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Harry is suffocating. Well, maybe not quite suffocating. He’s just so hot it’s getting harder to breathe. He would say something, really he would, if the cause of this insufferable heat wasn’t simultaneously driving him mad with want. Some part of his mind is reverently keeping track of Louis’ fingertips and mouth and every place they land, leaving a blazing hot trail in their wake. Another swipe of Louis’ tongue, and a squeeze to his thigh, and Harry really can’t find it in him to care that he’s practically gasping.

When Louis pulls away, Harry involuntarily moves to follow him. He takes a deep breath and curses quietly. Just… fuck . He can’t believe he even thought of breathing before. It doesn’t compare to those soft, thin lips.

“We should get out of here.” Louis whispers, soft and alluring.

Harry almost dives back in, completely disregarding what Louis’ suggested, but once the oxygen seems to actually reach his brain, he takes in their surroundings. They’re still in the pub, the booth sticky under Harry’s free hand, and who knows how long they’ve been making an embarrassing spectacle of themselves. He knew Louis had some ulterior motive to snagging the dark booth in the back.

Louis is watching him, eyes scanning his face, and Harry feels dumb trying to remember what Louis had said a moment ago.

“Hm?” He stops trying.

Louis laughs at him, the adorable bastard.

“I said, we should get out of here.” He smirks, he brings a hand to Harry’s inner thigh, teasing. “Mine or yours?”

“Oh,” Harry sighs. “Yours. Let’s get a cab.”

Louis chuckles and nudges Harry a little. Right—because he’s blocking the way. He should get up.

When he does, they practically run out the front door to hail a cab. It’s raining, the dark storm clouds a promise of the perfect soundtrack for everything Harry wants to do to Louis. He shivers a bit at the thought.

Louis whistles like Harry’s seen in the movies, and is actually amazed at how quickly he finds a cab for them. They slide in and as the driver asks for the address, Louis turns to face Harry.

“You sure we shouldn’t go to yours? It’s closer, isn’t it?”

Harry grimaces. He knew it had been too easy before. “Erm, no, let’s do yours. Sorry, Lou, my flat’s just an absolute mess.”

Louis quirks his lip, “You’ve seen my room, H. It can’t be that bad.”

“No, really, it’s awful,” Harry argues. “Yours will be better. Do you mind?”

He can see the retort on the tip of Louis’ tongue. His eyebrows are furrowed and his entire face seems pushed forward, on the edge of an argument. Harry’s relieved when Louis purses his lips, nods his head, and gives the cabbie his address.

It’s getting more difficult. He and Louis have been dating for a few months now and it’s great. Perfect, honestly. Harry is enamored with Louis and if the way Harry burns under Louis’ prolonged gaze is any indication, he’s actually confident they’re on the same page. They don’t argue, but they’re on the brink of their first. Always one argument in particular.

Luckily, Harry has a brilliant repertoire of distraction tactics to get him from one incident to the next. Tonight’s includes keeping them both on Louis’ couch for as long as his bad back will allow. It’s closest to the window that Harry’s snuck open, and with every crack of thunder, Harry brings him closer to shaking under his touch.

After they’ve finished, boneless and stuck to Louis’ couch for the time being, Harry smiles. Another crisis averted.

Waking up is hard. Harry groans a little as he does, his cheek plastered to Louis’ chest. He reaches to rub at his eyes, when he realizes he’s been drooling. He moves his head quickly and tries to wipe some of it away before Louis wakes up, but the movement is enough to stir him. Louis’ eyes flutter open to find Harry, trying to pass rubbing his drool away for a soft morning caress, and feeling generally unsexy.

“Good morning,” Louis mumbles, stretching underneath him.

“Morning,” Harry mumbles back. He has no idea what time it is, but he knows he can’t stay long this morning.

“I can feel you thinking from up here,” Louis says, fingers gently running through Harry’s tangled hair. Harry hums and drags it out until it sounds much more like a groan.

Louis laughs, “What is it?”

Harry sighs, “I should go…”

“Or you could not,” Louis frowns. “We could have a shower, make some breakfast, have another go…”

Louis’ fingers move from the back of Harry’s head to the nape of his neck, where he just barely rubs the skin down to Harry’s back. Harry shivers a little and shuts his eyes tight. He can’t. God , he wants to. But he can’t.

“I can’t, Lou. I’m sorry.” He’d said it with much more resignation than he meant. He really is sorry.

“Why though?” Louis asks, disappointment coloring his features. He turns to his side so he’s face to face with Harry.

“I, erm…” Harry starts. “I have to work is all. What time is it?”

Harry sits up a little and glances at the clock on Louis’ bedside table. It’s nearly nine which means he really has to go.

“You have to work on a Saturday?” Louis asks, skeptical.  

“Yeah!” Harry replies—maybe a touch too quickly—and pushes his hair back. “Yeah, I do. I have to be there just for a few hours. I could meet you for lunch? Let’s hang out later.” He presses a kiss to Louis’ cheek before he tosses the duvet off and goes to put on his trousers.

Louis sits up, “What could you possibly have to do at work on a Saturday?”

“Oh, nothing important.” Harry waves him off. He’s always been a terrible liar.

“Then get breakfast with me,” Louis presses.

Harry sighs, “It’s not important, but it is required. I’m sorry, Lou. I’ll be free at noon.”

Louis gets up off the bed and brings Harry’s shirt with him. When Harry pulls it over his head, his next glimpse of Louis finds him leaning against the wall, arms crossed.

“Are you sure that’s what you want to go with? A required work thing on a Saturday?” He’s teasing, but there’s an edge to it. “I was thinking noon for breakfast anyway. I wasn’t quite done with you yet.” Louis reaches out to touch, tracing a finger from his chest to his lower abdomen.

It tickles a little, but it also makes Harry second guess everything he’s said up to this point. Maybe he could text Niall to stop in and… no. No, Harry has to go.

He takes a step forward, slipping his hands around Louis’ waist and pulling him closer for a lingering kiss. Louis hums a little before attempting to deepen it. Harry almost caves, but after a moment more, he pulls away.

“We can still have breakfast at noon.” Harry smiles apologetically. “But I have to go.”

Louis sighs, “Okay. Meet me at Lucille’s?”

“I’ll be there.” Harry grins, and gives Louis one last peck on the lips on his way out the door.


The first thing Harry does when he enters his flat is turn the light on. He’s horrified that he didn’t leave at least a lamp on in his absence. He always leaves the shades closed when he isn’t home, so without a lamp the flat is engulfed in darkness. He turns around the corner and is concerned to find himself alone in the living room.

“Olivia?” he calls out.

His face is colored with concern as he walks through the flat. Kitchen first, then back through the living room to the hallway leading to his bedroom. He knocks on the bathroom door, and gets no response.

“Olivia!” He tries again, “Where are you, darling?”

When he presses his bedroom door open, he finds a sight for sore eyes sleeping in his bed. His features soften and he approaches the bed with care. “Hi, love. Did you miss me?”

He places a hand atop Olivia’s head and pets softly between her ears. He chuckles when she stretches and begins to purr quietly.

“Yeah, you like that, don’t you.” He hums, moving his hand from her head down her neck and back.

God, he loves his cat.

Harry sighs audibly and falls to his side on the bed. He keeps a palm splayed across Olivia’s back, as she brings a paw to her mouth, grooming herself without a care in the world.

“You’re ruining my life, you know?”

No response.

“Louis’ starting to worry. I think he’s worried I’m seeing other people or something.” He scratches at his cat’s bum and smiles despite himself when he can feel her low, rumbling purr.

“Do you wanna know a secret?”

Olivia’s eyes are squinted, satisfied with Harry’s attention, and she looks right past him, uninterested in anything else.

“Well, I’m telling you anyway,” Harry says. “I think… Well, I think I might be falling in love with him, Liv.”

Harry rolls onto his back and groans, removing his cat scratching hand to cover his face.

Harry and Louis had hit it off immediately . They met in the frozen food section at the grocery store where Louis had helped him with his very real ice cream dilemma, and led him to the best chunky monkey he’s ever had. He only attributes some of his new loyalty to having tasted it from Louis’ fingers and lips a few weeks later.

Honestly from the second they met, Harry knew they had something special and exciting and maybe even life-altering. Until Harry had asked him the stupidest question he’s ever asked another person to date.

“Cats or dogs?”

“Dogs, definitely.”

The exchange runs through Harry’s mind every time he comes home to Olivia. He takes a finger to her chin and rubs lightly before sitting up.

Louis had answered him so quickly . He couldn’t help but react just as fast.

“Really? You don’t like cats?”

“Nah. Not really. Dogs are just better.”

There was no rhyme or reason to Louis’ disdain for cats. Harry hadn’t even heard him explicitly say he hated them, but his tone had said it all. He was completely dismissive of cats. This could only lead Harry to one reasonable conclusion.

Louis can never meet Olivia. He’s had Olivia since she was just a kitten. He’s fiercely loyal to her. It’s not that he hates dogs or anything, it’s really just that he loves his cat and he’s terrified that Louis may never feel the same.

And so without fail, Louis asks that fateful question. “ Your place or mine?”  

And Harry faithfully answers, “Let’s go to yours.”

Harry leaves his bedroom and returns to the kitchen. He fills the cat’s food and water bowl as he knew he’d need to. The poor pet has been unusually neglected with all the time Harry’s been whisked away by Louis the cat hater. He frowns, wondering how he’s found himself in such a position.

He’s considered the possibilities. After all, he can’t hide his cat from Louis forever —especially not so long as he feels the way he does. His feelings for Louis change every day, almost always growing in intensity. What if there comes a point where Louis makes him choose? Would he choose to keep their incredible connection? The seamless way Harry sees Louis fitting into his life forever? Or would he remain alone forever with the companion that saw him through some of the darkest days of his life?

Olivia has seen Harry through many, many broken hearts. Would he choose Louis and then later regret it?  

He knows deep down that Louis would never make him choose. Louis understands the way Harry latches on to things that comfort him, and has embraced the way Harry’s done the same with him at this point.

Their connection is deep and true and Harry almost forgets until they’re giddy and touching each other with an excitement that’s still so new to both of them, but now practiced and thorough. And again when it’s over and they lie with one another in shared bliss, hand in hand and talking about the most mundane parts of their day. Harry listens to Louis’ awkward run in with an old roommate as though he’s being told one of the defining moments of Louis’ history. It all feels important and fascinating and he can’t believe Louis’ chosen him to share it with.

At this point it’s abundantly clear that Harry is attached.

He hears a loud ‘meow’ from below and he looks down to see Olivia, blocked from her food and water bowl by Harry’s legs. She could, of course, go around him to one or the other, but he’s gone and raised a diva so Harry should probably get out of her way. He mentally curses himself for spoiling his cat so much, but he takes a look at her fluffy white tail swaying as she eats and remembers why he never stood a chance.

It’s silly, yes. Maybe a tad dramatic to say, but worst case scenario is that Harry may be forced to choose between his two greatest loves. The thought makes his heart plummet into his stomach.

The fight that Harry has been dreading comes sooner than he’d expected, but not in the way he’d thought it would. They’re cuddled up on Louis’ couch, watching The Notebook per Harry’s request. Louis keeps kissing his face and his neck, and it’s downright distracting but Harry is watching the movie, thank you very much.

The fourth time Harry accepts a soft, lingering kiss to his temple, but sets his head down on Louis’ shoulder the instant he pulls away.

Louis laughs quietly, “I really thought you picked this movie for other reasons, H.”

Harry shakes his head, eyes wide and glued to the screen. “No, I love this movie.”

He can feel Louis’ chest bounce under him, more laughter, presumably, but this time without a real sound to accompany it. Harry smiles, but remains invested in the story he’s watched play out a million times before.

When the credits roll, Harry sniffles and gathers himself before he detaches himself from Louis’ side and sits up. Louis stays where he is, smirking as he says, “You know you didn’t need to bring this movie over here, right? If you wanted to watch it, you could’ve just invited me to yours.”

Harry’s lip quirks, but not in a smile. He shrugs a little, “Nah. Your couch is more comfortable.”

“You weren’t even on my couch Harry,” Louis laughs, this time with a little mirth. “You were on me the whole time.”

Harry shrugs, “Well I’m sorry, then. I could’ve moved if you wanted me to.”

Louis shakes his head, huffs a little, “That’s not what I mean. I guess, I just… I don’t understand why you won’t invite me over? It’s really been bugging me, and I need to just come out and ask it I guess.”

“I told you, Lou. My flat’s just a mess.”

“Then why don’t you clean it?” Louis asks, mildly irritated. “You impulsively clean mine whenever you’re here, so I’m having a hard time believing a little clutter is the reason you won’t invite me over there.”

“I don’t impulsively clean your flat,” Harry replies, incredulous.

“Harry, you literally did my dishes before we sat down.”

“Yeah, because I used them! I didn’t want to leave you with our shared dishes for later!”

Louis pinches the bridge of his nose, and takes a deep breath. “Harry, I don’t care that you clean. It’s really okay. That’s not what this is about.”

Harry leans forward, pressing his elbows to his knees and sniffs, this time to fill a loaded silence.

“What are you hiding?” Louis asks. “I’m trying to believe you have your reasons, but it’s really bugging me out, Haz. One second we’re swapping stories and we’re open and vulnerable with each other, and the instant I ask if we can go to yours, you tense up. It’s really obvious that you’re not telling me something and I’m actually afraid to know what it is.”

Harry bites his bottom lip and rubs the tip of his nose with his thumb, keeping his eyes trained to the floor. He’s afraid too.

“I’m sorry, Lou.” He turns his body to face Louis head on. “I really am. I don’t want you to think that way. I’m not hiding anything. Let’s have dinner at mine this week. We can do it tomorrow night.”

“Or we could go there right now,” Louis suggests with a shrug.

“No,” Harry answers too quickly. He grimaces. No wonder Louis thinks he’s lying. “I just mean, you’re right. That I should’ve just cleaned it a while ago. Let me clean it up first.”

Louis rolls his eyes a little, but nods. “Okay, fine. So tomorrow.”

They seal it with a kiss.

“What do you mean you can’t take her?” Harry growls into the phone.

“I’m sorry, mate. I’ve got plans tonight.” Niall replies.

“What plans ? You never have plans ! I have plans .

Niall chuckles the way he always does, “Harry, she’s just a cat. She’s never stopped you from having plans before!”

“Niall,” Harry actually whines, “You don’t understand. She’s too clever, too quick. I have to hide her. You’re my only hope!”

“Are you with her right now?” Niall asks, “Don’t let her hear you talk like that, Haz. You love that damn cat. What the hell has gotten into you?”

Louis has, Niall. Louis the very important person in my life. The person I’m in love with.”

“That’s great, Harry!” Niall interrupts. “I’m so happy for you! Are you going to tell him?”

Harry notices Olivia across the room, staring up at him the way she does. Ordinarily he’d find it endearing, but it feels pointed somehow. Like she’s waiting for an answer as eagerly as Niall is.

“Yeah, I think I am.” Harry says, quietly. “But Niall. Olivia can’t be here for that.”

“Why the hell not?”

“Because Louis is a dog person , Niall. I have to know if he loves me back before I can go introducing him to my cat!”

The line goes quiet. Harry watches Olivia stick her tail straight up in the air as she struts away from him to the bathroom, probably to cause some trouble. It serves Harry right.

Harry had almost forgotten Niall was there at all, until he erupts into laughter.

What? ” Harry asks, “What the hell are you laughing at?”

“You.” Niall answers before bursting into giggles again.

“What’s so funny?”

“You’re just ridiculous, Haz.” Niall says, between huffs of laughter. “Also you’re on your own. Good luck tonight. I’m sure it’ll turn out alright.”

“But Niall ,” Harry cries in vain, one last time, before the line is lost. He curses as he drops his phone to the kitchen counter.

Maybe he can just… lock her in his bedroom. He’ll release her as soon as he knows where Louis stands. If Louis reciprocates his feelings, surely he can be accepting of a cat. He couldn’t just change his mind, could he?  

Harry feels sick. He walks down the hall to find Olivia with a now empty toilet roll and a ton of tissue on the floor. He sinks to the cold tile floor and starts picking it up, rolling it on his hand wondering if he can salvage it.

“Oh, Liv. What am I gonna do with you, darling?”

Olivia sits on the other side of the toilet, tail high and waving back and forth like a pendulum. Harry smiles despite himself and reaches to scratch between her ears. Olivia chooses that moment to meow loudly, and walk right around him and out the door.

“I know,” Harry groans, leaning against the wall behind him. “I deserve this.”

He lets out another loud, frustrated sound and lifts his head to gaze at the ceiling. He needs to start on dinner, so it’s ready when Louis arrives. He’s not totally decided what he’s going to make. Pasta is romantic for some reason, but it makes him feel bloated and if tonight goes the way he’d like it to he’d rather not feel like a beached whale.

He could always make fajitas. They’re a specialty of his and they’re also very easy to make while still seeming impressive. Garlic powder is necessary though, and he’s not sure how he feels telling Louis he loves him with garlic on his breath.

He’s mentally going through all the items he has in his refrigerator when he hears a harsh knock on his door. Harry’s never sat up quicker in his entire life—there’s no one else that could possibly be outside his door.

Olivia ,” he calls with a sharp whisper.

“Olivia, I need you to be in my sight right now.”

There’s another knock on the door when Harry finds Olivia sitting on the armchair in his living room. She stares straight at him, and Harry knows that whatever happens, he has to move quickly.

There’s a third, softer knock on the door and Harry calls, “I’ll be right there! Sorry!”  

He makes eye contact with his cat. She stares up at him, challenging, and without thinking first Harry charges for her. As he should have predicted, Olivia moves swiftly, jumping from the armchair to the floor and darting down the hallway.

“Shit,” Harry whispers. “Shit, shit, shit.”

He races down the hallway only to find Olivia, now curling up on his pillow. He hates it because she knows she’s not allowed there, but Harry feels like maybe he owes her this one. “Fine. Just… stay in here, okay?”

He closes his door and walks down the hall to answer the door. He’s almost nervous that Louis’ waited too long and walked away by now. Olivia’s already ruined everything.

Instead, he finds Louis on the other side of the door. Harry smiles, because he can’t help it. A deep sigh of relief exits his mouth without his permission.

“Are you okay?” Louis frowns.

“Yeah!” Harry says, a bit too chipper. “Great. Glad you’re here!”

“Yeah…” Louis drags the word out a moment, perhaps searching for the right words. “I’m early. Is that okay?”

“Of course it is,” Harry shrugs, attempting and failing at nonchalance. “Why wouldn’t it be?”

“Well you haven’t let me inside yet.”

“Oh!” Harry laughs. “I’m sorry. How rude of me. Please, come in. I was just trying to decide what to make for dinner.”

Louis does, and when Harry shuts the door behind him, he leans in for a quick kiss hello.

It doesn’t go beyond a quick peck, but Louis’ smiling. He seems much more at ease.

“Do you like a good stir fry?” Harry asks. “I was thinking something a little simpler if that’s okay.”

“Yeah, that sounds great.” Louis replies. Harry watches as he turns to survey the surrounding area.

“So how long did you spend cleaning, if you don’t mind my asking?”

Harry furrows his brows as he rounds the corner to the kitchen. “What do you mean?”

“I mean… it was deemed unpresentable until today?” Louis says.

It takes Harry a second too long to realize he’s referencing his previous excuses. When it hits him, he pops his head up, “Oh! Um, not too long, I guess. I’d mostly been lazy until today, I guess.”

Harry wants to hit his head against the kitchen counter. He’s an idiot. Should’ve told him he vacuumed for hours or something equally dramatic.

“Oh, well. You know… if it was just a little laziness…” Louis hesitates.

Harry busies himself pulling vegetables from his refrigerator and looking for the right spices in his cupboard. He avoids Louis’ eye contact when he says, “What?”


“What were you saying?”

“Just that I wouldn’t have minded.” Louis says. He sounds sad. “I wouldn’t have cared at all. And wish you’d have invited me sooner.”

Each word sounds more nervous than the last, and Harry can’t bear to listen to it anymore.

He drops a bell pepper on the cutting board he has out and looks at Louis.

“I know,” he says. “I’m really sorry about it. I was just embarrassed and… yeah. I don’t know.”

“What don’t you know?” Louis prods. Harry’s at a loss for words. He really planned to explain later, he just wants to get through dinner first.

“Sorry,” Louis shrugs. “I know we’ve talked about this already. It means a lot that I’m here now.”

Harry smiles, small but sincere. “I’m glad.”

It’s not necessarily smooth sailing from there. Louis insists on helping with dinner and Harry gives him a few vegetables to chop, but gasps every time the knife looks a centimeter too close for comfort.

“Oh my god , Harry just trust me!” Louis laughs. “I can cut a damn vegetable.”

Harry chuckles, exasperated. His nerves really are getting the best of him. He wipes the nervous sweat from his brow and reaches for Louis’ hands. “I really like these hands and the person attached to them. Take care of them for me.”

Louis smiles, eyes slightly squinted, but glowing nonetheless, “You’ve got to stop this.”

Harry’s lip quirks upward, “Stop what?”

“Stop making me…” Louis hesitates. “You make it so difficult for me not to like you.”

“I mean we’ve been together a few months now.” Harry huffs a laugh, self consciously. “I’d hope you like me.”

“I really, really do.” Louis replies quickly. Maybe before he could change his mind.

Louis excuses himself to use the restroom, and Harry points him to the door just left of his bedroom. As Louis walks away, Harry allows himself a moment of reprieve. He deflates in his place, leaning heavily on the kitchen counter.

He’s just so nervous . You’d think he was confessing to Louis that he’d been to prison before or something. Maybe it’s just the pairing of laying his heart on the line as well as placing his other heart in between them. He really does love his cat, he’s not sure if he can talk himself into giving her away for Louis’ sake. What if he’s not enough? He’s been so fucking shady lately, it’s not like Harry could blame Louis for breaking his heart.

And maybe that’s the worst part. He feels like heartbreak is inevitable. He’s fighting to stay positive, forcing a very wide, fake smile on his face and tells himself to pull it together. He’s going to be fine. This is supposed to be among the happier moments of his life. And there’s a chance that could still be true.

Louis returns a second later, but Harry doesn’t hear him approach. He’s plating their dinner when he feels a pair of arms wrap around his waist. He jumps a little at the unexpected contact and nearly flings rice all over the counter. Louis giggles a little, his lips grazing the back of Harry’s neck.

“Whatcha doin?” Harry asks. He’s pretending to be unphased, scooping the stir fry onto the plate he’s still holding.

“I was just wondering…” Louis replies, just above a whisper, “if you’d be interested in dessert first?”

Louis’ hands hover just above Harry’s torso as they fall to his hips. Once his fingers are there, he digs into the skin, lightly sucking on the soft spot between Harry’s neck and shoulder.

Harry shudders a little. His body is such a traitor when it comes to Louis. Always reacting before his brain can talk any sense into it. He sets down the plate, turning in Louis’ grip, and smirks at how quickly Louis brings his lips closer to Harry’s face. Harry lets himself enjoy the soft collision. The melding of Louis’ lips on his—soft, and gentle, and a little cosmic.

“But the food will go cold,” Harry mumbles, eyes fluttering closed when Louis squeezes his backside just right. He slots their crotches together and nibbles a little at the sharp edge of his jaw.

“I don’t care,” Louis says. “Do you?”

Harry doesn’t bother with a reply, only deepens their next kiss. The oven was starting to feel devilishly hot on his lower back anyway. May as well move this to the couch. When Louis swipes his tongue just right, Harry’s willing to verbally admit defeat—until he smells smoke.

Louis makes an affronted sound when Harry pulls away, standing up a little straighter and lightly pushing him off. He turns around to see how badly the food is burnt. Instead he hears Louis gasp.


“Harry,” Louis says wide eyed. “Stay calm.”

“What do you mean?” Harry goes to turn, but Louis practically yelps.

Stay ,” he says. “Don’t move.”

Only then does Harry feel a sharp sting. It jolts him, and immediately he jumps away from the oven. To his surprise, that didn’t make the pain go away.

“Harry!” Louis shouts, “Stay there .”

“Am I on fire ? What the fuck !” Harry shouts back. “Oh my god, Louis. Put it out, put it out!”

He jumps in place as though the motion will do anything to help him in this moment. It does little to distract from the fact that his flesh is burning.  

Louis stands only about a foot away from him, messing about with Harry’s kitchen sink. Harry watches as he frantically pulls the spray hose attachment from its place. He points it at Harry like a gun, “Turn the fuck around!”

Harry does, he’s too panicked to do anything besides what he’s told.

The next thing he knows, there’s a harsh stream of cold water shooting at his lower back. Harry cries out. The cold water is less a relief and more of a shock on his burned skin. After a few moments, Louis takes his hand off the trigger.

Harry stands very still, cursing every bad thing he’s ever done in his life. Surely his allotment of karma has all come together to create the most mortifying event of his life . Forget the cat, Louis is going to leave Harry because of this ridiculous instant alone. He couldn’t want to stay with someone so irresponsible—so stupid . Suddenly, the cold water stops, and Harry opens his eyes.

He hears a series of clanks and taps before he feels a pair of hands on his shoulders.

“Haz?” Louis whispers. “Babe? You okay?”

Harry decides to deal with it—to turn and face him head on. He clenches his fists a little and turns around, his shirt brushing the fresh wound on his lower back and he hisses, grimacing at the pain.

“Oh my god,” Louis says, “Shit. Are you okay?”

Harry really tries not to cry, but it hurts so fucking bad he can’t help the few tears running down his cheeks.

Louis shushes him and goes to pull him in for a hug. Harry wants one, could use one even, but first he really needs to get his shirt off. It brushes again and, “Ah!”

“What? What is it? I thought I got it all?” Louis searches Harry’s face for an answer. He seems well and truly concerned and now is not the time to be endeared by his boyfriend.

“I need to take my shirt off,” Harry says. “I think that left a gnarly burn on my back.”

“Oh fuck, of course, ” Louis mutters. “Sorry, I’m a fucking idiot.”

“No, no,” Harry starts, “I’m the one that leaned against the oven. Just—can you help me? I need to untuck it first but it’s really going to hurt.”

Louis nods, very seriously. “How can I help?”

“Will you do it for me? I can squeeze your arms or something?”

Louis agrees and grips the bottom of his shirt where it’s tucked loosely into his trousers. He pauses, “Ready?”

Harry shuts his eyes tight, squishing his whole face unattractively and nods.

Louis, very gingerly begins to tug at his shirt, and Harry can’t help but think he imagined this exact thing happening under very different circumstances. He’s about to say as much when his shirt brushes his tender flesh again and he yells, “Oh my god just do it !”  

Louis does, and it fucking sucks . Harry keeps his eyes shut, gripping Louis’ arms tight and breathing heavily.

“Oh, love, I’m so sorry,” Louis whispers. “I am so sorry, this was my fault.”

Harry wants to deny it, but his back is screaming at him, and he doesn’t even know what to do in this situation. Does aloe apply for oven crises? Should he go to the emergency room? He feels like he should call his mum and ask, but that requires actually explaining to her what’s happened.

Instead of replying, he keeps a tight hold of Louis’ arms and drops his head to Louis’ shoulder. He takes a deep calming breath and asks, “So, are you hungry?”

Louis doesn’t answer straight away. He seems confused, and Harry knows he’s being ridiculous but he really just wants to pretend this never happened. Its then that he becomes totally aware of his current circumstance and sees himself, shirtless, a few inches from Louis, trying and failing to ignore the sharp, insistent sting in his lower back and he just starts laughing. Even to himself, he sounds a bit hysterical, but it’s not long before Louis is joining him.

The whole ordeal begins to play in Harry’s mind and he just loses it. He steps away from Louis as he does the same, walking round and sitting at the kitchen table where he buries his face in his hands, laughing so hard.

“I just keep thinking,” Harry cackles mid sentence, “About how you pointed the kitchen hose at me.”

Louis’ eyes glint in the kitchen light as he laughs with him. Harry walks to join Louis at the table, but Louis reaches for Harry’s hand and pulls him onto his lap. It’s uncomfortable, especially the way it stretches his burned skin, but Louis is gentle, giggling into his side, with Harry’s arm over his shoulder.

“You know what else is ridiculous?”

“What?” Harry giggles.

“We didn’t even think to stop, drop, and roll.”

Harry doesn’t even know why this strikes him as funny as it does. He snorts, tossing his head back, but he immediately regrets it. The movement has Louis reaching for his back and when he touches his burn he yelps.

Shit .”

Harry makes a pained face, but tries to make the moment pass. He removes himself from Louis’ lap and goes back to the kitchen.

“Well, the stir fry isn’t too cold.”

“Haz, come here.” Louis says, almost exasperated.


“Can you come here? Let me see your back.”

Harry picks up another plate and scoops more stir fry onto a plate, shaking his head.

“Haz, seriously, come here. We can wait until I get that bandaged up for you.”

Harry looks up at him, eyes big and sad. His back really hurts.

Louis smiles sympathetically, “Come here, love.”

Harry loves when Louis calls him that. And that may be the only real reason Harry caves and approaches Louis.

“Do you have any gauze?” Louis asks.

Harry shrugs, “I have a first aid kit.”

“Well, take me there then.”

Harry leads him to his bathroom and pulls the first aid kit from his medicine cabinet. He hands it to Louis and watches his boy go to work. He sits on the floor and digs through its contents until he finds some gauze and stands to dig for something else in his cabinet.

Louis looks up and smiles, “Will you turn around, love? You can stay seated.”

Harry moves on the toilet so his back is facing Louis. Harry hasn’t seen his back, so he really doesn’t know how bad it is, but the sound Louis makes isn’t reassuring.

“Alright, Haz. I’m gonna put some stuff on it. It might sting a little. The burn’s not as bad as I thought it was, but it is pretty scattered so it’s gonna feel like a lot.”

“Were you a doctor at some point?” Harry asks. He’s impressed by Louis’ calm instructions. It feels calculated and practiced, somehow.

“No,” Louis chuckles. “My mum’s a nurse. I had to do this a lot when my sisters got into things they shouldn’t have.”

Harry smiles a little. He tries to distract himself with that, imagining Louis speaking softly to his sisters, kissing booboos, and bandaging them. He finds himself smiling, even through the discomfort of Louis spreading some of the cool gel over several spots on Harry’s back. It still stings, but Louis’ soft touch isn’t to blame.

When Louis is finished he presses a soft kiss to Harry’s back over the gauze, “Alright. Ready for dinner?”

Harry turns and grins. Maybe there’s hope for a perfect evening yet. They can just pretend this happened some other night. That is, if all goes according to plan.

Harry accepts Louis’ hand and stands from the toilet. He follows him out, back to the dining area, and then chuckles when he finds his shirt still on the kitchen floor.

“I’m going to go put a shirt on,” Harry says.

Louis chuckles, “Alright. I’ll set the table.”

“Oh, wait, let me help.”

“Nope,” Louis says, grinning wickedly. “Gives me a chance to snoop.”

Harry laughs, shaking his head. “Alright, then. I’ll be back.”

He goes to his bedroom, and opens the door, careful not to unleash his hidden cat. He still can’t believe that after all this, he has to tell Louis she exists. He does feel a little… less nervous though. Something about the way Louis handled him with such care a few moments ago is a reassurance of sorts. It feels like… maybe , Harry’s not alone in this. Maybe Louis loves him too.

Olivia emerges from Harry’s closet as he’s digging through a dresser drawer for another nice shirt. At this point, he wonders if he should just throw on an old t-shirt, but it’s still a big night. He’d like to look his best. He finds another black button down and pulls it on, starting with the bottom button.

Olivia perches on the edge of his bed, watching him intently.

“Hi, darling. You can almost come out, okay?”

Harry finishes buttoning up, deciding not to bother tucking this shirt in for the sake of his injury. He pets the top of Olivia’s head, and kisses it. She mews back at him and he gives her one last apologetic smile, “I know, love. I’m sorry.”

Olivia nearly makes it out the door with him, but Harry’s quick to shut the door. He sighs, trying not to dwell too much on the guilt.

When he returns, he finds Louis waiting at the table for him with cutlery set out besides their full plates.

And from there, dinner is soaring. Harry’s heart feels full as he sits with Louis, swapping stories from childhood. Louis tells him more about his mum and all the times he had to talk down his sisters after a nasty fall, and Harry tells him about receiving the same talks from his older sister—after she pushed him down in the first place. They laugh, holding hands under the table. Harry isn’t left handed, but he tries to conceal how difficult it is to eat anyway. Louis of course catches on and releases Harry’s hand, much to his dismay.

Soon enough they’ve finished and Harry knows there’s really only one thing left to do.

“Hey, Lou…” Harry starts, shuffling in his chair so he’s facing Louis more directly.

“Yes?” Louis smiles, leaning back in his seat.

“Can we, erm. Talk about something?”

Louis’ eyebrows furrow a moment, but he remains open, looking square into Harry’s eyes as he nods. “Of course. Everything alright?”

Harry nods, “Yeah, um. I just… I have some things I think I need to tell you.”

Louis swallows, and Harry really hates the way the atmosphere changed. He can feel the tension sitting between them, and Harry finds himself wondering what exactly Louis thinks he’s hiding. Louis looks like he might throw up, and if he’s that nervous, Harry finds himself feeling much the same.

“Maybe we should move to the couch?” Harry suggests. He wants Louis to be comfortable, but the suggestion seems to have only made him more nervous. Louis nods anyway, and Harry reaches for his hand to give it a reassuring squeeze along the way.

They sit on the couch, still hand in hand, and Harry reaches for his other between them.

“Haz, you’re scaring me here.” Louis asks. “Are you about to tell me about your secret husband?”

Harry barks a laugh, and instantly the mood changes between them, Louis laughing softly with him. “I mean, am I that far off?”

Harry chuckles, “Is that really what you were worried about? That you were the other man?”

Louis exhales, seemingly relieved, “I mean, yeah. I was sort of kidding, but I have thought about it.”

“Oh, Lou, no. When would I have the time to be married to someone else?” Harry teases, “I spend almost every night with you anymore.”

Louis huffs another laugh, “I mean, yeah, I guess that’s true.”

The silence settles between them, and Harry keeps a tight hold on both of Louis’ hands, rubbing them softly with his thumbs. “I do… have something I want to tell you though.”

“Right, right,” Louis nods, “Alright. So long as it’s not a hidden husband I’m fine. What’s up?”

“Well, I just.” Harry begins, he can feel a nervous grin pushing his dimples out, and he wonders where to begin. Feelings or um… the actual secret. “I really like you, Lou.”

Feelings it is then.

“I like you too,” Louis replies, leaning forward, likely eager to see where this is going.

“Cool. Well, I’m glad we’re on the same page so far because I mean, I think this is getting serious. I’m serious… about you… at least.”

God , it’s hot in here. Is it hot in here? Harry needs to check the air conditioner, maybe it got shut off somehow.

Louis nods, and the tightness in Harry’s chest loosens just a little. He pauses, trying to collect his words. When he looks at Louis, he finds his eyes soft and open, he still feels warm, but, well, the gooey kind.

“Can I kiss you?” Harry asks, because suddenly there’s nothing he wants more.

Louis giggles a little as he nods. Harry lets go of Louis’ hands just so he can cup his face and kiss him softly. He wonders if Louis knows, if he understands, just how much he’s come to mean to him and he finds himself hoping that maybe now he can feel it.

He rubs his cheek softly with this thumb before he pulls away, and when he does, he finds… Olivia?

Oh, god. Fuck. Shit. Fucking hell, fuck, shit, fuck . Olivia got out. She got out and she is staring at him from on top of the book case. She fucking knows she’s not allowed up there and—


Harry’s eyes dart back to Louis’ face, still held gently in his hands. Louis tries to look behind him, and instead Harry puts his lips back on his. It’s a pathetic attempt at distraction, but effective nonetheless. Harry kisses Louis until his lips feel loose and barely attached to his face. He feels breathless and when he does finally pull away, Louis laughs.

“Okay, what was it that you wanted to tell me?”

Right . Okay. Feelings first. Harry can do this. He can and he will.

“Yeah,” Harry sighs, “Yeah. Louis. I, um. I lo— OLIVIA!”

There a few loud thumps in his eyeline as Olivia pushes several books right off of Harry’s book case, startling a very confused Louis, and officially ruining his life.

Louis turns to the source of the sound, and the moment he sees the cat, Harry attempts to deflate himself with apologies.

“Oh my god, Louis, I’m so sorry. I’m mortified, I can’t believe this is happening. I am so sorry, please don’t leave.”

“Harry… is that… a cat?” Louis fixes his fringe—a nervous habit Harry’s noticed. Of course he’s nervous. He hates cats. He’ll never forgive him. Harry’s lost him forever.

“Yeah,” Harry replies, defeated. “Yeah, um. That’s Olivia. My cat.”

“Oh,” Louis says, barely audibly. “Is that…?”

Harry doesn’t know what to say. He can feel the heat that’s risen to his cheeks as he looks away from Louis, keeping his gaze on the space between them.

“Is Olivia the reason you didn’t want me to come over?”

Harry pouts . He knows how pathetic he is, he knows how ridiculous this looks, and so he pouts because this evening just wasn’t embarrassing enough. “Erm… yeah. Yeah, I didn’t… I didn’t know how to tell you.”

Really ?” Louis asks, incredulous.

“Please don’t be mad,” Harry says quickly. “Please. I know I should have told you I just—”

“I’m not mad , Haz. I’m just very, very confused.” Louis looks it too. He grips Harry’s hand a little tighter and Olivia, the damn cutie, chooses then to hop right in Harry’s lap. If he loved her just a little less, he’d push her off.

“She’s cute,” Louis laughs. “Were you worried I’d like her more?”

This time, Harry is confused. Looking up from Olivia’s big eyes to Harry’s crinkly blue ones. He’s smiling .

“I, erm—Well, I thought you didn’t like cats.”

“I mean, I’ve never had one.” Louis shrugs, “I grew up with a dog, but it’s not like I have anything against cats.”

Harry inhales so long, that his deep exhale pushes him back against the couch. Olivia climbs up and settles on his chest and Louis laughs. “Were you really worried about this?”

Harry smiles, his relief rendering him incapable of nonchalance. “I thought you hated them. I thought this might be a deal breaker, and I—” He stops.

Louis leans against the couch beside him and moves in close. He gives Olivia a scratch between her ears. Harry feels so warm, with the cat on his chest, and with pure joy that his two loves are getting along. He feels Olivia’s purr rumbling against him and he wants to cry.

Louis smiles and sets a cheek on Harry’s shoulder. “You what?”

“I love you.”

Harry wants to laugh as soon the words are out. After the evening he’s had he figures, what’s one more monumental embarrassment? So far, it seems Louis is forgiving of his shenanigans, and when Louis smiles warmly, Harry thinks this may be no different.

Louis leans in to press a soft kiss on Harry’s jaw. “I love you, too.”

Harry dimples, “Really?”

Louis grins, nodding his head. “Yeah. Just wish you would’ve told me about the cat ages ago. I really did think I was the other man, here.”

Harry laughs, “I still can’t believe you thought that.”

“I can’t believe you thought I’d end this just because you have a cat!” Louis laughs back.

“Okay, touché.”

Louis giggles again, this time in Harry’s neck. Harry pets Olivia with one hand, and Louis with the other and wonders how he got so lucky. Now, the only thing left is to let Olivia know that Louis’ staying.

She won’t like losing her spot in his bed. Harry can’t bring himself to care.