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It was meant to be a joke, something that made Liam giggle, and smile all crinkly-eyed and soft. Louis intended for Liam to startle and, of course, get wet when he emptied the water in the big bucket over Liam’s head with a yell.

Louis was ready after the text that said Liam was on his way home.

Some would say that it was a continuation of all the water pistol fights they’ve had. Louis just thought it was a hilarious idea, and if it was what made him win their silly battle, so be it.

But Liam went down so fast, not at all prepared. His limbs flailing as he tried to regain his balance.

Turns out it was a horrible idea, though. Because Liam howled in pain instead of laughing, his leg at an awkward angle that looked so wrong that Louis felt ill looking at it. Even Louis who’s not a med student knew at once that it’s bad.

There was no time to freak out, so he sat down on the floor next to Liam, grabbed his hand so he had something to squeeze, and then he called for help.

Now, they’re at the hospital. It’s been hours of just waiting, but Louis won’t go home.

He never meant for Liam to startle, and then fall in the new puddle of water on the floor. It’s still wet there, probably. Louis went with Liam in the ambulance, not even sure if he looked the door after them. Louis couldn’t care less if someone broke in and stole all his things, right now.

Liam’s things are a different story.

If someone stole Liam’s favourite watch, not that expensive as one would think looking at it, but old and once his grandfather’s, Louis would hate himself even more.

Louis feels like shit, but he’s not the one lying in a bloody hospital room. Liam is, and Louis has not been allowed to see him yet. He’s in a corridor waiting for his turn to see Liam. It’s been hours, first the surgery to set Liam’s leg right, and then wake-up afterwards.

Right now, Liam’s parents are in there, probably hearing all about what an idiot Louis is. What he did to Liam.

Karen is going to hate him now, how could she not when Louis hurt her little boy. Louis surely hates himself. And even though they’ve not properly met, he’s talked to her over the phone, more than once since he and Liam started living together second year at Uni.

Just as his roommate, though Karen more than once has called him ‘Liam’s boy’. Louis is confused about why Liam’s never really corrected her, just ‘mum’ her with rosy cheeks every time.

If Liam doesn't want him to answer his calls, he shouldn’t leave his mobile within reach. Karen’s stories of when Liam was a kid are amazingly cute, and Louis loves to tease Liam about them afterwards. He doesn't think Liam minds.

Louis’ stomach hurts when he thinks about how he put Liam, still as excitable and fun-loving Liam, in the hospital. It feels like he’s about to be sick.

More than once has Louis wished that Liam really was his boyfriend. Anyone would be happy to have him. Liam doesn't think of Louis like that, and what they have as best mates means too much to try anything, when he knows it at most would lead to a confused but lovely snog.

Well, what they had maybe, since Liam must hate him now. And Liam doesn't hate anyone. Even their first semester -- when Liam thought Louis should be more mature since he did take two years off to work, and help his mum out at home, and when thought Liam should relax -- he would have hated to see Liam in pain.

His mind won’t stop coming up with ways to make this even worse. He’s not a worrier, but now he can’t stop worrying. His nails are bitten bloody, and his hair is mess… even more of a mess than usual from how he’s pulled at it.

When Karen and Geoff come out, Louis stands up from the cheap plastic chair just outside of Liam’s room. There’s a waiting room further down the corridor, with sofas and magazines, but Louis finds it too far away.

Geoff pats his shoulder, and while he looks stressed -- having been rung from Liam’s phone, only to be told by Louis that Liam was on the way to the hospital, must have been quite a shock -- he looks okay. “He’s going to be fine, son.”

Karen sniffles and wipes her cheek with her hand, as if to see if she’s still crying. Her eyes are red-rimmed and puffy, but she’s stopped at some point. “It’s a shame we have to meet like this.”

“I’m sorry,” he mumbles, eyes on the floor. He’s almost never been as ashamed. And never like this; it’s so much worse than when he was caught shoplifting candy as a kid, and his own mum had to pick him up.

“Not your fault, love,” Karen says gently and pulls him into a hug when he shakes his head.

She reminds Louis of his own mum, how gentle she is when she hugs him. He doesn’t deserve her hug, but it’s comforting and warm, and some of that tension in his body drains away. He’s still exhausted.

When the hug is over, Louis wonders what he’s supposed to do. Is Liam asleep again, does he ever want to see Louis again? Maybe he wants to move now, and Louis knows he’d never be able to afford the flat they rent together without him, but that’s not what makes his stomach twist with worry.

“We told him you’re here,” Karen says and takes Geoff’s hand. “He really wants to see you, proper pining, that boy is.” She laughs a little, shaking her head fondly.

Baffled by that word, he doesn’t protest, doesn’t correct her that Liam’s not pining for him. It’s Louis who’s the pining one. It’s not like it really matters, Liam can correct his mum when he feels better -- and if he wants to, he can blame it all of the painkillers.

“We’re going to go get some food. Couldn’t eat anything on the way here.”

Louis nods and gives them a grateful little smile, and then he’s alone when they walk away.

He takes a deep breath and then lets it out slowly. He’s not ready to see Liam in a hospital room -- Louis hates hospitals; they smell like a mix of sickness and chlorine, and everything is white or grey -- but he needs to see Liam. Needs to see that Liam’s okay with his own eyes to really believe it.

It’s worse than he thought; Liam’s awake and he’s not that badly hurt, but he’s in obvious pain. His cast is only up his knee, since it’s his shin that is fractured, and he’s half-sitting up in bed. But he’s got this sickly tone, his skin pale, almost ashen against the clean sheets.

It’s not the way Liam is supposed to look; he’s unreal in many ways, Louis thinks. He’s wonderful and strong, and he’s not just his good looks and lovely voice; he’s a brilliant mate, and he deserves so much better than this.

Louis thinks Liam deserves everything.

Yeah, he’s smitten, and he knows it. It’s Liam’s fault, being so bloody warm, and noble, and strong.

Liam’s his rock, and now he looks weak and fragile. Like a porcelain doll that can break. That just means that Louis is the one that’ll have to be strong, and take care of Liam.

Louis will be his rock, now that Liam needs it.

“Hi,” he says when he notices that Liam’s awake, smiling dopily at him. High on painkillers of some sort. Probably morphine, or at least Louis hopes it’s something equally as strong.

“Missed you,” Liam mumbles, his speech coming out slow and sluggish.

Louis wonders if Liam hit his head, too. If he’s got a concussion and has forgotten that Louis is the reason Liam’s in the hospital in the first place. Louis, and his stupid joke. “You haven’t,” he huffs, and takes a careful steps up to the bed, scared to trip over his feet and make things worse.

He’s not a clutz, but still. Can’t be too careful.

“Always miss you,” Liam says with an earnest nod. It’s almost too much for Louis to deal with, but he nods and strokes his fingers through Liam’s hair.

Louis fluffs the pillow behind his head and has him leaning back again. Liam needs his rest, and for once, Louis won’t be there to poke and tease him just to get those giggles out of Liam. He loves Liam when he’s sleepy and soft like now, but he always loves him, even when he’s the grumpy kind of tired.

Liam lets him do it, the perfect patient. He looks so grateful, and maybe if Louis asked him really nicely, he would call Louis an idiot. That might make Louis feel better.

When Louis is done and sits down in the chair next to the bed, Liam says, “My mum said I could come home, take a break from school until I’ve healed.”

It’s probably a good idea; Liam’s been sickly a lot growing up, and Liam’s mum knows how to take care of him. Louis knows that. Even then, he crosses his arms over his chest, trembling hands tucked into his armpits, and shakes his head.

“I’ll take care of you, it’s my fault, this mess.” Louis frowns and adds, “I’ll even carry your books when you want to go back to class.”

Liam looks like he wants to protest, never wanting to be a burden to his friends. He’s slow and sluggish, both from pain and morphine, though, and Louis shakes his head before he has time to say anything.

“Feel fucking awful about it, Payno.” He doesn't mean to guilt trip Liam into anything. “You must fucking hate me now. I hate myself for it.”

“Don’t,” Liam mumbles, and reaches out to grab Louis’ hand. It jostles him, and Liam winces in pain. His hand drops down on the bed again.

Louis takes it, tracing his thumb back and forth over Liam’s clammy skin. There’s the shame again.

“It was an accident,” Liam says, sounding stubborn. “You didn’t mean it, and it could’ve been me that did the same thing. Ace plan, after all.” He giggles a little, and Louis snorts out a short laugh.

“Of course, you’re going to say that,” Louis mutters, and even though he’s so relieved he kind of wants to cry, he smiles teasingly at Liam. “You’re Liam.”

“Of course, I would,” Liam says, and smiles much softer than Louis reckons he should. “I love you, even though you’re a little shit.”

“Um,” Louis says, unable to find the right words. Liam must mean that he loves Liam, as a mate. But it sounded like a confession, of sorts. Must be the morphine. “Right. You know I love you too, mate.”

“You know,” Liam says, hiding a yawn behind his free hand. “My mum thinks we’re dating.”

“What?” Louis blurts out; he just thought Karen was joking. Not thinking that they are proper boyfriends. “Didn’t think you’d want to date me,” he says, and that’s almost admitting to his feelings, isn’t it?

Might as well put everything out there. If things go south, Liam might want to go home with his parents. But he feels like he owns it to Liam, no matter what Liam wants to do later.

Liam looks sheepish, shrugging his shoulders, just barely. “She thinks so because she knows I’m in love with you.”

“No,” Louis says even though he hears what Liam says. And he believes him; Liam never would lie to him like that.

Liam nods and says, “Yes, and you should tell me if you feel the same.” He gets this mischievous look in his eyes that Louis is proud to have thought Liam, and adds, “You do owe me, not for the whole leg thingy.” He flops his hand towards the cast. “Like, for the water you threw on me.”

Louis is so fond of Liam, and he laughs at the joke, horrible as it is. “You’re an idiot, but I do love you. Love you love you, I mean.”

“Can I get a kiss?” Liam gives him a soft smile, and his cheeks look faintly pink; it’s as much of a blush he can get at the moment, probably. Louis vows to do his best to make him blush, properly and all over, as soon as he’s in full health.

Louis leans forward and presses his lips against Liam’s, their kiss not more than a soft peck. Liam’s still smiling happily when Louis pulls back and has to stop himself to snog Liam senseless.

There will be better times to do that.

“Come up here,” says Liam as he pats the bed next to himself. And while Louis is pretty certain that the hospital bed isn’t meant for two persons, he climbs next to Liam anyway.

It’s a tight fit, and Louis has to be careful not to bump into Liam. It’s nice to lie there with Liam’s hand in his and listen to his soft snores when he falls asleep.

He didn’t mean for things to turn out the way they did, and if Liam doesn’t blame him, he’ll try not to do it either. That doesn’t mean he won’t take care of Liam, even after he’s back on his feet.

During his bedrest, Louis will do whatever it takes to make Liam feel as comfortable as possible, give him foot massages and stroke his hair. He’ll order them take-out, and put pillows under Liam’s leg so he’s hurting as little as possible.

It’s not a surprise that he’s willing to do anything for Liam. That Liam really is his boy now, just gives him more options.

If Liam wants it, he’ll even wear a nurse costume for him. Anything to keep Liam happy.