes locking on Louis’, all the air leaves Louis’ body. He is absolutely stunning, eyes wide and red lips swollen, bitten.

Then Harry’s pink tongue darts out, tracing the length of Louis’ cock root to tip. Louis shudders at the sweet pressure, Harry running his tongue up and down, but never taking it fully in his mouth.

“Harry,” Louis gasps, hands clutching the sheets. “Don’t tease. Want your fingers. Please, I’ve waited so long –”

“Sh, darling,” Harry replies, pressing a kiss to the head of Louis’ cock before pulling away. “Will give you whatever you want.”

Louis sighs in relief as he hears Harry opening the pot of oil, watching as he slicks up his fingers.

Louis’ legs fall open in anticipation, and Harry takes a sharp breath at the sight of Louis so needy and desperate beneath him.

Once his fingers are slick, Harry traces them along the seam of Louis’ arse, trailing lightly over his hole but never placing any pressure on it. Louis whines, spreading his legs wider as Harry begins fondling his balls in his other hand.

A plea is on Louis’ lips, about to burst forth when Harry finally presses his first finger in. The plea dies, replaced with a deep, relieved moan.

“Harry,” Louis gasps as Harry’s finger pumps in and out of him, thick and skillful.

Louis can’t help the breathy grunts that fall from his lips as Harry adds another finger, stretching him perfectly. His own fingers never feel this good, always cramping from the awkward angle and not long enough to find his spot, to bring him that sweet pleasure that he craves.

As if reading Louis’ mind, Harry presses his fingers against Louis’ prostate, making Louis cry out and his back arch gracefully off the bed.

“Beautiful,” Harry murmurs through the cadence of Louis’ moans. “You’re so beautiful, Louis. God.”

“Another,” Louis gasps, voice high and breathless. “More, Harry –”

A third finger nudges against his rim for only a moment before sinking into the tight heat of Louis’ body. Harry scissors his fingers expertly, rubbing teasingly against Louis’ prostate and filling him perfectly.

“M’ready,” Louis slurs, tongue heavy and head dizzy just from Harry’s fingers in all the right places. “Please, want your cock.”

Harry grunts, pressing firmly against Louis’ prostate one more time and making him cry out before withdrawing his fingers completely.

Louis whines instinctively at the loss, hole clenching around nothing, already aching to be filled again. Harry leans over him, reaching to his table and digging around again.

“Fuck,” Harry swears after a moment. “Shit.”

“What?” Louis asks, eyes fluttering open to catch Harry’s pinched expression. “What is it?”

“Fuck, Lou, I’m so sorry. But I forgot,” Harry sighs heavily. “The trunk with my condoms hasn’t arrived yet. I specially ordered new ones while in London, and foolishly forgot to pack them in my bag I took with me on the train.”

“Don’t care,” Louis says recklessly, winding his arms around Harry’s back and pulling him down. “It should be fine. I just had my monthly, and I really don’t care. Just want you. Wanna feel you inside me.”

“Yeah?” Harry asks, slight hesitancy in his voice.

To prove he’s serious, Louis leans up to kiss Harry’s puffy lips while simultaneously reaching a hand down to take hold of Harry’s cock.

“Fuck me,” Louis whispers against Harry’s mouth, a breath of air shared between them.

“Yeah,” Harry exhales, pressing one more kiss to Louis’ mouth before crawling down his body. Louis wraps his legs around Harry’s waist, holding him secure.

When Harry finally presses in, it’s four months of lonely nights, nothing but the stars and his books to keep him company, forgotten. It’s a fulfillment of the promise Harry made to Louis the night before he left for town, whispering as he made Louis come time and time again, “I will be back for you, my love. I will always come back.” It’s fireworks brightening up the night sky as Louis feels the man he loves surrounding him completely, holding him and loving him and making him feel cherished. Making him feel adored.

“Louis,” Harry moans as he bottoms out. “Fuck, you feel so amazing, darling. Don’t think I’m going to last.”

“Me either,” Louis attempts to laugh. It’s been four months of solitary orgasms, coming from his own fingers and hand but wishing and dreaming that they were Harry’s. Now that he finally has this beautiful man back, settled snugly inside of him, Louis knows it won’t take much.

When Harry begins rocking his hips, he does so slowly. Louis reaches up to tangle their fingers together, resting them against his chest as Harry moves, careful and deliberate. Gradually, Harry builds up a pace, thrusting shallowing before building to long, dragging thrusts that lets Louis feel every inch of Harry’s perfect cock.

Each thrust punches little, breathy uh-uh-uhs out of Louis, his belly heating, orgasm building.

“Harry,” he gasps, struggling to swallow down enough air. His voice sounds distant, even to his own ears.

“So perfect, my love,” Harry grunts, changing the angle slightly so that he slams into Louis’ prostate. Louis cries out, squeezing Harry’s hands in a white knuckled grip. “Are you going to come for me? You’re so beautiful when you come, and I just – I want to see it. Been dreaming about it. Let me see you, Louis, my beautiful Louis –”

One more thrust against Louis’ prostate and he does as Harry asks, back arching and breathless moans falling from his lips as he comes untouched all over his stomach. He squeezes his eyes shut as the waves of pleasure wash over him, holding Harry’s hands tightly as he feels his lover rock against him before following him over the edge.

Harry spills inside of him, making Louis feel full and warm, wet and content. Harry collapses against him, mouths blindly seeking each other for a tender kiss. They breathe heavily against one another, lips grazing and hands touching as they slowly come down together.

Louis feels a deep, sated contentment born from a mixture of the most satisfying orgasm he’s had in months and having his lover hold him once again, pressing sweet kisses to his mouth and whispering words of love into his ear.

Harry leaves him only for a moment to wet a flannel to clean them both off. He wipes the come off Louis’ belly and the bit that’s trickled out from his hole and down his legs.

He sighs happily as Harry drops the flannel to the ground and returns to bed, lying beside him so that they are facing one another.

“Hi,” Louis giggles, reaching out to rest a hand against Harry’s cheek.

Harry turns his head slightly to kiss Louis’ palm. “Hi.” He closes his eyes for a moment, nuzzling into the touch. “I don’t know if I mentioned it, but I really did miss you.”

Louis smiles, rubbing his thumb along Harry’s cheekbone, making him sigh contentedly. “Think you did. But I definitely missed you more.”

“Not possible,” Harry whispers, kissing Louis’ palm once more before turning back to him, eyes green and bright.

They gaze at one another silently for several moments, touching softly and breathing each other in. When Louis yawns against Harry’s chest, Harry chuckles.

“Time for some rest, darling,” he suggests.

“No, I want to stay awake and talk,” Louis protests around another traitorous yawn. “I want to hear about London.”

“Grey and miserable and most importantly, Louis-less,” is Harry’s simple answer.

Louis scowls, but Harry just laughs. “I will tell you everything tomorrow,” Harry promises. “It’ll be Saturday, so I was hoping you could stay for the weekend?” His eyes are wide and hopeful.

“I hadn’t even realized tomorrow was Saturday,” Louis answers honestly. He won’t be expected to work on the farm again until Monday, leaving him two full days free. “Of course I’ll stay.” He nuzzles into Harry’s chest, excited by the prospect of uninterrupted time with Harry after so many months apart. “Wouldn’t dream of being anywhere else.”

“I was hoping you would say that,” Harry murmurs.

The last thing Louis feels before falling asleep is a kiss against his forehead and the gentle cadence of his lover breathing beneath him.

 

Louis wakes up to the feeling of warm hands running down his tummy and even warmer lips against his neck.

He shifts instinctually into Harry’s touch, arching his neck and pressing into Harry’s solid hand at his waist.

“Good morning, Lou,” Harry murmurs into the skin. “You look so beautiful when you sleep.” He presses light kisses along the juncture of Louis’ neck and shoulder. “I was good and kept my hands to myself for so long, but I thought I was going to die if I didn’t touch you.”

“You held me all night,” Louis argues weakly, his voice gruff with sleep. Despite his protest, he smiles at the feeling of Harry pressed up against him, touching him with his mouth and hands. “You were touching me then.”

Harry hums into Louis’ skin, mouth opening so that his tongue can trace gentle patterns. “It’s true, but I wanted to touch you here.”

The hand resting on Louis’ hip slides down to lightly fist his cock, already perking up from the morning and holding Harry so close all night long.

A deep moan escapes Louis’ lips, raw and uninhibited from the early hour. His back arches, pressing his arse firmly into Harry’s groin where he can feel his hardness rubbing wetly over his smooth skin.

“Yes, Harry, touch me,” Louis sighs, melting into the pillows as Harry pulls them flush together with one hand and begins tugging his cock determinedly with the other.

When Louis comes, he’s rocking himself back and forth, up into Harry’s fist and back against his cock, grinding against it to feel it slip between his cheeks, wet and hard and perfect.

They kiss lazily as they come down from their orgasms, holding one another close as their legs tangle in the sheets.

“Never going to leave this bed again,” Harry murmurs in between kisses. “Couldn’t possibly want to.”

“Never again,” Louis sighs happily, leaning against the pillows and running a hand through Harry’s errant curls.

“Glad that’s decided,” Harry smiles. He gives Louis one final kiss before pulling away and resting against his own pillows.

“Tell me about London,” Louis asks, taking Harry’s hand in his and tracing slow circles into the skin. “I want to hear everything. How was the city? How was your sister?”

“The season was quite dull, if I’m honest,” Harry begins. When Louis quirks an eyebrow, Harry laughs. “And I’m not just saying that because I missed you, although maybe that’s a part of it. Just in general though, the people and the parties and everything were just so uninteresting. I usually love the city, but it felt tedious to me this year.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Louis replies. “I don’t like to hear that you didn’t enjoy yourself.”

Harry shrugs. “It’s not your fault, and there was nothing to be done regardless.”

“Well, tell me about your sister, then,” Louis suggests. “How is Gemma enjoying the East End?”

The smile that overtakes Harry’s face is breathtaking. “Oh, Louis,” Harry gushes, squeezing his hand. “I have never seen her so happy in all of my life.”

“That’s wonderful!”

“It is. It truly is.”

Louis remembers almost two years ago when Harry had showed up at Louis’ house in the middle of the night, face red and swollen and eyes damp. Much to their father’s displeasure, Gemma had decided against a marriage with a wealthy duke; instead, she decided to take her inheritance and open a school for working class women in London’s East End. Harry and his mother had lauded her decision, but his father had been horrified, raging that no daughter of his would be a teacher.

When the house had settled for the night, Harry had come to Louis seeking comfort. Curled in bed and crying against Louis’ chest, Harry told him how proud he was of his sister for wanting to do something useful with her life, and his disgust at how their father cared nothing at all for what Gemma wanted. Harry didn’t understand how a father could be so cruel to their own child, and he’d urgently whispered into Louis’ skin, “I would never treat my own child so thoughtlessly. I would love them and give them everything that could possibly make them happy.”

Two years later, Gemma has established herself within the East End, and her school has grown to over fifty pupils. The Countess of Rosehill actively supports her daughter, and Harry always speaks about her with undeniable pride. The Earl has reluctantly come around when he saw with his own eyes the success of the school, and the family even hosted a fundraiser the past spring for Gemma’s school.

“Has she hired any other teachers?” Louis inquires. “Or is she still the only one?”

“She has hired one more, which I am so thankful for,” Harry replies. “She’s been working so hard these past couple of years, and of course we have helped as much as we can, but I know she’ll appreciate having someone’s constant help and presence.”

“Good. Did you see much of her while you were in town?”

Harry nods. “I’d usually go to her flat in the East End since she just wouldn’t have time to visit me at Berkley Square. She did come on one occasion to a party at Lady Shepperton’s home, but –” His voice trails off, eyes going comically wide.

“What?” Louis asks, laughing lightly as he takes in Harry’s hesitant expression. His brow creases as Harry chews his lip. “What happened?”

“Um, well see, I, um, well, I practically begged Gemma to come with me to Duchess Shepperton’s party because, well…” Harry trails off, sighing deeply. He squeezes Louis’ hands tightly and presses a kiss to the knuckles. “Mother wanted me to meet Duchess Shepperton’s daughter. They were quite convinced we would be an instant match, and I, well, I wanted to avoid that awkwardness.”

Without his consent, jealousy twinges through Louis at Harry’s words.

After three years, Louis would expect to be used to the Countess constantly setting Harry up with young, eligible lords and ladies. Harry is attractive, intelligent, and wealthy – it would be foolish to think that he wouldn’t catch the eye of many others.

But Louis can’t help feeling envious. Louis wants more than anything in the world to lay public claim on Harry. To not have to hide their love for one another in darkened rooms and through whispered words. Louis feels jealousy towards everyone who is able to spend time with Harry publicly. To court him and speak with him and laugh at his jokes. When Louis sees Harry in public, he must turn his face so as not to reveal the depth of his emotions.

Louis is aware of his jealous nature, and more importantly, so is Harry. They talk about it frequently –Harry constant in his reassurances that Louis is the only one for him, while not keeping it from him when the Countess tries to set Harry up with other people. Louis appreciates Harry’s honesty, and he returns it as well, letting Harry know whenever he’s feeling a bit envious.

Despite their openness, Louis does keep one fear to himself, a fear that only rears its ugly head when Louis is feeling the most insecure or when he hasn’t seen Harry in ages. And that’s the fear that one day one of the lords or ladies will capture Harry’s heart for themselves. That Harry will grow tired of keeping Louis a secret and will cast him aside, picking someone else. Someone with better prospects. Someone with a title. Someone he doesn’t have to hide.

“And how was it?” Louis asks, trying to keep his voice light, but knowing Harry will hear the anxiousness in the question.

“Mother was wrong, of course,” Harry replies simply, giving Louis’ hand a reassuring squeeze. “I was too busy thinking about you all evening.”

Louis smiles, blushing slightly at Harry’s words.

“But,” Harry begins slowly, and Louis’ eyes fly to his, the single word dispelling his momentary sense of reassurance.

“But what?” Louis asks, a thread of hurt in his voice.

“Nothing horrible, I promise you,” Harry explains in a rush. “It’s just that mother invited the duchess and her daughter to Rosehill. Mother thought we didn’t get a chance to spend any time together at the party because I was so preoccupied with spending time with Gemma. Mother didn’t realize it was me avoiding Lady Shepperton; she thought I was just trying to catch up with Gemma since I hadn’t seen her in ages. But, because of that, Mother invited them to spend the week with us and they’re arriving tonight.”

Louis pauses, leaning away from Harry and pulling his hand from his grasp. “But you said last night we could spend the weekend together? You said I could stay all weekend.”

“You can,” Harry insists, reclaiming Louis’ hand. “I will have to receive them and attend dinner tonight, but I will make the needed excuses to limit that time as much as possible.” When Louis gives him an unconvinced look, Harry sighs, leaning forward and reaching up to cup Louis’ cheek. “I am yours. Don’t ever doubt it.”

“I don’t doubt it; I am just tired of the charade,” Louis confesses quietly. “I’m tired of watching all these people try to make claim to you. I want to be yours. Publicly yours. And for you to be publicly mine.”

“I know,” Harry replies, voice equally quiet. “It has pained me so that we have had to conceal our love for one another, but that will be all over soon.”

Louis smiles at Harry’s words, leaning into his touch. “Tell me again.”

Smiling, Harry takes Louis into his arms. Pressing gentle kisses to his face, Harry murmurs, “In six months’ time, I will have my twenty-fifth birthday. On that day, my portion of the inheritance will become legally mine. And I plan that very day to announce to my family that I have found love.” Harry chuckles as he runs his lips lightly along Louis’ cheekbone. “That, in fact, I found love when I was twenty-one years old, and that I have loved and been loved every day since.” Kisses to his jawline, nipping Louis’ earlobe. “With the most beautiful, kindhearted, strongest man I have ever met. And since I will have my inheritance, it does not matter what my family thinks.” Harry pauses, only for a moment. “Well, what my father thinks. I know Mother will love you, because I love you and because you make me so happy.”

“You make me so happy, too,” Louis sighs as Harry continues to kiss along his neck.

“I am so pleased to hear it, my love. When I have my portion of my inheritance, I will be financially secure and able to provide for you. If you still desire, you can move to Rosehill –”

“Yes, I still desire it,” Louis cuts in, smiling fondly at Harry.

It’s something they’ve talked about countless times. Harry insists that when they marry, he doesn’t want to take Louis away from everything he’s ever known: moving to Rosehill is not the assumption. Harry would just as happily move to Louis’ house at the edge of Hazelwood Farm if that’s what he wanted.

And Louis knows that Harry means it. But he loves Harry, and he doesn’t want him to give up his titles, his inheritance, and his home just so they can be together.

Louis wants to move to Rosehill to be with Harry, to help him run his estate and build a family. He’s not sure how easily he will transition into the life of a lord after milking cows his whole life, which is why they came up with a solution a couple of years ago.

When they marry and Louis moves to Rosehill, Louis will help Harry oversee the grounds. When Harry turns twenty-five, he will take over the running of the estate. Harry will manage the business aspect, while Louis will assist with the grounds maintenance. His work will keep him outside and surrounded by animals, which is how he has worked his whole life. Having a job that Louis will be comfortable doing will make the transition to Rosehill that much easier. It will give Louis a purpose.

Harry smiles at Louis’ insistence, continuing, “You will move to Rosehill and we will be married. I want to use my inheritance to provide for you, and God willing, our eventual family. We will run the estate together, side by side, as husbands.”

Harry pauses, his lips hovering at the corner of Louis’ mouth. “I love you, Louis, and my soul has been yours since I was twenty-one years old. I swear to you that I will always love you, and nothing, not money or titles or family or reputation, could cease my heart beating for you and only you.”

Overwhelmed, Louis’ eyes slip shut, a hand reaching up to touch Harry’s cheek.

“Kiss me,” he murmurs.

As their lips touch, each kiss is filled with the promise of love and devotion, greater than all the external troubles hovering right outside the bedroom door.

 

When Louis wakes up again, there is a tray of food resting at the foot of the bed. Harry is propped against a mountain of pillows, book in hand as he munches on an apple.

As soon as Louis stirs, Harry discards the book and apple onto the duvet and leans down to press a kiss to his forehead. “Good afternoon, sweetheart. Niall has brought us some food and I sent a message to Mother that I wouldn’t be down until later today. Eat; you need your strength.”

“Wonder what could have drained me so thoroughly,” Louis teases, stretching as he sits up. “Or maybe the better question is who?”

Harry laughs as he hands Louis a small plate of fruit and sandwiches. “I’m not even going to pretend that making love to you all day and all night isn’t exactly how I want to spend my time. Don’t care if it exhausts us.”

Louis chuckles as he picks up a strawberry. His body does feel sore – which isn’t in itself unusual – but it’s a different kind of sore from long days spent working on the farm. Particularly, there is a pleasant ache in his bum, stretched and sore yet satisfied, that he associates only with Harry and not at all with farming.

As they eat, Harry asks, “Tell me about your summer. I read every letter you sent until I had them memorized, but I still want to hear from your own mouth.”

Louis smiles around a mouthful of berries. “Well,” he begins. “It was actually a really good summer at the farm. Richards purchased two new cows, so we have a much higher supply of milk that we’re able to sell.”

“That’s wonderful,” Harry exclaims. “I’m glad to hear the farm is doing so well.”

“Of course you’re glad the farm is doing well – you’re the landlord.”

Harry pinches Louis’ side, causing him to let out an embarrassing squeak. “You know I don’t mean it like that. I’m glad your work is going well. I know how difficult it is for you when the farm struggles.”

Louis nods. “It’s true, but we didn’t have much trouble this summer which is always a blessing.”

“You said in your letters you’ve been working on some writing?”

“Yes,” Louis affirms, blushing only slightly. “It’s nothing of much note, but I find joy in it. Peace.”

“Your writing is beautiful,” Harry interjects. “Everything I’ve ever read of yours has been so inspiring, so genuine. It should be in the best literary magazines in the country.”

“I don’t know about that,” Louis dismisses, always embarrassed by how much Harry adores his writing. “But I was able to write a lot during the summer months, and I’m quite proud of what I’ve finished.”

“Can’t wait to read it. Everything you write always makes me cry; it’s so beautiful.”

Louis chuckles. “Play your cards right and maybe I’ll let you.”

Harry smiles, mumbling, “I’ll hold you to it,” before changing the subject. “How about your family? The girls and your brother?”

“They’re all very well,” Louis replies. “I spent a lot of time with them over the summer which has been wonderful. I would go stay with them on the weekends, or some of the girls would stay at mine. Charlotte has her first suitor. He’s one of the boys from the village – the tailor’s son. She’s quite smitten with him, I daresay. But Félicité has no interest in suitors, as far as I can tell. In fact, she even mentioned to me that she’s thought about trying her hand at teaching, like Lady Gemma.”

“Oh, Lou, she’d be excellent at that!” Harry exclaims. “You’re always going about how bright and opinionated she is. I’m sure Gemma would be glad to have her at the school.”

“That’s wonderful to hear, but she still has a few years left of her own schooling. We’ll see if she’s changed her mind by then.”

“I hope she doesn’t,” Harry says. “From everything you’ve told me about her, it seems like once she sets her mind to something, that’s exactly what she does.”

Louis smiles fondly, and not for the first time, feels a pang in his heart that he wishes Harry could know his family. Harry already loves them simply because of how much Louis loves them, but he can’t wait for the day when they will be able to love Harry in return.

“You’re right, that is exactly like Félicité.”

Harry smiles, clearly pleased to have made such an accurate assessment of someone he’s only ever heard about. “And what about the twins?”

Louis grins, his innate reaction to thinking about his youngest siblings. “Phoebe and Daisy are still as much trouble as they were when you left. Honestly, love, it’s like the older they get the funnier they become. I never stop laughing when I’m with them.

“And Doris and Ernest are already growing so big. They’ll be turning five in the spring and I just can’t believe it. They have so much energy and sometimes we just chase each other around the farm for hours. They’re such good fun.”

“You’re so good with them. I know they adore you.”

“I like to think they do,” Louis agrees. “And Mother is still so happy. She and Dan get on so well, and it’s just wonderful to see. Also, we’ve started doing tea once a week, and it’s always just us. It’s always in the middle of the work day, but all the kids will be out at school or making visits or doing whatever, and we just get some time to ourselves. I love it.”

“You two have such a special relationship,” Harry says happily.

“She’s going to adore you,” Louis promises. “I can’t wait to properly introduce you.”

“That makes two of us. But I’m so glad you’ve been spending so much time with them while I was away.”

Louis nods. “I always love every moment I can get with them.” He smiles up at Harry before leaning up to kiss the corner of his mouth. “They kept me good company while I was missing my boy.”

Harry smiles. “Well I am indebted to them for that. In addition to them shaping such a wonderful person whom I have the privilege of loving.”

Louis’ cheeks flush. “You are always so sweet to me when we’ve been reunited after being apart for so long.”

“What else do you think I do during our time apart?” Harry asks. “I just come up with different things I love about you to pass the time.”

Louis laughs, leaning over to kiss Harry’s cheek. “I’m already yours, love. You don’t have to flatter me.”

Harry laughs in response, returning Louis’ kiss. “I know. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss how pink you go whenever I do compliment you.”

Louis huffs in protest, leaning over to give Harry a playful smack on the arm which quickly devolves into Harry tackling Louis against the mattress, fingers lithe and nimble as they tickle Louis’ sides.

They’re startled apart by an abrupt knock on the door. Harry freezes, and Louis can feel his heartbeat quicken against his chest. Louis knows Harry’s reaction is out of fear of being caught in a compromising position, but a devilish voice inside him whispers that maybe it’s shame. Shame at who he’d be caught in a compromising position with. Louis dismisses the thought before it can root, running his hands encouragingly down Harry’s back.

“Yes?” Harry calls, voice hesitant.

“It’s Niall, m’lord,” comes the reply.

Louis feels Harry relax incrementally against him. Harry rolls off, sheets twisting at his waist as he replies, “Yes, Niall. Come in!”

The door opens and shuts quickly, Niall sliding in with ease.

“Apologies, m’lord,” Niall begins, averting his eyes from when Harry and Louis lie naked together, only the thin sheet covering them. “Lady Styles informed me that the duchess and her daughter will be arriving soon. She suggested you dress and make an appearance downstairs.”

Louis feels Harry sag against the pillows, clearly reluctant to leave. Instinctively, Louis lays his hand over Harry’s, squeezing his fingers encouragingly.

“Yes, Niall, thank you. Please tell Mother I will be down shortly. You can go; I will get ready myself this evening.”

Niall bows before leaving as quickly as he entered.

Louis’ fingers unconsciously tighten around Harry’s as he goes to stand up. Harry glances over his shoulder, and he looks just as unwillingly to leave as Louis is to let him go.

“It will only be for a couple of hours, my love,” Harry attempts to placate. He breathes heavily, clearly also trying to appease himself. “Finish the rest of the food; I will bring some more when I return. Help yourself to my books and my pens and paper. Feel free to write some more, if you wish.” When Harry smiles weakly, it doesn’t reach his eyes. “But of course, you’re welcome to go. You are not obligated to stay, if you’d rather return home for the evening.”

Louis silences him with a kiss. “I’ll scrounge through your books, and see if I can find something new. I’ve finished all the ones I borrowed from you last time.”

This time, Harry’s smile reaches his eyes. “Take as many as you desire.”

Reluctantly, Harry stands up, sheets sliding off his naked form as he walks to his dresser. Louis finds it odd watching as Harry pulls on layers of clothing, hiding his pale skin under lavish shirts and jackets.

“Let me,” Louis says as Harry begins on the buttons. Harry’s hands pause, and Louis climbs out of the bed. As he does up the buttons, Louis can’t help but think to last night when he and Harry had hastily ripped off the buttons of his shirt, eager to be naked together and careless of the clothes tearing as they did so.

Louis smooths his fingers over the skin as inch by inch is slowly hidden from sight. How strange for Harry to be putting on clothes when Louis feels as if he should constantly be naked, especially when Louis is standing naked in front of him. But Louis reminds himself that that is only for them, naked skin on naked skin. Wearing clothes is for appearances. For the world that exists outside the bedroom. The world that Louis would be content to ignore as long as it keeps Harry by his side.

When the shirt is buttoned, Louis’ hands fall away and he looks up at Harry. Harry stares back, eyes filled with adoration. Louis suddenly feels vulnerable, naked and exposed while Harry stands fully clothed. Without thinking, Louis ducks his head, unable to handle the intensity of Harry’s gaze.

A finger hooks under his chin, gently tilting his face upwards so that Louis has no choice but to look at Harry.

“You are so beautiful,” Harry whispers.

A small whimper escapes Louis’ lips before he surges up on his toes to connect their mouths, wrapping his arms tightly around Harry’s neck. Harry clings to him just as tightly, just as reluctant to let him go after finally being together after so long apart.

“Only for a few hours, darling,” Harry reassures them both, still holding Louis close.

“I know,” Louis sighs. “Just want to be selfish and keep you all to myself.”

“Believe me,” Harry chuckles. “I want that, too.”

He places one more kiss on Louis’ mouth before Louis lets him go so that he can continue dressing. Harry finishes quickly while Louis fishes around in his wardrobe.

“Ah, here it is,” Louis announces, pulling Harry’s dressing gown off the hanger. “My favorite.”

He wraps himself in the warm gown, loving the feel of the soft fabric against his skin.

Harry pouts as Louis covers his body, causing Louis to laugh. “I promise I’ll be naked and ready for you as soon as you return.”

Harry perks up at that, reaching down to toy with the gown’s tie. Mischievously, Harry lets the tie fall loose, the gown opening slightly. Harry lightly runs his knuckles down Louis’ abdomen, making Louis shiver.

“If you keep doing that, I won’t let you leave,” Louis breathes, eyes fluttering shut.

Harry sighs, and Louis opens his eyes in time to see Harry nod resolutely.

“Be back soon,” Harry promises with one final kiss before moving towards the door.

“I’ll be here,” Louis promises in return.

Harry slips through the door, giving Louis one final smile before he disappears with a firm click of the door.

As soon as he’s alone, Louis sags against the bed, dressing gown still hanging agape.

Being left alone in Harry’s room isn’t unusual; in fact, it usually happens on multiple occasions whenever Louis covertly stays the weekend. But maybe it’s because he only just got his boy back that Louis feels so reluctant to let him go. Or maybe it’s because Harry’s going to have dinner with a woman the Countess is trying to match him with. Because Louis will have to sit in Harry’s room alone while Harry sits down to a fine meal with a beautiful duchess at his side. Maybe that’s why he didn’t want Harry to go even more than usual.

Sighing, Louis stands up, resolutely ties his dressing gown, and walks over to Harry’s bookshelves. He knows it will be a few hours – might as well make good use of his time.

 

The sun has long set and Louis has read a significant portion of a book on Pre-Raphaelite poetry when the door clicks open.

Turning, Louis sees Harry coming through the door, followed by Niall who balances a large tray of food in his arms.

Relief immediately flows through Louis at the sight of Harry, even after only a few hours apart.

Harry’s whole face lights up when he sees Louis sitting at his desk, and Harry quickly crosses the room to him. Kneeling before him, Harry gives him a quick kiss. “Hope I didn’t keep you waiting too long, my love.”

“Never,” Louis sighs, running a hand through Harry’s curls. Harry nuzzles into the touch, hands firm on Louis’ knees.

“Niall has brought some food; I hope you’re not too hungry. I promise it is still very warm.”

Louis’ stomach growls at the whiff of food. He finished the fruit and sandwiches several hours ago. A hot meal sounds like absolute perfection.

“Anything else, sir?” Niall asks, bringing the two out of their bubble.

“No, thank you, Niall,” Harry replies, eyes still locked on Louis.

The door shuts behind them, and soon Harry is pulling Louis towards the bed. The hot tray of food rests on a stand next to the bed, and Louis sits cross legged against the pillows as he lifts the tray into his lap.

“Tell me about your evening,” Louis asks as he cuts up the beef. “How was it?”

Harry waves a hand carelessly through the air. “It was just another dinner. To be honest, we spent the majority of time discussing Gemma and her work with the school. I could tell Mother and Father were less than pleased, and they kept trying to steer the conversation back to Lady Shepperton’s accomplishments, but I could tell we both enjoyed the other subject matter. Apparently the Duchess is a committed patron to Gemma’s school, so she enjoyed hearing about its progress.”

“No wedding bells, then?” Louis teases, pleased by Harry’s disinterest in the Duchess.

Harry rolls his eyes. “You know the only wedding bells I hear are in regards to you.”

“Still,” Louis says around a mouthful. “Your mother doesn’t know that. What does she think of your disinterest?”

“She doesn’t understand it, but I don’t expect her to,” Harry shrugs. “My heart belongs to you, and they could throw the Prince of Wales at me and I still wouldn’t care.”

Louis can’t help but blush, but Harry continues, “Even tonight, we’re all sitting there having dinner and stilted conversation, and all I could think about was how my whole world was upstairs. I couldn’t see the point of any of it. I just wanted everyone to finish chatting so I could come back to you. I’m sorry it took so long.”

“That’s alright,” Louis places a hand out to cover Harry’s, running his thumb over the soft skin. “I can imagine it was a busy evening, especially with a duchess visiting.”

Harry laughs lightly. “When I went downstairs, the staff were in a near panic. Especially Johnson,” Harry smiles as he refers to the uptight, dignified butler. “I’d never seen him so frazzled.”

Louis laughs along with Harry, enjoying the image of the distinguished man frantically running around to make sure everything was perfect for the Duchess’ arrival.

“What about tomorrow?” Louis asks hesitantly. “Will you have to spend time with them then?”

Slowly, Harry nods and Louis feels his stomach drop. “I’m sorry. Mother wants me to take Lady Shepperton out riding, and I couldn’t refuse. But I asked her if we could go after luncheon, that way I could spend the morning with you.”

“Although I’m sure you didn’t use that excuse,” Louis says. He doesn’t mean for it to come out harsh; he’s simply stating a fact.

Harry doesn’t reply for a moment. “You know you’re welcome to stay as long as you wish. I know tomorrow is Sunday and you need to be back at the farm on Monday morning. But you could stay tomorrow night, if you want?”

Louis mulls it over. Usually, he doesn’t stay Sunday nights because he has to be at the farm bright and early Monday mornings. It makes things easier if Louis sleeps in his own bed the night before. That way, he doesn’t wake Harry up at such an early hour and he doesn’t have to travel as far in the morning.

But, after being separated for four months and with an unwanted lady in the house, Louis feels understandably clingy.

“I’ll stay tomorrow night,” Louis agrees after little consideration. “I miss waking up in your arms anyways.”

Harry smiles brightly at Louis, giving him a sweet kiss. “You are wonderful. What did I ever do to deserve you?”

“Could ask myself the same thing,” Louis muses, giving Harry a soft smile.

They sit in silence for a moment, and then Harry suggests, “They’re leaving on Friday morning, so you could come next weekend if you wish. I won’t have anything else to do but stay in this bed with you for the whole weekend. You’ll be sick of me by Sunday.”

Louis laughs, knowing that that could never happen.

“Sounds fine to me, love. I’ll stay as long as you’ll have me, whenever you’ll have me.”

“Hm, might keep you forever then.”

“Anything else would be a tragedy.”

This time when Harry kisses Louis, it’s with a bit more heat, a bit more desire, than his last kiss. Quickly, Louis discards his tray of food onto the bedside table, letting himself be rolled under Harry and forgetting everything outside of the room in a frenzy of scorching kisses and possessive touches.

 

Louis’ house feels a bit colder, a bit dimmer when he arrives early Monday morning. It always feels that way after a weekend with Harry. Harry, whose presence fills up the room with his love and brightness, is always noticeably absent when Louis returns home.

Sunday had passed similarly to the days before. Louis had woken up in Harry’s arms to the feeling of lips pressing soft kisses all over his body. They spent the rest of the morning fucking lazily, whispering words of devotion into the other’s skin as they came over and over again. Louis had fallen asleep when Harry had gone out riding with his family and Lady Shepperton, and when he woke up again, it was to a mouth on his cock and hands firmly holding down his hips.

When he’d woken up this morning, Harry had still been fast asleep, arms wrapped tightly around Louis. Louis hated sneaking out without waking Harry, but he couldn’t bring himself to do so. Harry always looks so rumpled when he sleeps – face pressed firmly against the pillow, hair haloed above him, curls thick and knotted. His lips were parted, warm breaths huffing out as he breathed deep and even. Louis wanted nothing more than to stay in his lover’s arms, selfishly wishing he could curl into Harry’s side and never leave.

But he knew he was needed at the farm, and he needed to move if he wasn’t going to be late.

Louis dressed quickly in the darkness, pressing a kiss to Harry’s forehead before slipping out of the room and out of the manor the way he came.

The day has just begun to break as Louis walks towards the farmhouse. While he knows that there is nothing more real to him than the love he has for Harry, there is something grounding about his work at the farm. It’s what he knows and where he belongs, and despite a blissful weekend with his lover, he knows it’s time to return to his other reality.

 

The week passes in a haze of work and the early September sun.

Each evening, Louis comes home and immediately collapses in bed, knackered from the long day’s work and the residual tiredness from a weekend of irregular sleep. He’s not able to make it to the manor again that week, but he knows Harry wouldn’t expect him to.

The only thing Louis has to break up the week is his lunch with Jay on Thursdays. Usually, he eats his lunch out in the fields or in the barn while he works, but Thursday is the one day he takes his lunch into the village to the familiar cobblestone house he grew up in.

“Louis,” Jay exclaims, giving him a tight hug as soon as he steps through the door.

“Hello, Mother,” he replies, returning the hug. “How are you?”

“Oh, just fine, just fine,” she tuts. “Come in. I have lunch all prepared for you; I hope you’re hungry.”

“Famished,” Louis replies as he takes a seat at the kitchen table. The house is unusually quiet without his siblings, and Louis almost doesn’t know what to do without the sound of voices chattering from the living room or the sound of feet pattering upstairs.

Jay tells him about the village hospital where she works as a part time nurse. They’ve given her an extra shift for Monday evenings, which is difficult for Jay since she misses being able to kiss her babies good night. Louis nods in sympathy, knowing how hard it was for her when he moved out, even if he was only going to the other side of the village.

“So tell me what you’ve been up to?” Jay asks as she sips her tea. “The girls went round to yours over the weekend, but you weren’t home.”

Louis chokes on his tea, surprised by the blunt question. He remembers telling Harry how he’d spent almost every weekend of the summer with his family; of course it was unusual when he hadn’t come around this past weekend. In his eagerness to see Harry again, Louis hadn’t even thought about letting his family know that he wouldn’t be by.

“I –” Louis splutters, dumbstruck as to what to say. He feels his face heating. In all their years together, he and Harry had always been careful as to when they would meet and what they would tell others so as not to raise suspicion. But Louis had never been blatantly asked, and his mind blanks as to what to say.

“It’s okay,” Jay cuts off his stuttering. “You don’t have to tell me. You’re a grown man who can do what you like. But you can’t blame your own mother for asking when her son disappears for a whole weekend.”

Louis huffs a relieved laugh. “No, I suppose I can’t.” He takes a sip of his tea, pausing before adding, “I don’t want you to worry. I will tell you, someday soon, but the situation is delicate at the moment.” It’s more than he’s ever told anyone, and even that feels like too much.

Jay pats his hand in understanding, mercifully not pressing for more. “You don’t have to tell me anything, love. I just want you to be happy. And you seem so. That’s what matters to me.”

“I am,” Louis is quick to reassure her. “I’m very happy; don’t doubt that.”

“I don’t.”

Jay changes the subject after that, telling him about how Ernest and Doris seem to simultaneously be the angels and the terrors of their nursery school. When they’re apart, they are both as sweet as sugar, always doing what they’re instructed with a smile on their faces. But when they’re together, they become absolute menaces, seeming to compete as to who can be the more mischievous.

Louis laughs as Jay tells a story of them terrorizing their teacher, feeling undeniable fondness for his youngest siblings.

“They’re the sweetest with me,” Louis chuckles. “Don’t think they have an evil bone in their body.”

“That’s because they practically worship you,” Jay rolls her eyes. “Doris follows you around like a lost puppy, but the second you leave, it’s nothing but screaming and tears. She was less than happy when Charlotte took her by this weekend and found that you weren’t home.”

Louis feels a pang in his heart at those words, regretful to have missed his sisters, and then to cause such an extreme response when he did.

“I’ll come by this weekend,” he promises. He knows he promised Harry that he would stay with him all weekend, but maybe they can work something out. He misses his siblings, and knows that almost two weeks without visiting is unacceptable in the Tomlinson-Deakin household.

“If you need to slip off again this weekend, they’ll understand,” Jay says. “We know you have a life outside of your family, Louis.”

“How could you say that? I’m not going to cut you out,” Louis insists. “You’re very important to me.”

Jay smiles. “I know. But it’s okay if someone else is too.”

Jay’s words surprise him. His mother is far from clueless, but he didn’t suspect that she was that perceptive. Or maybe, he supposed he was better at hiding his emotions.

“Thank you, Mother,” Louis replies quietly.

“Of course, love.”

They say nothing more about it.  

 

That weekend, Louis barely leaves Harry’s bed. With neither of them having anywhere to go nor any ladies to entertain, they stay wrapped up in one another.

This time, Louis gets to wake Harry up with his lips around his cock, listening to the deep, heavenly noises Harry makes as he brings him off. After he’s come, Harry holds Louis down and returns the favor, letting Louis fuck into his mouth until his orgasm makes his vision white out, fists tangled in Harry’s hair and back arching off the bed.

It’s in the early hours of Saturday morning, neither having drifted off to sleep yet, when Louis asks the question that has been plaguing his mind.

“Tell me about your week,” Louis murmurs, running his lips lightly over Harry’s skin. “How was the rest of Lady Shepperton’s visit?”

He feels Harry shrug, and Louis leans back against his pillows to look at Harry’s face. “It was fine,” Harry replies. “Mother had a party at midweek, so some of my friends from London came up, which was lovely. Even though I just saw them in London, there is something a little less frantic about spending time with them in the countryside instead of the city. My friend George attended, and we talked about him coming to stay at Rosehill next month which I think would be really lovely.”

Louis nods. “And Lady Shepperton?”

Harry sighs. “We had some nice conversations, but I made it clear to her that I wasn’t going to propose. I don’t think she minded.”

Louis laughs disbelievingly. “You told her that you weren’t going to propose? Harry, where is your tact?” he teases.

“I wasn’t rude,” Harry insists. “We both agreed that while we enjoyed the other’s company, we didn’t think a romantic match would be feasible. And even if she did want to marry me, the answer would still have been no.”

Louis nods. “How did your mother take it?”

Something flashes across Harry’s face, dark and upsetting. “She handled it better than Father.”

Louis squeezes Harry’s hand, fingers still clasped tightly together. “What happened, love?”

“I don’t want to trouble you with it.”

“Harry,” Louis says sternly. “You know we’re in this together, and I want to help you. Tell me what happened.”

Harry sighs before reluctantly explaining, “He told me that I was passing over too many eligible partners. They were throwing men and women at me left and right in London, and I was hoping to escape that as soon as I came back here. They just don’t understand that my heart already belongs to someone.”

“Why are they so keen for you to marry?” Louis asks, defensive of Harry. “You’re still so young.”

“They think I should marry before I come into my inheritance so that it’s more likely to be a love match. They think anyone I marry afterwards will only want me for my money.”

Louis scoffs. “That’s ridiculous. As if you’re not the most lovable person on the entire planet. “

“Well it doesn’t matter regardless, because I’ve already found the man I’m going to marry,” Harry says resolutely.

Louis smiles. “Are your parents satisfied, or are they going to keep inviting men and women to Rosehill until you agree to marry one of them?”

“I told Mother and Father that I needed time to think and figure out what I want,” Harry replies. “That seemed to appease them, at least for now.”

Louis nods. “Not much longer, my love.”

“I know,” Harry sighs, giving Louis a small smile. “I can’t wait to marry you. I can’t wait for you to move here and for us to be together all the time; no more sneaking around. I can’t wait to start a family with you and fill this house.”

Louis cuts Harry off with a kiss, smiling at the picture of their future Harry has painted. Louis wants that too – it’s all he’s wanted since he was twenty-three years old. He knows the wait is almost over.

 

In the afternoon, they decide to leave the sex-stifled room and breathe some fresh air. It’s a warm day, and they sneak down to the gazebo in the forest for a bit of privacy.

For hours, they sit and read, talking whenever they have something to share. They sit on opposite sides of the bench, Louis’ leg resting against Harry’s with Harry’s fingers lightly clasped around his ankle. They sit in companionable silence, and Louis can’t help but let his mind wander, imagining what it will be like when he gets to have this every day. Have Harry like this every day. The thought fills his tummy with butterflies.

He tells Harry how he promised he’d visit his family tomorrow, and being the considerate man he is, of course Harry understands.

“I don’t want to keep you from them,” Harry says, apology on his lips. “I know how important they are to you.”

“You’re important too,” Louis insists. “I can spend time with my family and with you. I don’t have to pick one or the other.”

“I know, I know,” Harry replies. “I feel selfish, because I want to keep you all the time. And of course you have other people who love you and want to spend time with you.”

“We’ll work something out,” Louis promises. “Besides, there’s so many of them, I hardly doubt they’d notice if I was missing for a little bit.”

Harry pouts. “I always notice when you’re missing. It’s impossible not to. You’re the brightest presence.”

Louis blushes. “Shush, you. I won’t be gone for long tomorrow. I told Mother I’d come around for lunch and then I’ll be back at yours by evening. I’ll stay the night tomorrow as well.”

“Perfect,” Harry exclaims, giving Louis’ ankle a gentle squeeze. “Besides, I have some errands in the village that I can take of tomorrow while you’re gone.”

“Oh, so you were just waiting for me to leave so you can go about your much more interesting errands?” Louis teases.

“Yes,” Harry deadpans. “Because a visit to the tailor’s is much more interesting than making you come on my fingers.”

Louis swats at Harry playfully, and they both dissolve into a fit of giggles.

When they sneak back into the house, Louis goes straight to his room while Harry stops by the study. He’s only gone for a few minutes, and when he returns, Niall follows behind him, carrying a heavy looking trunk.

“Look what’s arrived,” Harry exclaims, bounding over to the bed and wiggling his eyebrows ridiculously.

“What?” Louis asks around a laugh, pressing a palm to Harry’s chest as he leans against him.

Harry nips playfully at his ear before whispering, “My trunk from London.”

Louis blushes as understanding dawns. The trunk that contains the condoms specially bought in London.

They barely notice as Niall slips out of the room, the door shutting with a firm click.

“Well,” Louis says, leaning back against the pillows and spreading his legs, Harry’s green eyes tracking the movements. “Might as well put them to good use.”

 

Louis leaves Rosehill Manor shortly before luncheon on Sunday.

“Be back soon,” he’d promised, giving Harry a sweet kiss.

“I’ll be waiting,” Harry had called as Louis slipped out the door.

He stops by his house briefly to change into clean clothes. He can’t help the flush that spreads across his cheeks at his stained clothing – Harry had been so impatient upon his arrival Friday night, that he hadn’t even fully undressed him before making him come twice over. He’ll have to make sure the stain is sufficiently washed out before sending his laundry to the farmhouse later in the week.

When he steps into the Tomlinson-Deakin household thirty minutes later, it’s to the sound of young female voices talking and laughing delightedly and the clanging of pots and pans in the kitchen.

Louis doesn’t even time to announce his presence before a high-pitched voice cries, “Louis!” All he sees is a flash of bright red hair before his youngest sister Doris catapults into him, arms wrapping around his waist.

“Hi there, little love,” Louis exclaims, scooping Doris up into his arms and peppering her face with kisses. She squeals happily, little hands shoving his face away. “Look,” she says, brandishing her arm which has a massive red scrape running down the length. “Ernie and I were playing outside and I fell and hurt my arm. Ernie got in so much trouble and I got a sweetie.”

“Well, you’re a brave girl. That’s a nasty scrape!” Louis replies animatedly as he moves into the living room.

“I barely cried,” Doris announces proudly.

“That’s my girl,” Louis kisses her cheek before putting her back on the ground and watching her scurry off.

His other siblings greet him as he takes a seat on their couch, watching as Phoebe and Daisy try to teach Ernest how to play a card game. He’s clearing cheating, but the older twins let him get away with it, gasping dramatically when Ernest comes away with an impossible win. Louis laughs along with them, chatting with Charlotte as she tells him about her work at the tea shop.

Luncheon is a grand affair – all nine of them crowded around the small table, chatting excitedly and passing dishes back and forth. Louis tells Dan and Félicité about his work on the farm, while Jay tries to quiet an argument between Doris and Ernest.

Louis watches the chaos around him fondly, remembering what it was like to grow up in such a loud, bustling household. There was always someone to play with or talk to, someone to blame when he did something he wasn’t supposed to. As he watches his youngest siblings poke and tease one another, Louis can’t help but think about how he would like to have a large family of his own, with children’s laughter always brightening the room and plenty of love to go around.

And God does he want that with Harry.

He wants everything with Harry, but God does he want a family with him.

Daisy pulls him out of his thoughts as she begins telling him about the latest novel she has been reading. His sister shares his love of reading; he passed it on to her when he first began teaching her how to read. They always share book recommendations, and for someone only fifteen years old, she has a very sophisticated taste in literature.

The food flows as easy as the conversation, but soon, Louis feels stuffed full in a way he only feels at the Tomlinson-Deakin house.

“That was absolutely delicious, Mother,” he praises as he and his siblings help clear the table.

“Thank you, darling,” Jay replies before saying to everyone, “Leave the dishes on the counter; we’ll clean them later. We’re going on a Sunday afternoon walk.”

The children cheer, scrambling to finish clearing the table and putting on their coats and bonnets to go on the walk.

It’s only the beginning of September, and Louis can already feel a slight drop in temperature as soon as he steps outside. A cool breeze ruffles his jacket as he takes Ernest’s hand in his and the family begins walking down the path towards the village.

It doesn’t take long for Charlotte to saddle up to his side, a question in her eyes. “So, are you going to tell us what you were doing all last weekend?”

Louis shoots Charlotte an unimpressed look. “What did Mother teach you about gossip?”

She rolls her eyes. “Well, when she won’t tell me anything, I go straight to the source.” She pokes his side. “Come on, tell me. You know you can trust me.”

“It’s not a matter of trusting you, Charlotte,” Louis reasons. “It’s more of a private matter than anything.”

She doesn’t appear convinced, so Louis continues, “Look, I’ll tell you the same thing I told Mother. There is a time when I’ll be able to tell you, and that time is sometime soon. But it’s just not now.”

Charlotte harrumphs, clearly displeased. “It’s not like we can’t guess, Lou.”

“Really?” Louis asks. “Want to give it your best shot?”

Charlotte smirks. “Well, I just so happened to notice when you leaned down to pick Doris up earlier, your shirt fell open, and that is a very suspicious amount of bruises on your chest.”

Louis gasps, horrified that his sister saw the state of his chest. Harry begrudgingly agreed years ago to keep all love bites below the neck, but apparently they’re still visible to his sister’s prying eyes.

Charlotte cackles, clearly pleased at her own cleverness. “Tell us, or don’t tell us, Lou. But we all know something is going on. We just want to know with whom.”

Louis’ brain scrambles to form a sentence, unsure what to say or how to respond. Mercifully, Phoebe calls out in a teasing voice, “Ooh, look Charlotte! It’s the tailor’s!” She gestures to the small shop on the village high street. Should we go in and see if Tommy is working?”

Charlotte turns a bright shade of pink, and Louis can’t help but laugh at how quickly her smug attitude has vanished.

“I think we should,” Louis teases, winking at Phoebe who readily leads the charge into the shop.

The shop is small and practically empty, most people choosing to stay at home on Sundays or to be outside enjoying the nice sunshine. But as soon as the Tomlinson-Deakin family steps inside, the space fills with noise and laughter. The younger siblings begin cooing at the beautiful fabrics, and Louis watches as Charlotte goes to the counter to begin speaking shyly with the shop assistant Tommy.

Louis smiles fondly at his sister as she sweeps her long blonde hair over her shoulder, fluttering her lashes. One quick glance at Tommy’s face shows that he is clearly as smitten with Charlotte as she is with him. He leans hopelessly against the counter, listening enraptured as Charlotte speaks. Louis chuckles to himself, pleased to see his sister’s affections being returned.

Jay and Dan decide to treat the girls to some new ribbons, eliciting a cheer as they begin to excitedly pick out colors.

“What color do you want, Dotty?” Louis asks, picking Doris up so she can see the colors better. He settles her against his hip as she points at the fabric. “Should we do a red one to match your curls?”

“No, my favorite color is purple!” Doris exclaims, making grabby hands towards the purple fabric.

Louis laughs. “Hang on a minute, bug. Gotta let Tommy cut the fabric.”

Doris makes an adorable pouty face, and Louis mimics it, exaggerating his frown and crossing his eyes to make Doris giggle.

Doris’ pleased shriek almost drowns out the sound of the shop bell tinkering as the door opens and closes.

Louis throws a cursory glance towards the door, and nearly freezes on the spot.

Harry also stops at the door, taking in the sight of the Tomlinson-Deakin family, specifically of Louis balancing Doris on his hip while she giggles into his neck.

The girls’ chatter dies as they turn to take in the newcomer, curiosity making their eyes go wide as they stare at the young lord.

Something inside Harry seems to snap him into motion. Quickly taking off his hat, Harry says, “Good afternoon.”

The family echoes the greeting, the girls curtsying and Louis giving a quick bow.

“Good afternoon, Lord Styles,” Mr. Napolitano, the shop owner and Tommy’s father, quickly cuts in. “How may I help?”

Harry manages to tear his eyes away from Louis, turning his attention to the man in front of him. In turn, the Tomlinson-Deakin family goes back to their business, Tommy finishing up their order. Louis watches Harry out of the corner of his eye.

When he left Harry only hours ago, he’d been warm and naked lying in bed. Now, he’s fully dressed in impeccable clothing, curls neatly styled. He looks stunning. Louis’ hands itch to reach out and touch, to smooth a hand between Harry’s shoulder blades and to intertwine their fingers together.

Louis looks away before the temptation becomes too much. He can do none of that.

“Louis,” Jay says, bringing his attention to her. “Do you think you’ll be staying for dinner tonight?”

Without his consent, his eyes dart towards Harry before landing back on his mother. “No, I won’t be able to tonight, Mother. But I will be around next Sunday again, and of course for our Thursday lunch. It’s been such a lovely day.”

She smiles at him, giving his arm a pat. “It has been. The girls and Ernie always love having you around. Not to mention that I do, too.”

“Me as well,” Louis smiles as Doris squirms in his arms, demanding to be put down.

As she darts away, Louis notices that Dan has taken up conversation with Harry. The two talk pleasantly in the corner, and Louis’ heart throbs at the sight.

“Such a handsome young man,” Jay comments.

Louis glances at her, but she’s not watching him. Instead, she’s looking at Harry, expression thoughtful.

“I wonder why he hasn’t married.”

Louis exhales shakily, giving what he hopes is a nonchalant shrug. “Maybe he doesn’t wish to.”

Jay gives an unconvinced hum. “No, I don’t think so. He seems like such a charming lad, and he cares so much for the village. It must be lonely, being a lord in such a large home. He deserves someone who makes him happy, that’s what I think.”

Louis nods. I make him happy, he thinks desperately. He tells me all the time that I make him happy. And he makes me happy, Mother. Happy in ways I never thought possible.

“He does deserve that,” Louis murmurs quietly, eyes still fixed on Harry.

“Mr. Styles,” Louis hears Mr. Napolitano say, stepping up towards him with a small parcel. “Your order, sir.”

“Thank you,” Harry replies kindly. “Good afternoon, sir.” He nods to Mr. Napolitano and Dan, tipping his hat. Just as he is about to leave, he makes eye contact with Louis.

For a breathless moment, Louis watches as Harry’s green eyes sparkle, his hand reaching up to tip his hat while a smile plays on his lips.

Louis watches as he leaves, the bell tinkering again as he steps outside.

His cheeks feel warm from the encounter, but he is quickly pulled from his thoughts as Doris tugs on his jacket, showing him her new purple ribbon. Louis laughs delightedly. “Those will look beautiful in your hair! You’ll be in the prettiest girl in the whole village. Nay, in all of Britain!”

“Achoo, you’re so silly,” Doris says, giving him a toothy smile.

Louis smiles, glad to turn his attention back to his family after his unexpected encounter with Harry. He walks over to Phoebe and Daisy to see what color ribbons they chose, smiling as they ask him to plait their hair as soon as they get home.

Louis readily agrees, unaware that Jay had continued to watch him through the whole of his encounter with Harry, including how he reacted to her words and his departure. She had watched silently, but perceptively. But instead of saying anything, she takes Ernest’s hand in hers and leads the family home.

 

When Louis arrives at Rosehill, Harry barely gives him time to make it through the door before pressing him against the nearest wall, placing heated, open mouthed kisses to his neck.

“What’s gotten into you?” Louis gasps as Harry tugs harshly at his belt. “It’s only been a few hours since I left.”

Harry growls possessively into Louis’ skin, making his knees go weak. “There’s something about seeing you in public, seeing you but not getting to touch you, that always makes me crazy.”

He connects their lips then, licking hotly into Louis’ mouth and biting harshly at his lips.

“Touch me, then,” Louis sighs into Harry’s mouth, the words quickly swallowed.

Harry wastes no time doing exactly that – taking Louis to bed and touching him all over with his hands and mouth until both of them are shivering against each other, coming with breathless moans of pleasure.

As they come down, the sheets feel cool against Louis’ overheated skin, still slightly sticky from the thin sheen of sweat covering it. His head rests on Harry’s chest, rising and falling as they breathe heavily. Their hands lay tangled together next to Louis’ head, Harry’s other arm wrapped tightly around Louis’ waist to hold him close.

“How was your visit with your family?” Harry asks, fingertips warm against Louis’ skin.

“We had a lovely time, as you saw.”

“Thought I was going to faint,” Harry chuckles, “seeing you with your family. How evident it was that you were so happy with them. And how Doris clung to you, so utterly delighted by whatever you were telling her. Made my heart ache.”

“In a good way?” Louis asks, curious.

“In the best way,” Harry replies, pressing a firm kiss to the top of Louis’ head.

Louis sighs contentedly, giving Harry’s hand a gentle squeeze. After a moment, he says, “They know I’m keeping something from them.”

Harry doesn’t stiffen against him, doesn’t protest. Instead he asks, “What did they say?”

“I forgot to tell them I wouldn’t be able to come by last weekend, and apparently Doris nearly banged down my door when I wasn’t home.” Harry chuckles, causing Louis to smile as well. “They came by a couple times last weekend, and I just wasn’t around, because I was here with you.”

“I don’t want to keep you from your family –” Harry begins, but Louis quickly quiets him.

“You’re not, Harry. I promise. I spent the afternoon with them today, and I will have lunch with Mother again on Thursday. She’s the one who first asked me what’s going on, but I told her I would be able to tell her soon, just not now. She trusts me, so she’s let it be. Charlotte, on the other hand, wants the gossip.”

Harry laughs loudly then, hugging Louis tighter to his body.

“She saw the love bites you put on my chest,” Louis accuses playfully, jabbing Harry in the side. “I would’ve thought you could control yourself a little more.”

“How could I?” Harry asks, rolling Louis underneath him and making him unintentionally squeak with the movement. With a light finger, Harry begins tracing the marks he left earlier on Louis’ chest. Deep purple bruises cover his collarbones, his chest, and even his biceps. Harry leans down, pressing his lips firmly against a bruise above his nipple. “How could I control myself when I always want to put my mouth on you? When you always taste like caramel?” He begins sucking lightly at the skin, Louis’ arms wrapping around his back to tug him closer. “When I want to mark you up so that everyone knows you’re mine? How could you expect me to control myself?”

Harry doesn’t waste anytime waiting for an answer. Instead, he wraps his lips around Louis’ nipple while taking Louis’ cock firmly in hand. Any words of how Louis doesn’t want him to control himself die on his tongue as his mind pleasantly blanks out, Harry overwhelming his senses.

 

Louis’ back aches as he makes his way from the barn to his house. It was a long day hunched over in the barn, milking cow after cow and lifting heavy buckets of milk to take to the farmhouse. He’s not sure if he moved from his stool in the barn from lunchtime to dinnertime, and his entire body throbs at the stiffness. As he walks home, all he can think about is collapsing into bed and sleeping until sunrise.

The sun has long set, so when Louis sees a candle flickering in the window of his house, his heart nearly stops.

Momentarily forgetting the stiffness in his body, Louis runs the rest of the way home, hat grasped firmly in his hand. As he pushes open the door, the stress of the day evaporates.

“What are you doing here?” Louis gasps excitedly, closing the door firmly. “I wasn’t expecting you tonight!”

Harry grins up at him from where he’s lying on Louis’ bed. He’s fully dressed, leaning against Louis’ pillows in the picture of casual ease. Harry sits up, making grabby hands towards him. Louis laughs, joining Harry on the bed and receiving a kiss.

“Wanted to see you,” Harry replies. “Didn’t want to wait until the weekend.”

“What about your family? Won’t they notice you’re gone?” Louis asks as Harry brushes his fringe from his eyes with gentle fingers.

“No. Father had to go to London on urgent business, and Mother decided to visit her sister in Cheshire,” Harry’s hands drift down to cup Louis’ face, thumb rubbing over his cheekbone. “So no one will even notice if I’m gone for a couple of days.” He smiles mischievously, and Louis playfully rolls his eyes at the implication.

Harry lets out a noise of protest, and Louis laughs, pushing Harry against the mattress and climbing on top of him, connecting their mouths. Harry’s arms wrap around him, drifting low until they’re resting on his bum, pushing Louis’ hips up into his.

They snog lazily for a while, lips sweet and gentle. Each kiss shares bits about their day – how they missed one another, how they thought of each other, how they both didn’t want to fall asleep alone tonight and how happy they are now that they won’t have to.

When Harry attempts to roll them over, a muscle twinges in his back, causing him to groan painfully. Harry catches the different cadence in his groan, how it was one of discomfort and not of pleasure.

“My love?” he asks, pulling back slightly. “Are you alright?”

Louis grits his teeth, back muscles still seizing. “I’m fine, it’s just my back.” When Harry’s brows furrow in concern, Louis continues, “I was hunched over all day milking the cows. I barely moved all day, and now everything is just stiff. I’m fine, I promise.”

Harry runs his hands soothingly down Louis’ sides, chewing his lip. “Would you like me to massage it?” Harry asks. “That might help.”

“You don’t have to do that –” Louis immediately protests.

Harry scoffs, rolling his eyes. “As if it’s a hardship to me to touch you. As if it’s an inconvenience. As if I don’t look for any excuse to put my hands all over you.”

Louis chuckles at Harry’s sarcastic tone, tugging him down for a quick kiss.

“Only if you want.”

“Hm, do I want the love of my life naked and spread out and gorgeous underneath me?” Harry pretends to consider. “Yes, yes I do.”

“Okay,” Louis agrees, Harry giving a delighted cheer.

“Off please,” Harry demands, tugging at the hem of Louis’ shirt.

Louis laughs, amused at Harry’s playfulness, as he unbuttons his shirt, shrugging gracelessly out of the sleeves. Harry pulls off his belt and trousers with no difficulty, lifting his body off Louis’ thighs enough to discard them on the floor.

When Louis is naked underneath him, Harry gives him a considering look. “On your front please.”

Louis rolls over, Harry settling back down on his thighs once Louis is comfortable. He crosses his arms above his head, resting his cheek against his hands. “Just be gentle, yeah?” Louis requests. “Don’t want to put me out of work tomorrow.”

Instead of answering, Harry just digs his fingers into Louis’ shoulder blades, pressing into the muscle and releasing a low moan from Louis’ lips.

“Yeah, just like that, darling,” he grunts out as Harry digs in harder.

Harry’s hands grip his shoulders, rubbing the muscles back and forth beneath his solid palms. The muscle gives easily, loosening as Harry applies firm pressure.

Louis melts into the mattress, content to let his lover’s hands run all over him, kneading the skin over and over again until all the tension has left Louis’ shoulders and back. Harry’s hands are warm and soft against him, not callused and rough from long days spent out in the fields. Louis has always adored the feeling of Harry’s hands against him, and now all his focus has narrowed down to the points of contact between Harry’s hands and his skin. He doesn’t notice his little hitches of breath when Harry digs in a little too hard but quickly soothes the ache with gentle touches. He doesn’t notice how when Harry presses up and then down, his hips rock a little against the bed, his rapidly hardening cock dragging wetly against the sheets.

When Harry’s hands travel to Louis’ lower back, his touch lightens, seeming to notice that Louis doesn’t carry as much tension there. Louis gasps as he feels Harry lean down to press soft kisses to the knobs of his spine. His long, nimble fingers continue to massage the skin, but Louis barely notices. Now, all he can feel is the hot, wet press of lips to his skin, and his hips rock more firmly into the mattress.

“Harry,” he whimpers, hands clutching the pillow tightly. “Harry, don’t. I smell.”

Harry chuckles disbelievingly before pressing his nose into Louis’ skin and inhaling noisily. “You smell heavenly,” he groans, voice rough and deep. “Like roses.”

“I smell like cows and manure,” Louis weakly protests.

“No,” Harry replies, lips dragging over the skin. “Like roses.”

Before Louis can respond, Harry’s hands travel lower, down to the swell of Louis’ bum. Harry’s fingers dig in, causing Louis to gasp and his hips to fuck down harshly into the mattress.

“Always love touching you,” Harry murmurs as his lips travel lower and lower. “Always think about touching you. How you feel under my hands. So pliant and good. So perfect.”

“Harry,” Louis gasps, hips thrusting more forcefully.

“I know, my love.”

Without another word, Harry’s hands spread Louis’ cheeks and his mouth immediately latches onto Louis’ hole.

Louis cries out, tears pooling in the corners of his eyes at how blissful it feels. How right it feels to be taken care of after a day of such grueling work.

Harry lathes over his rim with his tongue, pressing sweet kisses to the tight muscles. He licks long, wet stripes over his hole, coaxing it gently with the tip of his tongue.

Louis squirms against the bed, sweat beading at his temples from the sensation. He never lasts long when Harry kisses him there. The first time Harry had ever asked to try, Louis could not fathom the appeal. His mind was quickly changed when he came after only a few swipes of Harry’s tongue.

Harry keeps licking over his rim until it’s loose and wet, ready to be filled. When Harry dips the tip of his tongue into Louis’ hole, his pointer finger nudges against Louis’ rim as well.

Louis’ body catches fire at the feeling, hips humping once, twice, thrice into the mattress before he’s coming with a shout. His hole instinctively clenches around Harry’s tongue as he rides out his orgasm, and he can hear Harry’s deep moan from the other end of the bed. They moan in tandem, Harry continuing to lick at Louis’ rim as he finishes coming.

When Louis finishes, he feels Harry lift off his rim, his hands moving him onto his back and out of the wet spot.

“Harry,” Louis slurs, eyes blinking open. The sight surprises him – he hadn’t even realized that Harry was still clothed. Louis feels decidedly filthy knowing that he was naked and vulnerable while Harry was dressed and in control while he made Louis come.

But when his eyes flicker down to Harry’s lap, he realizes that maybe he isn’t the dirty one.

Instead of seeing Harry’s cock straining against the fly of his trousers, he sees a wet spot, cock clearly going soft underneath the tight material.

“I told you,” Harry murmurs, dazedly following Louis’ line of sight. “When I touch you, I can’t control myself.”

Louis blushes, undeniably pleased. Harry leans down to kiss him, pulling Louis against his body and running his hands through his hair.

“Do you feel better?” Harry whispers against Louis’ lips.

Louis arches into Harry’s touch, pressing their lips together in response. “Always feel my best when I’m with you.”

Harry smiles before running his lips lightly over Louis’. “Me too, my love. Me too.”

Chapter Text

Over the next several weeks, Louis is barely conscious of time passing.

Each day he works hard in the fields, herding and milking the cows, mending fences, and assisting with any repairs that need to be completed on the barn. In the evenings, he stumbles home, sometimes to an empty house and sometimes to Harry. When Harry’s there, he’ll give him massages or they’ll bathe together, Louis always falling asleep quickly in his lover’s arms.

On the weekends, he stays wrapped up with Harry at Rosehill. They kiss and talk and make love and laugh from daybreak to nightfall. Sometimes they read together, or Louis will work on his writing. Harry always becomes an extra nuisance when Louis starts writing, poking and prodding at him until he’ll share what he’s written. Harry reads everything Louis writes with wide eyes and bated breath, praising every word and asking Louis if he can send some of it to his friends in London – his friends that work in publishing. Louis always politely declines.

He goes to his mother’s every other Sunday for luncheon, and he adores the time he spends with his siblings. He’s beginning to see the devilish side of Ernest and Doris that Jay had mentioned, but they’re still angelic towards Louis. He always laughs when they put on their cutest smiles, hoping Louis will give them a sweetie or a cuddle.

Louis has settled into a comfortable routine, each day one day closer to the first of February. Each day is one day closer to when Harry and Louis can be together.

Everything abruptly changes in the early hours of the last Tuesday in September.

Louis’ body shakes violently awake at the feeling of the contents of his stomach rushing up his throat. He chokes, gagging, jerking awake as he hunches over and vomits all over the floor. Shaking, Louis can’t even climb out of bed to finish outside, everything rushing up too quickly and leaving him immobile, heaving brokenly as half his body hangs off the bed.

When Louis finishes, he gasps harshly, wiping his mouth and sagging against the mattress.

He takes a moment to be thankful Harry didn’t stay the night. He would rather his lover didn’t witness this disgusting episode.

On wobbly legs, Louis climbs out of bed. He dresses quickly, going outside to fetch some water. He washes his face and rinses his mouth before he begins cleaning up the mess on the floor. Confused by his sudden queasiness, he thinks back to his dinner the night before. Mrs. Richards had served beef and vegetables with Yorkshire pudding, which was a standard meal at Hazelwood Farm. He struggles to think if he’d eaten anything unusual that could account for his unexpected sickness, but his mind comes up blank.

Once the mess is clean and the bucket of dirty water discarded outside, Louis dresses for the day. His body feels heavy with sleep, unappreciative of its rude awakening before his usual wake up time, but Louis knows it’s best to get started with the day. From his window, he can see the sky beginning to lighten.

When he finds himself in a far pasture later in the afternoon with some of the other farmhands, Louis decides to bring up his unusual morning.

“Seems I must’ve eaten something funny at the Richards’ last night,” Louis tells Liam, Zayn, and Stan. “Don’t know what it was, but it all came back up this morning.”

“Hm, that’s odd,” Liam comments. Liam began working at the farm only a year ago, but he and Louis immediately struck up an easy friendship. Although they like to tease each other mercilessly, Liam is always serious when Louis needs him to be. “I ate everything you did, and I felt fine.”

“Same,” Zayn echoes. “Although I skipped the potatoes last night. Wasn’t in the mood for them. Could have been them?”

“No, I had the potatoes,” Stan interjects. “There weren’t any sprouts on them or anything like that. Did you have the potatoes, Liam?”

“I had the potatoes,” Liam agrees. “It couldn’t have been the potatoes or we’d all be sick.”

“So it wasn’t the potatoes,” Louis interrupts, only slightly exasperated.

“Maybe it was something earlier in the day,” Stan suggests, before his face twists into a smirk. “Maybe you had cow dung on your hands while you were eating lunch and didn’t even notice.”

Liam makes a disgusted noise, but Louis laughs, even Zayn chuckling along.

He finds it odd that no one else was ill, but with a shrug, decides it must just be one of those one-off things.

But it isn’t.

It happens again and again, every morning for the rest of the week. Since Louis always feels fine immediately after, he assumes it’s just a bug.

Thankfully, it doesn’t happen while he’s staying at Harry’s over the weekend. Louis doesn’t say anything the night before, but he keeps an eye on the nearest wash basin just in case he needs to find it quickly in the morning. When he wakes up to Harry’s hands on his hips and lips on his neck, the tingling in his belly isn’t from illness.

It’s Tuesday again, the first week of October, when the sickness returns, and Louis spends all morning vomiting. He’s not even able to pull himself out of bed, hunched over the corner, coughing into the basin he’s taken to leaving at his bedside.

That’s how Liam finds him, sun high in the sky and farmers eager to go about their day. Liam knocks gently before pushing the door open, calling, “Lou…?”

The sight of Louis gasping into a basin clearly isn’t what Liam was expecting to find. He immediately rushes over, helping Louis sit up in bed. Liam fetches some clean water, offering Louis a damp flannel to wipe his mouth and cool his overheated skin.

“How are you still sick?” Liam asks as he hands Louis a cup of water. “You were like this a week ago, but you’ve seemed fine since.”

“I don’t know,” Louis groans. “Don’t you think if I knew, I’d make myself better?” He sighs, not wanting to seem harsh to his friend. “It comes and goes in spurts.”

“What have you been eating?” Liam asks, clearly wanting to help. “Maybe if you keep track, you can figure out –”

Louis dismisses the suggestion with a wave of his hand. “I’ve been tracking everything I eat, and it’s nothing different than what I’ve eaten every day for the past five years. I’m clueless.”

They sit in silence for a moment, Louis sipping gratefully at his water.

“Maybe it’s overwork,” Liam suggests eventually.

“What?” Louis laughs at the mere suggestion.

Liam shrugs. “I don’t think it’s so crazy. If your body has an illness it’s trying to fight off, working from sunup to sundown isn’t going to do it much good.”

Louis opens his mouth to protest, but Liam continues before he has the chance.

“You need some rest, Louis. Take the day off. Me and the boys will cover for you.”

“But, I feel fine –”

“Don’t give me that,” Liam returns firmly. “You were not fine when I found you. And you’ll be no use to any man or cow if you can’t even sit up.”

Louis gestures obstinately to how he’s sitting up just fine thank you, but Liam rolls his eyes. “There’s not much to do anyways. Get some sleep. Take care of yourself. I’ll ask if Mrs. Richards can bring you round some soup for lunch.”

Louis grunts noncommittally.

“Do you need anything?” Liam asks. “Want me to send for anyone?”

Louis pauses, knowing that Liam is referring to Jay, but he can’t help but think about Harry. He’s been sick around Harry before, and Harry always insists on taking care of him and kisses him even when he’s stuffy and gross. He knows Harry would come sit with him if Louis asked, but for some reason he doesn’t want Harry to come by. He doesn’t feel like he needs anyone to take care of him; maybe he just needs rest, like Liam suggested.

“No,” Louis decides. “Thank you, though.”

Liam nods, wishing him well once more before leaving.

When he’s alone again, Louis decides to change back into his pajamas and try to rest. Sinking back into bed, he suddenly feels exhausted, his morning hunched over the basin seeming to have drained him. He opens one of the books he borrowed from Harry, having barely begun reading before the words are swimming in front of him as his eyelids droop.

He falls asleep slouched against the pillows, book laying open against his chest and sun slanting warmly through the windows.

 

When Louis wakes up, he feels disoriented to see the house so bright.

His back cracks as he pushes himself up onto his elbows, glancing out the window to see the sun sitting high in the sky. It must be well around noon, and that assumption is further confirmed by the tray of food sitting on his table. Mrs. Richards must have come in with the food and left it for him, but he never woke up at the noise. Liam must have been right; maybe he really did need extra rest.

His stomach growls noisily, reminding him that he hasn’t held down any proper food since the night before. He feels hungry but not queasy, so he manages to push himself out of bed and walk over to the kitchen table.

The bowl of soup is still warm to the touch, suggesting that Mrs. Richards dropped by not too long ago.

The first bite of soup immediately soothes him, the warm chicken broth easy on his stomach. He eats greedily, pleased that his stomach doesn’t seem to reject the delicious meal.

As Louis eats, he can’t help but wonder at his illness. Other than the vomiting, he hasn’t really been feeling poorly. He hasn’t had a cough, a runny nose, or a sore throat. And the one time he had food poisoning when he was eleven years old, it had passed within several days. This has been going on for a week now, and isn’t consistent enough to make him think he’s come down with something.

He hasn’t seen anyone like this since Jay was pregnant with Doris and Ernest.

The thought makes him freeze, spoon halfway to his gaping mouth.

Not since Jay…was pregnant.

With a harsh gasp, Louis drops the spoon loudly onto the table, hands immediately flying to his tummy. They pause right before touching, and suddenly Louis is almost afraid to touch. Afraid of the answer he might find.

With shaky fingers, he unbuttons his shirt, starting at the top so that his stomach is revealed last.

There aren’t any overt signs that his worrying theory could be correct. His stomach hasn’t swollen overnight into a plump, firm, pregnant belly. He places a gentle hand over the skin, and it doesn’t appear to be any rounder than when he last looked. But then again, Louis isn’t in a habit of feeling his belly, so he doesn’t know what normal is. He knows he’s always had a slight pudge, but he doesn’t know how big it was. At least, he’s unable to tell if his pudge is normal sized or slightly bigger than usual.

He swallows dryly, reaching for his glass of water to wet his throat.

But surely, surely he must be mistaken. That can’t possibly be the answer. Sure, he and Harry have a lot of sex, but he only just had his monthly, and…

Louis freezes, hand tightening around the glass.

But he didn’t just have his monthly. He was supposed to have his monthly cramping two weeks ago, but he didn’t. In the elation of having Harry back, the busyness of his work, and the chaotic visits with his family, he had forgotten to anticipate his monthly. With everything going on, he hadn’t noticed when it hadn’t arrived.

“Shit,” he gasps, stumbling from his chair so that he can pace around the room. His hands fist tightly in his hair as he thinks, as he pieces it all together.

When could this have happened? But he doesn’t have to reflect long to surmise an answer. He thinks back to the end of August, when Harry had just arrived home. They had made love time and time again that weekend without a condom, Harry filling him with come like Louis had begged him to.

Louis had thought they’d be okay. He had been at the end of his monthly cramping, and didn’t think his body would be ready to make a baby. He hadn’t even spared a thought of the consequences when he’d been wrapped in his lover’s arms that weekend, too joyful and desperate with the feeling of Harry back after so many months apart. He hadn’t considered the possibilities – all he had wanted was to feel the love of his life close to him.

But Harry. Louis halts mid-step in the center of the room at the thought of his lover. If his theory is correct – and even though his mind is running wild, he still holds onto a hope that he could be wrong – this is Harry’s child. He would be carrying the child of the man he loves more than anything in the world. And while the idea of being – Louis can barely think the word – pregnant is terrifying, it is a comforting thought that this baby would be his and Harry’s. Theirs. Something they made together. A sign of their love for each other.

“Oh, God,” Louis gasps, eyes welling up with tears. He didn’t plan this. He didn’t want this. Sure, he and Harry had talked about starting a family someday. But not now. Not when their relationship is still being kept a secret. When they can’t even acknowledge each other in public.

The village would cast him aside, his reputation ruined if they discovered he was pregnant outside of marriage. His unborn child would be a mark of shame, not a reason for celebration, and Louis’ hands fly protectively to his waist at the mere thought.

“You’re getting too far ahead of yourself,” Louis chastises under his breath, hands running soothingly over his side. “Surely this isn’t happening. This is all in your head.” Resolutely, he walks over to the table, picking up his glass of water and draining the rest of it. His hand shakes as he drinks, water swishing over the rim and giving away his attempt at bravado.

His stomach twists again at the thought, and he quickly places the glass back on the table so that he doesn’t drop it and shatter it on the ground.

“We need answers,” Louis mumbles. He glances up at the mirror next to his wardrobe. The week’s illness has clearly taken a toll on him – his face is puffy and he has deep, dark bags under his eyes. His eyes look hazy, fearful of the possibility plaguing his mind. “You’re okay,” he reassures his reflection. “This is scary, but we need to find out the solution.”

He easily decides against going to the hospital. If one of the nurses confirmed his suspicions, the news would inevitably spread, especially in a village this small. The only way he and Harry are able to keep their relationship secret is by involving no third parties. The only other person who knows is Niall, and that’s only because he is a close friend of both of theirs, without whom they would never be able to meet up.

So going to the hospital, where the gossiping nurses would show little regard to Louis’ confidentiality, is a definite no.

With a terrified sigh, he knows who he needs to talk to.

Thankfully, it’s the only person he wants right now.

 

“Baby!” Jay exclaims as she opens the door. “This is unexpected! Come in, come in!”

She ushers him inside, and Louis is surprised to find the house empty. He doesn’t hear any chatter or feet pounding against the floors, which is unusual to say the least.

“Where is everyone?” Louis asks as he sits down on the old sofa in the living room.

“They’re all at school or work,” Jay explains, coming into the room with two piping hot cups of tea. “The kettle had just boiled right as you knocked,” she says as he hands him a mug. “So perfect timing!”

Louis nods, words suddenly caught in his throat.

“Louis,” Jay says after a moment, voice calm and steady, yet brimming with concern. “Baby, did something happen?”

Suddenly, all the emotions Louis has been keeping at bay all afternoon rush out of him. All it took was one concerned inquiry from his mother for all of Louis’ defenses to drop.

A giant sob escapes his lips as he recklessly discards the cup of tea onto the coffee table, uncaring if it spills. His shoulders shake as the tears leak from his eyes, the fear and uncertainty cascading over him in devastating waves.

Jay is by him in a heartbeat, arms wrapping around his shoulders and pulling him into her chest. Louis sobs into her shoulder as she rubs soothing circles into his back, holding him tightly.

“It’s okay, baby,” she whispers comfortingly. “Whatever it is, we’ll figure it out. It’s okay, Louis.”

And Louis believes her. Wrapped in his mother’s warm, familiar embrace, he believes her. But that doesn’t mean he’s not fucking scared.

“I’m so scared,” he gasps out, voice raspy and wobbly, thick with tears.

She tugs him closer to her, and Louis wraps his arms around her more tightly in answer. He feels as if he clings to her close enough, if he makes himself small enough, then maybe his fears won’t be realized.

“Do you want to tell me what happened?” Jay asks in a quiet voice. “You don’t have to, but I want to help you, Louis.”

“I know,” Louis answers through a sob. “I just – I don’t want you to hate me.”

“Louis William Tomlinson, that could never happen,” Jay states firmly, pressing a kiss to the top of his head. “You are my boy, and I love you more than anything in the world. Whatever has happened, we’ll take care of it together.”

He nods into her chest, still holding on tightly. He takes several shaky breaths, opening his mouth to speak, but he can’t find the words. His voice has left him, unable to speak the words that would alter his life.

Jay doesn’t rush him, giving him time to work up the courage. She continues to rub his back, simultaneously calming and anchoring him. She lets Louis cry for as long as he needs, expressing the fear and uncertainty that weigh so heavily on him.

When his sobs have subsided, he breathes deeply several times before speaking up in a small voice.

“I think I’m pregnant.”

It’s the first time he’s said the words aloud, and thankfully, the world doesn’t crash around him. Jay continues to hold him closely, hands firm and grounding on his back. She doesn’t gasp or push him away; instead, she turns her head to kiss the top of his head.

“Oh, Louis. Oh, my sweet, sweet boy.”

Her voice isn’t one of disappointment or anger; instead, it continues to be one of comfort and understanding, one of unwavering love.

“I-I’ve been sick all week,” Louis begins, thankful that his face is still buried in his mother’s shoulder so that he can’t see her expression. “Only in the mornings. Each morning I throw up, but then feel fine the rest of the day. I,” he swallows noisily before continuing, “I missed my monthly, but I didn’t notice until today because I’ve just been so busy.”

Jay doesn’t speak for a moment, and Louis is afraid of how she may react. He opens his mouth to continue, but she cuts him off. “Have you had any other symptoms?”

“I-I don’t know,” Louis stutters. “I don’t really know much about pregnancy, other than what I saw you go through. I didn’t expect this to happen, so I wasn’t looking for any signs –” His voice catches on a sob, tears beginning to fall once again.

“Sh, baby,” Jay coos, finally pulling him back enough to see her face. Her expression is soft and kind, not one of disgust at Louis’ mistake. “Everything is going to be fine. Of course I still love you, and if you are pregnant,” Jay shrugs, “well, that child will just be more of you to love. You are my boy, and I love you no matter what. We can get through this. You’re going to be okay.”

Louis sobs, but this time it’s out of unconditional love for his mother and a hope that maybe, just maybe she is right.

 

Jay is gone for less than twenty minutes while she rushes to the hospital to acquire the equipment needed to take a pregnancy test. It’s quite simple – the equipment would sample the chemicals in his urine and determine whether or not he is pregnant.

She is reluctant to leave him alone, but Louis assures his mother that he’ll be fine. In fact, he hardly notices her absence, mindlessly sipping his cup of tea as he tries to wrap his head around what’s happening. It’s easier said than done.

When Jay returns, Louis is quick to provide the sample needed, and then they must wait for the results. Louis asks if anyone questioned why Jay was taking pregnancy testing equipment from the hospital, but she is quick to reassure him. No one noticed, and it will be returned before anyone realizes it’s gone.

“Mother,” Louis says cautiously as the time ticks by.

“Yes?”

“Whatever the results say, thank you for being so understanding,” his voice catches, unable to hide the emotions warring inside of him. “Thank you for not calling me a disgrace and kicking me out of the house.”

“Never,” Jay replies, taking his hand in hers and squeezing tightly.

They wait the final minutes in silence, and when it’s finally time, Jay asks, “Are you ready?”

Louis takes a deep breath, and he thinks, no. He’d probably never be ready to find out the results. But he doesn’t think he has a choice.

“Yes.”

Without releasing his hand, Jay leans over to where the equipment is laid out. With bated breath, Louis watches as she checks the results. Her brow furrows in concentration as she takes in what she sees, and when she looks at him, Louis sees the answer in her eyes.

“Louis, my sweet boy, you’re pregnant.”

For a moment, Louis can’t even react. Jay moves closer to him, wrapping her arms around his waist. But Louis doesn’t cry and he doesn’t shout with joy. He doesn’t know what to feel.

“I’m pregnant,” he repeats, voice soft, in awe. Instinctively, his hands move to his belly, cupping the slight pudge at his waist. There is a small human inside there, growing and developing, and it’s Louis’ baby. Louis’ and Harry’s baby. And as afraid as he was of the result, it is undeniable that he loves their unborn child simply because it’s theirs.

“I know you’re scared,” Jay says quietly, placing a hand over his. “But your child will make you so happy. You will love it so much.”

Louis nods, turning into his mother’s embrace and allowing her to hold him, comfort him, and he struggles to grasp how his life has changed in just a few hours.

He’s pregnant. He’s pregnant with Harry’s child.

And his mother still doesn’t know about their relationship.

“Mother,” Louis begins, pulling back from their hug. “I think I owe you an explanation.”

“You don’t owe me anything,” Jay counters, voice soothing. And isn’t that just a blatant lie? Louis owes his mother everything.

“I do, though,” Louis takes a deep breath, squeezing Jay’s hand tightly. “The father is Lord Harry Styles.”

He keeps his eyes trained on his mother’s face, watching for signs of disbelief, shock, or horror. Instead, she gives him a kind smile and pats his hand.

“I know.”

You know?” Louis gasps in disbelief. “How?”

Jay chuckles quietly. “I’d like to think you’d give me a bit more credit than that. I know you pretty well; I think I can tell when you’re keeping something from me.”

“But we’ve been so careful,” Louis says in disbelief. He freezes as a new realization sinks in. “Do you think anyone else knows?”

“Shush, no,” Jay comforts. “The only reason I know is because I’m your mother. But I wasn’t sure until recently, anyways.”

“How?” Louis asks, needs to know.

Jay sighs, giving him a small smile before beginning. “I think I first noticed a few years ago. Something had changed. You just seemed so much brighter and happier. And you always are – you’re my ray of sunshine – but I could tell something was different. You seemed to have your head in the clouds, and I thought you seemed like a boy in love.

“I didn’t have my first suspicion until Lord Styles came up in a discussion with your sisters one day. It was with Charlotte, I believe, and she was saying something about how snooty lords and ladies are, how they think they’re better than everyone else. And you jumped to Lord Styles’ defense so quickly and so passionately that it was jarring. It stuck with me. You talked about the time he worked on the farm, and how real and down-to-earth he was, how he cared about the village. But there was also a familiarity there, a fondness in the way you talked about him that seemed to go beyond a friendly affection.

“And then I realized it was about the time Lord Styles worked at Hazelwood that you first seemed to become besotted with…someone. I just didn’t know who. I thought there might be a correlation, but I didn’t want to pry. It was your business, and I figured you’d tell me if you wanted.

“Well, that’s when a couple of weeks ago, the girls noticed you were gone all weekend. That was all they talked about that week – where was Lou? Did he have a secret someone? What was he hiding? And that was why I asked you then. I wanted to give you a chance to talk about it, because I knew the girls would bother you about it regardless. I told them not to when it was evident to me you clearly weren’t ready to talk about it, but I know Charlotte still asked. I told that girl not to, but she’s too nosy for her own good sometimes.

“Anyways, it was all confirmed for me when I saw how you two reacted to each other in the tailor’s shop that Sunday.” Jay pauses, eyes locking firmly with Louis’. “I could tell how much that man loves you, Louis. I watched you both the whole time, and he couldn’t take his eyes off of you. And you couldn’t take your eyes off of him.”

Louis blushes, embarrassed that his mother had seen how obviously in love he is when he thought he was hiding it so well.

Jay shrugs. “I figured you had valid reasons not to tell me, especially considering his status, so I didn’t want to pressure you. I could tell how much you two love each other.”

“It’s true,” Louis says quietly. “I love him; I’ve loved him for years. And he tells me he loves me, and I believe him. He treats me with such kindness, such care, and he makes me so happy, Mother. So genuinely happy.”

“I’m glad, love,” Jay replies, giving his hand a squeeze. “You are so worthy of love, and all I have ever wanted for you is for you to be the most happy.”

Louis nods, and begins telling her about the past three years. He tells how he fell in love with Harry while he was at the farm, and how he discovered Harry felt the same way. He explains why they chose to keep their relationship a secret, knowing that their differences in status would displease his parents, and they would undoubtedly take his inheritance away from him, leaving him with nothing. He tells how Harry wants to wait until he has his inheritance so that when they marry, he can give Louis a comfortable life.

Jay listens quietly as he tells his love story for the first time ever. And then the realization crashes over him – the secret is out. Someone knows about his and Harry’s relationship. He’s never told anyone he loves Harry before, other than Harry himself, and now the secret is out there, spoken in the privacy of his mother’s home. And the world didn’t stop turning. In fact, his mother knew. She knew, and she blessed it.

“What are you going to tell Harry?” Jay asks quietly, pulling him out of his thoughts.

Louis’ heart stutters at the thought. “I don’t know,” he answers honestly, shoulders hunching in. He places his face in his hands, feeling the tears welling up again. “I don’t know how he’s going to react.”

Their plan has been clear since the moment they confessed their love. They would only marry after Harry came into his inheritance, when he was sure his family couldn’t disinherit him and that he would be able to provide for Louis. But suddenly, the future isn’t as clear. They had discussed children, of course they had, but always hypothetically, never in certain terms. Does Harry actually want children? How would a child fit into their relationship when Louis can’t even publicly acknowledge Harry?

Louis’ shoulders shake at the uncertainty. Despite his bouts of jealousy in regards to Harry, he’s always been certain of their future together. But now there is going to be a child – a child neither of them expected – and Louis doesn’t know if his future with Harry will be the same.

“Why wouldn’t he be happy?” Jay asks cautiously. “You just told me he loves you. You just told me you two plan to marry. Why does this change anything?”

“Because it’s not a fairytale anymore!” Louis exclaims, suddenly feeling panicky. “He’s not some knight in shining armor mingling with the lower classes anymore. I’m pregnant. We’re going to have a child. What if that’s not what he wants? What if I’ve tricked myself into believing he loves me when I was nothing more,” his voice catches, fight suddenly draining out of him, “nothing more than an easy lay for him?”

Jay doesn’t say anything for a moment, simply taking him back into her arms. “I don’t believe that’s true, and I don’t think you do either. I think you’re scared, and that’s okay. You weren’t planning this to happen, and it’s going to change things. But after everything you’ve told me about Harry, I don’t think a baby will scare him away.” She chuckles slightly. “If anything, I think a baby would only make him love you even more.”

Louis can’t think of a response, just holding on tightly to his mother as she comforts him.

“You don’t have to decide anything tonight,” Jay says soothingly. “If you want, you can stay a couple of days with us, and we can sort things out.” She pulls him back for a moment to look him square in the eyes. “No matter what happens with Harry, Louis, you are not alone in this. Okay? You are not alone in this.”

Louis’ eyes well up with tears again, giving Jay another tight hug. “I love you, Mother.”

“Oh, my darling boy, I love you, too.”

They stay wrapped tightly around each other for an indefinite amount of time. His mother’s embrace feels so warm and comforting, and Louis knows that he is safe. As scared as he is of how Harry will react, his mother is right. He is not alone.

The doors bang open while Louis and Jay are still curled tightly around each other.

“Achoo!” Louis hears right before he feels a small body jump on top of him. Thankfully, Doris doesn’t notice Louis’ red eyes as he pulls away from Jay, taking her into his arms.

“Hello, Dotty love!” Louis exclaims, voice just a little too bright, but she doesn’t seem to notice that either. He gives her several quick kisses to her cheeks, feeling his heart swell as she clings tightly to him. He spots Ernest over her shoulder, coming in with Dan by his side.

She begins babbling about her day at school, and Louis listens with rapt interest to her stories. Ernest joins them on the couch, curling into his side. Eventually he begins fighting for Louis’ attention as well, speaking loudly over Doris as he tries to win Louis’ attention away from her.

“Okay, you two,” Jay says after a while. “You need to give your big brother a rest. Give him some kisses and then go put away your bags, please.”

Doris and Ernest both attack his face at the same time, giving him rapid fire kisses that have him laughing joyfully and his heart swelling.

“Love you, Achoo,” Doris says before hopping off his lap. The twins scamper away, bags clutched tightly in hand.

Once they’re gone, Jay leans forward and places a hand on his. “You’re a natural, love. You’re going to be fine.”

Louis nods, and Jay pats his hand one more time before standing up.

“I’m going to go make up the bed for you,” she tells him. “You can stay as long as you want, but you may want to let Farmer Richards know that you’ll be gone for a few days.” She pauses. “And if you need to let anyone else know you’re here, you should do that as well.” It’s clear she means Harry, so Louis nods, looking at his hands.

He feels a kiss to his forehead, and he sags into the feeling. “You can stay as long as you need,” Jay repeats. “And you don’t need to tell anyone else in the family until you’re ready. We’re going to figure this out together.”

“Thank you, Mother,” he murmurs, heart full of love and gratitude.

She gives him a small smile and a nod before heading upstairs.

When Louis is alone, he makes his way to the small writing desk in the corner, sitting down and pulling out some paper and a pen. He writes a quick note to Farmer Richards, explaining that he is ill and will be taking some time to recuperate. He writes that he hopes to be back by Monday, and will inform them immediately if anything changes.

Once that is finished, he allows his mind to turn to the other task: what to tell Harry?

He certainly doesn’t want to tell Harry he’s pregnant through a note, but Louis also knows he’s not ready to share the news with his lover yet. He thinks Jay’s words of advice are exactly what he needs. He will take the week to figure out what to do. He won’t make any decisions before then.

My dearest Harry,

In the days since I last saw you, I have fallen ill. I was unsure of what it could be, so I came to my mother’s. She has asked me to stay until the end of the week while I recover. I hope you understand, my love, as I will miss you in my bed. But I do not wish for you to fall ill, so please don’t bother coming by until I am well again. I will write you as soon as that is the case.

Sending you all my love,

Yours,

Louis

Louis takes a moment to read over what he has written. It suggests that he has a contagious illness, which is, of course, very removed from the truth, but he hopes it will be enough that Harry won’t come visit him until he has figured out what he wants to do. But he knows Harry wouldn’t risk coming by the Tomlinson-Deakin household anyways, even if Jay is now privy to their secret.

The letter is a lot more formal than usual. Typically in his letters, he can’t stop his pen from writing sentence after sentence expressing his love for Harry. In comparison, this letter feels abrupt and removed. Maybe Harry will believe it’s due to his illness that he doesn’t write anything longer or more romantic.

Resolved, Louis pushes the letters into separate envelopes, addressing the one to Harry to Niall Horan. Their letters to each other always go through Niall. Everyone in the village knows of Louis’ friendship with Niall since they grew up together. It’s not unusual when Louis drops off letters at the post office to Niall, but it would be if they were addressed to Harry.

And Niall always faithfully delivers the letters. He knows that if he receives a letter from Louis, its intended party is Harry.

Louis makes quick work of the walk to the post office, not bothering to stop and chat with anyone, keeping his head down.

When he arrives at the post office, he drops off the letters and is about to leave when Alfred, the postman, calls his name.

“Louis, hang on a minute!”

Louis doesn’t feel like being very sociable, but when he turns back to Alfred, he’s holding a letter for him.

“It’s been in your box for weeks, but you haven’t been by,” Alfred explains. “It’s funny that, you were by nearly every day in the summer, but now you haven’t been by in over a month. Was wondering if something happened to you.”

“No, no, I’m fine,” Louis replies, taking the letter. “Thank you, Alfred.”

He hurries out of the post office without another word, shoving the letter into his pocket. He doesn’t need to check the return address to know who it’s from. There’s only one person who sends him letters anyways.

When he arrives at home, the house is quiet again. Jay chats with Dan in the living room, but the twins are nowhere in sight.

“They’re taking their afternoon nap,” Jay explains when Louis inquires.

“I think I may join them,” Louis says, the mental and emotional exhaustion of the day catching up with him. “A nap could do me some good.”

Jay smiles in understanding, and Louis heads upstairs to the room Jay set up for him. It’s small, the room he grew up in now occupied by Charlotte and Félicité. This is the room he stays in for the rare times he has stayed overnight since moving to his own house, so it has a sense of familiarity to it.

Louis didn’t bring anything to Jay’s, not expecting when he came by in a panic this afternoon that he would be staying for the rest of the week. He’ll have to stop by the house at some point and pack a bag of clothes, but he can barely be bothered by that as exhaustion hits him.

Instead, he strips out of his clothes, leaving only his underwear as he climbs into the soft bed. Safe under the warm blankets, he blindly reaches for his trousers lying on the floor, pulling out the letter he had shoved so hastily into the pocket.

The envelope is the crisp, cream colored stationery Harry always uses, the scrawling script on the front elegant and sophisticated and undeniably Harry.

He remembers when Harry arrived from London, how he said he’d sent a letter ahead to inform Louis of his change of plans. Louis had no need of the letter after he’d stumbled upon Harry that warm August morning in the basement of Rosehill Manor, and it had promptly fallen from his memory. A month and a half later, Louis finally gives it a read.

Wednesday, 24 August 1910

Louis, my dearest love,

You may find me foolish and impetuous for what you are about to read, and I can’t say I blame you. My thoughts are reckless and my heart aches with longing for you. I would ask your forgiveness, but I cannot say that I desire it. I do not regret how you stay in my thoughts, how you make me wild with passion and desire.

I have missed you so desperately while in London. Each morning I wake up to an empty bed, but my arms have already reached out for your warmth before I realize where I am, and how you are not there. That cold reality is always jarring in the muted light of morning. I miss holding you in my arms, laying my hand over your chest to feel your heartbeat beneath my fingertips. To feel your chest rise and fall with each precious breath you breathe. I long for that feeling, to hold you and have those beautiful reminders that you are real against me.

Each night, when I touch myself, I think only of you. My dearest Louis, I miss your voice and your laughter and your love while we are apart, but I also miss your body. God, how I long to run my hands over every inch of your golden skin. How I long to touch you with my mouth, to kiss you and mark you and taste you. I love how you feel beneath my lips, how you shake at my touch. My love, to feel you tremble causes my very soul to shake, my very core to shift and place you at the centre. I want to dedicate my life to making you tremble with love and pleasure. To make you feel as wonderful and as happy as you have made me.

Thoughts of you occupy my mind at every moment of the day, and it is the thought of you alone that motivates me each day. Because each day is one day closer to you. One day closer to seeing you again and holding you and feeling your lips on mine and telling you how desperately I love you.

These four months apart have been long and cruel and I have only missed you more each day. That is why, Louis, my darling, I am leaving London tomorrow. I will be back at Rosehill by nightfall. I know I am not expected for another week, but I cannot spend another night away from you.

I am hopeful this letter will arrive before me, but part of me hopes it doesn’t. Part of me wants to surprise you. I imagine coming to the fields of Hazelwood Farm, catching you around the waist and pressing your lips to mine. I will tell you I love you, before making love to you, touching you and kissing you the way I have dreamed during these many months.

Louis, my most darling love, I will be with you soon.

Forever yours,

Harry

When Louis finishes reading, he’s unsurprised to find silent tears streaming down his face. He clutches the letter to him, before pressing kiss after kiss to the words, the words of Harry’s love for him.

He reads the letter over and over again, and each time, he feels a bit of his fears melt away.

He reads Harry’s passionate, romantic words, and he cannot deny that Harry loves him. That this is a true, unwavering, everlasting love. Harry loves him with his entire being, just as Louis loves Harry. Harry would never make these declarations to Louis and then cast him aside the moment their relationship takes an unexpected turn. He has three years of fulfilled promises and steadfast devotion to exhibit his loyalty, his faithfulness to Louis.

Harry loves Louis, and Harry will love their child.

As Louis falls asleep, one hand clutches the letter to his chest while the other cradles a loving hand around his tummy.

 

Louis’ house feels stale when he returns Sunday evening. He can still smell a faint trace of vomit, as if it soaked straight into the floorboards no matter how many times Louis cleaned them.

The week spent at Jay’s was exactly what Louis needed to come to terms with his pregnancy. His mother’s unwavering support grounded him, reminding him that he, and his unborn child are loved no matter what.

Jay and Louis spent countless hours coming up with a plan. She told him what to expect from pregnancy – the mood swings and the cravings and the neediness. He learned about some of the changes his body would be going through, how the baby would be growing and how his body would adapt to whatever it needed.

Jay told him that he would be fine to work, but would probably need to start taking it significantly easier by springtime. Louis will eventually have to tell the Richards about his pregnancy, but he has time. Jay also told him that his bump won’t become visible for another couple of months, so he has some time to figure out when and how and if he wants to tell people.

They also figured out that he was about six weeks along. The date on the top of Harry’s letter helped in their calculations, since Louis knew it was sometime during that weekend he became pregnant. Jay estimated a rough due date to be the end of May, which feels like a lifetime away for Louis. He is grateful for that; grateful that it is after Harry’s twenty-fifth birthday, so that if Harry still wants him, they can be married before the arrival of their first child.

Louis’ heart speeds up at the thought of Harry as he begins unpacking the bag of clothes he took with him to Jay’s. After reading Harry’s letter for what seemed to be the hundredth time, he has resolved to tell Harry the next time he saw him. He’ll tell Harry about their baby, and then they can start making plans.

He misses Harry, hasn’t seen him in almost a week. The four months they spent apart over the summer seems unfathomable when Louis misses his voice and his touch so much after only a week apart. He dropped a letter at the post office on his way home, letting Harry know that he was feeling better and could come by whenever he wished.

Louis hopes it’s sooner rather than later.

His wish comes true when he’s lounging in bed an hour later, reading a pregnancy book Jay gave him. He reads about the first trimester, what the baby is doing and how it’s growing. As he reads, he keeps a protective hand over his tummy, wondering what it will be like to watch it swell as the baby grows, what it will be like to feel the baby kick, to hear its heartbeat.

When Louis hears a knock on the door, he is quick to shove the book in between the bed and the wall, unwilling for any visitor to see what he’s been reading.

“Come in,” he calls.

His entire body relaxes when he sees Harry’s head poke through the door, curly brown hair framing his face and green eyes bright even in the dull candlelight.

“Harry,” he breathes out, hands automatically reaching for him.

Harry is by his side in a moment, wrapping Louis in his arms and pressing a tender kiss to his lips. Louis sags into his embrace, unable to deny how much he has missed this wonderful man. He kisses him back with excitement and unbridled energy, stemming from the knowledge that he is about to change Harry’s life and hopefully, make him very, very happy.

“My love, how are you feeling?” Harry murmurs, taking Louis’ hands in his. “I’ve missed you so much this week.”

“I’m feeling much better,” Louis replies, and it’s the truth. While he still experiences some morning sickness, it’s not as much as it was the week before. Even though Harry didn’t know the root of Louis’ sickness, he is still visibly pleased to see that he is better.

“I’m so glad,” Harry says before placing another kiss on his lips. He leans back so that Louis can see his face, and his expression is thoughtful. “I was so worried about you. Usually, you know I’d love to take care of you while you’re feeling ill, but I’m actually so thankful you were able to be at your mother’s this week.”

“Why’s that?” Louis asks, barely focusing on Harry’s words as his body thrums with nervous energy. He just wants to tell Harry the news, and he doesn’t think he can casually bring it up. No matter what, it’ll be a massive surprise to Harry. But hopefully it will be a pleasing one.

“Well, I actually didn’t have any time to come by this week. Mother unexpectedly invited the Duke of Richmond to visit.”

Suddenly, Louis feels as if he has been doused in ice water. The warm, tingling feeling of excitement at sharing his news with Harry flickers out. His heart seems to stop in his chest, and the world suddenly makes no sense.

“The Duke of Richmond?” Louis asks in a small voice.

He’s heard of George Hampton, the Duke of Richmond before, of course he has. He is the most eligible bachelor in all of England, and everyone knows it. He is young and handsome, wealthy and privileged. His family supposedly dates back to the days of William the Conqueror, an established and well-respected lineage.

Harry has mentioned him before as one of his friends from London. They’d met at a party, if Louis remembers correctly, and had entertained each other all evening. Harry told Louis about how fascinating his travels were, how the Duke had been to Europe multiple times, and had recommended several novels to him that he’d found from French and Italian writers alike. They’d shared an interest in art and had gone to some galleries together and had visited each other at their respective clubs for tea.

Louis didn’t think anything of it at the time, never begrudging Harry his friends. In fact, he’d been pleased Harry had found a friend in London that shared so many interests with him. Louis had Liam, Zayn, and Stan as close friends, and Harry never showed any jealousy at their close relationships.

But if the Countess invited the Duke of Richmond to stay at Rosehill, there is clearly only one thing on her mind.

“Yes,” Harry confirms. “He’s been staying this whole week, and we’ve had an absolutely wonderful time. We’ve gone riding almost every day, and he’s shared so many books with me I think I’ll be reading them until Easter!” Harry chuckles, and Louis laughs with him, but the sound is hollow.

Harry seems to notice, and places a reassuring hand on Louis’. “I know what Mother intends, but marrying George is the farthest thing from my mind. He came to Mother’s party in September and we’d discussed him visiting then. Mother must have heard wind of his plans and invited him. But I assure you that for me this is nothing more than spending time with a friend. You know my heart belongs to you.”

Louis nods, swallowing thickly. The news he had been so eager to share is now stuck in his throat, the words foreign and strange.

“How long will he be staying?” Louis asks instead.

At that, Harry looks away. At his guilty expression, Louis’ stomach twists.

“He’ll be staying until the end of the month, but I’m going to visit him in London for a short bit in November. The National Gallery is apparently going to have a fabulous exhibit on Renaissance painters, and George insists I shouldn’t miss it.” When Louis doesn’t reply, Harry squeezes his hand. “I’ll only be gone for a week at most. And that’s not for another month anyways.”

“Should you even be here, then?” Louis asks, and his voice is cold, hurt. “If you have a guest, shouldn’t you be at Rosehill?”

Hurt also flickers across Harry’s face, and Louis momentarily regrets his harsh words.

“They can spare me a night,” Harry replies, voice soft as he squeezes Louis’ hand.

They can spare him. Louis’ heart clenches at the words. For the first time in their three year relationship, Louis suddenly feels wrong. He feels like Harry’s dirty secret, someone he sneaks away to for a night of pleasure before returning to his real life. Before returning to the eligible, beautiful, not-pregnant duke.

Louis feels vulnerable under Harry’s searching gaze, and he wishes desperately to wrap his arms around his stomach. To protect him and his unborn child from feeling used, for feeling like the second choice.

Harry, seemingly confused by the silence, asks, “Can I stay for the night? I’m sorry I haven’t been here the past week, but I did miss you. I just want to fall asleep next to you tonight.”

At Harry’s open, vulnerable question, Louis can’t help but nod in response. Even though he feels hurt, he can never deny Harry anything. He loves him too much, too completely, to not try to give him everything he could ever want.

But as Harry slides behind Louis, wrapping his arms tightly around him, Louis knows he can’t tell Harry about the baby. Not when he has the Duke staying with him. The Duke who his mother will be no doubt pushing at Harry, trying to make romance spark out of their already close friendship.

If Harry were to reject Louis and their child, he would have a much more appealing option waiting for him right at Rosehill. Why wouldn’t Harry pick the rich and handsome duke over the poor and pregnant Louis?

No, he resolves. He’ll wait to tell Harry. Wait until the Duke isn’t visiting and Louis can have Harry all to himself again. It may be selfish, but Louis couldn’t bear the rejection. Not right now. Not when he’s just found out he’s pregnant and never felt so vulnerable in all of his life. If he were to lose Harry now, he doesn’t know what he would do.

But as Louis settles into Harry’s arms, he can’t help but feel grounded.

He thinks back to the letter Harry wrote him in August when they were still apart. About how Harry desired to hold him close, to feel his chest rise and fall with each breath and to feel his heartbeat beneath his fingertips.

As he curls into Harry’s side, Harry’s arm reaches around him, landing softly on top of Louis’ hand resting against his belly.

Louis listens as Harry’s breathing evens out, before he allows his body to shake with overwhelming emotion. He knows that under Harry’s palm, not only can Harry feel Louis’ heartbeat, but that Harry’s hand also rests atop where their child’s heart will soon be beating.

 

Louis awakens abruptly, body flinching at the feeling of the morning sun shining dimly through the curtains. He feels Harry’s arms still wrapped tightly around him, but his sudden movement jerks Harry awake as well, gasping, “Whassit?”

Mercifully, it is not illness that jarred Louis from his slumber, but the lateness of the hour. As Louis sits up in bed, the blanket falls from his chest and pools at his waist as he strains to look out the window. The sun has risen, shining weakly beyond a smattering of clouds.

“I didn’t mean to sleep so late,” Louis explains as he feels Harry’s warm hand land on his back. “I have to be back at the farm today.”

“You needed your rest,” Harry justifies, voice still raspy with sleep. His hand rubs deep circles across Louis’ back, and Louis can’t help but sag into the touch. “You’ve been ill all week. I’m sure they won’t mind if you aren’t there at sunrise.”

“I know,” Louis replies, but he climbs out of bed anyways. It’s a bit awkward, since he slept in between Harry and the wall, but Harry moves his legs the best he can so that Louis can crawl past. “And I’m sure the extra rest will have helped, but I really need to get back onto my normal schedule.”

Harry nods as Louis begins pulling clothes for the day out of the wardrobe. He quickly changes out of his pajamas into his work clothes, keeping his back to Harry. Louis knows there is no baby bump to hide, that Harry could see his naked stomach and not suspect, but Louis doesn’t want to be under Harry’s gaze in that way. He doesn’t want Harry to look at Louis’ tummy indifferently, unaware their child lies nestled inside.

When he’s dressed, he turns back to Harry and his determination to leave evaporates. Harry looks warm and snug in the bed, blankets still wrapped around his waist, eyes sleep glazed and hair wild.

Louis walks over to the bed, allowing Harry to take him into his arms and pull him onto his lap. Harry places his face at the base of Louis’ throat, rubbing his nose lightly over the skin. His arms wrap loosely around Louis’ waist, and Louis winds his arms around Harry’s back, resting his head on top of Harry’s.

“What will you do today?” Louis asks quietly. His mind flashes to the Duke of Richmond, faceless yet threatening to his happy bubble, and Louis pulls Harry tighter against him.

“I don’t really have any plans,” Harry answers. “I wasn’t sure how you’d be feeling and if you were still unwell, I was going to stay with you.”

Louis feels unexpected tears welling in his eyes at Harry’s words, overwhelmed by his lover’s consideration.

“I want to stay with you today,” Louis murmurs. “I wish I could, but I need to go back to the farm today. I told Farmer Richards I would only be gone until Monday.”

“I know,” Harry sighs. “I know I can’t be selfish and keep you all to myself, as much as I may want to.”

Louis doesn’t reply, savoring the quiet moment of feeling so close to Harry after so many days apart. He breathes him in, the faint smell of the lavender soap he always uses calming and familiar. He feels peace as he leans into Harry, and even though his fears remain, he can’t help but feel loved.

After a few moments though, Harry muses, “Maybe I will take George to the park. The lake will certainly look gorgeous with all the leaves changing colors. I think that would be a lovely afternoon.”

Louis stiffens slightly at Harry’s words, the reality of their situation crashing back down around him. Right. Louis will go off to work in the cow fields, knee high in shit and smelling like an animal at the end of the day, while Harry will spend his day leisurely strolling around the lake in the company of a beautiful duke.

“When can I see you again?” Louis asks, needing to remind himself that Harry is his. That Harry loves him.

Harry is silent for a beat too long, and Louis’ stomach churns at the silence. “I don’t know,” is the eventual answer, and his stomach drops.

“With George visiting, it’s difficult to get away,” Harry explains sheepishly. “My primary responsibility is to keep him entertained, and Mother has a very long list of activities for us.”

“But your mother invited him,” Louis grumbles petulantly. “She should be the one who entertains him.”

Harry gives a dry, humorless laugh. “I wish, my love. I’ll come around when I can get away, and if I have time this weekend, I will send for you.”

In that moment, Louis is so thankful Harry can’t see his face. That feeling of wrongness that crept over him the previous night returns in full. Harry’s words sound callous to him, suggesting Louis will have nothing better to do than wait around for Harry while he entertains the Duke. And that a simple word from Harry will have Louis dropping everything to go to Rosehill for…for what? A quick fuck before he returns to dinner with George where he’ll laugh about the farmer boy in his bed, so easy for him?

Louis suddenly feels sick, and he knows he should feel angry, but instead he feels hurt. Hurt and afraid.

Harry’s arms tighten around him at his silence, seeming to sense that Louis needs some sort of comfort, even if he doesn’t understand why.

Suddenly, even through his hurt, Louis doesn’t want Harry to leave. He doesn’t want Harry to leave without knowing how much he means to him. Without knowing how it would break his heart if Harry were ever to leave him for good.

His hands clutching Harry’s back move up to his face, cradling his jaw as Louis begins to press kisses down the side of his face. He starts at his temple, curls tickling his nose, before trailing down his jawline, leaving a path of wet, open-mouthed kisses in his wake. Harry stills beneath him, and Louis can’t help but press his body closer, always closer.

When he arrives at Harry’s mouth, he can’t bring himself to tease. He hovers over Harry’s lips for only a second before catching them in a heated kiss. He wastes no time licking greedily into Harry’s mouth, passionate and possessive.

Harry kisses back just as desperately, hands fisted in Louis’ shirt as he presses their bodies together. Louis can feel how much Harry missed him in their week apart, both needing to feel each other closer, both kissing breathlessly. It’s as if each slide of lips and tongues is a promise of I love you, I missed you, you are everything to me.

Louis hopes his kisses also say I would die if you left me.

When Louis pulls away, it’s only because he knows he can’t delay any longer. He should have been at the farm hours ago.

He presses his forehead to Harry’s, both of them breathing deeply as they hold to each other, unwilling to let the other go.

“I love you,” Harry whispers into the air between them, the space barely existent. “Never doubt that, Louis. I love you so much.”

Louis feels the tears in his eyes once more, unable to stop himself from pressing another kiss to Harry’s mouth. “I love you, too, Harry. You’re the love of my life.”

“And mine,” Harry promises.

Louis squeezes his eyes shut, desperately trying to silence his fears.

 

When Louis makes it to the barn half an hour later, he is greeted by three very concerned farmhands.

“Lou!” Zayn exclaims when he spots him coming through the door.

Zayn, Liam, and Stan immediately wrap him in a tight hug, and Louis relaxes happily into the embrace. He missed the close camaraderie with the fellow farmhands during the past week, and it is evident that they missed him as well.

“How are you feeling?” Liam asks, concern heavy in his voice.

“A lot better,” Louis replies, and he sees Liam sag in relief. “You were right, Liam. I just needed a bit of rest. My mother looked after me for a few days to make sure I recovered alright, and I have.”

His friends express their thankfulness at Louis’ return to health, and Louis smiles at them in appreciation.

“Did you find out what it was?” Liam asks.

Louis freezes for a moment, the question catching him off guard even though he expected it. Thankfully, Liam had given him an excuse when he found Louis hunched over and sick the past week.

“It was overwork, like you thought,” Louis explains. “I had a bit of a bug and I wasn’t doing my body any favors by working all day and night with barely any rest. Some sleep and limited physical exertion was really what I needed.”

“Well, I’m glad you’re better,” Zayn says, the others echoing. “It’s not the same without you.”

“Hope I didn’t leave you with too much extra work,” Louis teases, giving Stan a small nudge.

“Be glad it wasn’t during birthing season,” Stan laughs. “I don’t think Richards would have cared if you were on your deathbed. It would have been all hands on deck, regardless.”

The men laugh at Stan’s statement, but Louis can’t help but fixate on the mention of birthing season. If his due date is at the end of May, he will need some time off to bith his own child. He can’t worry about the cows giving birth on top of his own labor.

Thankfully, they don’t notice how Louis’ laugh is slightly hollower than the rest of theirs.

“Well, lads,” Louis says, attempting to change the subject. “You slacked enough when I was gone last week, I’m sure. Back to work!”

The three lads grumble, jokingly reluctant to listen to the senior farmhand. They slowly get back to work, Louis joining them.

Throughout the day, Louis takes it significantly easier, careful not to strain himself or hurt his back. Instead of staying hunched over for hours milking the cows, he is sure to stand up and stretch every so often, walking around the barn to loosen his muscles.

Liam seems to notice Louis’ slower and more relaxed pace, but he doesn’t comment. He seems to interpret it as part of Louis’ recovery, offering to carry Louis’ pails of milk to the farmhouse as well as any other heavy lifting Louis would usually do.

Louis is grateful, and he finds himself hoping that maybe these next few months will turn out alright. The other farmhands are good friends, clearly happy to help Louis out even if they’re not sure why it’s necessary.

For what feels like the hundredth time in a manner of days, Louis reminds himself that he is not alone.

That feeling quickly dissipates when he arrives home in the evening to an empty house.

And it’s not that he expected Harry to stay all day, lounging around – hopefully naked – and just enjoying an afternoon of leisure, it’s just that he hoped he would. But Louis knows that Harry is expected to entertain the Duke while he visits and it would be completely unacceptable if Harry vanished for the day.

Because spending time with Louis would be completely unacceptable.

As Louis undresses, preparing for bed, the turbulent emotions he was able to keep at bay while he worked resurface. His heart aches and his head feels clouded with confusion.

He wishes so desperately to believe Harry’s words – to believe that Harry loves him and will always choose him. But now, when Louis is his most vulnerable, carrying their child and uncertain of the future, Harry is nowhere to be seen.

Louis longs to feel Harry’s arms wrap around him and pull him close. To hear Harry tell him it will be okay and that he loves both him and their baby, will always love them both. He thinks to that morning when Harry had held him so closely and kissed him so sweetly. Would Harry hold and kiss him like that if he knew about their baby?

Or would he cast him aside, disgusted by the innocent baby and unwilling to provide it with the care it will need? If Louis were to remind Harry of his promises, his promises of eternal love and marriage and a lifetime together, would Harry laugh at Louis? Laugh at his foolishness in believing that such a great lord would ever want to devote his life to someone as insignificant as Louis?

Louis is hardly conscious of the tears streaming down his face. He doesn’t want to believe that Harry could be so cruel. They’ve spent years together, wrapped in each other’s arms and telling each other secrets. He doesn’t genuinely believe Harry could do that to him, but in this moment, in his empty house at the end of a long day, not even a week after discovering his pregnancy, Louis has never felt more alone.

“But I’m not alone,” Louis reminds himself aloud. His hands fall to his stomach, cradling the barely there pudge around his middle.

He takes a few deep breaths, keeping his hands firmly on his waist before crawling into bed. The room falls into complete darkness as Louis blows at the candle, the only sound his occasional sniffle as his tears dry.

Louis lies flat on his back, splaying his hands over his stomach. He feels his breath even out, tummy rising and falling in a soothing rhythm.

In the quiet of the room, Louis whispers, “Hello, baby.”

His heart jumps at his own words, aware that this is the first time he has spoken to his unborn child. Suddenly, he wants to share all the emotions he has been bottling inside. He wants to tell his child how much he loves it.

“I can’t believe you’re there, baby,” he whispers into the darkness. “Can’t believe you’re in my belly, growing up big and strong. Growing a bit more every day.”

He swallows noisily, and even though he only finished crying, he can feel his eyes already beginning to dampen.

“I love you, baby. I really do.” His voice breaks, tears beginning to leak out of his eyes, but he continues. “I’m scared and I feel alone, but I love you. You’re here because I love your father so much. I love him so much, and – and he loves me. We made you because we love each other, and we both love you so much.”

He can feel the tears sliding down his jaw and running down his neck, overwhelmed.

“Your father is a good man, baby.” He exhales shakily. “The best man. I’ve loved him since I was twenty-three years old, practically since the first moment I saw him. He’s funny and ridiculous and has a heart of gold. He always takes such good care of me, and he makes me laugh and smile. He makes me so happy, baby. So unbelievably happy. I can’t wait for you to meet him.” A loud, choked sob. “I can’t wait for him to meet you.”

His fingers are almost digging into the flesh of his stomach as if he could feel his baby beneath the layers of skin and muscle. Wants so much to hold his child, to feel its love and to love it in return.

“I’m scared, baby,” he admits into the stillness of the room. “I’m really scared. But not because of you; nothing to do with you. You’re perfect. You’re going to grow up so loved, no matter what happens with your father. Whether or not he wants us, you are going to be so loved. You are. You are already so loved.

“Only me and your nan know about you right now, but we both love you so much. And I have so many sisters and a brother, and they’re all going to love you. And you’ll love them. You’ll grow up like I did – surrounded by a large family who just loves you to pieces. I swear that, baby. No matter what, you will be loved.

“And I am going to do everything in my power to give you the best life. I don’t know if that will mean wealth and privilege, but – but I don’t think that’s what matters. Being happy – that’s what matters. And I’m going to do everything I can to give you the happiest life, baby. I promise. Not a day will go by where you won’t know that you are loved. By me and your nan and your aunts and uncle.” His voice catches again. “And hopefully by your father.”

He pauses, grip loosening on his stomach to rub soothingly at it instead. He flattens his palms, pressing only for a moment, as if he could feel his baby’s heartbeat. An answer, a reminder that he isn’t alone. That there’s someone else with him and there will be for the next seven months.

“I love you, baby. For as long as I live, I will love you unconditionally. Forever and even after that. Don’t ever forget it.”

With a shaking breath, he kisses the tips of his fingers before pressing them to the skin of his belly, imagining the little baby receiving the kiss, feeling loved before it has even breathed the first breath of life.

Keeping a hand protectively over his stomach, he turns to the side, pressing his face firmly into the pillow, and allows sleep to overtake him.

Chapter Text

Jay comes by every night for the rest of the week.

Even though Louis always eats dinner at the farmhouse, Jay always brings him some food to make sure he’s staying healthy and providing the baby with the nutrients it needs. She sits with him while he eats, sometimes talking about the baby and sometimes not. She perceives what Louis needs without ever asking, caring for him in a way that makes him feel brave and supported.

It’s on Friday night when Jay carefully broaches the topic they have both stayed quiet on.

“Have you talked with Harry recently?”

Louis’ stomach drops, shaking his head regretfully in response. He hasn’t seen Harry since Monday morning, not since he left to entertain the Duke. He hasn’t heard a word from him either, no note apologizing for his absence or letting Louis know when he can see him next.

Louis interprets the lack of silence to mean that his presence at Rosehill this weekend would be less than desirable.

“Did you tell him?” Jay’s tone isn’t accusing, just one of inquiry.

“No,” Louis admits, looking at his hand’s instead of at his mother. He doesn’t want to see her reaction. “I was going to, but – but then I just couldn’t.”

“Why not?” Her voice is soothing, reaching out to take his hand and give it a reassuring squeeze.

Louis swallows thickly. “I was about to, but then he started telling me about this duke who’s staying at Rosehill for the month. The Earl and Countess want them to marry, and from what Harry’s told me, it seems like they’re such a good match. They have the same tastes in literature and art and they kept each other entertained at all the dull society parties they attended in London.”

He pauses, and Jay squeezes his hand again in encouragement.

“I’m just afraid that if he finds out about the baby, he’ll reject me and marry the Duke,” Louis admits. “And – and of course I want him to be happy, because I love him so much, but it would break my heart if he left me and our child for someone else. Especially if they married while I was still pregnant. That rejection – Mother, it would destroy me.”

His voice has faded to a defeated whisper as he finishes. His heart hammers in his chest at having voiced his fears allowed, knowing they probably sound petulant and childish, but he is unable to keep them from plaguing his every thought.

Jay doesn’t say anything for a moment, and the silence is so overwhelming that Louis has to look up at his mother. Her expression is thoughtful, contemplative, as she considers Louis’ words. When she looks back at him, her eyes are kind.

“I know you’re afraid, and I think that’s understandable. You’re in a situation you never expected to be in, and everything must feel so fragile.” When Louis nods, she pulls him into her arms, letting him rest his head on her chest. “But I think the fear is making you believe things that aren’t true. I don’t believe Harry views you as some disposable object that he made hollow promises to. I don’t believe Harry would reject you and your child, but that he would do everything in his power to give you both a safe and comfortable life.”

Louis feels his eyes welling up with tears at his mother’s reassurances.

As he sniffles, Jay continues, “I think you should tell him. Duke or no duke, I think Harry will be so happy. He loves you, Louis. And I’m not just saying that because of what you told me, but because I have seen it written on his own face. As if his very features are carved to express love for you.

“If you want some support, I can be there when you tell him. I will be there every step of the way, my sweet boy. Don’t forget that. But if you want to tell him by yourself, I will respect that as well. But either way, I think you should tell him.”

“I know, Mother,” Louis replies, voice thick. “And I know I can’t keep it from him forever – that eventually he’ll know. But I’m just so afraid.”

“I know, baby,” Jay whispers, giving him a tight hug. “But remember, it’s Harry’s child too. He deserves to know so that he can decide.”

That very thought causes a sharp cry to escape Louis’ lips, tears falling rapidly down his cheeks. He burrows more tightly into his mother’s embrace, Jay holding on and whispering, “You’re okay, my sweet boy. I’m here, I’m here.”

Louis knows that Harry deserves to know – that this child is his just as much as it’s Louis’. But if anything, that is the thought that terrifies him the most.

If Harry rejected them, it wouldn’t just be Harry rejecting Louis. He would be rejecting his own child, a part of his very own self as well. It would be as if the idea of staying with Louis would be so repulsive and undesirable to him, that he would rather turn away from a part of his own being than remain with them.

The child is Harry’s. The child will carry part of Harry’s looks and personality, his quirks. Louis will love the baby and keep it regardless, but he will always see part of Harry when he looks at it. He wonders if the baby will have Harry’s chocolate curls and emerald green eyes. How would Harry be able to reject a part of his own soul, his own child?

The heartbreak would be detrimental, and Louis doesn’t know how he would survive it. He has never imagined life without Harry, but knows for certain that it is not possible. The child would be his only connection to the love of his life, his only proof that he had ever loved and been loved.

Jay doesn’t say anything for the rest of the night, letting Louis cry and holding him as he does. As he begins to fall asleep in his mother’s arms, he feels her tuck him into bed as if he were a child again. She stays by his side, holding him as he falls asleep.

His last thought before sleep overtakes is that he wants to love and care for his child the way his mother loves and cares for him.

 

For the rest of the weekend, Louis stays at Jay’s.

Being surrounded by his sisters and brother never fails to lift his spirits, reminds him that he is loved and he has an army of support right behind him, even if they don’t know about the pregnancy yet.

Being with his family also keeps him from dwelling on the fact that he isn’t at Rosehill, wrapped in Harry’s arms and trading gentle kisses like he would on any other weekend.

On Sunday morning, he’s woken up by a warm weight on his chest, heavy and squirmy.

“What are you doing up, little love?” Louis rasps, eyes blinking open, crusty with sleep. “The sun’s barely risen.”

Doris blinks at him from where she’s perched in his lap, clearly not understanding the concept of lazy Sunday mornings. It’s not that Louis sleeps past sunrise on Sundays anyways, but he does enjoy taking his time to get out of bed.

“Want to play,” Doris says instead. She clutches her doll lovingly in her arms, gazing down at it fondly. “I be the mama and you be the papa.”

Louis’ heart clenches at Doris’ sheer adoration as she gazes down at her doll, cradling it back and forth.

“How about you get under the covers with me?” Louis offers instead. “Mama and papa and dolly can have a little sleep before breakfast.”

“Okay,” Doris agrees, unexpectedly compliant as she crawls under the blankets. Louis lets her lay her head on his chest, keeping an arm wrapped protectively around her.

“You’ve been staying with us so much lately, Achoo,” Doris says after a brief moment of silence.

Louis’ stomach drops, but her tone isn’t accusatory, just observant.

“I have,” Louis agrees. “I like playing with my favorite sister.” He gives her side a playful pinch and she squeals delightedly. “Is that alright with you?”

“Yes!” Doris chirps, planting her elbows into Louis’ chest and sitting up. “I wish you would stay always and forever.”

Louis can’t the lump in his throat that forms at Doris’ words, her open affection for him. He wraps his arms around her and gives her forehead a firm kiss, eyes squeezing shut as he holds her close. “I wish I could stay forever too, little love.”

Doris gives him a cheer, returning his kiss before demanding to play again. Louis laughs lightly, unsurprised that his idea to trick Doris into letting him sleep for a little bit longer didn’t take hold. Instead, he scoops her up into his arms and lets her hang off his back as he trots downstairs to see if anyone else is awake.

Jay and Dan sit quietly in the living room sipping cups of tea while Ernest plays noisily in the corner.

“Morning,” Jay greets, giving him a kiss on the cheek as he sits down. With Doris still hanging off his back, he pretends to lean back into the couch and squash her, allowing Doris to give out a delighted squawk and start flailing around.

“Achoo!” she squeals. “Let me out!”

“Oh, are you still there, Dotty?” Louis asks, feigning surprise. He leans forward enough so that Doris can fall onto the sofa, laughing brightly. “I forgot you were there.”

“Silly Achoo,” she reprimands before scurrying off to play with Ernest.

When Louis turns back to Jay and Dan, they are both smiling at him fondly.

“A natural,” Jay coos.

“She adores you,” Dan adds. “Honestly. She talks about you nonstop when you’re not here.”

Louis blushes, pleased that his little sister adores him so much when he feels the same way about her.

Earlier in the week, Louis had told Dan about his pregnancy, and had received unwavering support from his stepfather. He didn’t expect any less – Jay would never marry a man who didn’t love her children unconditionally – but it was still encouraging nonetheless.

Louis spends the rest of the morning playing with his siblings, chasing Ernest around and laughing as Phoebe and Daisy come up with a dance to a song Félicité learned at school.

After lunch, Jay announces that they are going to take advantage of the waning nice weather by taking a walk through town. It’s mid-October, and the village is beginning to experience more cold and rainy days than bright and sunny. Louis knows it won’t be long until he won’t be able to go outside without being wrapped in his warmest jumpers and coats. The winters are always unforgiving in England.

But for today, the weather is nice. A bit of sun peaks through the white clouds, the breeze barely noticeable as they walk through town.

Louis walks with Daisy, listening to her tell him about a horrible classmate as they arrive at the park. Louis idly remembers Harry mentioning visiting the park and how nice it must be with the leaves changing colors. Well, he was certainly right.

The yellows and reds of the leaves reflect off the bright blue water of the lake, creating a rainbow of colors all around them. The view is breathtaking, and Louis can’t help but place a gentle hand over his tummy.

I can’t wait to share this with you, he thinks, hoping his baby can magically hear his thoughts. Can’t wait to show you what a beautiful world we live in.

The family continues to walk around the lake, the wind picking up slightly as it comes off the water. They stop by the small waterfall, tucked secretly in a small corner of the lake. Phoebe and Daisy take Ernest and Doris to the edge of the water to pick up pebbles while Louis goes over to chat with Jay.

He’s barely opened his mouth when he hears the sound of horse hooves pounding into the gravel in the path behind them. Curiously, Louis turns towards the noise, watching as two beautiful chestnut colored horses come into view.

It’s the riders who make Louis stop.

From where he’s tucked into the shade of the trees by the waterfall, Harry and George cannot see him. Not that they seem to be looking.

They slow their horses down as they stop at the edge of the lake, about twenty meters away from the Tomlinson-Deakin family. Louis can’t hear their conversation as they climb off their horses, but he can see them.

It’s the first time he’s seen Harry in almost a week, and Louis’ heart nearly breaks at the sight. Harry smiles brightly as he leads his horse to the lake, laughing at something George says. Harry’s hair ruffles lightly in the breeze, and Louis wonders how tangled the curls are. Usually after a ride, Harry’s curls are windblown and thickly knotted. Louis longs to run his fingers through them, to sort them out one by one while Harry rests his head in Louis’ lap.

Louis has never seen George before, but he recognizes him immediately from Harry’s descriptions. He’s tall – taller than Harry – with jet black hair, a strong jawline, and an undeniably sophisticated air about him. He’s incredibly handsome, something Harry had failed to mention, and Louis’ heart sinks.

Louis watches as George approaches Harry’s side, the two men chatting as Harry points across the lake. The two men admire the view together, Harry’s back mostly facing him, but his profile is still in view.

Look at me, Louis wishes desperately. Turn around and see me.

But instead of doing that, Louis watches helplessly as George snakes an arm around Harry’s waist, resting low on his hip. A small, broken gasp escapes Louis’ lips as he watches, but thankfully the sound is swallowed up by the sound of the waterfall rushing next to him.

Louis feels frozen as he watches Harry, waiting for Harry to shrug off the touch, the touch that is clearly not platonic. But Harry doesn’t. He stays still with George’s arm wrapped around his waist.

Only I touch him there, Louis thinks pleadingly. He can’t touch Harry. No, he’s – he’s mine.

Mercifully, it seems Louis’ heartbroken thoughts finally transmit to Harry on the other side of the lake. Harry turns out of George’s embrace rather abruptly, but before Louis can breathe a sigh of relief, George catches Harry’s arm. Louis watches as George reaches up, tucking an errant curl behind Harry’s ear, hand lingering before it falls to his side.

And Louis – Louis’ heart breaks as he watches this wealthy, powerful duke take liberties with the man who is supposed to be the love of Louis’ life. Only Louis is supposed to touch him that way – to wrap his fingers around Harry’s soft, padded hips and to run his fingers through Harry’s silky curls.

That privilege belongs to Louis, and Louis alone.

Thankfully, Louis doesn’t have to endure the sight much longer. Harry fetches his horse, the Duke following, and they both quickly climb astride their horses before galloping away, into the forest and out of sight.

A light touch to Louis’ arm causes him to jump, his breathing fast and irregular.

He turns to Jay, her eyes sad yet understanding, full of compassion.

“Mother…”he whispers brokenly, willing himself not to cry.

“Come, Louis,” Jay says quietly. “Let’s go home.”

She takes his arm without another word, quickly saying something to Dan about the rest of the family being home before dinner. He leans into Jay’s weight the whole way home, his legs heavy and his mind cloudy and his heart in pieces.

Jay doesn’t say anything the whole way home, nor when they arrive and Louis sits shakily down on the couch. Jay joins him immediately, keeping a light hand on his arm, anchoring him.

“Louis,” she begins softly, but he doesn’t give her a chance.

“How could he?” Louis gasps, tears already beginning to fall, unsurprising and unabashed. “He – how could he do that? In public? Where everyone could see?”

God, how Louis longs to touch Harry like that in public, but it’s simply not done. Never mind them keeping their relationship private, publicly touching is inappropriate in all respectable society. It’s only permissible between married couples, and even then it’s done quietly and without fanfare.

George didn’t just touch Harry like a lover, he touched him like a husband. Like someone who had every claim to Harry.

Like that right doesn’t belong to Louis.

“Why didn’t he do anything?” Louis asks desperately, crying into his mother’s neck. “Why didn’t he move away? Why did he let him touch him like that?”

“We were so far away,” Jay answers quietly, rubbing his back gently. “We have no idea what Harry said. We couldn’t see his face – how he reacted.”

“He didn’t stop it,” Louis counters, hurt and confused. “He stood there and just let it happen. When he didn’t think I was watching. When he thought it was permissible because his – his plaything wasn’t watching.”

“Don’t say that about yourself,” Jay reprimands softly yet firmly. “You are worth so much more than that.”

“Not to the man I love,” Louis replies around a whimper, another sob overtaking him.

It’s as if all Louis’ fears are confirmed. Harry isn’t turning down the Duke’s advances; in fact, he seemed to be encouraging them. If Louis were to tell Harry of the pregnancy now, Harry would surely reject him and accept the Duke’s proposal. They would be married before Louis’ pregnancy would even begin to show.

“I can’t tell him,” Louis sobs, resolute in his grief. “He would leave me; he would leave me and our child. Mother, please. I don’t want to lose him.”

Jay doesn’t say anything, just pulls him tighter to her and gives him a kiss on the forehead.

As Louis cries, a new resolve comes over him. He won’t just stay here in the village, tossed out and unwanted by the handsome lord who will surely by then be married to his new husband. He won’t allow his child to become a symbol of shame and rejection.

“Mother, I don’t think I could stay here if Harry rejects me,” Louis admits, distraught and afraid. “I – I don’t want our child to be a mark of shame. And I don’t want to raise my baby with their father down the street, but for them to be complete strangers. That would break my heart even more than I feel it already is. Do you – do you think I could go stay with Nan and Grandad?”

Louis hasn’t seen Jay’s parents since he was a little boy. They live in Yorkshire, where Jay is from originally, and he only met them once when they visited the south. From what Louis remembers, he loved them dearly and they seemed to be quite fond of him as well.

“Louis,” Jay begins, tone cautious. “I know you’re afraid right now, and understandably so, but I don’t want you to make any rash decisions. You haven’t even told Harry yet, and even after what we saw today, I think he would be happy with the news. I think you need to give him a chance.”

She gives him a tight squeeze before continuing. “Trust the past three years. Don’t trust the past few weeks where fear is clouding what you know to be true and right. Harry loves you, and has loved you for years. Give him a chance to love both you and your child for even more years.”

Louis lets out a shaky breath, holding onto Jay tightly.

“I love you, Mother,” he whispers. “And I know – I know you could be right, but please. Please let me have a backup plan. Will you write to Nan and Grandad? Just see if they’d be willing to take me in? Just in case Harry says no, I’ll have something else to fall back on.”

Jay is quiet for a moment. “Louis, you know that your family is here for you regardless. Your immediate family: me and Dan and the girls and Ernie. Even if things don’t work out with Harry, your family will be here for you.”

“I know,” Louis reassures her, voice quiet. “I just want another plan. Another plan just in case it’s too much to stay here.”

After a moment, Jay answers, “If it’s truly what you want, I will write to them.”

Louis sags in relief, unable to help it. “Yes, Mother. It is.”

As he burrows back into the safety and warmth of his mother’s arms, he tries to convince himself that raising his child far away from the love of his life wouldn’t break his heart also.

 

Louis is reluctant to leave his mother’s later that night, unwilling to return to a cold, empty house. But he needs to be at the farm bright and early the next morning, so he says his farewells to his siblings and Jay promises to visit him the next evening.

He takes his time walking home, the cold settling in since the sun has set. He shivers when a sharp wind pierces through his coat and his pace quickens when he thinks about his warm bed and a roaring fire waiting for him.

But Louis stops in his tracks when the house comes into view.

It’s dim, but he can see a candle flickering in the window. It’s a sure sign that someone is there, someone is waiting for him.

Typically, he would run when he saw Harry’s candle in the window, excited to spend a night tangled up with the man he loves. But now, a sick feeling of dread settles in his stomach at the prospect of facing his lover. Especially after witnessing Harry’s interactions with George earlier that day, Louis doesn’t know how to act towards Harry. He doesn’t know what to give him.

Of course, Louis still loves him and wants to give Harry the world. But he doesn’t know if his heart can handle Harry coming over for a quick fuck before leaving in the morning.

His body is heavy with fear and anxiousness as he pushes open the door to his house.

But instead of finding Harry waiting for him, he’s greeted by the sight of Niall.

Niall lounges comfortably at Louis’ table, a book propped open on his lap. Niall looks up when Louis walks in and his face breaks into a grin.

“Louis, there you are! I was wondering if you’d ever show up!” Niall exclaims, jumping up to give Louis a hug. “Was about to give up and head back to Rosehill.”

Louis doesn’t know what to say, still surprised to find Niall in his house.

“Harry was getting worried, that’s for sure,” Niall continues, oblivious to Louis’ confusion. “He’s been by every night since Friday and you haven’t been here. He misses you.”

“He’s been by every night?” Louis asks, unable to keep the small bit of hope out of his voice. Maybe Harry hasn’t discarded him for the Duke.

Niall nods. “Every night.”

Louis gives a small smile and then realizes, “Why isn’t he here tonight?” Harry rarely sends Niall; he prefers to visit Louis himself.

“He couldn’t get away,” Niall replies. “But he’s free later in the evening and would be able to see you if you can come by.”

Louis turns away at Niall’s unintentionally callous words. Words that make Louis feel unimportant and temporary. He moves towards the fireplace to start the fire. The house is too cold, and Niall’s words only seem to make it colder.

When Louis doesn’t reply, Niall asks, “So what were you up to then this weekend? Since you haven’t been around?”

“I’ve been staying at my mother’s,” Louis replies.

While Louis fumbles with the matches, Niall continues, “I suppose that makes sense. Family time is very important after all.” He pauses and right as Louis is about to strike the match, Niall stops him. “Do you want to come up to Rosehill tonight? No use wasting matches if you won’t be sleeping here.”

“I –” Louis pauses, unsure of what to say. Of course, Harry and Louis don’t have sex every night he spends at Rosehill. It’s only when they’ve been apart for too long do the weekends pass in a blur of hands and mouths, kisses and touches. Many nights when Louis visits, Harry greets him with a chaste kiss before they crawl in bed and talk. They tell each other about their days, their weeks. They make each other laugh and tell each other stories before falling asleep in each other’s arms.

Louis loves those nights. He craves that type of intimacy with Harry always.

But tonight, Louis doesn’t think he could talk to Harry. Not without bringing up the baby. Each word would feel like a lie while he kept silent about the subject that most occupies his mind. And Harry would notice, of course he would. Louis wouldn’t be able to keep the secret from Harry, not for long, not while they’re tangled together, words of love whispered between them.

And Louis just can’t tell him yet.

“Not tonight,” Louis replies quietly to Niall’s question. “I – I can’t tonight.”

His hands shake as he lights the match, throwing it into the fireplace. He watches the flames catch and a warm glow soon encompasses him, his body warming, but only slightly.

“What?” Niall asks on a disbelieved laugh. “Never heard you or Harry turn down a night together.”

Louis can’t look at him as he stands up from where he’s been crouched in front of the fire. “I know,” he replies as he begins digging through his wardrobe, looking for his pajamas. “But it’s been a long week and I need to spend the night in my own bed.”

“Want me to ask Harry to come here?” Niall offers. “I’m sure he wouldn’t mind. He just misses you.”

Louis pretends Niall’s words don’t cause his chest to ache. “Please don’t,” he answers.

“Hey,” Niall catches his arm, forcing Louis to turn to him. Louis looks up reluctantly, scared that Niall will see all of Louis’ doubts and fears written on his face.

“Is everything alright?” Niall asks. His voice is gentle and concerned. “If something happened between you and Harry, you should talk to him. Whatever it is. He’d want to work it out with you.”

Louis shakes his head. “It’s nothing.” He tries to keep his voice firm, but he’s not sure if he succeeds. “You can tell him I’m sorry I couldn’t come by tonight but that I –” Louis’ voice catches “– I love him and I’ll see him soon.”

Niall stands there for a moment, eyes searching Louis’ face. Louis wants to shrink under the scrutiny, but he stands resolute instead.

“Okay,” Niall replies after a moment. He tugs Louis’ arm, pulling him into a tight hug. Louis wants to protest, wants to say he doesn’t want to be coddled in this way, but his heart is too heavy. He sinks into Niall’s embrace instead, thankful for even a moment of support.

“Just so you know,” Niall says when he pulls back. “If it’s something you can’t talk to Harry about, you can always talk to me. You’re like my brother, and I don’t want you to feel alone.”

Louis manages a small smile at the words, the reminder that he is always surrounded by support. “Thank you, Niall. I appreciate it, genuinely.”

Niall smiles, collecting his book from the table before slipping out the door.

When the door shuts, Louis sinks down onto the bed, letting out a shaky breath.

While he appreciates Niall’s support, Louis can’t help but wonder how he must look if Niall could sense something was upsetting him so much. Maybe it was just because Louis has never said no to a night with Harry, but maybe it’s not only that.

Whatever it is, Louis just hopes Niall won’t tell Harry.

 

Of course, that was too much to ask for.

The next night, Louis comes in from a hard day’s work to find Harry sitting at his kitchen table, eyes wide and hands in his lap, foot bouncing against the floor.

Louis freezes as soon as he sees him.

“Hi,” Harry says, voice small. He doesn’t stand up to greet Louis, doesn’t wrap him in a hug or give him a kiss like usual. He’s not sitting on the bed either, which Harry usually claims unashamedly. Coming home from a day’s work to find Harry naked in his bed is a fairly common occurrence. For him to be fully clothed and sitting at the table is unusual.

“Hi,” Louis answers. He shuffles his feet awkwardly for only a moment before walking to Harry. He fights the urge to plop down in Harry’s lap; instead, he pulls out a chair and sits next to him at the table.

“Was wondering if you were okay,” Harry murmurs. “You’d been away all weekend, and then Niall said you weren’t feeling up to coming by last night. Is everything alright?”

He looks at Louis with such open concern and vulnerability in his eyes that Louis has to look away.

“I was just staying at my mother’s this weekend,” Louis replies. He stares at a loose thread on his trousers, playing with it idly to avoid looking at Harry’s. “The girls and Ernest wore me out and I knew I wouldn’t be much company.”

It’s partially true, so Louis doesn’t feel guilty about saying it.

“I would have come here,” Harry replies. “I just wanted to fall asleep next to you. It feels like it’s been ages.”

“Well, we’ve both been busy,” Louis’ tone is brusque, dismissive in an attempt to veil the hurt hiding at the core of his words.

Harry is silent and Louis feels tension building in his bones as the silence lingers. It feels all encompassing, like a thick fog in the room. The silence is a heavy, pointed response to Louis’ coldness. He wants to break, wants to take it all back, but Harry speaks before he has a chance.

“Louis, did I do something?” Harry sounds so vulnerable, so fragile. Louis knows how that feels. “If I hurt you in some way, can you tell me? I want to fix it. I don’t want you to be angry at me.”

At that, Louis looks up at him. He feels like he’s about to bounce out of his skin. He wants Harry to leave; he doesn’t want him around for when he eventually breaks.

“I’m not angry at you, Harry,” Louis replies, voice emotionless and removed. “I was tired and I’d had a long weekend. I knew I had an early morning today. I just wanted to sleep last night. It’s nothing to do with you.”

Lies, lies, all lies.

But he can’t tell Harry the truth, can’t tell him he saw the Duke touch and hold him yesterday afternoon. He can’t tell Harry he’s afraid of losing him when that feels like an inevitable reality.

You’re pushing him away, a voice in Louis’ head whispers. For all you think about not wanting to lose him, you’re pushing him away by not telling him. You’re hurting him. You’re hurting him because you’re a coward.

The thought terrifies Louis even more, so he does his best to ignore it. He has to protect himself, and spending the night in Harry’s bed will only break his heart even more when Harry decides to leave.

“Would you tell me?” Harry asks tentatively. “If something was wrong – would you tell me?”

Louis has never not told Harry everything. Ever since he was twenty-three years old, all of Louis’ secrets were Harry’s secrets. There was nothing he kept from the man he loved, nothing he wanted to keep. Everything was Harry’s, as long as he wanted it.

And Louis knows. He knows that he’ll eventually have to tell Harry. Leaving the village without a word isn’t an option. He just can’t tell him yet. Not while the Duke is still here and attractively available.

The Duke leaves in two weeks’ time. Louis will tell him then.

“Yes,” Louis replies. “I – I will tell you, Harry, just not now. I can’t tell you now.”

Harry pauses, seeming to mull it over before nodding. “I trust you,” Harry replies quietly. “Just know that I’m here for you. If you’d – if you’d like some space, I can give that to you. I don’t want to make anything more difficult.”

Lovely, beautiful, thoughtful man. Even in his heartache, Louis loves him so much.

“I just need time,” Louis replies quietly. He hopes it’s answer enough.

Harry seems to accept it, but Louis has to look away as to not see the disappointment in his eyes.

Louis follows him to the door, head hanging miserably.

Harry pauses when they reach the door, turning around to face Louis.

“Can I kiss you?” Harry asks. “Before I leave. Please? Can I just kiss you?”

Louis can’t say no, doesn’t know how to. Doesn’t want to. He’s missed having Harry close the past few weeks, feels like they haven’t touched in ages.

Louis nods, unable to deprive himself of what he so desperately wants.

Harry doesn’t hesitate, immediately taking Louis into his arms. One arm wraps tightly around his waist while the other cradles his jaw, tipping his face upwards as their lips meet.

Louis melts into the kiss instinctively, lips parting at the gentle, wet pressure of Harry’s tongue. Each slide of lips is sweet, a promise of love and a hope that everything will be okay in the future. Louis clings tightly to Harry, wanting to believe that this is real and forever and everything will work out. That Harry, warm and soft and solid against him, truly loves him and won’t leave when he learns about the baby. About the responsibility he hasn’t asked for.

Louis can’t bring himself to break the kiss, even as he begins to grow short of breath and lightheaded. He just wants to keep holding Harry in this way, oblivious to anything that exists outside of the press of their lips, the press of their bodies.

Harry ends up breaking it, lips slick and swollen. But he doesn’t let Louis go. Instead, he leans his forehead against Louis’, holding him close as they breathe each other in.

I didn’t mean it, Louis thinks desperately. Stay. I don’t want you to leave.

“I love you,” Harry whispers against his mouth, a frantic urgency in his tone. “God, Louis, I hope you know that. I love you so much.”

Louis swallows heavily, words washing over him. He knows Harry loves him, but does he love him enough to stay?

“I love you, too,” Louis replies because it’s the truth and it will never not be the truth. Even if Harry rejects him, he’ll always be the love of Louis’ life.

Harry stays for a moment longer, holding Louis tightly to him as his breathing evens out. They stand unmoving, neither one willing to pull away when there is so much uncertainty about when they can be together again.

Harry, always Harry, decides to be the strong one. He gives Louis another quick, sweet kiss before pulling away. Without another word, he opens and shuts the door, disappearing into the darkness and leaving Louis on his own.

As Louis crawls into bed that night, it feels too cold and empty. Another body should be under the sheets with him, warming them.

He sleeps restlessly, arms reaching out longingly for the man that he sent away.

 

As much as Louis wishes he wouldn’t, Harry keeps his word.

He gives Louis the space he asked for, the space he doesn’t want. Harry doesn’t come by the house again for the rest of the week, doesn’t send Niall. Each day, Louis wakes up, works until his arms and back ache, and then comes home to a restless, lonely night.

It’s only been three days since Louis saw Harry last, but as he sits in the barn, milking the cows mindlessly, routinely, he can’t help but realize that it would be so easy for them to cut each other out of their lives.

Louis lived in the village for over twenty years before he ever met Harry, always seeing him at a distance. They were removed from one another by class and wealth, by prospects and expectations. Only a small chance had brought them together, a month of uninterrupted interaction that neither could have ever asked or planned for. That was all it took for them to fall in love, but it was all only by chance.

All their interactions afterwards were planned. They always arranged to meet, sending messages through Niall and only visiting in the dark of night. Everything was intentional; everything was planned.

And the rare moments they would accidentally stumble upon each other in the village, they couldn’t speak to one another. They couldn’t acknowledge each other outside of polite formalities. Social expectations required them to treat each other as strangers, and not as if they knew the other’s every secret, had every inch of their skin memorized.

Despite their years together, the intertwining of their lives has overall been only emotional, not physical.

Even though Louis wants to leave the village if Harry rejects him, it’s not the village itself that holds memories of him and Harry. Their memories together are confined to their bedrooms, stolen moments late at night under the protection of darkness. And Harry hardly ever leaves anything of his at Louis’, just in case anyone were to find it. Likewise, Louis never leaves any of his clothes or books at Rosehill. His home is void of physical reminders of Harry, just memories, intangible and elusive.

It would be so easy to cut Harry out of his life physically.

But emotionally – emotionally would be impossible.

Every memory of Harry – from the moment Louis first met him to just the other night when Harry kissed him so sweetly, so hopefully – would always be treasured by Louis. Being loved by Harry has been the greatest joy of his life, and he doesn’t want to forget one moment of it. Couldn’t possibly forget, even if he did want to.

As Louis finishes his day’s work, he wonders if Harry’s silence truly marks the beginning of the end. Even if he is pushing Harry away, it’s only to protect himself. Louis knows Harry will leave when he finds out, of course he will. Maybe if they start to fade from each other first, it will hurt less when Louis has to say goodbye.

Louis doubts it.

 

Jay comes by the next evening, and Louis can tell something is wrong as soon as he sees her.

“What is it?” Louis asks as she sits down next to him at the kitchen table. “Is everything okay?”

The furrow in Jay’s brow relaxes, but only because she seems to make a conscious effort of doing so. A long sigh escapes her lips as she says, “How can you read me so well?” Her voice is fond, but he can detect a note of tiredness in it.

“Like mother, like son, I suppose,” Louis attempts to joke, and Jay gives a small smile.

“It’s true,” she agrees, before reaching into her bag and pulling out an envelope. She places it on the table, but neither she nor Louis goes to read it.

“I’ve heard from my parents,” Jay begins. “I wasn’t expecting an answer this quickly, but they wasted no time in responding. I thought you would want to know.”

Louis nods, despite feeling his stomach drop. “What did they say?”

Sighing, Jay opens the letter, glancing down at it with melancholy eyes. “I didn’t tell them the finer details. I thought you would want to do that. I told them you were in a bit of a tough situation and were looking to potentially relocate.”

“And?” Louis asks, anticipation building in his chest.

Jay looks away from the letter, choosing instead to look at Louis. He almost glances away, the deep sadness in her expression causing his heart to twist.

“They said yes, of course. Under no uncertain terms you are welcome. They care about you, Louis. They want to help if they can, but,” she takes his hand in hers, squeezing tightly. “I want you to think about this before you make any decisions. This is only one option of many. You have your entire family who want to help you, who want to support you through this.”

Louis doesn’t know what to say, but Jay continues before he has a chance.

“You need to tell Harry,” her voice is firm. “I’ve tried not to push you, but if you are thinking of moving north, away from the people who love you most, then you need to tell Harry. I know you’re scared, but Louis,” her voice turns urgent, “this uncertainty, this fear you’re feeling, is so much worse than whatever Harry decides. You’re making yourself sick with fear, imagining the worst case scenario, when it’s highly unlikely that that’s the reality.

“If I’m wrong and that boy is stupid and irresponsible and says no, then we’ll make different plans. We can plan for you to go to Yorkshire or for you to stay with us so we can raise your baby as a family. But please, Louis, you need to tell him.”

When Jay finishes, Louis is hardly conscious of the tears falling down both their faces. He takes shallow, gasping breaths, trying to process what his mother is telling him. Trying to find the courage to do what he knows he needs to do.

Jay takes him into her arms as they both continue to cry, holding him and comforting him as she has done many times over the past several weeks.

He knows Jay is right that this crippling, horrible fear he has felt every moment since he discovered he was pregnant is worse than whatever Harry will tell him. The heartbreak of rejection would be devastating, but he would then be able to start making different plans. His future could become more certain and he could focus on that.

And he will have a baby in seven months for him to love. He’ll have someone new to love unconditionally and to love him unconditionally in return. Maybe becoming a father will piece his heart back together.

“I’m so scared,” Louis gasps wetly into his mother’s neck, tears leaking steadily down his cheeks, nose running. “I’ve bene pushing him away. I’ve been pushing him away, because I’ve been so scared. I feel like I’m going to lose him no matter what I do.”

“Sh, my darling,” Jay comforts. “I’m here. I have you.”

Jay hold him until he quiets, hiccupping sobs becoming small sniffles, tears drying on his cheeks.

“I need to tell him,” Louis admits, voice small. “I know I do. I’m so – I’m so tired of crying myself to sleep every night. I’m so tired of missing him. I just want to feel okay again. I want to be okay.”

“I know,” Jay murmurs, rubbing his back and kissing the top of his head.

“I’ll tell him, just not tonight.” It’s late, and Louis is exhausted. He needs to sleep and let his mind settle. He shouldn’t tell Harry right after he’s had an emotional breakdown and feels fragile and vulnerable. “I’ll – I’ll tell him tomorrow.”

“Do you want me to come with you?” Jay asks.

Louis considers this for a moment. Jay’s presence and support would be an undeniable comfort. Even in the face of rejection, he would have someone right there with him. Someone who won’t leave him or reject him.

But on the other hand, this is between him and Harry. This is their child. Harry is as much the father as Louis is, and even in his fear, he knows that Harry deserves to know. He deserves to hear it from him that in their love for one another, they made an innocent, unborn baby.

“I think,” Louis answers, trying to keep his voice from shaking, “that I need to do it by myself. But can I come over afterwards? If he says no? Can I come stay the night with you and the family?”

“Of course you can,” Jay answers firmly, yet soothingly. “You don’t even need to ask. You can stay from now until the baby is born for all I mind. You can come over straight away and I’ll be there no matter what.”

“Thank you, Mother,” Louis whispers, giving her cheek a kiss.

“Don’t thank me, my sweet boy,” she responds softly. They sit in silence for a moment, just holding on to each other tightly, when Jay chuckles. “Of course, don’t feel like you have to come over no matter what. If your boy gives you the answer you want, feel free to come visit another day.”

Louis can’t help but bark a laugh, cheeks flaming at his mother’s implication.

“I will,” he promises, and they both laugh quietly together.

And for the first time, Louis feels a small flash of hope.

Maybe, just maybe, everything is going to work out.

 

Louis can barely focus the next day.

He wishes he was doing a better job of hiding it, but it’s obvious to everyone around him that something’s wrong.

Before the day has even truly started, he drops a tray of a dozen bottles of milk, causing the glass to shatter and the liquid to soak the floor. All the farmhands have to hurry to replace the bottles so that all the deliveries can be sent out on time. Houses can’t function without their day’s milk, and they would be all too quick to take their business elsewhere if the farm deprived them of this necessity.

Farmer Richards gives Louis a concerned look as he hastily sweeps up the glass, but doesn’t say anything.

The rest of the morning passes in a similarly disastrous manner. He unintentionally frightens two of the cows so that they won’t stay still for him while milking. He accidentally shuts his thumb in one of the pen gates, causing it to turn red and ache. Louis tells himself to snap out of it and focus on his work, but all he can think about is what he is going to do later in the day.

How one word from Harry is going to determine his entire future.

“Mate, are you alright?” Zayn asks after Louis accidentally breaks off some of the fence he is trying to mend.

“I’m fine,” Louis grits out, turning back to his work.

“Don’t give me that,” Zayn returns. His voice isn’t harsh, but Louis’ eyes snap towards him anyways. He’s met with a look of pure concern. “If you need to take the rest of the day off, that’s fine. We can cover for you, and you seem to be doing more harm than good today, anyways.” He accompanies his final sentence with a playful smile, and Louis can’t help but breathe a sigh of relief.

“Would you mind?” Louis asks. “I know it’s awful, but I just don’t feel like myself today.”

“It’s alright,” Zayn assures him easily. “I’ll finish up here and you sort out whatever it is you need to sort out. I’ll see you on Monday, alright?”

“Thanks, Zayn,” Louis says, wrapping his friend in a tight hug. “If you ever need a favor, just let me know.”

Zayn smiles, laughing mischievously. “Believe me, I will.”

As Louis walks home, his hands shake. They’ve been shaking all day, but now that he’s not pretending that work is distracting him, all he can notice is how his hands won’t stop trembling. He clasps them in front of him, willing them to stop, as he makes the rest of his way home.

It’s only early afternoon, barely past noon, and Louis knows he should wait until nightfall before he goes to see Harry. But he doesn’t want to wait until then. He wants a bit more time to prepare, but if he waits hours, he’ll surely talk himself out of it.

He doesn’t want to go to Harry smelling like cow shit, either. Tonight is important, probably the most important moment of Louis’ life, and he wants to be prepared. He wants to feel worthy of Harry, and not like some lowly farmer he picked up off the street.

Louis brings in bucket after bucket of water, heating them quickly before pouring them into his wash basin. He strips quickly, stepping into the steaming water.

As he relaxes his head against the edge of the tub, he can’t help but think how he was in a similar situation just two months ago. The day after Harry had returned from London, Louis had barely been able to focus at work then as well. He had willed the day to pass quickly so that he could do what he longed to do. He came home to bathe, to prepare himself, before dashing off to Rosehill.

Then, Louis was excited at the prospect of seeing the man he loves, to hold him and kiss him and hear his voice after months of doing without. Now, Louis is anxious for the moment to pass. To know the truth so that he can finally start planning his future. The future with his child.

Louis cleans himself slowly, dragging the rough cloth over his skin as he wipes away dirt and grime and fear.

I’m pregnant, Louis imagines saying the words. How they will feel when he speaks them to Harry. How Harry will react. Will he celebrate or will he turn Louis away?

“I’m pregnant,” Louis whispers aloud, hand cupping the soft pudge of his tummy, imagining Harry in front of him. “I’m pregnant and I love you and I want a future with you.”

Louis looks up, wishing for a moment that Harry was in front of him. That Harry was here and that he heard the words Louis just whispered. But of course he isn’t, and Louis still has to tell him.

He finishes his bath, pouring the dirty bath water outside before coming in to dress. He stalls only a moment at the wardrobe before picking his finest Sunday clothes. Harry always loves how they look on him, always telling him how sharp and handsome he looks.

Louis hopes Harry will appreciate them today.

Before pulling on his clothes, he gazes at his form in the mirror. It’s been a while since he’s seen his naked reflection, but now, it’s almost like he can see the small bump. The pudge that’s always been on his waist is still there, but so is something else. A small swelling, hardly noticeable. It certainly isn’t a recognizable baby bump, but for his eyes only, he can see it. A small indication that his baby is inside of him, growing.

“I’m doing this for you,” Louis whispers, hands softly and affectionately cradling the bump. “I am so scared, but I want you to know your father. I want you to be able to love him and have him love you in return. That’s why I’m doing this. It’s for you.”

He gives his fingertips a kiss before pressing it to his belly, hoping the baby can feel it and know that it is loved.

He stands there for only a moment longer before deciding he can’t delay anymore. He dresses quickly, checking himself in the mirror and making sure his eyes are dry.

“You can do this,” Louis reminds himself, straightening his shoulders. “And whatever happens, you will be okay. You will be okay.”

With one final, deep breath, Louis opens the door, steps outside, and heads into the forest towards Rosehill.

Light shines softly through the trees, the sun only just beginning to set. Louis shivers as a cold wind whips around him, his entire body shaking.

He makes his way silently up the path through the forest, climbing the small hill towards the manor. All he can hear is the gentle sound of the leaves rustling in the trees, the occasional chirp of a bird. The sound of his heart hammering in his ears drowns out all other sounds.

But gradually, Louis can hear another sound. Something muted and hushed. Voices.

Louis pauses, hidden behind a veil of trees. He knows he’s near the gazebo, so inhabitants of Rosehill must have come down to sit and chat.

What if it’s the Earl and Countess? Louis can’t exactly pass by them and say he’s going to visit their son. Tears sting his eyes as Louis contemplates turning around and going home. Maybe this is fate telling him he shouldn’t tell Harry, trying to stop him before he makes a horrible mistake.

But then another thought flashes through his mind. In the past, he’s always claimed that he was visiting Niall when he went to Rosehill. People seldom inquired, but when they did, Louis always had Niall. That’s what he’ll do now – if the people in the gazebo ask, he’ll say he is going to see Niall. He’ll use the back entrance into the kitchens and ask for Niall. Then he will frantically explain that he needs to talk to Harry immediately, and hope that he will come to him.

Resolved, Louis begins walking again, still keeping his steps light and quiet. Right before he rounds the bend to put him in the sight of the gazebo, he stops. One of the voices raises and Louis’ heart catches in his throat.

Harry’s voice.

As subtly as he can, Louis leans around the trees to glimpse the gazebo. It’s hard to distinguish with the thick tree limbs and leaves in the way, but Louis can tell what’s before him.

It’s Harry and George, talking in the gazebo.

Harry’s back is to Louis, only a sliver of his profile in view. George sits before him, body leaning towards Harry. His expression is soft, and Louis can tell even from the distance that George’s expression is of someone in love.

Louis is about to run back to the house, when the wind picks up George’s words, carrying them to Louis’ ears.

“– ever since that first party. I knew then and there, Harry. I knew you were the one for me.”

Louis gasps, the wind swallowing the noise.

“These past weeks at Rosehill have only confirmed what I already knew,” George continues. “My darling, Harry.” Louis watches as George reaches up, placing a hand on Harry’s cheek. “I love you, and I want you to be mine. Will you marry me?”

Louis’ breath catches, heart stopping as he waits for Harry’s answer.

No, no, no, Louis thinks desperately. I was right. No. This can’t be happening…

But Harry doesn’t speak, doesn’t respond, and Louis can’t take it. Without him telling his body to do so, he’s moving, leaves crunching loudly under his boots.

George doesn’t see Louis until he’s right at the foot of the gazebo. George’s eyebrows pinch together, his palm still cupping Harry’s face.

Harry notices George’s confused expression, turning around to face Louis. His eyes widen with shock and horror, George’s hand falling away.

“You –” Louis gasps, voice broken with heartbreak. “How could you?”

“Louis –” Harry begins, stepping towards him, hands reaching out for him.

Louis recoils, hands wrapping protectively around himself as he steps back. Hurt flickers across Harry’s face as Louis backs away from him, his hands frozen in the air.

Suddenly, all the emotions bubbling within Louis over the past few weeks spill forth. He’s been scared and uncertain constantly, but now he just feels angry. Harry stands in front of him, looking upset and confused, as if another man didn’t just propose to him. As if Louis wasn’t about to witness all of his worst fears come true right in front of him.

“How could you do this to me?” Louis repeats, but this time, his voice isn’t laced with hurt. No, it’s accusatory, vicious. “After everything we’ve been through, after all the years I’ve loved you, how could you do this to me?”

“Louis, please –” Harry begins again, but Louis doesn’t give him a chance, barreling on.

“Did it mean anything to you? How I gave you my whole heart, my whole being? You told me you loved me, that you were going to marry me, but you were always going to marry someone else, weren’t you? Someone like him.” His head jerks towards George.

Louis reaches out to shove at Harry, anger and agony fizzling in his brain. Harry catches his hand before it makes contact with his body. He locks Louis’ wrist into an iron grip, and for a moment they just stare at one another, tears pouring from Louis’ eyes, Harry’s eyes filled with distress.

Harry finally opens his mouth to protest, but another voice cuts him off.

“Harry, who is this?” George asks, annoyance seeping into his voice.

Harry’s eyes flash. He doesn’t look away from Louis as he replies, voice hard, “George, you need to leave. Now.”

“But Harry –” George protests on a disbelieving laugh. “Who is this man? And why are you letting him speak to you like that? We were in the middle of something. Aren’t you going to give me an answer?”

“My answer is no,” Harry replies immediately, eyes still locked on Louis’. “Now go away.”

“Harry –” George starts, but Harry doesn’t give him a chance to continue.

“Now,” Harry grits out. “Go.”

George huffs with irritation, but neither Harry nor Louis look at him. Without another word, George walks away.

Now that they’re alone, all Louis can hear is blood pounding in his ears, through his veins, red hot and vicious. Louis uses every ounce of his being to focus on the anger. Anger is manageable. Anger is reliable.

It won’t be until later that he’ll let himself drown in the agony of heartbreak.

“How could you say that to me?” Harry whispers, voice filled with pain as he turns back to Louis. “How could you say any of that? When have I ever given you reason to believe that any of that utter bullshit you’re spouting was true?”

“He just proposed to you, Harry!” Louis practically shrieks, voice high and thin. “Or did you miss that? You must have given him some reason to believe you would say yes if he proposed. And what did you do? You didn’t even say anything. If you loved me, your answer should have been no immediately. No hesitation. No consideration. It should have been no.”

“You stopped me before I had a chance,” Harry bites back, anger beginning to seep into his voice. “And I said no, or did you miss that?” He echoes Louis’ words, harsh and distressed.

“Only because I arrived! Who knows what you would have said if I hadn’t?”

“Of course I would have said no. There is no other answer. But I just can’t believe you would think I would marry someone else when you – you have been the one pushing me away!”

“It didn’t take much, did it?” Louis demands. He knows the words are an unfair attack, but he can’t stop them from spilling forth.

“You asked me for space and I respected that. I didn’t want to pressure you when you so obviously were upset.”

“Well did you ever think that maybe I was upset because I needed you? That I needed you and you weren’t there for me?”

“I would have been there for you if you asked me. You know that. I would have dropped everything.”

“Not when I was sick,” Louis accuses. “I wanted you that week. I needed you that week. But you were too busy gallivanting with him.”

“You told me not to come,” Harry fires back. “You were staying at your mother’s and I didn’t want to come by when they don’t know about our relationship. I didn’t want to expose our secret.”

“Is that all I am to you? Some dirty secret you keep hidden in your bedroom? You told me I was the love of your life.”

“You are, even when you are being fucking unreasonable!” Harry huffs in exasperation, before his voice turns pleading. His hand still grasps Louis, squeezing tightly. “What did I do, Louis? You suddenly started pulling away from me and these past few weeks I’ve been watching the love of my life slip away and I haven’t been able to stop it. I’ve tried, I asked you to talk to me, but you wouldn’t. What have I done that’s hurt you so badly? Why won’t you tell me so we can fix it?”

“Why would you want to fix it?” Louis asks bitingly, trying to free his hand from Harry’s grip. Harry just holds on tighter. “Go marry the Duke. Live happily ever after where you don’t have to be ashamed of me. I’m going to Yorkshire – I’m going to be happy there. So much happier than I ever was here. They’ll take care of us there.”

“Us?” Harry asks, his voice suddenly broken. Louis’ head spins with the abrupt change of tone. “Who is us?” Before Louis can reply, Harry’s eyes harden, steel seeping into his voice as he continues, “You accuse me of unfaithfulness but you’re running off with someone else?”

“No, you absolute fool!” Louis spits, the words spilling out of his mouth before he can stop them. “I’m not going to Yorkshire with someone else. I’m going with our child. I’m going where it can have a happy life –”

“What?” Harry’s quiet voice interrupts him. He grips Louis’ hand so hard the skin begins to turn white. “What did you say?”

“I’m pregnant!” Louis snaps. “I’m pregnant and I’m leaving because I don’t want my child to grow up without feeling loved –”

Louis stops abruptly as Harry releases his hand. Harry’s eyes are wide, his hands shaking slightly.

“You’re pregnant?” Harry asks, voice barely a whisper. “You’re carrying –” he swallows roughly “–my child?”

“Yes,” Louis replies harshly. “And you don’t even care because you’re going to marry someone –”

Louis’ words screech to a halt as soon as he feels hands on his stomach. Gentle, soft fingertips run lightly over the top of his shirt. Louis swallows dryly, watching as Harry bends down onto his knees and slowly peels Louis’ shirt up, exposing the small swell of his tummy. The whole world seems to stop, Louis frozen in heartbreak and anger and astonishment.

“My love,” Harry breathes before leaning forward and pressing his lips to Louis’ belly. Louis gasps at the sensation, Harry’s lips moving slowly, softly, as he kisses Louis’ tummy. His hand is reverent, fingertips lightly stroking the skin.

His lips are wet and warm, opening gently against the skin to bite ever so lightly.

“Harry,” Louis gasps, fight draining out of him at the feeling. His hand falls into Harry’s hair, twisting tightly into the thick curls. His lips fall open and a quiet moan escapes, eyes fluttering shut as his head tilts back. His head and heart are still jumbled, but this touch feels so familiar, so right. Harry’s hands and mouth feel like heaven against his skin, so long since he’s felt them so gentle and loving. Harry holds him like a treasure, reverent.

“Is this why you were pulling away from me?” Harry asks quietly, lips still moving against the skin.

Louis swallows, gasping out, “Yes. I was scared you wouldn’t want me anymore. I didn’t know what else to do.”

“You should have told me,” Harry responds, kisses feather light on his tummy. “Why – how on earth could you be scared? This is every single one of my dreams coming true.”

Louis’ throat is dry, his head foggy. “Harry…”

“No, listen to me,” Harry’s voice is sharp but still quiet. He presses one final kiss to Louis’ navel before standing up, his hands gripping Louis’ biceps. When they’re face to face, Louis can see a wetness in Harry’s eyes, his lips trembling. “I have loved you with my whole being for three years. Every promise I ever made to you I will keep until my dying day. That includes when I said I would love you for the rest of my life. And now, now you are carrying my child. Our child. My heart just filled with so much more love for you and I didn’t even think that was possible. I didn’t think I could love you more than I already do. But Louis,” he huffs a wet laugh, “you are carrying our baby. How could you ever think I would love you any less for this? How could you ever think that this wouldn’t make me so impossibly happy?”

“Harry,” Louis breathes, unable to say any other words. He clings desperately to the sweetest name he has ever uttered.

“My God, Louis, I love you. I love you more than I ever thought possible. I love you, and God, I already love our child.” A smile breaks across his face, pure joy and bliss. “I can’t even believe it. I’m going to have a child with you. I didn’t think it would ever be possible to feel this kind of happiness. Do you believe me?” His grip tightens, voice firm. “Do you believe me when I tell you I love you and I won’t leave you?”

“Harry,” Louis sniffs, tears dripping off his chin.

“Answer me,” Harry practically snarls. “I need you to answer me.”

“Yes,” Louis gasps, voice thick with tears. “God, yes, Harry. I love you, too, I –”

Harry cuts him off with a kiss, lips already open. The kiss is scorching, Harry’s arms wrapping around Louis to press their bodies together. Their lips suck harshly, desperately, Louis’ hands shaking as he reaches up to cup Harry’s face, to run his fingers through his hair.

“I love you, I love you,” they murmur through their kisses, lips hot and wet.

They cling to one another, both having missed the warmth and feel of the other against them. Louis can’t stop touching Harry, his hands worshipping every soft plane of Harry’s body.

“My love,” Harry whispers, pulling back slightly. Louis’ lips chase his, catching them before Harry can say another word. Their lips suck gently, their faces wet and their hands gripping tightly.

“Louis,” Harry breathes, pulling back once more. Louis chases him, put instead moves his lips to Harry’s neck, sucking greedily at the skin. “My love. We need to talk about everything. About how you ever believed any of that, and we need to talk about our future. We need to plan, but –”

“But what?” Louis murmurs, biting at Harry’s collarbone.

“Let me take you to bed. Please,” Harry begs, voice filled with urgency and passion. “I need to touch you. I need to make love to you.”

“God yes, Harry,” Louis breathes. “Please.”

They immediately counter the suggestion by leaning in for more kisses, unable to resist the sweet taste of their lover’s mouth against their own.

When Louis’ tongue teases Harry’s, playful and quick, a deep moan rumbles in Harry’s chest. He pulls away abruptly, grabbing Louis’ hand and beginning to tug him towards the house. “Come with me,” Harry insists, Louis laughing as they stumble over their own feet, clumsy and eager.

They barely make it to the manor, pausing to snog against trees, Harry palming teasingly at Louis’ groin.

“Harry,” Louis groans. “Take me to bed.”

Twilight has just begun to fall as they stumble into the clearing, Rosehill looming above them. Harry doesn’t hesitate as he pulls Louis through the study door, not even checking to see if the coast is clear. They rush up the stairs, a mess of uncoordinated limbs as they hold tightly to one another.

Harry doesn’t even pause to check the corridor, neither of them caring if they’re seen, too overwhelmed with love and desire for each other.

When Harry clicks his bedroom door shut behind him, Louis doesn’t hesitate before jumping into Harry’s arms, wrapping his legs around Harry’s waist and bringing their mouths together for a hot kiss. Harry leans heavily against the wall, Louis’ legs squeezing his waist and his hands threading in his hair.

“Love of my life,” Harry murmurs, his lips barely breaking from Louis’ to whisper the words. “Love of my life, father of my child.”

They both moan desperately at those words, Louis rutting against Harry, his cock straining against his trousers.

“Harry, please,” Louis begs. “Want you to fuck me. I need to feel you inside of me.”

Harry growls, mouth biting possessively. “You want that? Want me to give you another child?”

It’s impossible, but Louis moans anyways, “Yes, please, Harry. Want ten of your children. Want a hundred. As many as you want as long as they’re with you.”

“Only with me,” Harry agrees firmly. He begins walking towards the bed, steps slow yet purposeful. “Going to love you for the rest of my life.”

“I love you,” Louis breathes as Harry gently lowers him onto the bed. Harry’s hands fall to Louis’ trousers, quickly undoing his belt and fly, pulling them off in one swift motion. Louis’ cock bobs against the fabric covering his tummy. The tip is already bubbling with precome, sliding slickly down the shaft.

Harry’s fingers move to the buttons of Louis’ shirt, beginning at the top and working down. When he gets to the final buttons, his fingers slow.

“Harry,” Louis gasps as Harry leans down to press a kiss to the skin. His fingers continue to pop open the buttons, kisses following reverently down his tummy.

When his shirt falls open, Louis quickly shrugs out of it, Harry leaning back to look at him.

“Already showing,” Harry murmurs with disbelief as he places his hands over the small swell of Louis’ tummy. “Going to be full with our child, swollen and perfect. Everyone will see. Everyone will know how much I love you.”

Before Louis can reply, Harry’s head ducks down again, pressing open mouthed kisses to his stomach. His teeth nip lightly, sucking sweetly.

“Hello, baby,” Harry murmurs against the skin. Louis wails, hips bucking and cock blurting precome. “I’m your father, and I –” his voice catches, tears forming in his eyes “– I love you so much already. How is that even possible? I can’t wait to meet you. I can’t wait.”

“Harry,” Louis gasps, already feeling so close to coming even with his cock neglected between his legs. “Please, my love. Touch me. Fuck me.”

Harry groans, pressing his face into Louis’ tummy before crawling up Louis’ body to kiss him, tongues meeting in the middle.

“Don’t know if I could last,” Harry admits between kisses. “Already feel so close. Fucking missed you so much.”

“Please,” Louis begs, sweat beading at his temple, pooling along his collarbones. “I need to feel you inside of me.”

Harry’s lips connect again with his, kissing deeply. “Whatever you wish, my love,” Harry agrees. “Whatever you wish.”

Harry leans back to make quick work of his clothing while Louis twists his body towards the bedside table to pull out a pot of oil and a condom.

Harry pauses when he sees the items in Louis’ hands. “Do – do we need that?” Harry stutters, nodding towards the condom.

Louis pauses as well, looking down at the condom. “No,” Louis realizes. “We don’t need it, because I’m already pregnant.”

“Because you’re already pregnant,” Harry replies dreamily, eyes slightly glazed.

“I love you,” Louis replies, dropping the items on the bed to wrap his arms around Harry and to bring him down for a kiss.

His naked skin is warm and soft against Louis’, his hands spreading over Harry’s back and rubbing deep circles.

“I love you with every breath I breathe,” Harry whispers. “You are my light. You are my sun. You are my joy, and I will love you until the earth stands still and the mountains move and the oceans dry up. I will love you then and forever after that.”

“Harry,” Louis breathes, eyes fluttering shut as he kisses him. He hopes each passionate kiss promises the same: the love Louis has for Harry has no end.

Harry’s lips move to his neck, mouth worshipping each inch of skin. He bites at Louis’ neck, sucks on his collarbones, laves at his nipples, and runs his fingers through Louis’ coarse pubic hair. When he reaches his tummy, he gives it a sweet kiss, lips warm and wet.

Louis sighs blissfully, the feeling of his lover’s hands reassuring and comforting on his skin.

The sweet sigh turns to a jagged moan as Harry’s mouth moves to Louis’ cock, suckling lightly at the head.

“Oh God, Harry,” Louis cries out, heat and pressure building in his belly.

Harry hums, the vibrations shooting through Louis’ body. Harry takes him down slowly, tongue working expertly over Louis’ shaft, licking firmly along the vein. Louis feels himself nudge the back of Harry’s throat, Harry breathing harshly through his nose.

“Harry –” Louis gasps, hands flying to grip Harry’s hair, tangling in the curls. “I’m gonna – I’m gonna come –”

Harry pulls off abruptly, leaving Louis’ cock cold and wet. But he doesn’t give Louis a moment to protest, reaching across the duvet to snag the pot of oil and a pillow. He guides Louis to lift his hips as he props it beneath him. Once Louis is settled, Harry opens the pot and slicks his fingers.

He wastes no time teasing, pointer finger pushing with no hesitation into Louis’ hole. His fingers are thick yet gentle, filling him perfectly. Louis grinds down instinctively onto Harry’s finger, craving more of the sweet pleasure.

Harry’s finger pumps in and out of him quickly, leaning down to take one of Louis’ balls into his mouth. He sucks greedily as his finger stretches Louis open, and Louis’ body convulses with the sensation.

“Feels amazing,” Louis gasps, tongue heavy. “God, Harry, don’t stop –”

Harry adds a second finger, scissoring them in the tight heat of Louis’ body. Louis feels himself stretching, unable to resist the expertise of Harry’s fingers.

Louis whimpers high in his throat as Harry moves to suck on his other ball, tightening under the wet pressure of his mouth.

Harry’s fingers push deeper into him, brushing lightly over Louis’ prostate. Pleasure zings up his spine, body shaking and back arching. “Oh, Harry,” Louis moans. “Harry…”

Harry moans in response, pulling off of Louis’ balls. He tips his head back so that they can look at each other. Harry’s mouth is cherry red and bitten, his eyes dark with a small sliver of emerald green in a ring around them, and his cheeks are flushed and his hair is wild.

He looks like perfection.

Harry presses against Louis’ prostate again, rubbing firmly over the hard spot. Harry’s eyes don’t leave Louis’ face as he cries out, more precome leaking from his slit.

“You are so beautiful,” Harry murmurs. “Everything I have ever wanted right in this bed. The love of my life filled with our child. God, Louis, you make me so happy.”

“Harry,” Louis breathes, unable to remember any other words.

His breath stutters as a third of Harry’s fingers pushes inside along the others, filling him deliciously. He scissors his fingers, stretching Louis wider and wider.

“M’ready,” Louis slurs. “Please, Harry. Want to feel you.”

Harry withdraws his fingers slowly, wiping them on the duvet. He crawls up Louis’ body, resting his elbow by his head.

“You are perfect,” Harry whispers before connecting their lips. They kiss sweetly, lips trading lazy sucks as if they had all the time in the world.

Harry runs his non-sticky hand through Louis’ hair, his nails scratching lightly at Louis’ scalp.

With one final kiss, Harry pulls away. He leans back on his knees, Louis’ legs wrapping around his waist. Carefully, Harry lines up with Louis’ wet hole, pushing in slowly. Louis breathlessly moans as the first inch of Harry’s cock breaches him, feeling fuller than he has in weeks. His body is so warm, so light, that he feels like he might float away if not for Harry’s firm grip on his hips.

When Harry bottoms out, he bends Louis in half to press their lips together. Louis’ fingers thread through Harry’s hair, twisting into the strands.

Harry bites Louis’ bottom lip harshly as he begins to thrust, hips snapping against Louis’ body.

Louis breaks away from Harry’s mouth to cry out, head rolling against the pillows.

Harry doesn’t stop though, not with his thrusts or his kisses. He moves his lips to Louis’ neck, sucking deep purple marks into the skin.

“Mine,” Harry growls into Louis’ skin. “Want everyone to see. Want everyone to know. You are mine.”

“Harry,” Louis gasps, hips raising to meet Harry’s thrusts, skin slapping together.

“I love you,” Harry grits out, teeth sharp against Louis’ skin. “Always, always. Always you. Forever you.”

Louis’ breath stutters, hips humping upwards frantically. “I’m so close – Harry –”

“You’re so lovely,” Harry continues, pulling back to look at Louis. His eyes are wild and intense, yet still fond. “Always so lovely when you come. But you’re so lovely always. Going to be even more beautiful when you start to show, your tummy growing with our child. You’re going to be so full and perfect and so lovely I don’t know how I’ll be able to stand it. Don’t know how I’ll be able to keep my hands to myself. Won’t be possible. Can’t wait to meet our child, for our family to start growing. We’re going to fill our house with love and laughter and babies, and God, I’m going to love you for the rest of my life.”

Harry’s words overwhelm him, striking him right at the heart of all his fears and anxieties for the past few weeks. It had felt like a weed had grown around his heart, squeezing and suffocating him so that he couldn’t breathe or think. But Harry’s words – Harry himself – chop down the root, cutting it away from Louis’ heart, freeing it and freeing him. Freeing him to remember that he is loved. That he is so, so loved.

Louis cries out, voice high and breathless as his back arches off the bed, giving into the pleasure. He comes all over his tummy, body shaking and hands fisted tightly in the sheets.

Harry’s thrusts turn erratic as Louis finishes coming, his hands gripping Louis’ hips tightly. He tugs Louis against him, moving Louis’ body to meet each of his thrusts. Louis throws his head back and drowns in the sensation, body melting into the mattress.

Harry can only manage a few more thrusts before he’s coming, leaning down to dig his teeth into Louis’ abdomen. Louis yelps at the flash of pain, but then hardly notices as he feels Harry’s come fill him up, making him wet and sated.

Louis strokes his fingers through Harry’s hair as he rides out his orgasm, thumb massaging the scalp. Harry shakes as he finishes coming, teeth pulling from his skin which is surely covered in deep, red indents. Almost as an apology, Harry closes his lips around the spot, sucking gently as his tongue rolls over the skin.

“Harry,” Louis breathes, tugging lightly on his hair. “Harry, kiss me.”

Harry doesn’t hesitate. He drags his mouth along Louis’ skin, leaving a wet trail as he arrives at Louis’ mouth. Their lips press together, tongues tenderly tangling. Their hands stroke lightly over skin, just feeling one another and savoring being so close after so long.

“I love you,” Louis whispers. “I’ve said it a hundred times and I will say it a hundred more. You are the love of my life.”

“And you are mine,” Harry replies, lips lazy against his mouth.

They kiss and kiss until both their mouths are numb, raw, and bruised. But neither care, pressing closer and whispering sweet words of love and devotion.

When Harry pulls back slowly, Louis gradually becomes aware that he hasn’t pulled out. Louis shifts his hips and Harry hisses. He reaches to his cock, carefully guiding it from the wetness of Louis’ hole.

Harry practically collapses onto the bed next to Louis, making him bounce lightly with the force of his fall. Louis giggles, unable to help it, his eyes crinkling as he smiles.

Harry smiles back at him, dimple popping, deep and attractive.

They roll onto their sides so they are facing one another, hands tangling together to rub soothing patterns over each other’s skin.

“Louis,” Harry whispers into the stillness of the room.

“Hm?” Louis replies, his heavy eyelids fluttering open to gaze on Harry’s face. He feels warm and sleepy, content in Harry’s bed.

“We need to talk,” Harry reminds him. “We need to talk about everything and why you thought I wouldn’t want you anymore. We need to figure things out.” His free hand reaches up to lightly brush Louis’ fringe out of his eyes. “I need to make sure we’re okay.”

Louis sighs, eyes squeezing shut for a moment before blinking them open. “I know, I know we do, but,” he pauses, chewing on his lip distractedly. “Can we sleep first? I haven’t slept well since the last night we spent together and I’m just, I’m so tired.”

Harry takes a moment to study Louis’ face, eyes flickering. He sighs and then nods. “Yes, we can sleep first. But I want you to know,” his voice becomes urgent, serious, “I need you to know how happy I am. How much I want this. How much I want to be with you and raise our child together. I need you to know that I love you and won’t ever leave you.”

Louis nods in return, expression softening. “I – I believe you, Harry. I do. And I need you to know that I love you, too. More than I ever thought was possible. And I want this too – a life with you.”

Harry smiles. “That’s all that matters. We’ll figure everything else out.”

“Yes,” Louis agrees. “We love each other. Everything else is just details.”

Harry leans over to give Louis one more sweet, lingering kiss. His hand drifts down to Louis’ belly, softly cupping the slight bulge.

Their lips break apart, and Harry lies down on his back, pulling Louis along next to him. Louis rests his head on Harry’s chest, arm wrapped around his waist. Beneath his cheek, he can feel the strong, steady, reassuring beat of Harry’s heart. With a content smile on his face, Louis drifts, his lover’s heartbeat lulling him peacefully to sleep.

 

Soft hands pull Louis from his dreams, coaxing him gently from his restful slumber. Even in the haze of sleep, Louis can feel Harry’s hands, careful and reverent as they trace patterns into the skin of his belly.

Louis’ lips slap together lazily as his eyes blink open. His head is still pillowed on Harry’s chest, rising and falling with each of Harry’s gentle breaths. The room is still fairly dark – a small sliver of light from the window suggesting that it’s early morning.

“I didn’t mean to wake you,” Harry murmurs in the quite of the room. “Just wanted to touch for a bit. Still can’t believe it’s real. Can’t believe you’re carrying our child.”

Louis smiles, eyes slipping shut again as he rolls onto his back, giving Harry more room to explore. Harry shifts so that he leans over Louis, both hands now rubbing lightly over the skin. A deep contentment settles in his bones, his mind clear and heart peaceful for the first time in weeks.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Harry asks quietly, breaking the silence. Louis’ eyes flicker open to lock with Harry’s. Even in Harry’s happiness, Louis can see a hurt in his eyes as well. A confusion.

Louis’ hand lands on top of Harry’s. He locks their fingers together before pulling Harry’s hand to his mouth to sweetly kiss his knuckles. Harry watches him closely as Louis sits up, turning slightly so that they face one another.

“I was really scared, Harry,” Louis admits in a quiet voice. “I’ve never been so scared about anything, and I just wasn’t sure how you’d react.”

“But we’ve talked before about having a family someday,” Harry points out, brows pinching together as he struggles to understand. “I’ve been dreaming about having children with you practically since I met you. Was – was that not something you wanted?”

“No, it was,” Louis is quick to reassure. “It is. But when we talked about starting a family, it was always after we were married. After you’d turned twenty-five and had your inheritance. This didn’t feel like dreams coming true. This – this felt like a complication.”

Harry doesn’t say anything, but his thumb strokes gently over the back of Louis’ hand as he waits for him to continue.

Louis swallows a couple of times, struggling to find the right words to express the emotions that have been tormenting him not only the past few weeks, but the past few years.

“Loving you and being loved by you has always felt too good to be true. No matter how many times you’ve told me you loved me, I’ve never understood why you picked me. Why someone from such a different world would pick me. But you did and I picked you in return, but in the back of my mind – always I’ve had a fear.” He pauses, taking a deep breath. “I’ve always been scared our relationship would end. Not because we’d fall out of love with one another, but because we would wake up from this fairytale. Because we’d realize love doesn’t conquer all and that we could never be more than some secret liaison, hidden behind closed doors. Not the great love we’ve always believed we are.

“So that was why, when I found I was pregnant, I thought this was the end. I thought you’d realize that loving me was a greater responsibility than you ever wanted – that you didn’t actually want a child with me. And now you were going to have one, something you never wanted.” His voice breaks, but Harry squeezes his hand tighter, raising it to his lips to press an encouraging kiss against the skin. “I just wasn’t ready to lose you yet. I wanted to hold onto you for as long as I could.”

Harry is quiet when Louis stops speaking, eyes lowered and face unreadable. He still clasps Louis’ hand in his, anchoring him to the bed.

When Harry finally speaks, his voice is thick with emotion. “I hate that you’ve felt that way all these years. I wish I’d known – I –” His voice breaks, locking tear filled eyes with Louis. “I would have done anything if I’d known you felt that way. I’ve been planning our lives together since we met, Louis. You’ve never been some –” his expression sours, spitting the words “– secret liaison to me. You’ve always been my whole world. I hate that you didn’t know that.”

“But I did,” Louis replies urgently, the self-deprecation in Harry’s voice causing his heart to break. “I do,” he corrects fiercely. He reaches up to wipe the tears from Harry’s eyes, thumbs brushing along his cheekbones. “I know you love me. The thing is, I’ve never doubted that, even when I was afraid to tell you I was pregnant. But fear – fear isn’t rational. I’ve been very happy with you, so I don’t want you thinking this was always at the forefront of my mind because it hasn’t been. You make me so happy, but my fears were rooted in my own insecurities. My own fear that I wasn’t good enough to be loved by you.”

“You are,” Harry insists, resting his hand over Louis’, pressing it softly into the wet skin of his cheek. “You are. I couldn’t love anyone else the way I love you. You are the best person I have ever met, and honestly, it feels like a privilege getting to love you. You say you don’t know why I chose you, but I always feel so fucking lucky that you chose me. You are perfect, and I am going to spend the rest of our lives telling you every single day.”

“Harry,” Louis whispers, no other words sufficient. He leans forward, pressing their foreheads together. They take a moment to breathe each other in, hands still clasped together and bodies trembling under the weight of their emotions.

“I love you,” Louis promises against Harry’s lips.

Harry puffs a sigh of relief over Louis’ mouth, whispering the words, “I love you, too,” before connecting their lips in a sweet kiss.

Harry’s free hand thumbs Louis’ cheek as they lean back, watery blue and green eyes meeting.

“I’m sorry I’ve pulled away from you,” Louis apologizes quietly. “That wasn’t fair to you.”

“Why did you do that?” Harry asks. His voice isn’t accusatory, simply curious. Trying to understand. “You say you didn’t want to let me go, but I felt like you didn’t want me at all.”

Louis shakes his head, a lump in his throat forming. “Fear isn’t rational,” he repeats. “I wanted to be with you, but it also hurt being with you. There was one night we fell asleep together, and our hands were resting over my tummy – over our child – and it just hurt me so much knowing you didn’t know. That you could touch my stomach and not know our child was growing there. I didn’t want to push you away, but it also hurt to keep you close.”

“I was so afraid, too,” Harry confesses quietly. “I didn’t know what was happening, and I wanted to respect your space and let you talk to me on your own terms, but I was scared, too. I thought that maybe I’d been gone to London for too long, and I don’t know. Maybe you’d decided we weren’t something you wanted anymore since I had been gone for so long. I was scared I was going to lose you, but I wasn’t sure if you wanted me to fight for you. All those nights I went by your house and you weren’t there, I thought it was because you didn’t want to see me. I thought you were avoiding me.”

“No,” Louis adamantly denies. “I was at my mother’s those nights. She knows – about the baby. About us. I needed to tell someone and she’s a nurse and also my mother. She’s helped me so much.”

“I’m so glad you had someone. I’m so glad you didn’t have to go through these past weeks alone.”

“Me too.” Louis pauses. “I’m sorry I made you think I didn’t want you anymore. I was going to tell you about the baby the first week I found out, but –” he pauses, gnawing at his lip distractedly. “That was when you told me about the Duke visiting. You sounded so happy and I thought – I thought you would reject me and marry him if I told you I was pregnant. That you already had a much more preferable option waiting right at your door.”

Harry is quiet, squeezing Louis’ hand softly. “I’m sorry you thought that. I’m sorry I led you to believe there was anything more than friendship between me and George.” He huffs a dry, humorless laugh. “And apparently you weren’t the only one who thought that. I’m sorry you witnessed him proposing to me. I’m sorry I unintentionally led him to believe there was a possibility I would say yes.” His voice turns urgent, his grip on Louis’ hand tightening. “But Louis, you should know that it’s always been you. These past weeks that he has been visiting, I have barely been able to do anything with him because I’ve been so worried about you. When he proposed, I was so shocked because all I could think was ‘How could I ever want to marry someone that isn’t Louis?’ That was what was going through my mind when you stepped in.” He chuckles. “I was trying to find a way to let him down. Since I considered him a friend, I was going to be honest and tell him that someone else has had my heart for years. But after the way he spoke to you, I don’t consider him a friend anymore.”

“Harry, you don’t have to lose a friendship over this…”

“No,” Harry cuts in, voice firm. “No one speaks to you that way. And since my relationship with him was hurting you, I won’t feel its loss.”

“It wasn’t him specifically,” Louis attempts to explain. “It was the idea of him with you that scared me.”

“I know,” Harry soothes. “And I’m sorry you had to see at least part of your fears manifested when he proposed to me. But please believe that I was never going to accept him.”

“I do,” Louis promises, nuzzling into Harry’s neck and receiving a kiss on his cheek.

“I just love you so much,” Harry whispers fiercely, wrapping his arms tightly around Louis. “And I’m so happy that we’re going to have a child. I still can’t believe it, quite frankly. This is all I’ve been dreaming about for years – starting a family with you.” His voice catches. “Our love for one another made a child.”

Louis turns his head slightly to kiss Harry’s neck. “We did. Because we love each other so much.”

Harry pulls Louis closer to him, bodies pressed together. They cling to one another for a moment, heart beats echoing against one another.

Quietly, Louis asks against Harry’s skin, “What’s next?”

Harry doesn’t answer at first, slowly readjusting Louis in his arms so that they can look at one another.

“Please don’t go to Yorkshire,” Harry pleads, voice urgent. “I mean, don’t go to Yorkshire without me. I want to raise our child together, and if you really want to go to Yorkshire, I will go with you. I would follow you to the ends of the earth. But I would like to raise our child here, if that’s what you want as well.”

“Here?” Louis asks, surprise coloring his voice. “Here as in the village or here as in Rosehill?”

Harry’s brows furrow in confusion. “Rosehill, of course.” When Louis makes a noise of surprise, Harry continues. “That was always the plan, wasn’t it? You would eventually move here and we would marry and start a family? I think we should just move the plan forward.”

“You want me to move here?” Louis asks in disbelief. Harry is right – that was always the plan eventually – but Louis still can’t believe what he’s hearing.

“Yes,” Harry confirms. “Unless you really want to go to Yorkshire. I know you have family there.”

“I don’t want to go to Yorkshire,” Louis cuts in. “That was a backup plan in case you didn’t want to be with me. I – I couldn’t bear the thought of raising our child in a village where one of their fathers wouldn’t acknowledge them. It broke my heart.”

“I would never do that,” Harry says quietly, hurt evident in his voice.

“I know you wouldn’t,” Louis counters, “but I was scared. Everything I’ve been thinking these past few weeks hasn’t been rational. Even my mother told me that I should trust these past three years with you and not the fear that had rooted in the past three weeks. Please believe me.”

Harry studies Louis’ face for a moment before nodding. “I do believe you. And I’m going to make sure you never feel that way again.”

Louis leans forward to give Harry a kiss, a reassurance, a thank you.

“If you don’t want to go to Yorkshire,” Harry continues after a moment, “then I would like you to move in here. I want to marry you as soon as possible so that we can raise our child as a family. I want to be with you during the pregnancy and help you any way I can. I don’t want you to have to do any of this alone.”

“But Harry,” Louis weakly points out, “then people will know about us. What about your family? What about your inheritance?”

“I am so tired of keeping you a secret,” Harry admits fiercely. “I’ve never liked it, but especially lately, it’s felt so dishonest. And I think we were doing it more out of habit anyways, since my birthday is so soon. But I don’t want to keep us a secret anymore. I want to tell everyone I love you and I want to marry you in a church with our families there or with no one at all. Our child will be the heir of Rosehill and that is cause for celebration. We are going to raise our child in a loving family and that will start before it is even born.”

Louis feels dizzy. He’s been waiting for years to finally have Harry in every way – privately and publicly – and now that Harry is offering it to him, he almost doesn’t know what to do.

“Yes, Harry, I want that,” Louis murmurs resolutely. “I want that more than anything.”

Their bodies sway towards one another, lips connecting softly. Harry’s hand cups Louis’ jaw as their lips slide together, passion and promise in every kiss.

“We’ve talked about this before,” Harry whispers between kisses, “but are you sure this is what you want? Are you sure you want to move to Rosehill? Become a lord?”

Louis pulls away from Harry’s lips, considering his question. It’s something he has spent so much time thinking about over the past several years, and he knows the answer.

“I do want that,” Louis replies. “I know you would move to my house with me if that’s what I wanted…”

“Yes,” Harry cuts him off. “I would. I would give up everything for you.”

Louis smiles softly. “But I don’t want you to. With my pregnancy, I’m not going to be able to work on the farm much longer anyways. And I want to raise our child. We can do what we always planned – I could take on the role of overseer of the grounds while you manage the house’s financial affairs. That way I could still be working with animals and doing what I know, but I’d be doing it at Rosehill.”

“Yes,” Harry agrees. “You can work on the grounds or you can write or you can raise our child or all of them. As long as you are happy, that is what matters.”

“I am happy,” Louis assures him. “And I will be happy when I move here and take on my new role as your husband.”

His voice stutters over the last word, eyes widening. He is going to marry the love of his life. They are going to become husbands and raise their child in a happy, loving home. All of Louis’ fears feel far away, forgotten.

“Husband,” Harry whispers, smile widening and dimple etching into his skin.

They smile blissfully at one another for a moment, both overwhelmed by the joy they’re feeling after so many weeks of uncertainty.

“Let’s tell my parents tonight,” Harry suggests in a quiet voice.

“So soon?” Louis asks, surprised.

Harry nods seriously. “I don’t want to delay. I don’t want to give you any reason to doubt this is what I want.”

“Are you sure you don’t want to prepare them? Ease them into it?”

“I want to tell them tonight,” Harry repeats. “We can tell them I’ve loved you for three years and that we’re expecting a child and that we’re getting married.”

“We?” Louis asks, voice small. “You want me there?”

Harry gives him a look of disbelief. “Of course I do.” A flicker of uncertainty crosses his face. “Unless of course you’d rather I tell them by myself. I know they’re my parents, and I wasn’t there for you when you told your mother.”

Louis squeezes Harry’s hand. “That was different. But of course I’ll be there if you want me to be.”

Harry nods. “I do. I want them to meet you.”

“I want to meet them too,” Louis admits breathlessly, overwhelmed at the idea of meeting the Earl and Countess – Harry’s parents. “But maybe I could go home first? Just for a little bit,” he immediately amends at Harry’s confused expression. “It feels so important that I’m going to meet them and I just want to be ready. And I can send my mother a message that all is well with us. She – she really encouraged me to tell you, Harry. She really believes in your goodness.”

A pleased smile breaks over Harry’s face, bashful. “What a wonderful woman. I can’t wait to meet her.”

“I can’t wait for you to meet her as well,” he laughs softly. “She actually knew – about us, I mean. She told me she’d seen the way we looked at each other and heard how I talked about you and she just knew. Just like that.”

Harry’s smile turns mischievous as he leans over to gently nip at Louis’ neck. “And how, do tell, do you talk about me?”

Louis laughs brightly, head lulling to the side to give Harry more room. “Like you’re my whole fucking world,” Louis admits breathlessly, warmth and happiness flooding his body.

Harry growls into his skin, pressing harder, wetter kisses to Louis’ neck. “My whole world, the love of my life. Carrying my child. Never thought it would be possible to feel this kind of happiness.”

Louis’ laugh turns into a moan as Harry bites down on the skin, beginning to suck urgently. Any words float away from Louis’ head, only able to focus on the feeling of Harry’s lips on his skin.

“Going to marry you,” Harry murmurs as he sucks a bruise high on Louis’ throat. “Going to love you for the rest of my life.”

“Harry,” Louis gasps, arms wrapping around his lover’s back and pulling him closer.

As their lips connect and their bodies press against each other, their love fills the room, seeping through the walls and pouring out the windows. Each kiss, each moan is a promise to never confine their love to a room ever again, but to always share it with the world.

Two orgasms each and one nap later, Louis steps into the muted autumn afternoon light.

His entire body feels so much lighter than it has in weeks, his hands still and his heart beating calmly. He takes a moment to bask in the dull October sun, barely peeking through the clouds.

He had been reluctant to leave Rosehill, and Harry had been reluctant to let him go. They were sure to part with no misunderstanding between them, promising they’d see the other later that night.

In the meantime, they both had important affairs to take care of. Harry had the unsavory task of making sure the Duke of Richmond had left Rosehill, while Louis had the joyous task of telling his mother his wonderful news.

He all but runs to his family home, smiling brightly at everyone he passes. He feels untouchable, like he’s flying.

He bursts through the door, unable to wipe the grin off his face as his family, scattered around the living room, look up at him.

“Louis!” they gasp in surprise, but Louis’ eyes only seek out Jay.

She’s sitting on the couch, a book in her lap, and a look of expectant hope on her face. When their eyes meet, he gives her a small smile and a nod.

Immediately, a sob bursts from Jay’s lips. She carelessly discards the book onto the couch before running to him, wrapping him in a tight hug.

“Everything’s okay,” Louis tells her as she holds him close. “He still wants me. He still wants us. We’re still in this together.”

“Oh, baby, I’m so happy,” Jay whispers, leaning back to kiss his cheek fondly. “You are so strong and brave. I’m so proud of you.”

“Thank you,” he murmurs, burying his face in her shoulder.

“What’s going on?” Charlotte’s voice cuts through their happy bubble, reminding Louis that his whole family has just watched the emotional scene play out. “Lou, is everything alright?”

Jay steps back, taking Louis’ hand in hers and squeezing it.

“Um,” he laughs breathlessly, unsure of what to say. When he glances at his mother, she gives him a reassuring smile. “Yeah, everything is perfect actually.”

Charlotte, Félicité, and both sets of twins look at him expectantly, clearly not satisfied with his answer.

Louis laughs again, feeling light and so, so happy. “Um, I have a bit of news, actually. I’m expecting a child. A child with Lord Harry Styles.”

“What?” Charlotte gasps excitedly. “You’re pregnant?” She’s crossing the room in an instant, wrapping him in a close hug.

“I am,” Louis confirms as his siblings cheer, rushing to give him more hugs and kisses. Louis laughs excitedly as Doris climbs into his arms.

“A new baby to play with!” Doris cries, arms flapping with her baby doll in hand.

“With Lord Harry?” Félicité asks over the commotion. “You two…?”

“We’ve been in love for several years now,” Louis explains amidst the excitement. “Ever since he came to the farm. This is what we both want. We’re so happy.”

“This calls for a celebration!” Dan exclaims, fetching some wine. “To Louis, to Harry, and to their baby!”

Everyone cheers, hugging and kissing Louis. They celebrate all afternoon, his siblings asking question after question: does he think it’s a boy or a girl? Does he have any names picked out? They begin arguing over who will be the best aunt, Ernest smug as he automatically defaults to the position of best uncle as the only other male sibling.

His family’s joy is contagious, and Louis finds himself wondering again why he was ever scared. His family is so happy for him, loving him just as much and accepting his unborn child without question. As he sips his sparkling grape juice, listening to Charlotte and Phoebe talk excitedly, his hand falls to his tummy, cradling the small swell gently in his palm.

Look how loved you are, Louis thinks fondly. Not even here yet and we love you so much. Me and your father and my entire family. We all love you so much.

The sky is already darkening when Louis begins to head home. All his siblings hug and kiss him again, offering their congratulations and voicing their excitement. Louis hugs and kisses them all back, wishing he could convey how thankful he is to have such a supportive, loving family.

“Gonna walk you home,” Jay murmurs as he gives her a hug. “Want some time with my boy.”

Louis could never say no to spending more time with his mother, so he takes her arm, calls farewell to his siblings once again, and they begin to walk home.

They walk in comfortable silence for a moment, listening to the wind whistling through the trees.

“I’m so happy for you, baby,” Jay says quietly. “I never doubted that this would be the outcome, but it’s still so wonderful to see.”

“You were right,” Louis confesses. “I needed to trust the past three years I’ve known him, not the past three weeks. He loves me. He wants to marry me. We’re going to raise our child as a family and I’m just – it’s everything I ever wanted.”

Jay gives his arm a gentle squeeze. “I’m so glad. You deserve this sweet happiness.”

He briefly recounts his conversation with Harry – how Harry stripped away all his fears and doubts until he had no choice but to feel utterly loved and accepted. He tells her of their plan to tell his parents tonight and of how they want to marry as soon as possible.

“I want you there,” Louis tells her, remembering Harry saying they could have a private ceremony if he wanted. “You and the family. No matter when or where it is, I want you there.”

“Heaven and earth couldn’t stop me.”

Louis smiles as his house comes into view, but nearly stops at the sight of a candle in the window.

“What is it?” Jay asks when he hesitates.

An even bigger smile breaks across his face, tugging his mother forward. “Would you like to meet him?”

Jay looks past him, seeing the candle and piecing it together. She gives him a gentle smile and kisses his cheek. “Nothing would make me happier.”

Harry’s face lights up as soon as Louis pushes the door open, but his expression turns to one of pure shock and surprise when Jay steps inside.

“Harry,” Louis steps forward, unable to stop the smile spreading across his face at seeing him again. “This is my mother, Johannah Deakin. Mother, this is my Harry.”

“Mrs. Deakin –” Harry begins, extending his hand.

“None of that,” Jay interrupts, stepping towards Harry and wrapping him in a big hug. “You’re the father of my future grandchild and the love of my boy’s life. The least you can do is call me Jay.”

Harry chuckles, catching Louis’ eye over her shoulder. Louis’ smile is impossibly fond as he stares back at Harry as he hugs his mother.

“Alright, Jay,” Harry agrees as she releases him. “And since you’re the future grandmother of my child and the mother of the love of my life, you can call me Harry.”

She laughs and smiles brightly at him, stepping back. “He’s funny,” Jay comments, turning to Louis. “I like him.”

Harry and Louis laugh along with her. Louis takes the empty space at Harry’s side as an invitation, slipping his arm around Harry’s waist and leaning against him. Harry kisses the top of his head, hand curving around his hip.

Jay watches on fondly before saying, “I don’t know how you two ever thought you were being subtle. Seeing you two together, nothing could be more obvious.”

“Well, we’re not going to keep it secret any longer,” Harry announces, tugging Louis closer. “I don’t want to, anyways. Your son is so amazing, Jay. It’s impossible to not want to shout it from the rooftops.”

Louis giggles, blushing. He realizes with excitement that he’s never heard Harry talk about him to anyone before because they’ve never had the opportunity. Now that Harry is talking fondly about him, Louis doesn’t think he ever wants him to stop.

“I’ll be banging pots and pans alongside you,” Jay laughs. “It does my heart good to see you both so happy. You’re going to be excellent parents.”

Louis’ blush deepens, hiding his face in Harry’s shoulder. He feels Harry look down as well, shy under such high praise.

“Thank you, Jay,” Harry answers sincerely. “That’s all I want. To love Louis and to raise our child the best way we can.”

“If you love one another and love your child that is the best thing you can do,” Jay advises sagely, both men nodding.

Jay doesn’t stay much longer, only chatting briefly before she says she needs to return home. She gives Louis a hug and kiss on the cheek before giving Harry the exact same. She seems to hold onto Harry tightly for a moment longer, both of them clearly moved at having finally met.

“Well, are you ready to meet my parents?” Harry asks when they’re alone again, swinging their hands between them.

Louis swallows, throat suddenly feeling very dry. “How do you think they’re going to react?” he asks nervously.

Harry’s parents have been the reason they’ve kept their relationship secret all these years. Fear of their reaction, fear of their rejection. Their disapproval would never keep them apart, but Louis knows how desperately Harry wants their approval. Harry loves his parents, and he wants them to love his partner. As well, Louis wants them to love him, wants to be accepted by them. But they wouldn’t have kept their relationship a secret for three years if there wasn’t a possibility that that wouldn’t be the case.

“I told them I had someone for them to meet,” Harry responds, gaze fixed on Louis’. “Someone important. They seemed excited.”

“Until they see it’s me,” Louis can’t help but grumble.

“None of that,” Harry reprimands, voice surprisingly firm. Louis glances away, but Harry tucks his fingers under his chin, tilting Louis’ head back so that they can lock eyes. “You are perfect, and I love you with my whole heart. I don’t know what they’re going to say, but no matter what it is, my love for you will not change. Do you believe me?”

Louis doesn’t need to search Harry’s face to see the honesty, the vulnerability, flooding from every pore, every ounce of his being.

“Yes,” Louis replies. “Of course I believe you.”

They kiss softly, savoring the privacy and quiet of being together in Louis’ house before facing whatever storm waits for them at Rosehill.

Louis wishes he could stay kissing Harry all night, but he knows they can’t keep the Earl and Countess waiting. Louis reluctantly breaks the kiss, eyes locked with Harry’s as they silently trade promises of love. With one final peck, Harry grips Louis’ hand and they leave the house, heading towards Rosehill.

 

Louis has never used the main entrance to Rosehill before. In his twenty-six years of life, he has never had reason to. The few times he comes for work he uses the servants’ entrance, and when he comes to visit Harry, he uses the backdoor at the study.

The entrance hall is reserved for the Styles family and their guests. Important nobles visiting from across Great Britain, coming to dine or hunt or drink with the great family.

But Louis is a guest of Lord Harry Styles. For all intents and purposes, he is Harry’s betrothed. He is carrying Harry’s child. Someday he will be lord of this manor alongside his husband.

Louis has never had cause to feel like a great lord, but as he walks through the Rosehill Manor entrance hall, he feels like one.

The hall is opulent, an unabashed testimony to the Styles family’s wealth and legacy. The carpet is scarlet, gold paneling shining on the walls. The rich colors brighten the room, a crystal chandelier hanging from the ceiling, sparkling.

Louis can’t help but gape as he walks through the hall, Harry holding his hand tightly. They don’t pass any servants, probably all downstairs getting ready for dinner. Louis is thankful for the privacy – he doesn’t want the prying eyes of those of a similar social standing wandering why he’s with the young lord.

They pause outside the door connecting to the entrance hall. Louis’ hands are damp, slick in Harry’s grasp. His stomach does somersaults as he struggles to take deep breaths, as he thinks about what’s waiting for him on the other side of the door.

“Louis,” Harry murmurs, drawing his attention upwards. Harry’s expression is soft, eyes kind and lips smiling. Slowly, Harry lifts Louis’ hand up to his lips, giving it a lingering, dry kiss. “I love you.”

“I love you, too,” Louis replies, words difficult to form in his dry throat.

Harry nods before lifting his free hand, knocking quietly on the door.

“Come in,” a gruff voice calls.

With a deep breath, Harry pushes the door open.

Louis has seen the Earl and Countess before. He has seen them at a distance as they walked around the village or sat in their designated pew at church. He has never spoken to them, never shared a close proximity with them. As a child, he thought they were a king and queen. Beautiful, regal, untouchable. Now, as he walks into the drawing room with Harry by his side, he sees that they are just people. They are dressed in beautiful clothing, linens and silks finer than Louis could ever dream of owning, but he can see the confusion, the humanity on their faces as he and Harry enter the room.

Before either the Earl or Countess can say anything, Harry begins speaking, voice steady and sure.

“Mother, Father, I want to introduce you to Louis Tomlinson.”

The Countess’ mouth pops open, her brow wrinkling as she looks between Harry and Louis. The Earl also stares on in confusion, lips and brows pinched.

“For years you have wished me to find a spouse, someone to share my life with and to secure the future of Rosehill. I have done so. This is Louis, and I have loved him for three years. We are going to be married and are expecting a child together.”

Harry states everything factually – he is not asking his parents’ permission for him to love Louis. He informs them that this is what he has decided, confident and sure. Even though Louis can’t tear his eyes away from the Earl and Countess watching him back, he squeezes Harry’s hand, a silent reassurance.

“Hello,” Louis begins, his voice only shaking slightly. “It’s lovely to meet you –”

“Harry,” the Earl cuts in, disbelieving. “Is this a joke? Who is this man? Why is he here?”

Louis’ heart catches in his throat, Harry’s grip on his hand tightening.

“Father,” Harry replies, voice steely. “This is Louis Tomlinson. We are to marry.”

“What happened to the Duke of Richmond?” Harry’s father commands. “He told me he was going to propose, and this afternoon I’m informed that you’ve sent him away?”

“I did not accept the Duke’s proposal. I love Louis.”

“But who is he?” the Earl practically spits. “He doesn’t look like a lord to me.”

“I’m Louis Tomlinson,” Louis speaks up, refusing to let himself be spoken of so distastefully. “I was born and raised in the village. I work at Hazelwood Farm. Harry and I met when he came to work on the farm three years ago. We fell in love then.”

He glances up at Harry only to find him looking back at him. “And we have loved each other every day since,” Harry adds, eyes not leaving Louis’ face.

“A farmer?” the Countess asks, shocked. “Harry…”

“What did you say?” the Earl suddenly snaps, eyes flying between the two men as Harry’s earlier words sink in. “Did you say you were expecting a child?”

“Yes,” Harry confirms, ignoring the Countess’ startled, muted cry. “We are expecting a child. The future heir of Rosehill Manor.”

“How could you be so irresponsible?” the Earl finally stands up, pacing the room as he wrings his hands together. “You reject the proposal of one of the most powerful, eligible men in the country for what? For this?”

While Louis wasn’t expecting Harry’s parents to be overjoyed at their announcement, the rejection stings regardless. The disgust radiating from the Earl’s eyes seems to knock into Louis, making him dizzy and unstable. The Countess just looks confused – confused and maybe a little disappointed.

“Father,” Harry cuts in, voice firm and unforgiving. “Do not speak to us like that. I love Louis, and we are going to raise our child together. We are going to marry. I am not asking your permission, though I want your blessing. But we will marry regardless of what you say or think.” Harry takes a deep breath, free hand running through his hair in frustration. “I have loved Louis for three years, and we have been waiting so long to be together. I hope you will bless our marriage and help us celebrate the birth of our child, your grandchild. This is – this is everything I have ever wanted.”

The Earl doesn’t say anything, too busy fuming in the corner.

When the Countess speaks up, there is a bit of sadness to her voice. “Harry, if you have loved him for years, why didn’t you tell us? Why would you keep something like that from us?”

Harry laughs dryly, disbelieving. “Because I knew you would react exactly how you both have.” He gestures towards his father, cowering behind the couch as if it is a shield. “I knew you would judge us instead of seeing how happy we both are when we’re together. I’m here with the man I love telling you that I’m getting married to the love of my life and we are having a child and you’re angry with me! Why would I want to tell you unless it was absolutely necessary?”

The hurt on the Countess’ face is evident, raw and uninhibited.

“My lord, my lady,” Louis speaks up, unsure if he can make the situation better but refusing to be silent. “I really do love your son very much. I know I’m of a lower class than you, but that doesn’t matter to me and Harry. We just want to be together –”

“How convenient for you,” the Earl snaps. “Of course you don’t regard class when you’re marrying to your advantage. But if you love Harry so much, did you think about what this would mean for him? His reputation? He will be the laughing stock of the whole county!”

“Do you think that matters to me?” Harry returns harshly. “If you do, then you do not know me at all. Marrying for love and to be happy is much more important to be than what is whispered about me by people who do not know me.”

The Earl stands frozen for a moment, face red and angry. Then, with a petulant huff, he storms out of the room.

Harry’s shoulders sag as his father childishly slams the door. Louis’ thumb strokes over Harry’s knuckles, reassuring him, reminding him he loves him.

After a moment, Harry turns towards his mother. “Are you going to storm out as well?”

The Countess looks up at them both, eyes searching and unreadable. “No, Harry,” she responds softly, rubbing her temples. She sighs, and Louis can see deep lines written into her lovely face. She looks exhausted. “I understand why you didn’t tell us, but I wish you did anyways. You know what your father’s temper is like, but I thought you knew that I would love and support you no matter what you chose in life.”

Louis hears a small sound escapes Harry’s lips as the Countess stands up, walking towards her son to envelop him in a tight hug. Louis drops Harry’s hand so that he can return his mother’s embrace, stepping back slightly to allow them a bit of privacy.

When the Countess steps back, she gives Harry a kiss on the cheek. Then, very carefully, she turns towards Louis. Louis’ eyes widen as the Countess steps towards him.

“You have to forgive my husband’s temper, Mr. Tomlinson,” the Countess says politely, clearly putting forth an effort. “He is not an unreasonable man, but he and my son do not always see eye to eye.”

Louis nods, unable to form any words at her unexpected kindness. She turns to both of them, smiling. “I will speak with him. You are still our son, Harry, and I don’t want you to worry. You and Louis and –” she pauses only briefly “– your child have a place with us. Always.”

“Thank you, Mother,” Harry says earnestly, wrapping her in another tight hug.

“Give him time,” the Countess continues. “I will fight for you both.”

“Thank you, m’lady,” Louis replies as she turns towards him. “Genuinely, thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

The Countess smiles, a familiar dimple appearing. When she smiles, she looks exactly like Harry. He hadn’t noticed when he entered the room. Louis hopes that when he sees her in the future, she will be happy.

She doesn’t say anything as she gives Louis a careful hug, not lingering too long but still making an effort. Louis is profoundly moved, eyes watering as a member of Harry’s family accepts him, welcomes him.

The Countess doesn’t say another word as she turns and leaves the library, leaving Harry and Louis alone again.

As soon as the door clicks shut, Louis immediately turns to Harry, wrapping his arms around him and kissing his face.

“Thank you, Harry, thank you,” he whispers, overwhelmed with emotions. For years he’s been terrified of the Earl and Countess finding out about their relationship and now they know. They know and the world didn’t end and they didn’t disown Harry and the Countess hugged him. “You are so wonderful and brave and you told them and I’m so proud of you. I love you so much.”

Harry’s hand comes up to Louis’ face, cradling his jaw and halting his kisses.

“I love you,” Harry responds, fingertips light on his cheekbones. “I love you and Mother supports us and Father will come around.” His voice rises in excitement, eyes brightening. He wraps his arms around Louis, pulling him closer and kissing the top of his head. “I love you and we’re going to be okay.”

“We’re going to be okay,” Louis repeats, truly believing it.

They stand for an indeterminable amount of time in the library, holding each other close and trying to calm their racing hearts. Louis runs his hands up and down Harry’s back, tracing light, soothing patterns.

“Let’s stay at yours tonight,” Harry suggests, deep voice breaking the silence. “It’ll give them time to think. And,” Harry hesitates, voice softening, “and we’ve spent too many nights apart recently. Don’t want to fall asleep without you.”

“Don’t want that either,” Louis replies, pressing a kiss to Harry’s collarbone. “Slept better last night than I have these three weeks combined, even with your snoring.”

“I don’t snore!” Harry weakly protests, laughing.

“Yes, you do!” Louis laughs in response, leaning back so that he can look at Harry. His green eyes shine with laughter.

“You mutter nonsense in your sleep,” Harry fires back playfully. “And you drool.”

“I do not!” Louis exclaims, even though he knows it to be a fact. Sharing a room with sisters growing up meant he has long been privy to his sleep idiosyncrasies.

“It’s okay,” Harry laughs, catching Louis as he tries to pull away. “I think it’s cute.”

“You better,” Louis laughs. “You’re the one sharing a bed with me for the rest of your life.”

“Wouldn’t have it any other way,” Harry smiles and kisses Louis before he has a chance to respond.

Eventually, they leave the library, making a quick journey to Harry’s room so he can grab some clothing and other items for the overnight stay. Harry doesn’t give Louis time to explore the grand house, leading him back down the steps and through the entrance hall.

“Sir?”

They turn just as they open the door. Johnson, the old butler, stands at the end of the hall, an inquisitive, yet professional look on his face.

“Ah, Johnson,” Harry says, easily slipping into the role of the confident and authoritative young lord. “Please inform my parents that I will be at Mr. Tomlinson’s for the rest of the night. If they need me, I will be back tomorrow.”

Years of experience is the only thing keeping Johnson’s face impassive. “Very good, sir. Good night.”

“Good night,” Harry echoes before tugging on Louis’ hand and leading him into the night.

The walk back to Louis’ house is quiet, both thinking about their conversation with Harry’s parents and the hope they had that everything would turn out alright.

As they eat dinner in the soft light of Louis’ home, Louis tells Harry about finding out he was pregnant. Despite their heavy conversation that morning, Louis hadn’t actually told Harry many of the finer details. Now, he tells Harry about the constant queasiness and how he didn’t think anything of it until he remembered Jay’s morning sickness. He explains to Harry how he went to his mother, nervous and uncertain, and how she helped and supported him when she confirmed his pregnancy.

“I’m just at two months,” Louis explains, hand resting on his belly. Stuffed full of food like this, he can almost pretend the swell of his stomach is his child growing. “It was that weekend you came back from London. I was just so happy to see you – I didn’t care about protection. Just wanted to feel you inside of me. Just wanted to be close to you.”

Harry nods, hand coming to rest on Louis’ stomach, their fingers lacing together.

“That’s what I was thinking,” Harry replies quietly. “It makes sense. I felt the same way – I just wanted to be close to you. And now,” His voice is disbelieving, filled with awe, “we’ve created a child and will be together for the rest of our lives. I’ve never felt so close to you.”

Louis’ eyes slip shut in contentment, humming in agreement. “Together for the rest of our lives.”

“Oh, yes,” Harry says suddenly. “About that.”

Louis hears Harry shift, his hand untangling from Louis’ and his heat disappearing. Louis’ eyes open in curiosity.

Harry has moved. No longer is he sitting at the table next to Louis; instead, he kneels in front of Louis, eyes bright and hopeful. Louis glances at his hands, offered towards Louis, and sees a silver ring held in his slightly shaking hands.

“Harry,” Louis gasps, sitting up as he realizes what’s happening.

“Louis Tomlinson,” Harry begins, voice trembling slightly. “One of my favorite memories of you was when we’d only just met at Hazelwood. I was so awkward and nervous about working at the farm when I had no experience. Everyone was so kind and welcoming to me, but I remember, right from the start, all I could think about was you. You were the most beautiful man I’d ever seen, and you were so funny and clever, and it was clear everyone at the farm worshipped you. I could understand. I felt like one of your many admirers.

“I remember how you teased me for singing to the cows, even though you would sing with me sometimes. But one time, I overheard you singing by yourself when you thought no one was around. But I stood at the door and listened. And you were singing a love song, a beautiful love song that made my eyes well up with tears because you sang it with such passion, such emotion. And then I heard you talking and I almost laughed because I couldn’t believe you were talking to the cows. But then I heard what you said and I stopped laughing. You were talking to Maple, I remember because you said, ‘He’s leaving in a week and I can’t stop singing love songs, Maple. What am I supposed to do?’

“At that point, I’d already thought I was in love with you, but that confirmed it for me. I was in love with you – the wonderful and hilarious man who teased me for singing to the cows but then went and did it himself, and talked to them no less.”

Louis huffs a laugh, tears falling from his eyes.

“Louis, I have loved you for three years. I’m going to love you for the rest of my life. I’m never going to leave you – I wasn’t going to leave you then and I’m certainly not going to leave you now. You are my love; you are my world. You have shown me what it is to be strong and brave and to love and believe in myself. You have made me impossibly happy, and we are going to have a child together, a testament of our love for one another. I want to live the rest of my life by your side. Will you marry me?”

Louis can barely form words, overwhelmed and ecstatic and so, so in love. Tears pour down his cheeks as he falls on his knees next to Harry, exclaiming, “Yes, of course, Harry! Yes!”

Harry laughs joyfully, slipping the ring on Louis’ finger before catching his mouth in a tender kiss, lips gentle and reverent, a promise of love. They can barely kiss, both of them crying and smiling too much. When they pull away, their cheeks are blotchy and their eyes are red and Louis doesn’t think Harry has ever looked so beautiful.

“Everything I ever wanted,” Harry sighs dreamily, and Louis kisses him again.

As they tumble into bed, kissing passionately and touching greedily, Louis can’t help but agree. He has everything he ever wanted.

 

Doris’ scream is shrill and high pitched as Louis chases her around the room, Ernest hanging off his back. As he rounds the couch, she hides herself in the corner by the door, squealing as Louis runs up to her, catching her in his arms.

“Gotcha!” he exclaims playfully, tickling her belly.

“Louis!” Doris laughs, squirming delightedly in his arms. “Put me down!”

Louis releases her after pressing a wet, smacking kiss to her cheek. Ernest hops off his back as well, the two grabbing hands and running away with a joyful shriek.

Louis collapses on the couch next to Jay who is chuckling, clearly charmed. She hands Louis a cup of tea which he gratefully accepts, sipping the hot drink.

He hadn’t wanted to leave bed that morning, too in love and wrapped up in his fiancé’s arms. He and Harry had lazily kissed for what felt like hours, tugging the other back to bed whenever they made a move to leave. Louis felt insatiable – it had only been a couple of hours since he’d seen Harry, but he was already dying to touch him again, kiss him again.

But they’d decided that Harry needed to spend the day talking with his family, giving them a full explanation of his plans when they were slightly less blindsided. Louis had asked if Harry wanted him to join, but Harry insisted Louis spend the day with his own family.

“We always have Sunday dinner,” Louis had suggested, suddenly shy. “You’d be welcome to come if you can.”

Harry had kissed Louis in response, both of them smiling. “I would love to.”

And it’s not that Louis is nervous about Harry meeting his family – he’s already met Jay and she adores him – it’s just that Louis can’t believe this is finally happening. His favorite person in the whole world is going to meet his favorite group of people in the whole world.

Jay had spotted the ring as soon as he’d arrived that afternoon, tears of joy slipping down her cheeks as she’d hugged Louis, congratulating him one hundred times over.

Harry had explained that morning that it was his grandmother’s ring, given to him over ten years ago for whenever he was ready to marry.

“That first weekend I was home after moving back from Hazelwood,” Harry had told him, “I pulled out the ring from my dresser and put it in a silk bag on my desk. I knew I’d found the person I was going to give it to, so I wanted it handy. It was only a matter of time until I gave it to you.”

Louis had kissed Harry, unable to respond any other way.

Louis is pulled from his thoughts from a quiet knock on the front door. A smile breaks across Louis’ face as he wastes no time standing up and racing to open the door.

Standing on his doorstep is Harry.

“Hi,” Louis breathes, beaming.

“Hi,” Harry responds, taking Louis into his arms.

They hug tightly still standing on the doorstep where anyone could walk by and see them. A small thrill goes through Louis’ body when he realizes that’s okay. That they won’t be hiding anymore.

“Harry, come in, come in!” Jay calls from the living room.

Louis pulls away, hand slipping into Harry’s to tug him inside. Doris and Ernest are playing obliviously in the corner, the elder girls in the kitchen with Dan working on dinner.

Jay welcomes Harry with a hug, and Louis smiles fondly to see how they already treat each other with familiarity.

“Thank you for inviting me to dinner,” Harry says politely.

“Anytime, sweet boy,” Jay coos, patting his cheek. “You’re welcome here always. And congratulations on the news.” Her eyes twinkle as Harry blushes. “Nothing makes a mother happier than knowing her son is marrying someone he loves and who loves him.”

Harry smiles bashfully, dimple deepening in his cheek. “I love him very much,” Harry confides as if Louis isn’t standing right there. “And it’s a privilege to be loved by him.”

“Oh, enough of that,” Louis deflects, face pink as he slides his arms around Harry’s waist.

“Are you ready to meet everyone?” Jay asks. “They’re very excited to meet you.”

“Yes,” Harry grins. “I’ve wanted to meet them for years.”

Jay smiles in response before calling, “Girls! Come meet Harry!”

There is a loud clatter in the kitchen, four heads suddenly popping around the corner, eyes wide and curious.

“Hi,” Harry says, giving a small wave. “I’m Harry. It’s lovely to meet you all.”

Phoebe and Daisy giggle before all four of them spill into the room, Louis introducing each of them. Doris and Ernest stop playing in the corner and come to investigate.

“And this is Ernie and Dotty,” Louis announces, scooping Doris into his arms when she makes grabby hands at him. Ernest stays by Charlotte, his unofficial favorite sibling.

Doris hides her face shyly into Louis’ chest as Harry crouches down so that he’s level with her.

“Hi, I’m Harry. I like your curls. They’re much curlier than mine.” He shakes his head for emphasis, chocolate ringlets flapping about and making Doris giggle. She reaches out and tugs on one, Harry making an exaggerated motion as if she’d pulled his whole head down. “Whoa, you’re strong!” Harry exclaims. “Those are some muscles!”

Doris laughs delightedly, before practically jumping into Harry’s arms to play more with his curls.

Louis watches fondly as Harry balances her on his hip, uncaring as she tugs at his hair.

“Dinner is ready,” Dan calls from the kitchen. Doris squirms out of Harry’s arms, racing off to the kitchen on Ernest’s heels. The other siblings watch as Louis takes Harry’s hand in his and begins leading him to the dining table.

Harry smiles at him, and Louis’ heart swells. They’re doing this. They’re here at Louis’ mother’s home about to have dinner with his whole family. He is engaged to and pregnant by the man he loves, and they’re not hiding anymore.

Dinner, as is always the case at the Tomlinson-Deakin household, is a loud affair. Everyone wants to talk to Harry, asking him questions about everything from his life at Rosehill to his own account of how he met Louis. When they ask if he’s excited about the baby, he responds with an emphatic “Yes!” and when they ask if he’s excited to marry Louis, he responds with an even louder “Yes! Definitely yes!”

Louis watches as his whole family falls in love with Harry. He’d already captured Doris’ heart, who keeps getting up from the table to climb into his lap before Dan can pull her away. Phoebe and Daisy make Harry laugh so hard water almost comes out his nose; he in turn making them laugh until they’re red in the face. He tells Félicité all about Gemma’s school and the work she’s doing in the East End. He encourages Félicité when she tells him how she wants to be a teacher and how she really admires Lady Gemma’s work. Charlotte talks to Harry about the latest London fashions, and when she mentions Tommy is courting her, Harry goes on for a good ten minutes about how wonderful of a man he thinks Tommy is, having met him frequently at the tailor’s. Charlotte beams with pride.

They sit and talk long after the food has been eaten and the drinks have been finished. They laugh and chat and Harry fits right in as if he’s known everyone for years.

Doris has fallen asleep on Harry’s lap and Ernest in Louis’ by the time everyone decides to say good night. The siblings each give Harry and Louis hugs on their way upstairs, voicing how happy they are for both of them. Dan takes Doris and Ernest from them, wishing Harry good night before going upstairs. Jay kisses them both, making them promise they’ll come for Sunday dinner next week as well. They agree easily.

Harry talks excitedly the whole walk back to Louis’ house, their hands swinging between them as Harry’s voice fills the night sky. Harry is as clearly enamored with Louis’ family as they are with him, and Louis can’t stop smiling the whole walk home.

But when they arrive at Louis’ home, he remembers that they have something serious to discuss.

“How did it go with your parents today?” Louis asks as they climb into bed. “What did they say?”

Harry scrubs a hand over his face, frown lines appearing. “I talked with my father most of the day. Candidly. Which I don’t think either of us has ever done before.”

Louis waits quietly until Harry is ready to continue, tracing idle patterns on Harry’s knee.

“He talked about all he had planned for me – how he wants me to essentially take over running the estate when I turn twenty-five in just over three months. That was always the plan, and I told him that didn’t have to change just because we were getting married.” Harry sighs heavily. “You know I don’t think this, Louis, but he said it was a disgrace to Rosehill to marry outside of our class. I told him that didn’t matter to me, and he accused me of not caring about Rosehill at all. As if I’m not planning on dedicating my entire life to its maintenance and upkeep.”

Louis laces his fingers with Harry’s, giving his hand a reassuring squeeze.

“I offered him several compromises, none of them compromising you, of course, but other things. Like my title or my inheritance or my privileges. I told him I could move here with you if he didn’t want me at Rosehill. But none of the compromises seemed to placate him. Mother came in at some point and she tried to reason with him as well, but he’s just stubborn. Traditional.

“I asked him again for his blessing, but he wouldn’t give it. So I asked him what he was thinking – what was preventing him from giving me his blessing.” Harry’s grip on Louis’ fingers tighten, voice strained as he says, “He told me he wouldn’t give me his blessing because he was trying to decide whether or not to disinherit me.”

“Harry,” Louis gasps, shocked. Being disinherited was always Harry’s greatest fear. He didn’t want to lose his place in his family, of course not. Harry loves his mother and father, even if they are reluctant to agree with his choices. Louis hates that the Earl is using that fear against him, trying to provoke Harry into giving Louis and their child up.

“I don’t know if it’s an empty threat, but Mother was very angry when he said that. She began yelling at him before I even had a chance to say anything. I don’t know if he was even listening to her, but he told me to come back tomorrow. That he’d make up his mind by then.”

“Oh, Harry,” Louis soothes, heart breaking for the man he loves.

“That’s why tonight was so good for me,” Harry explains. “Your family – they just accepted me right away, regardless of who I am and where I come from. It makes me so happy to know that even if my family –” his voice catches, breaking “–disinherits me, I will still have a place in your family.”

“Yes, of course you will, Harry,” Louis promises, taking him into his arms and kissing his wet cheeks. “My family is your family, and we are a family. You, me, and our baby. You will always belong with us.”

Harry sniffs, nodding into Louis’ neck. “I love you,” he murmurs wetly, kissing Louis’ cheek. His hands settle on Louis’ belly, leaning down so he can press a kiss over the soft fabric. “And I love you, baby. Can’t wait to meet you. Going to love you more than you could ever dream.”

Louis sighs, eyes closing as Harry continues to kiss and whisper sweet words to his stomach.  

His and Harry’s future may be uncertain – the fear of disinheritance now a terrifying possibility. But one thing Louis is certain of is this moment right now – the man he loves taking care of him and his child, loving them and staying with them. And while Louis hopes Harry isn’t disinherited, he knows that if it happens, as long as they have each other, they will overcome it.

 

Louis returns to Hazelwood bright and early the following morning.

He can hardly believe how his life has changed since he was last there on Friday – scared and uncertain if Harry would possibly still want him after learning about his pregnancy. As he walks to the farm early Monday morning, he marvels at the great changes made in three days. He’s never felt more loved, more wanted, and more accepted. This morning, he left Harry sleeping peacefully in his bed after making love to him late into the night, neither able to stop touching, stop kissing.

Harry and Louis decided that Louis shouldn’t tell anyone at the farm about the pregnancy yet, waiting first to hear the verdict from the Earl and Countess. If they did disinherit Harry, he would be moving to Louis’ home, creating a life there. Their plans would alter greatly, but they would still have one another. They hadn’t discussed their alternative plan in detail, and Louis tries not to dwell on it. Even after seeing the anger in the Earl’s eyes, he finds it difficult to believe anyone would disinherit their own child. Especially someone like Harry – someone warm and bright who loves everyone without question.

Liam, Zayn, and Stan greet Louis cheerfully when they see him, commenting on how well and happy he looks. Louis can’t help but agree – he feels like a changed man since they saw him last. Certain of his love, excited about his marriage, and ecstatic about the child growing safely inside him.

The day passes in laughter and hard work. Louis can’t stop smiling, teasing the boys while he herds and milks the cows. The lads tease him right back, and Louis almost feels like a young boy again, just starting at the farm and falling into an easy rhythm with the boys he works alongside. They’ve been his friends for years, and Louis is thankful for the companionship.

It’s late in the afternoon and work is finishing up. They’re in one of the fields furthest from the farmhouse, and Louis can almost pretend they’re in the wild, miles from any civilization when they’re out that far. He’s just herding the cows when he hears Liam ask, “Who’s that?”

Louis looks up, squinting across the field to the tall figure making its way across the field. At first, Louis just assumes its Farmer Richards, the weak sunlight casting the figure in shadows. But as the figure approaches, a smile breaks across Louis’ face. That’s not Farmer Richards.

“Is that – Harry Styles?” Stan asks in disbelief.

“Can’t be,” Zayn replies. “He hasn’t been to the farm in –”

“– Three years,” Louis finishes for him.

If Harry is here, if Harry is coming to the farm for him, then they are no longer hiding. Their relationship is no longer a secret to hide, but now it is something to celebrate, to shout about. And Louis is tired of keeping his emotions to himself.

With a joyous laugh, Louis starts running towards Harry. They’re not that far apart, but when Harry sees Louis coming towards him, he begins running as well.

They crash into each other, Louis hopping into Harry’s arms to lock his legs around his waist.

Louis’ hands find Harry’s face, cupping his jaw and guiding their lips together in a searing kiss. Harry’s hands clutch Louis’ back, holding him up and pressing him closer. Their lips slide together, tongues pressing against one another, pure heat and desire.

“You’re here,” Louis gasps. “You’re here.”

“They didn’t disinherit me!” Harry exclaims, laughing happily. “Louis, my love, we’re okay! I’m still going to inherit and we’re going to marry and give our child the greatest possible life.”

“Oh, Harry,” Louis cries, pressing their lips together. Neither can kiss very well, both smiling so wide their teeth clack together. Neither notices.

“Father is going to withhold part of my inheritance until he dies, but I don’t even care,” Harry continues, breathless with joy. “I’m still a part of my family and soon you will be too and I just love you more than I can ever express.”

“I love you, too,” Louis promises, hardly aware of the tears pooling in his eyes. “I love you with my whole heart. For the rest of my life.”

“My only love,” Harry murmurs, kissing Louis again. “My whole life.”

With the late October sun setting softly behind them, Harry and Louis kiss. They kiss in the middle of the field, uncaring of who is watching, uncaring of what they may think. They kiss and they profess their love as they have for the past three years, but now they don’t try to hide it. They kiss because they are in love and going to be a family very soon.

They kiss because they are finally free.

Chapter Text

Harry and Louis marry on a brisk yet sunny day in mid-November.

The village church is filled with their family and friends, all weeping and wishing the young married couple all the happiness in the world.

Louis doesn’t think he stops smiling the whole day, unable to stop staring at the beautiful man he can now call his husband, somehow smiling even more when he sees that said husband is always staring back, Louis’ joy reflected in his eyes.

They swear before God to love one another for the rest of their lives, promising to care and provide, to love and support. Louis kisses Harry to the sound of cheers, their love for one another no longer a secret, but a celebration.

The news of their engagement had spread rapidly through Rosehill, but neither Harry nor Louis ever paid attention to what anyone was saying. They were oblivious to everyone around them whenever they walked down the high street together, Louis’ hand tucked into the crook of Harry’s arm, too happy and in love to pay anyone else any mind.

As far as Louis knows, the village seemed happy to see that the young lord had found love, even if they were surprised who he found it with.

One person, however, who wasn’t surprised was Farmer Richards.

When Louis told Richards he was engaged, would be moving to Rosehill soon, and ultimately leaving his job at Hazelwood, Richards had laughed.

“Been waiting for you to tell me this for years, my boy,” the old man had smirked at Louis’ confused expression.

“You have?” Louis had inquired, shocked.

“You think I couldn’t see how you two boys acted the whole time he was here?” Richards asked, raising an amused eyebrow in Louis’ direction. “Neither of you ever stopped staring at the other, always making each other laugh or trying to get the other’s attention. Lord, I still remember the night Harry was going to leave. Both of you looked like you were about to cry. Broke my heart a bit, I can admit. But how happy you were afterwards, how you seemed like someone in love and who was loved back, I’d figured you two had worked something out. I was always rooting for you lads.”

Louis had laughed in disbelief. It seemed he and Harry fooled no one. Or at least, no one who was paying attention. “Why did you never say anything?”

“Wasn’t my place,” Richards replied simply, shrugging. “I knew if you ever needed to talk to me about it, you would. I figured there was a reason you never brought it up explicitly, so I wasn’t going to pry.”

“Thank you,” Louis had answered, genuine and heartfelt. “It means so much knowing we have your support.”

“Of course you do,” Richards hugged Louis, patting his back firmly. “Hate to see you leave the farm – you’re one of our best after all – but I’m so glad you’ve found someone who makes you happy.”

Louis and Farmer Richards parted on good terms. He told Louis not to rush moving out since he was in no hurry to have someone else move in to the house at the edge of the property.

“It’s yours as long as you need it,” Farmer Richards had assured him, to which Louis extended his infinite thanks.

A week before the wedding, Harry and Louis had attended their first doctor’s appointment at the village hospital. Jay had informed them that Louis would be entering his second trimester very soon, and it was important that he see the doctor as soon as possible.

They’d scheduled an appointment, both nervous and excited to find out more about their baby.

The village doctor, Dr. Reynolds, gave a positive assessment, Harry holding Louis’ hand throughout the whole appointment. He told them the baby was growing strong and healthy. The baby’s heart had started beating and Louis’ bump would soon be prominent. Dr. Reynolds advised Louis to continue his normal routines, exercising, eating healthy foods, and resting, and the baby would continue to strengthen. Harry had absorbed all the information with wide eyes and firm head nods. Louis had rolled his eyes in fondness knowing that Harry would make sure Louis followed the doctor’s instructions to the letter.

Now the day of the wedding has arrived, and Louis has never been happier. His baby is growing happy and healthy inside of him, and he has married the love of his life. He has everything he ever wanted.

After the ceremony, the Earl and Countess host a reception at Rosehill. The Earl had been reluctant to agree to do so, but the Countess insisted. Louis had been touched by their gesture, and even more so when they attended the wedding ceremony, a display of their blessing on the marriage.

“You have never looked so beautiful,” Harry tells him as they dance, bodies tucked close together.

“I’ve never been so in love with you,” Louis replies, grinning. “My wonderful husband.”

Harry smiles, dimple etched deep in his cheek. “Husband, love of my life, father of my child, center of my universe. I love you so much.”

They kiss, and everyone around them cheers.

 

“Come on, Lou! The water isn’t even that cold!”

Louis quirks a brow, staring down at his husband bobbing in the crystal blue water.

“Harry, it’s November,” Louis calls to him, hands cradling his small baby bump. “It’s going to be freezing.”

Harry shakes his head, wet curls slapping his grinning cheeks. To prove his point, he swims backwards, his arms cutting easily through the water, lazy and content.

Louis rolls his eyes, undoubtedly fond.

For their honeymoon, Harry had suggested a private boat tour of the Mediterranean. Louis, who had never thought about a honeymoon with Harry, had been ecstatic by the idea. He learned how to swim when he was very young, but had little use for the skill while working as a farmer.

For the past three weeks, they have toured the Mediterranean, embracing their new marriage and falling even more in love with one another. They danced the nights away in Barcelona and relaxed for hours on the pebbled beaches of Nice. They visited vineyards near Naples, only Harry drinking the wine, but pressing purpled kisses to Louis’ mouth. They hiked through temple ruins in Athens, Louis reading aloud to Harry his favorite passages from the Greek philosophers.

And now they’ve travelled to the coast of Morocco, where the climate is warmer. Harry wanted to take advantage of the warmer weather and suggested that they go swimming. The captain agreed to dock the ship in the bay, and with his usual reckless abandon, Harry had hurled himself off the edge of the ship without another thought.

Louis was more hesitant, but with his husband calling for him down below, he can’t resist.

Before he can think on it any longer, he takes a running jump off the edge of the ship, body cutting through the air before slicing through the water.

“Argh!” Louis cries as he surfaces, body shaking as his legs kick to keep himself afloat. “It’s freezing!”

Harry laughs, swimming towards him. “Well, it is November.”

Louis lets out a shocked scream, slapping the water so that a small wave splashes into Harry. Harry just keeps laughing, swimming up to Louis until they’re face to face. Harry bobs in front of him, a content smile on his face.

“Hi,” Harry says.

Louis grins. “Hi.”

Harry tips his head to catch Louis’ mouth in a salty, sweet kiss. Louis smiles into the kiss, allowing his eyes to slip closed. He lets his arms come out of the water, slipping around Harry’s shoulders.

He thinks he’s entirely justified when he pushes Harry under the water.

 

Several hours later, they return to their cabin to nap before dinner.

Louis peels his dripping wet swimming costume off his frame, handing it to Harry who goes to hang them in the en suite. The room is cool, a light breeze blowing through the open terrace doors. Louis picks his towel off the floor and wraps it around his shoulders, stepping onto the balcony as he dries off.

The late winter sun does little to warm him, Louis shivering as he wraps the towel tighter around him. But despite the chill, Louis can’t help but stay outside and savor the view. Their suite isn’t facing the Moroccan coast; instead, it looks out into the sea, endlessly blue before him. Louis had never been to the sea before his honeymoon. He finds the openness to be liberating and the gentle rocking of the boat to be calming. He loves it.

He’s just about to step inside when he feels it. Subtle, a barely noticeable, gentle nudge in his abdomen.

Louis gasps, hands flying to his stomach at the sensation. Surely not, but maybe…?

He stands frozen for a moment, waiting to see if it happens again. He hardly breathes as he waits, hands clasped tightly over his stomach.

Then, he feels it again. Slightly more insistent, more pronounced, and undeniable.

“Harry!” Louis cries, voice rising in excitement. “Oh my God, Harry!”

“What?” Harry exclaims, bursting onto the balcony with wide, concerned eyes, one hand clutching a towel around his waist. Louis laughs joyously, hands rubbing soothing circles over his tummy.

“I can feel it, Harry,” Louis explains, voice thick with emotion. “I can feel our baby.”

“What?” Harry gasps, this time in joy. Dropping his towel, his hands fly to Louis’ stomach, cradling it closely in hope that he can also feel their baby move.

They stand there for a moment, Harry kneeling before Louis, his hands resting on Louis’ tummy and Louis’ head tipped back in elation, before they feel the subtle movement again.

“I felt it!” Harry cries, voice thick with emotion. “Louis, my love – that’s our baby!”

Tears well in Louis’ eyes, his hand covering Harry’s and locking their fingers together. “That’s our baby,” he agrees breathlessly.

“I feel you, baby,” Harry whispers, pressing a kiss to Louis’ tummy. “I feel you moving. I’m your father, and I love you so much.”

“Harry,” Louis breathes, overwhelmed as their baby moves even more, almost as if it is excited to hear Harry’s voice, recognizing its father.

Louis looks down at his husband, eyes filled with tears. He sees the same watery expression reflected in Harry’s eyes as well.

“Louis, my love, my darling,” Harry murmurs, standing up. Their hands stay clasped together against Louis’ belly. When he blinks, a tear slips down his cheek.

Harry catches the tear with his lips, pressing a sweet kiss to Louis’ face. Louis’ eyes flutter closed as Harry moves along Louis’ cheekbone, lips wet and warm and trembling.

“Harry,” Louis whispers before Harry’s mouth closes over his own, tongues immediately pressing together in desperation.

They don’t stay on the balcony much longer, Harry carrying Louis to bed so that he can make love to him slowly and thoroughly, murmuring words of love into Louis’ mouth and to his belly, trembling against one another.

 

The house is empty: no books, clothes, or personal touches remaining.

The house at the edge of Hazelwood Farm was his home for seven years, and despite his joy at marrying Harry and moving to Rosehill, Louis still feels reluctant to say goodbye to his home. It was his first home, the first one that was properly his, only his. It was where he lived when Jay remarried, when she gave birth to the twins and gave Louis two more siblings to adore.

It’s where he lived when he met Harry. It’s where they spent their first night together, their relationship only beginning but their love already so impossibly strong. And they’ve spent countless nights there since, wrapped up in one another.

Louis feels arms snake around his waist, a chin hooking over his shoulder. Instinctively, Louis leans back into the touch, Harry’s warmth familiar and grounding in a moment of such high emotion.

“We’ve had so many beautiful memories here,” Harry murmurs, reading Louis’ mind. He tucks his face into Louis’ neck, pressing a soft kiss to the skin.

Louis places his hands over Harry’s, tangling their fingers together.

“We have,” Louis confirms. He turns his face so that he and Harry are looking at one another, noses brushing. “And we’re going to make even more beautiful memories at Rosehill.”

Harry grins, closing the small gap to press their lips together. His hand rubs a gentle circle over Louis’ tummy, baby kicking happily in response.

Harry and Louis break the kiss, laughing in amazement as they feel the baby move.

When the baby settles down, Harry gives Louis a chaste kiss. “Come on,” Harry says, grabbing Louis’ only remaining bag. “Let’s go home.”

Louis nods, eyes filling up with tears as he slips his hand into Harry’s. He gives one last look around the house, happy memories flooding back to him. He smiles, a tear slipping down his cheek, and then steps outside and shuts the door.

 

Over the past three years, Louis has been to Rosehill Manor countless times. He spent many a night or weekend in one of the grandest rooms in the manor, sleeping on the softest mattress and sitting on the finest furniture.

But moving to Rosehill, becoming not just a resident, but becoming Lord Louis Tomlinson-Styles, husband to the heir of Rosehill Manor, is quite an adjustment.

“I have my own what?” Louis asks in disbelief, pulling a set of shirts from his luggage.

Harry chuckles. “Your own apartments. Adjacent to mine, but yes, this wing of the house is entirely ours.”

“But I don’t need my own apartments,” Louis protests.

“Well, that’s what I was hoping you’d say,” Harry replies cheekily. When Louis’ confused expression doesn’t change, Harry takes his hand and Louis drops the shirts onto the bed. “Upper class couples, they don’t usually marry for love. Usually they marry for wealth or status.”

“I know this,” Louis answers, still confused.

“Well, those couples don’t often live together in the same apartments. They prefer to keep separate, and only sleep in the same room at night if they’re intent on making an heir. When I moved from the nursery to this wing of the house, it was under the assumption that I would one day take part in a marriage like that.”

Louis can’t help but shiver, horrified by the idea of Harry – someone with so much love and goodness in his heart – marrying someone who he did not love, or impossibly, who did not love him in return.

But,” Harry continues, “I did marry for love, and the idea of us sleeping apart is abhorrent.”

“Agreed.”

Harry smiles gently. “The apartments will remain yours, but I’ve always imagined you living in my apartments with me. Yours have a study and a bathroom which you are welcome to use, but I was thinking maybe we could use your bedroom for when your family visits? The girls or your mother could sleep in there so they don’t have to be too far away.”

“I like that idea,” Louis agrees. “I always imagined living with you in your apartments as well. I don’t want to sleep in a separate room, a separate bed.”

Harry’s smile is breathtaking. “I don’t want that either.” He gives Louis’ hand a squeeze. “But I wanted you to know that the rooms existed, since they are yours.”

“Thank you,” Louis replies, leaning up to peck Harry’s mouth.

“Would you like to have a tour of them?” Harry asks excitedly. “They’re really nice.”

“Sure,” Louis agrees, smirking as he wraps his arms around Harry’s neck. “And just because I’m not living in the rooms means we shouldn’t christen the bed.”

Harry’s eyes darken at Louis’ words, and he all but pulls Louis down the corridor to the superfluous apartments, their hands wandering in between open mouthed kisses.

 

The frosted grass crunches beneath Louis’ boots, his breath billowing like smoke in front of him.

He and Harry have been walking through the grounds for hours, the freezing temperatures not halting their work for the day. It’s the first week of January, and after Louis’ twenty-seventh birthday and a wonderful holiday season, it’s time for Louis to take over his role as grounds manager. Over the past couple of days, Harry has given Louis tours of the estate, familiarizing him with the land and introducing him to the people who will be reporting to him.

For now, Louis’ position will be primarily a managerial one. While Harry will run the business and financial side of the estate, Louis’ responsibility is direct supervision of the grounds. Any problems on the grounds will be reported to Louis. But after their child is born and Louis has recovered his strength, he plans to work alongside them in the barn and in the gardens. That kind of labor is what Louis knows best, and he looks forward to being able to contribute.

“Let’s step inside the barn,” Harry suggests, shuddering as another icy wind cuts through them. Their gloved hands clasp together, Louis nodding eagerly as they step inside the warm, dry barn.

“That’s better,” Louis says muffled into the fabric of his scarf, wrapped tightly around the lower half of his face.

Harry chuckles, reaching over to tug the scarf down to Louis’ chin.

“Thanks, love.” Louis gives him a kiss, cold, chapped lips sliding together.

They settle against a pile of hay as they warm up, sides pressed close together.

“So, what did you think?” Harry asks tentatively as he rubs his hands together.

Louis pauses, taking a moment to think about it. He knows Harry’s referring to his new position and the work they’ve done over the past few days, preparing Louis to take over his new role.

“I think,” Louis begins, searching for the right words. “I think it’ll be really good.” Harry breathes an audible sigh of relief as Louis continues. “Obviously, it’s different from my work at Hazelwood, but I think that’s okay.” His hands settle on his baby bump, growing more and more prominent every day. “I’ll be able to keep busy during the day, but it won’t be too physically taxing on the chance it could hurt the baby. I think it’s really good, Harry.”

“You don’t know how happy that makes me,” Harry replies, pulling Louis into his side, wrapping him in a warm embrace. “I want so much for you to be happy here.”

Louis smiles at his husband, reflecting on his transition to Rosehill.

He’s thankful he hasn’t been thrust into his new role, but has taken time to adjust to life at the manor. He spends his day learning his way around, getting lost down long corridors and exploring all the grand, ornate rooms. He already knew a good number of the staff through his milk delivers while working at Hazelwood, but he likes getting to know them even better, learning their stories.

As well, for the first time in his life, Louis has leisure time. He uses this new time to visit his family more, spending time with his siblings and catching up with his mother. She answers all his pregnancy questions at each stage, reassuring him when he panics over whether or not he’ll be a good father and laughing with him when he tells about his latest craving – pickles and peanut butter. Harry has kept to leaving jars of both by the bed.

Louis also spends some more time writing, trying to capture the whirlwind of emotions he has experienced the past few months. He writes and writes until his hand is cramped and sore at the end of the day and Harry has to massage it until it feels loose again. He’s been writing and writing until Harry insisted he send off a short story to one of his publishing friends in London.

Louis had agreed, but only because he was so proud of his writing and finally ready for it to be shared.

They received a reply from London only a couple of days ago. Louis’ work will be published in Cornhill Magazine next month.

But most of all, Louis is happy to just be with Harry. Being Harry’s husband, carrying his child, and living at Rosehill is everything Louis has ever wanted.

“I am,” Louis assures him, reaching up to cradle Harry’s face. “Harry, I’ve never been happier.”

When their lips touch in a tender kiss, Louis knows he has never spoken truer words.

 

Louis’ fingers run lightly through Harry’s hair, snagging on a curl.

It’s late at night, and they’re wrapped up in one another, eyelids drooping but unwilling to fall asleep. Harry’s head is pillowed on Louis’ chest, and his breathing is deep and even. If it wasn’t for how he keeps running his hands over Louis’ tummy, Louis would have thought he had fallen asleep ages ago.

The only reason Louis isn’t asleep is because the baby keeps kicking, insistent and demanding. Harry’s hands soothe the ache, but the baby is relentless.

The room is quiet, save for the gentle sounds of their breathing, when Harry slowly begins to hum a melody. It takes a moment, but Louis recognizes the song, one that Harry has played on the gramophone after dinner.

It’s a love song, a sweet promise of devotion.

Harry begins singing the words, his voice deep and rumbling as he lifts his head off Louis’ chest. He hovers over Louis’ belly, hands splayed over the swollen skin. Louis places his hand over Harry’s, feeling their baby move as Harry sings.

When Harry starts on the chorus, Louis joins in, singing a lower harmony. Their voices blend effortlessly, beautifully, and Louis is immediately taken back to the days when he was first falling in love with Harry. The days when they would sit in the barn and sing songs to the cows, sometimes silly songs, but also sometimes beautiful songs, ballads.

Louis remembers the tug he used to feel on those days, how quickly and easily he was falling in love with Harry – with his dimples and strong voice and kind heart.

And now, now they’re not singing to cows anymore. No, they’re singing to their child, nestled in Louis’ tummy, whose kicks are growing less and less insistent as they carry on singing.

The song comes to a soft end, Harry’s hands gentle on Louis’ tummy. When the room is filled with silence, both hold their breath to see how the baby will react.

Nothing. The baby seems to have fallen asleep.

Harry places a sweet kiss to the top of Louis’ stomach before crawling up his body.

“Your voice is just as beautiful as the day I fell in love with you.” He presses the words to Louis’ mouth, fond and soft.

Louis smiles before giving Harry another kiss. Harry curls around Louis, tucking them tightly together, and then the two fathers and the baby sleep.

 

Harry’s twenty-fifth birthday arrives with little fanfare.

Louis always believed that it would be the day that changed his life. He used to imagine that on Harry’s twenty-fifth birthday, they would proudly announce themselves in front of the Styles family, unashamedly declaring their love and uncaring of the family’s approval now that Harry’s inheritance was secure.

Now, Louis realizes how romanticized and unnecessarily dramatic his imaginings were.

But when he wakes up on February first to warm lips on his belly, it’s better than anything he imagined.

“Morning, my love,” Louis says, voice gruff with sleep. His hand settles in Harry’s hair, tangling in his curls. “Happy Birthday.”

Harry’s lips open against Louis’ skin, pressing open mouthed kisses against his swollen belly. “Happy Birthday, indeed,” Harry murmurs.

Louis can feel himself hardening just from Harry’s mouth and hands on his stomach, and he rolls restlessly onto his back.

Harry follows, his lips never leaving Louis’ body.

“Harry,” Louis murmurs, tightening his fingers in Harry’s hair. “It’s your birthday, my love. Let me pleasure you.”

“You are,” Harry breathes, lips brushing against Louis’ belly. “Having you beneath me is the greatest pleasure.”

Louis sighs, sinking against the pillows, content to be kissed and touched.

But after Harry works him open with three fingers, Louis pushes Harry onto his back, straddles his waist, and rides him rhythmically into the mattress. Harry doesn’t seem to mind – words of love and praise falling from his lips as he holds onto Louis’ swollen tummy, rocking gently to meet Louis’ bounces.

They celebrate the rest of Harry’s birthday with their families. A grand dinner is planned, Gemma arriving that afternoon from London. And for the first time, the Tomlinson-Deakin family will attend dinner at Rosehill Manor.

“So lovely to see you, Jay,” Harry greets his mother-in-law, Louis smiling fondly as the two embrace.

“Happy Birthday, dear boy,” Jay replies, kissing his cheek.

As Harry moves to embrace Charlotte, Jay wraps Louis in a hug. It’s only been a few days since Louis saw his mother, but he’s always glad to spend time with her.

“And how are you?” Jay asks after she kisses his cheek. “You and the baby?”

“We’re okay,” Louis replies, hands automatically landing on his bump, cradling it lovingly. “Baby’s been keeping me up at night with its kicking, but Harry’s figured out that a little singing can get it to settle right down.”

“Oh, I’m so glad to hear it,” Jay exclaims. She chuckles. “I always find it funny how eager parents are to feel the baby kick for the first time, but then when the baby is incessant about it, all they want is for it to stop.”

Louis laughs along with his mother. “Well, I don’t mind during the day, but it’s when I’m trying to sleep that it’s frustrating.”

“Understandable.”

After the pleasantries are exchanged, Harry and Louis lead the family into the hall where Harry’s parents and sister are standing.

The families had met at the wedding, but the day had been so chaotic that they hadn’t had time to properly bond. Louis is hopeful that a dinner together will bring their families closer.

“Johannah, so lovely to see you again,” Anne welcomes Louis’ mother. “And Dan, you as well.” She turns to the rest of the family. “And look how beautiful your family is. It’s lovely to meet you all properly.”

The girls and Ernest nod, smiling shyly at the elegant countess. The youngest ones seem transfixed by the grandeur around them, eyes wide as they gaze at the ornate hallway.

“Welcome to Rosehill,” the Earl greets gruffly, shaking Dan’s hand. “We are glad to have you here to celebrate our son’s birthday.”

Louis smiles, surprised by the interaction. The Earl has still been distant to Louis since he moved to Rosehill, but has seemed to resign himself to Louis’ presence. Now, it’s clear he’s putting forth an effort, and Louis appreciates it, regardless of his seeming disinterest in Louis himself.

Gemma steps forward from the Countess’ side, smiling brightly at the family. “I’ve always wanted a sister,” she tells them warmly, “and now I have five!” The girls giggle delightedly, and Gemma nudges Harry, winking at him.

Jay and Dan introduce the girls and Ernest before the Styles family directs them into the dining room, ready for dinner.

Louis sits next to Harry with Charlotte on his other side. The rest of his siblings are scattered across the table, Jay and Anne and Dan and the Earl sitting next to one another.

The servants bring the opening course, a delicious smelling soup that has Louis’ stomach immediately rumbling. Throughout the meal, Louis doesn’t speak much; instead, he is content to listen to the conversations drifting around the table.

“So how are we to tell the two of you apart?” Louis overhears Gemma ask Phoebe and Daisy.

“Well, I’m the funny one,” Daisy pipes up, grinning cheekily.

Phoebe elbows her sharply, making a noise of protest. “Actually, I’m the funny one. You’ll know you’re talking to Daisy if you’re asleep when talking to her.”

Gemma laughs, the twins giggling along with her.

“Are you looking forward to becoming a grandmother?” Louis hears Anne ask Jay.

“Oh, more than anything,” Jay replies earnestly. “I adore children, and Louis’ so wonderful with them. It’ll be wonderful to have a baby to spoil, and leave the disciplining to someone else.”

Anne laughs softly. “I agree. A baby in the house – it will be the most delightful thing. It’s been years since my children were babies, of course, and I miss it so much. I miss hearing their laughter and their tiny footsteps running down the hallways. They just bring so much joy.”

Louis’ eyes water listening to his mother and mother-in-law speak in such excitement, and when he feels the gentle pressure of Harry’s hand against his own, Louis knows he heard them too.

The Earl and Dan are seated at the end of the table opposite Louis, so he can’t make out their discussion. However, his curiosity is piqued as they speak with one another through the whole meal, even laughing together at times.

Over dessert, Félicité expresses her great interest in Gemma’s school. The two talk almost nonstop about her work in the East End and Félicité’s interest in teaching for the rest of the course, ignoring Harry any time he attempts to interrupt them

Louis smiles contentedly, hand resting on his swollen tummy as he watches the people he loves most interact around him.

The dessert plates are being cleared away and the wine glasses are being topped up when the Earl clears his throat. The conversation quiets, everyone turning their attention to the imposing man. He stands up, wine glass in his hand.

“Today is my son’s twenty-fifth birthday,” the Earl begins. “It is the day he comes into his title, Lord of Rosehill Manor. It is a great day for the Styles family, as we can be sure that the manor is passing into the hands of someone more than capable.” Lifting his glass, the Earl looks at Harry. “I’m proud of you, my son. Happy Birthday.”

“Happy Birthday!” everyone echoes, drinking merrily. Louis sips his water, squeezing Harry’s hand under the table. The Earl is a man of few words and rarely shows emotion; Louis can’t imagine how much those simple words of pride mean to Harry.

Gemma also offers a toast, cracking jokes at Harry’s expense while the family laughs with amusement. Louis watches with fondness in his eyes as his husband smiles and laughs, clearly adored by everyone at the table.

After everyone drinks to Harry’s health, Louis’s heart is so full with love that he knows he must say something.

With only slight difficulty, Louis stands up. Harry braces a hand on his waist, but Louis quiets his reassurances. Harry nods, sliding his hand into Louis’ and holding on.

With everyone’s eyes pinned on him, Louis begins.

“I have had the privilege of knowing Harry for three years, and the joy of loving him for just as long. He has filled my life with so much happiness that I couldn’t imagine my life without him. These past three months of married life have been the happiest I have ever felt.” He makes eye contact with Anne, Gemma, and lastly the Earl, hoping they know how deeply he means these words. “Thank you for welcoming me into your home. Thank you for welcoming me into your family.” Anne nods, a smile on her face that Louis can’t help but mirror.

Then, Louis looks down at Harry, their hands still clasped. Harry’s eyes have a light sheen of tears in them, his nose scrunched adorably as he tries to keep them from falling. “I love you very much, Harry. You are an amazing husband and I know you will be a wonderful father. Happy Birthday, my truest of loves.”

There is a pause when Louis finishes, no one reacting as they watch the couple.

But then Harry sniffs noisily, murmuring, “Oh, Louis.” The silence broken, everyone cheers, drinking Harry’s health and echoing the wishes for a happy birthday.

Louis sits back in his seat, smiling at his husband.

“I love you, too,” Harry whispers for his ears only, leaning in to place a kiss on his cheek.

Louis blushes, giving Harry another fond look before turning away.

When he raises his eyes and looks across the table, he meets the Earl’s gaze.

They look at one another for a moment, and then, the Earl smiles.

It lasts only the briefest of moments, but Louis can’t help but feel as if being accepted by the Earl into the family isn’t as unrealistic as it has seemed.

 

The first hints of spring are in the air.

Louis’ due date is in two months, and he walks with a waddle. Over the winter months, he’s been wrapped tight in so many hats and scarves and coats whenever he goes outside the he feels like an inflated balloon. Shedding to lighter layers has been a mercy, but Louis was affronted to realize that he still walks with a waddle, stomach grown too much. Harry is no help, only laughing in delight and offering to help Louis any chance he gets.

But when Harry isn’t giggling over Louis’ almost-helpless state, he can hardly keep his hands off of him.

Harry has always been a bit possessive of Louis – as is Louis about Harry – as a result of them having to hide their relationship for so many years. Finally being able to lay public claim on Louis, to introduce him as his husband and to walk down the street arm and arm does something to Harry. Something intoxicating.

And now that Louis is swollen with his child, undeniably Harry’s in every way, Harry doesn’t even try to contain his pride or his control.

 At first, as his stomach began growing, Louis irrationally feared that Harry would not want to touch him as often, too disturbed by Louis’ ever changing form. Louis should have known the opposite would be true.

They make love nearly every night, Harry holding Louis in his arms as he murmurs, “My love, my love filled with my child. Everything in the world.” And as a result of his pregnancy, Louis finds himself craving Harry’s attention more and more desperately. They both work all day, and sometimes they don’t see one another until dinner time. On those nights, Louis all but drags Harry to bed, eager to feel his husband’s hands and mouth all over his body.

The week has been busy, the Rosehill grounds bursting with color and life as flowers and vegetation grow. Over the past few days, Louis has been taking surveys of the growing plants. It’s solitary and time consuming work, but essential. And since it isn’t too taxing on his pregnant body, the work has been ideal.

Louis is just finishing up his survey of the estate’s barley field when he sees Harry in the distance, rushing towards him from the manor.

Louis’ brow furrows, immediately fearful that something has gone wrong and Harry is hurrying to come tell him.

“Harry, what’s happened –” Louis begins as soon as Harry is close enough to hear, but the words are immediately swallowed by Harry’s mouth on his.

A tiny squeak escapes Louis’ lips, surprised but immediately melting into his husband’s touch. Harry’s arms wrap tightly around Louis’ back, pulling their bodies flush. Harry’s tongue is wet and insistent against Louis’, licking hungrily into Louis’ mouth and making his head spin.

“It’s been hours,” Harry nearly growls against Louis’ mouth. “Hours since I touched you. Couldn’t wait any longer. Need to touch you. Need to feel you.”

Louis gasps, head thrown back. Harry is undeterred, attaching his mouth to Louis’ neck and biting harshly. He works the skin between his teeth, sucking and nibbling so that a bruise will undoubtedly form.

Once Harry is satisfied with his work, he gently lowers Louis into the grass, crawling on top of him.

“I’ve been at my desk all morning,” Harry continues, nimbly unbuttoning the front of Louis’ shirt, “and I haven’t done a damn thing. I can’t focus. All I could think about was you.” He tears Louis’ shirt off his shoulders, beginning to work on his trousers as Louis whines beneath him. The grass tickles his bare skin, but Louis can barely focus on that. “The love of my life, my husband, the father of my child. All I could think about was how much we’ve wanted this for years, for years. And we finally have it. We’re married and we’re living together and we’re going to have a baby.” Louis’ hips hitch up desperately as Harry pulls his trousers down, cock already half hard from Harry’s touch and his words. “And all I could think was, ‘Why am I doing paperwork when everything I’ve ever wanted is finally with me? He’s just out in a field somewhere, and I haven’t told him I love him in hours.’” Now that Louis is unclothed, Harry scoots down his body, hovering over his cock. “‘Haven’t touched him in just as long.’ It felt criminal to me. It felt impossible.”

“Harry,” Louis gasps, overwhelmed at the sweet words. “Love you. Love you so much.”

“Love you, too,” Harry murmurs, lips brushing the head of his cock before taking him all the way down.

Louis cries out, hips bucking up. Harry’s strong hands hold him in place, pressing his hips back into the ground. Louis can feel himself hardening fully in Harry’s mouth, hot and tight and wet around Louis’ cock, his tongue teasing and divine. Louis feels the head of his cock nudge the back of Harry’s throat, and Louis gasps.

Louis can feel Harry’s throat working around him, and Louis’ cock twitches, flooding Harry’s mouth with precome.

Harry pulls off so he can swallow, pressing kisses to the skin of Louis’ thigh.

“You don’t know how perfect you are.” Harry’s voice is deep and raw, scratchy. Louis whines, cock dribbling onto his belly. “The most beautiful man in the whole world, and you’re even more beautiful now that you’re so full with our child. Everyone can look at you and know you’re mine. They know how much we love one another because look at what we did. We made a child, and it’s going to be as perfect as you. God, Louis. Just want to look at you all day long, just want to touch you all day long.”

Harry doesn’t give Louis a chance to reply before taking him down again. With Harry’s mouth hot around him and Harry’s hands rubbing possessively yet lovingly over his swollen tummy, it doesn’t take long before Louis cries out, back arching as he comes into Harry’s mouth.

Harry swallows eagerly, climbing up Louis’ body and pressing kisses to his mouth. Louis taste himself on Harry’s tongue, and he sucks it greedily.

“Come for me,” Louis whispers around Harry’s tongue. “Please, my love. Want to feel you.”

Harry nods, pulling back enough to detach their mouths. Harry fumbles with his trousers, a wet spot at the front of the fabric. Harry pulls his cock out, wrapping a hand around it and stroking. His eyelids flutter shut at the feeling, and a heavenly moan falls from Harry’s lips. His lips are red and swollen, curls mussed and sweat damp. Louis’ cock twitches weakly at the sight of him.

Harry’s hand is a blur over his cock. Louis watches transfixed as Harry groans deep and long and begins to come. The come hits Louis’ belly, painting it in white streaks. Louis moans at the feeling, the knowledge that he is undeniably Harry’s – filled with his child and covered in his come.

When Harry finishes, he lays down next to Louis, a satisfied smile on his face.

He reaches out a hand, finger lightly tracing Louis’ jaw. They watch each other for a moment, eyes hazy and content.

“I love you,” Louis murmurs into the still air.

“I love you, too,” Harry replies, and then seals it with a kiss.

 

Spring comes and goes, Louis’ due date rapidly approaching.

He takes a break from his new position, instead spending the final month of his pregnancy resting. His family visits him each week, and every day, he and Harry take a walk. Sometimes they venture to the village or to the park, other times they choose not to leave the estate. Harry will take him to different corners of the property and tell him his childhood memories – showing him from which tree he fell and broke his arm and the little cove by the stream where he would take his books to read. They spend time in the gazebo, marveling at how far they’ve come and how easily they’ve settled into their roles as husbands and how soon they will be taking on a new role – that of parents.

They take on that new role early one May morning, Louis and Harry just finishing breakfast when Louis feels an uncomfortable twinge.

Harry, ever vigilant, immediately notices the look of discomfort on Louis’ face.

“Louis…?” Harry asks tentatively, reaching across the table to take Louis’ hand.

Louis’ other hand rests on his belly, rubbing soothing circles while he feels their baby move, almost as if it’s excited to make its entrance into the world.

“Harry,” Louis breathes, smiling at his husband happily. “My love, it’s time.”

Harry doesn’t waste another moment, ushering Louis back to their room, informing his parents of what’s happening, and sending Niall to fetch Dr. Reynolds.

It takes several hours for Louis’ labor to begin in earnest, but Harry never leaves his side. Despite Dr. Reynolds subtle suggestion that it’s improper for the other parent to be in the room during delivery, Harry refuses to leave.

“This is my husband and my child,” Harry replies, steel in his voice as he grasps Louis’ hand, eyes never leaving Louis’ face as Louis cries in pain. “I am not leaving.”

Dr. Reynolds doesn’t say another word.

Lilian Rose Tomlinson-Styles is born at 5:28 pm on May 18, 1911.

Louis can barely believe how perfect she is, immediately reaching for her as he hears her sweet, high pitched cries.

“My baby,” Louis breathes as Dr. Reynolds places her in his arms. “My sweet, beautiful baby.”

She’s tiny, tiny and perfect, as he holds her close. Her skin is warm and soft and a bit slimy against his, her small tuft of brown curls matted to her forehead. Her face is red and angry, fists clenched and mouth working as she takes her first, noisy breaths. Even through her loud cries, Louis has never seen anyone so beautiful.

“Harry,” Louis gasps, tears falling freely from his eyes. “She’s here, and she’s ours. She’s beautiful.”

“So beautiful,” Harry agrees, voice also thick with emotion. “God, Lou, she’s perfect.”

They reluctantly hand their precious baby girl to Dr. Reynolds and the nurses who clean her up before returning her to Louis.

Harry joins Louis on the bed, Louis leaning against him as he holds their baby girl. They spend an indefinite amount of time just staring at the newest member of their family, small and perfect, and sleeping in Louis’ arms.

Eventually, the physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion of the day catch up with him, and Louis’ head bobs against Harry’s chest, blinking heavily as he keeps looking at his baby girl.

“Okay, I think it’s time for Papa to get some sleep,” Harry suggests soothingly, easing Lilian out of Louis’ arms and returning her to her cot. Harry presses a soft, gentle kiss to Lilian’s forehead before returning to Louis, taking him in his arms.

“Sleep, my love,” Harry murmurs as Louis settles against him, eyes already slipping shut and breath evening out. “I love you.”

Louis can barely whisper back “I love you, too” before falling fast asleep, head pillowed on his husband’s chest while his baby daughter sleeps peacefully beside them.

 

The next morning, Louis wakes up to the sound of Lilian crying, his arms reaching for her before he is even fully awake.

Once Lilian is fed and sleeping peacefully against his chest, Louis tells Harry to fetch their families.

It’s early morning, but Louis knows they all slept at Rosehill the previous night, wanting to be nearby in case Louis needed them.

His and Harry’s families file into the room quietly, all the girls’ and Ernest’s eyes going wide at the sight of the beautiful, sleeping baby. They gaze at her, cooing affectionately when she wakes up, and then everyone takes turn holding her, kissing her soft head and breathing in her clean baby smell.

Harry keeps his arm around Louis’ waist as they watch their family hold and kiss Lilian, already clearly as in love with her as Louis and Harry. Well, almost as much.

Charlotte, Félicité, Phoebe, and Daisy are obviously enraptured by their baby niece, and Louis can tell that each of them is reluctant to let her go. Gemma also holds Lilian with a soft smile on her face, bouncing her lightly as she coos. Doris and Ernest watch in amazement as Dan holds Lilian, letting each of them give her a kiss on the forehead.

Jay cries silent tears as she holds Lilian, deeply moved by meeting her first ever grandchild.

When she reluctantly decides to pass Lilian to someone else, Louis’ heart catches in his throat when she hands Lilian to the Earl. Louis had barely even thought about how the Earl may react to meeting his grandchild, but all of Louis’ fears fade away when he sees the Earl trembling with emotion. He leans down and presses a shaky kiss to Lilian’s forehead as she blinks up sleepily at him.

Harry sniffs loudly by Louis’ side, and Louis becomes aware that his own face is wet with tears, profoundly moved to see the Earl treat Lilian with such affection.

After only a moment longer, the Earl hands Lilian to Anne who holds her close and kisses her sweetly.

The family doesn’t stay too long, Louis and Lilian both already falling asleep again.

Jay gives him a big hug before she leaves, whispering, “I love you so much and am so proud of you.”

“Thank you, Mother,” Louis replies, voice thick with emotion. “I love you, too.”

She kisses his cheek before pulling away, giving Harry a hug and a kiss as well. She leaves the room with one last adoring gaze at Lillian.

The Earl and Anne are just about to leave, when the Earl hesitates at the door. Anne gives him a quizzical look but the Earl gestures for her to leave and that he will follow shortly.

Louis watches, confused, as the Earl shuts the door, turning back to Harry and Louis.

The Earl doesn’t say anything for a moment; instead, he walks over to Lilian’s cot where he gazes fondly at her sleeping form.

“Louis,” the Earl says, voice rough with emotion. “Louis, I owe you an apology.”

Louis feels Harry’s arm tighten around him, and Louis opens his mouth to respond, but the Earl continues.

“I haven’t treated you kindly since you moved here, since you married my son, and to that I am truly sorry.” The Earl takes a deep breath, looking at Louis. Louis can see tears misting in his eyes. “I judged you unfairly, judged you on your status and your profession. Even when I could see how much my son loved you – how much he loves you – I still didn’t treat you kindly. And now –” his voice breaks as he looks down at Lilian “– you have brought this beautiful, perfect baby girl into the world. My granddaughter. And my heart is bursting with love for her and she wouldn’t even be here without you and I have treated you like you were nothing. As if you didn’t just fill my house with the greatest possible gift.” He takes a deep, shuddering breath, tears falling from his eyes. “You have given me my granddaughter and I can never thank you enough. But I will spend my lifetime trying.”

When the Earl finishes his speech, tears are trailing down Louis’ face, his lips trembling with emotion.

“My lord, thank you,” Louis begins, but the Earl cuts him off.

“You are my son-in-law. The love of my son’s life and a member of this family. Call me Desmond, and forgive me for being so cruel to you.”

“Yes,” Louis agrees easily, Harry shaking beside him. “Desmond, yes, of course, I forgive you. You are Harry’s father and Lilian’s grandfather. You love our daughter, and that is enough.”

Desmond nods, tears still falling. “I do love her. She is beautiful. I am so proud to call her my granddaughter.”

“And she will be proud to call you her grandfather.”

Desmond begins crying in earnest at that, and Harry is quick off the bed, wrapping his father in his arms. Louis joins them on wobbly legs, easily welcomed into the tearful embrace.

Before Louis goes back to the bed, Desmond pulls Louis into a hug of his own, Harry standing to the side. “You are my son, now,” he says tearfully. “A welcome addition to our family.”

“Thank you,” Louis replies, voice thick with emotion.

They embrace for one moment longer before the Earl steps away. He gives Lilian one last kiss before leaving the room, shutting the door quietly behind him.

“Oh, Louis,” Harry gasps, taking him into his arms and burrowing his face into Louis’ neck. He cries, body shaking with sobs as Louis holds him tightly. “Thank you for forgiving him. Thank you so much.”

Louis smiles, smoothing his hands over Harry’s broad back. “Of course.” He knows how important family is to Harry and how much Desmond’s coldness to Louis was hurting him. Louis’ not sure their relationship will magically be fixed, but seeing Desmond love Lilian openly and unashamedly fills Louis’ heart with a calming sense of joy and peace. “We’re a family. Families always love and forgive one another.”

“I’m going to love you for the rest of my life,” Harry replies. To anyone else, it may seem like a non sequitur, but Louis knows it’s not. Their love for one another lies beneath each sentence they utter, always present and always relevant.

“I’m going to love you for the rest of my life, too,” Louis swears. “You and our perfect Lilian.”

“Our perfect Lilian,” Harry agrees, kissing Louis’ neck. His lips linger a moment before trailing them up to Louis’ mouth, catching his lips in a sweet, languid kiss. Louis’ hands fist in the back of Harry’s shirt, holding him close so that he can feel the gentle rise and fall of Harry’s chest.

They kiss for several more tender moments before exhaustion becomes too much for Louis and he needs to climb back into bed.

He leans against Harry’s chest, feeling his steady heart beat and his warm embrace as they watch their baby daughter sleep, peaceful and perfect.