Actions

Work Header

which is sweeter love or its loss

Work Text:

Louis' very first impression of the Yorkshire Moors is that they're very flat. One could get lost in that great expanse, he thinks as he presses his face against the glass of the train car. Or, considering the rain lashing against the window, beading down the glass, quite possibly drown.

It feels like the perfect metaphor for Louis' life.

As the train lurches to a stop at his destination, his phone tinkles merrily. He thumbs away the text message without reading it, adding another one to the list of unread texts from James. His boyfriend – his ex? - just doesn't get it. Louis doesn't want to listen to any more excuses, any more apologies. He doesn't even know how anyone can apologise for what he walked in on that last day in London.

He pushes himself up, shoving his phone in his pocket before tugging down his large suitcase from the baggage rail and, shouldering his knapsack onto his shoulder, he makes his way onto the platform.

He's supposed to be meeting someone here, to take him to a new job he'd agreed to to get away from the mess his life has become. As his feet hit the main platform of the station, he realises he's got no idea what this person is even going to look like. He's only ever spoken to the man on the phone.

He's actually just about to pull his phone out to call the man when his gaze is drawn to a broad shouldered, handsome man standing off to one side. He's sturdy looking, the kind who probably rescues cats from trees and donates his time to help wayward boys figure out what it takes to be a man.

The man had been watching the other passengers alight, looking like he was looking for someone as well, but he must feel Louis' eyes on him because it causes him to look Louis' way and move toward him.

“You look a bit lost there, mate,” the man says warmly as he draws even with Louis. The smile that crosses his face echoes the sentiment, and Louis feels himself mirror the expression.

“I'm looking for someone, actually.” Louis says, now digging his phone out. There's three more text messages from James – Jesus Christ, can the man not take a hint - and he clears them all as he unlocks his phone. “A Liam Payne, actually.”

The man's smile grows wider, and he holds his hand out to Louis. “That'd be me then. You must be Louis.”

“That's right,” Louis says as he shakes the man's hand. He watches as Liam's gaze falls across his knapsack and suitcase, a question there that makes Louis too uncomfortable just yet. When he doesn't offer anything, the man's gaze moves back up to Louis' face.

“Well. You're welcome at the estate, Louis.” Liam's smile returns, a bit dimmer than before. Like he's privately questioning why someone would respond to a housesitter sort of job with only a suitcase and a knapsack when the job could potentially last months on end. He leads the way to a black Range Rover that looks every bit as sturdy and solid as the driver, and loads Louis' suitcase and knapsack into the boot. He also holds the passenger door open for Louis, making Louis feel a bit like he's some hotshot celebrity instead of someone running from a shite relationship.

In fact, it makes him feel a bit at home in this already strange place.

 

“The estate is about two hours from the train station,” Liam tells Louis as the Rover winds its way through the moors. The first half hour in the vehicle had been dedicated to silence, as if Liam was letting Louis admire the natural beauty of the area in silence. “There's a small little village nearby where you can do your shopping if you need anything that's not already in the house. The place is set up with wifi and satellite, plus delivery service is pretty great.”

Louis pulls his gaze from the purpling moors, the shades darkening as the sun begins to set. He's fairly certain it'll be dark by the time they arrive at this estate, and he can't shake the feeling his first impression of the building will be that of a gothic horror film. Liam has his gaze focused on the road, fingers drumming against the steering wheel.

“There's numbers on the fridge, and the wifi password too.” Liam goes on, glancing over at Louis. “You'll be mostly by yourself, but I think that was in the ad.” He must not have expected a response, even though Louis nods, because he goes on quickly. “There's a cat, though, so I hope you're not allergic.”

“That was mentioned in the ad, too.” Louis points out in the space Liam leaves to draw breath again. “I'm not allergic.”

“That's a relief.” The other man chuckles. “The owner's attached to the beast, but he never takes it with him when he travels. I usually take care of it with the rest of my duties, but I've got too much on my plate at the moment.”

The conversation lulls after that for another half hour, broken only by a few beeps of Louis' phone (more texts from James) and a couple contemplative glances from Liam. Louis can feel the question stretch the silence between them, but Liam never asks and Louis doesn't know him well enough to offer the answer.

When it gets to Louis, he shifts in the seat to look at Liam. “What exactly am I doing at the house? Estate? Whatever it's called.”

“Just... live in it, I suppose.” Liam shrugs, like he hasn't given it much thought. “You can do laundry if you need to. Watch tv. Read any of the books in the library if you want.” His voice trails off and he drums his fingers against the steering wheel again. “I think some minor housecleaning is going to be expected from the owner. Cleaning up after yourself, doing whatever dishes you use, occasionally dusting. That sort of thing.”

“I can do that.” Louis nods, looking back out the window once more. As the moors get darker, he can see fog rolling in. He's almost wondering if he should ask Liam if there's any black dogs out there, or other giant ghostly hounds.

As the vehicle continues on to its destination, the occupants lapse into silence once more. Louis feels like he should start asking questions, ask why the house even needs a housesitter if Liam seems to live nearby, if not in the house itself.

But before he can even muster up the ambition to ask any questions, even if it's just to ask what Liam does that interferes with taking care of a cat, they're on the outskirts of a tiny village. A few houses line the road leading into the main thoroughfare, and they and the main buildings of the village glow heartily.

“This is the village I was telling you about,” Liam says as the Rover drives on through. “We're nearly there.”

Sure enough, as they exit the tiny village, Louis can see a building in the distance that he assumes is the place he's going to be calling home until the owner returns from their travels. The assumption turns out to be accurate roughly ten minutes after they leave the village as the Rover turns onto a long driveway broken by a massive iron wrought gate that Liam stops the SUV in front of.

As the other man gets out of the vehicle to open the gate, Louis leans forward to get his first glimpse of his new home. If this were Hollywood, there'd be a flash of lightening lighting up the sky behind the massive home squatting beyond the gate. It towers up to what Louis would guess is three floors including the ground floor, and stretches out to look like a few of the palaces used by the Royal family.

He's going to get lost in this place. He just knows it. And then he'll become a ghost in the gothic novel that this house belongs in.

“The place used to be an abbey.” Liam announces as he opens the door once more, causing Louis to jump. Liam's teeth flash white in the darkness just beyond the illumination the Range Rover gives off. “You're a bit jumpy.”

“I'm going to get lost in there,” Louis admits, feeling a bit sheepish as Liam drives through the gate.

“You won't,” is Liam's reassuring answer as the man drives up the driveway. Closer to the house, the road curves around a fountain that Louis can't see clearly in the headlights, and beyond that is where Liam parks the car.

“I should've left a light or two on when I left, sorry.” Liam's apologetic as he turns off the ignition and gets out. “Didn't even occur to me to do so.” He continues as he rounds to the back of the Range Rover, opening it and pulling Louis' suitcase and knapsack out of the back. These, he hands over to Louis, along with a set of keys he pulls out of his jacket pocket. “Keys to the house, to the outbuildings and all.”

Liam takes a minute, eyes flicking side to side like he's checking off a mental list as Louis looks down at the keys he'd been handed. Finally, the other man points to the left of the estate, where Louis can make out a single story building. “That's the caretaker's place, as well as where the garage is. That's where you can find me if you need me, but other than that, you've got pretty much free range of the house and its grounds.”

And that is how Louis finds himself standing outside a large building that's going to be his home for the next few months at least. He looks up at it, feeling like he's about to enter into a gothic novel. He takes a deep breath, finds the right key and unlocks the door.

It swings open onto a darkened foyer, with lumps he takes to be furniture rising out of the darkness. It takes a moment of fumbling to find the light switch a few steps away from the door, the light streaming down from a large chandelier dangling just off center by a massive wooden staircase leading upstairs.

“They'll never find my body again....” Louis whispers to himself, suddenly aware of the silence that exists in the house, the silence that had begun the moment he'd stepped out of the SUV with Liam. In fact, he's very much aware of how his heartbeat seems to fill the whole house.

His gaze travels along the carved banister of the staircase, leading up into more darkness where the bedrooms probably lie. He wonders if there's a specific one set out for the house sitter, or if he has free pick. His gaze drops back down to the room he's standing in, taking in the furniture covered in sheets to protect them from dust and probably the cat that Liam had mentioned. Except for one piece: a sturdy looking table to the left of the door. A bust of a woman sits in the middle, with an envelope tucked against it. Next to it rests a candelabra and a small box of matches.

“Definitely gothic novel material,” Louis scoffs, setting his knapsack on the highly polished wooden floor as he reaches for the envelope that has “houseguest” written in crisp, elegant writing. He opens it carefully, unfolding the piece of paper inside.

Dear House Guest,

As a gentleman, I am deeply apologetic that I was unable to meet you on your arrival. I hope the estate doesn't overwhelm you in my absence. I am quite certain that Mr. Payne has informed you of some of your duties, shown you the nearby village, and that there exists a list of necessary numbers and other information on the refrigerator. I impose no rules on my staff, of which you are now considered one in your role of live-in caretaker, but I do ask that you treat the house and its grounds with the utmost respect. It has lived a long life and seen much, and deserves the respect it has earned.

A sound from upstairs pulls Louis from the letter, before dismissing it as the feline Liam had mentioned and continuing his reading.

You've free rein of the house and its grounds, barring a room in the cellar. This room is locked, and although you were given a keyring with an abundance of keys on it, the key to this room is not on there. And so you don't meet the same fate as those tragic brides of Blackbeard, Louis can't help the laugh that comes out of him at the joke , it holds no bodies of my past wives or caretakers such as yourself that got too curious. It is merely a room that only has use and purpose when I am at home.

Perhaps, if you're still there when I arrive home from this latest trip, I'll show you it to solve any burning curiosity.

Yours,
Harry E. Styles

P.S. The cat is Holly, and she is, I am told, a drama queen and diva. There is a piece of paper next to the numbers on the refrigerator that explain her care and feeding.

Louis wonders if Liam had fed the cat before he'd gone to collect Louis from the train station, but he figures he should probably find his bedroom first.

A glance toward the darkened staircase makes Louis turn toward the candelabra, lighting it with a match from the matchbox before pocketing the box. He swings his knapsack back over his shoulder, grabs his suitcase in his free hand and heads upstairs.

As the candlelight flickers across paintings and furniture, he's reminded once more of a gothic heroine ascending to her room. He shakes himself outside one of the rooms, deciding that he'll just take the first bedroom he comes to tonight and pick a different one in the morning if he doesn't like it.

“That sounds like a good plan,” Louis whispers to himself as he turns into the room. He considers for a moment switching on an overhead light, but somehow the sight of the bed just reminds him of how long a day he's had and how tired he feels.

He finds that he has just enough energy to set his stuff down by the door and the candelabra on the nightstand, with the candles blown out before he passes out on the bed itself.

 

 

The sound of purring is the first thing that greets Louis, along with some rather bright sunlight shining into his eyes. The source of the sunlight is easy to pinpoint: there's a large window that, upon inspection, overlooks sprawling gardens, the plush curtains thrown back. He presses his hands against the glass, peering out, and thinks he spots Liam working on some rose bushes. Otherwise, he may as well be alone in this whole house.

Which brings him to the next point of business: the purring.

He's sure answering that question might be a bit harder than the sunlight, because although it's a loud purr, he doesn't immediately see a cat anywhere. At least, not until he gets a better look at the bed he'd collapsed on the night before. On the fluffy white pillows, practically blending in with the dark wood of the headboard, is the sleekest black cat Louis' ever seen in his life. This, then, must be the drama queen and diva cat the owner of the house must’ve mentioned. It takes him a minute to remember the cat’s name.

“You must be Holly,” he whispers to the cat, holding his hand out. Golden eyes open slowly, focusing on his outstretched fingers for a few heartbeats before the cat deigns to rub its cheek against them. The creature’s fur is just as sleek and soft as it looks.

He gives the cat a few more scratches, focusing on the cheeks and the ears and hoping the cat doesn’t decide enough is enough before he’s through. He could do without scratches on his first day at the estate, especially because he has no idea where the first aid kit would be kept, or even if there’s a first aid kit.

He doesn’t even know where anything is in this house, except for the things he brought with himself and perhaps where the things in this bedroom are.

He should remedy that.

 

 

The estate has far more rooms than Louis thinks anyone could possibly need, much less want. The room he’d collapsed in the night before seems to be the best one suited for his needs, and there’s a bathroom just next door. Bonus: there’s actually a first aid kit located in one of the cupboards, and it’s fully stocked. At least he knows where to go if Holly ever does scratch him.

The kitchen, he finds out, is the most modern part of the entire building. The refrigerator has a touch screen embedded in its glossy surface, next to a long list of numbers and what Louis assumes is the WIFI password that Liam had mentioned. On the sleek counter next to the fridge lies some more paper, although Louis can’t read it because Holly is sitting on it, her tail wrapped neatly around her forelegs, her golden eyes watching him as he explores the kitchen. Once he’s seen her, though, she hops down from the counter and saunters over to metal bowls tucked into a corner, where she sits down once more with her spine perfectly straight.

He can’t help but think when she’s still, Holly looks like a statue of a cat instead of a real one.

It turns out that the paperwork she’d been sitting on are actually instructions for Holly herself. Going over them, he finds out that her food is located in the pantry, that her litter box is located in the downstairs bathroom and requires cleaning every few days, and other such things. Just going over it makes it sound so routine, so mindless, and so much like what Louis needs in the wake of his own problems.

He can’t wait to start.

 

 

It’s funny how easy it is to slip into a routine so deeply that the weeks pass by without Louis noticing. He wanders through the house, keeping it tidy. He takes care of Holly, and the finicky feline repays him by turning into his shadow, following him on his ramblings around the large estate and even whenever he leaves the building for the gardens. That last had surprised him the first time the cat had done it, had surprised Liam when he saw the pair because, as Liam told him, the cat only liked the master of the house and certainly never came outside.

But that's how things go: Louis throws himself into routine, occasionally broken up by phone calls to his mum, and shadowed by a cat who's clearly attached to him.

Two months pass without Louis completely aware of the time passing him by, but halfway through the third month, Holly adds a new element to her routine of following him around, grooming herself and sleeping: she begins to spend long hours looking out windows that face the road leading to the estate.

It's been over two months since Louis first came to the house, and feeling like the heroine in a gothic novel lost in the moors, but watching Holly night after night take up position at various windows makes him wonder if the cat doesn't see herself as a gothic novel heroine.

It only takes a week of this behaviour before he discovers the cause: exactly a week to the day that Holly began her silent, nightly vigil at windows, someone unlocks the front door and makes their way into the house.

It's a crisp fall night, in fact, and Louis had spent the latter half of the afternoon cursing that the nights on the moors are colder than those in London. He hadn't accounted for that when he'd packed up and left the city, hasn't resigned himself to buying necessary clothes in case the owner doesn't arrive home before winter. All he knows is that he's been here through the summer and not even Liam had known when the mysterious owner was due to return from his travels.

At least that mysterious owner believes in warm quilts and Louis'd found the stack of firewood for the various fireplaces in the place, fully stocked courtesy of Liam. He's also discovered that the small grocery store in town keeps both cocoa and peppermint liquor in stock.

And that – curled up in a chair in the library, with a mug of hot cocoa in one hand and a cosy mystery in his lap, while a crackling fire blazes in the fireplace – is how Louis meets the mysterious owner of the house.

He’s so wrapped up in his book that he doesn’t hear the front door open, doesn’t hear the footsteps walk down the hall toward him. All he knows is that suddenly, there’s a tall figure in the doorway and, even though the figure’s face is in shadow, he just knows that they’re looking at him.

“Can I help you?” He says into the crackling silence, after more seconds than he’d like pass by, broken only by the pops from the logs in the fireplace.

The figure’s head bows, like they’re trying to figure something out, before they move closer to the fireplace, the fire throwing the man’s features into sharp relief. The gothic novel Louis keeps periodically being reminded of would comment that the stranger looks like he’d been carved out of marble, with that strong jaw and cheekbones, and those dark eyes watching Louis’ every move.

“You must be the young man Liam had mentioned would be watching the house in my absence,” the man finally speaks. His voice is the audible equivalent of the cocoa in Louis’ mug: smooth, warm, chocolately, and that he’d love to swim in it. He extends a hand toward Louis, his fingers long and slender, nails squared and manicured, and offers a smile. “I’m Harry Styles.”

“Louis,” he says dumbly, still distracted by the sound of the man’s voice. It’s almost hypnotic, that voice, but he manages to pull himself together enough to shake the man’s hand. “Louis Tomlinson.”

“It’s very nice to meet you, Louis Tomlinson,” Harry smiles, and his smile is just as smooth and warm as his voice. Louis isn’t the type to hop into bed with complete strangers, has not done so since before he’d met James, but there’s something about this stranger that makes him want to re-examine that.

Holly comes in, wrapping and winding herself around Harry’s legs, and when the other man’s gaze drops toward the cat, Louis finds himself jealous of a cat.

He doesn’t get time to properly examine that thought because his phone chimes. He’s pretty sure it’s his mum wishing him a good night, but he’s surprised to see James’ name. After the first few weeks, he’d been sure that his ex had taken the hint and had given up.

Clearly not.

“Bad news?” Harry’s voice is so full of concern, almost echoing the questions that had clearly lurked behind Liam’s eyes two months ago, and that concern makes Louis look up. He can't even remember the last time someone that wasn't family that showed this much concern, which makes him respond the way he hadn't when Liam had unasked questions.

“Just my ex boyfriend. I caught him in bed with someone else, and just left.” He shrugs, going for a nonchalance he doesn't feel, even with the distance of time.

“And this came up.” It's not a question, but Louis nods anyway.

“Yeah. Felt like a lifesaver, you know?” Louis reaches down to scratch Holly when the cat detaches herself from her owner and comes over by him. “I’ll have to figure out something else now that you’re back, though.”

Harry’s silent, watching Louis scratch the cat, but his gaze flickers away toward the fire when Louis glances up at him. Like he’s embarrassed to be caught looking. Whatever he’s thinking, he must make up his mind pretty quickly, because the man turns back to Louis. “Why don’t you just stay?” That warm smile returns, and even with the low light provided by the flickering fire, Louis can see the whiteness of the other man’s teeth. “I’ve got plenty of rooms, and I travel frequently. Plus,” he pauses, eyes dropping toward the cat. “I’ve never seen Holly so taken with anyone the way she seems to be with you.”

“Really?” He blinks up at Harry. He’d seen that the cat didn’t get along well with Liam, and he’d known that Harry’s letter in the beginning had said that the cat was a diva and drama queen. But he hadn’t noticed any attitude directed toward himself.

“She’s a good judge of character.” Harry smiles again before bowing. “It’s late. I imagine you’re off to bed soon. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Louis hadn’t even thought he was tired, but somehow, he finds himself standing outside his bedroom door a few minutes later.

He doesn’t even remember the walk upstairs. He doesn’t know if he should be worried about that.

 

 

If Louis had thought his routine would change with Harry home, he’s pleasantly surprised that his routine doesn’t change. He does find it odd that he never sees Harry during the day, and when he asks Liam about it a few days after Harry came home, the caretaker just shrugs and tells him to not think too hard about it.

And, for some reason he can't probably understand, he just... doesn't. He knows that if it were anyone else, he'd be bothered or concerned. At first, he thought that maybe Harry just works nights, but Harry seems to spend nearly all his time in Louis' company, definitely not working. Unless he's working after Louis goes bed.

Louis doesn't think so, though. He's been through the whole house and he's never seen anything that resembles a home office, and that wouldn't work with Harry having been gone for nearly three months traveling. Right?

It's on his mind one night, a few weeks after Harry gets home, and they're both in the library. Harry's curled up on the couch with a book with Holly comfortably seated by the fire and purring away contentedly, but Louis' wandering along the bookcases looking for a new book to read. He'd finished his last book a few days ago, and just hadn't found a new one yet.

One of the spines catches his eye, and he slides the book out, examining it. It's Interview with the Vampire, and while he's seen the movie, he's pretty sure he's never actually read the book. But he knows enough about it to know that it would fit the gothic feel he keeps having toward the house. He turns to Harry, holding the book up.

“Do you ever wonder if vampires are real and what they'd be like?”

He means the comment lightheartedly, jokingly, but he isn't expecting Harry's reaction to it: something resembling panic crosses Harry's face briefly as he glances over at him, mouth open a bit in his panic. Louis wants to believe that it's the book, it's the fire and its shadows, it's the very question that he asked that makes it look like Harry's got elongated canines. He also knows that he's never seen Harry's teeth properly besides quick glances in dimly lit rooms like this, even though they've spent plenty of time in brighter lit rooms.

Somehow, somehow, even as Harry's mouth closes and those strange canines disappear, Louis' starting to get an inkling of what that panic was for. It feels like it's entirely out of left field, especially because he's spent enough time with Harry to consider him a friend and a decent person, even if he is a bit eccentric when it comes to how he dresses. How he decorates his house.

How Louis' never seen him eat or drink, even though the other man has brought an otherwise distracted Louis snacks, meals, drinks.

How, that very first night when Harry had said Louis was probably tired, Louis had found himself in front of his bedroom door without even noticing that he'd walked away from the library.

Louis finds himself holding the book between them like a shield, wondering if it would protect him against what's percolating in his head. It feels like a betrayal to Harry if he says his wild thought out loud, but he does it anyway before he properly thinks it through: “You're a vampire.”

Harry sighs, closing his book. He then proceeds to close his eyes, like he needs a moment to compose himself or to not be upset with Louis. When he opens his eyes once more, there's a faint smile on his face. “I never drink,” he pauses, dramatically, his smile widening, “wine.”

Louis lowers his shield, blinking at Harry. He doesn't know what he expected, to be honest. Maybe that Harry'd be upset by the accusation. Tell him that vampires are fictional perhaps. But not to quote fucking Dracula like he means the line. “So you are a vampire?”

“In the flesh,” Harry agrees, quite amiably as he pushes himself up and moving closer to Louis. Louis feels something tug him, lure him closer, and he actually takes a few steps forward before he catches himself.

“What did you just do to me?” Louis asks, frowning a bit. He's reminded again of that incident from the first night Harry'd come back, wondering if whatever just happened now was that then.

“Sorry.” Harry holds his hands up, taking a careful step back. “It's a force of habit for me around certain people to use compulsion to get them to trust me. That was rude of me to use it on you when we've had a pretty good rapport.”

Compulsion. That's a good word to use to explain Louis' need to forget things around Harry, to not question the status quo of things. To find oneself outside of one's bedroom door and tired without being aware you were tired to begin with.

“You've used that on me before, haven't you?” Louis asks, practically demands as he holds the book back up as a shield once more.

It doesn't do much good as Harry closes the distance between them, his hands resting on the top of the book and pushing it down gently. “Only one other time, that first night to get you to go to bed. I promise.”

“What good is your promise if you've been lying to me?” It slips out before Louis means it to, but the smile Harry gives him says that the other man – the vampire – doesn't blame him for where his thoughts are running.

“I told you in that letter I left you that I'm a gentleman. I never explicitly lied to you about not being a vampire, since you never asked and I never felt inclined to say anything.” Harry gently takes the book from Louis' hand, setting it on a nearby end table. “Now that that's out of the way, can I do something I've wanted to do since I first saw you?”

The question is so out of left field, takes Louis completely off guard, that he finds himself nodding before he's fully processed the question. Harry rests his hand on the back of Louis' neck, his thumb tracing the line of Louis' jaw and across his lower lip before he leans in, in, in and presses his lips against Louis'.

Louis hasn't given much thought to hopping in bed with Harry since that first night, except maybe in his dreams, but he definitely hadn't thought of what kissing the other man would be like. The vampire's lips are soft, plush, and a bit cool against his as the vampire takes the lead in the kiss. In fact, Harry kisses him like he's got all the time in the world to find out just how Louis likes to be kissed.

Louis can't even remember the last time his ex had made him feel like Louis was the only person in the world during something so innocent as a simple kiss.

“Thank you,” Harry whispers against Louis' lips as he begins to pull away. Louis knows on some level that he should let Harry go, that he shouldn't be interested in anything more than a kiss, but instead, he finds himself reaching up to pull Harry back in for another kiss.

The vampire chuckles against his mouth as he tries to fight for dominance in this kiss, as Harry's tongue teases him whenever Harry toys with letting him win the battle. But somewhere in the kiss, they go from standing by the bookcase to the couch Harry had vacated where Louis finds himself pressed down into the plush cushions with Harry on top of him.

“Is this okay?” Harry whispers again as he pulls back once more, eyes scanning Louis' face like he wants to make sure that he's not compelling Louis to do anything he doesn't want to.

Louis, for his part, is very much aware that he hasn't been with anyone since he left London to come to the moors. To come to this place. Knows he shouldn't just hop into bed, or on available pieces of furniture, with any attractive man who pays him more kindness and attention than his ex had. Finds that he doesn't care as he pulls Harry down for another kiss, hoping Harry knows that that's his answer.

The vampire must know, because Louis feels the vampire's lips curl against his mouth in another smile as the vampire's hands move to settle on Louis' hips.

“We don't have to do anything you're not ready for,” Harry tells him when they break apart again, like he can read Louis' mind. Like he can tell what's running through it, what doubts Louis' trying to work through.

His answer, though, is to move one of Harry's hands from its stabilizing presence on Louis' hip to his thigh. The hand doesn't stay there, though, sliding up to gently cup Louis through his jeans.

“Just from kissing me?” The vampire chuckles, pressing light kisses across Louis' jaw and his neck, even as he palms Louis through the fabric.

“Been a while,” He groans back, hips rising to meet Harry's hand.

The vampire takes that as an invitation to unzip Louis' fly, gently taking him out of his jeans and giving him a slow, easy stroke even as he leans down to kiss Louis again.

Just like everything about Harry's estate, even this is easy and feels like Louis' been doing it for years. Louis finds himself getting lost in the sensations provided between Harry's mouth on his and Harry's hand on his cock. In fact, he gets so lost in the whole thing that his orgasm practically sneaks up on him.

Harry, for his part, strokes Louis through it, kissing him gently while Louis pants for breath. He's reminded, again, just how different from James the man above him is that Louis just can't believe he's really there.

That Harry kisses him like they've got all the time in the world, helps him chase his orgasm like they've got all the time in the world to get there.

He finds himself reaching up for Harry's face, cupping it with his hands and mapping out the lines of Harry's jaw with his thumbs. “Can I still stay after this?”

The vampire chuckles softly once more, settling more comfortably against Louis' body. Louis can feel the hard length of Harry's cock against his thigh, but the vampire doesn't seem interested in chasing his orgasm just yet, if at all.

He does, though, feel himself getting sleepy in the wake of his orgasm, and feels his eyelids droop closed. The crackling of the fire and the still purring cat nearby doesn't help the sleepiness.

“You can stay for as long as you like,” Harry whispers against Louis' hair, pressing a kiss and a smile against Louis' temple even as Louis falls asleep with a quiet smile of his own on his face.

If there's one thing Louis knows, it's that he's definitely turned into the gothic heroine of this gothic novel. And he's pretty sure he likes that idea.